Crush of the week: Haikyu!!’s coach Ukai

One of the best parts of the human experience, if I do say so myself, is having a big ol’ crush — the pitter-patter of your heartbeat, the swell of euphoria when you see the object of your affection, the desire to just squeal with joy! At Polygon, though, we’re very flexible about how we interpret “crush.” After all, brief yet intense infatuations don’t necessarily have to be on real people (or even on people!), nor do they have to be romantic. Since I have many many (many) crushes, I’ve decided to share the energy of writing their names over and over again in sparkly gel pen in a journal.

This week’s crush: Coach Ukai from Haikyu!!

Watching Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle reminded me what a hottie the Karasuno boys’ volleyball team’s coach is. There are a lot of good boys (and a couple of girls!) in the sports anime and manga, which follows an underdog volleyball team on their quest to greatness. But watching the movie affirmed to me that my biggest crush in the series is the man who was initially reluctant to mentor the team, coach Keishin Ukai.

Ukai is a bit prickly, but he has a big heart. He only agreed to serve as the team’s coach for a practice match between the their historic rival Nekoma (incidentally, the team featured in Dumpster Battle). But eventually, he agrees to stay on, reminded of his love of the sport. (And his desire to finally beat Nekoma in a game!) We love a good character development! Once a member of the Karasuno High School volleyball team, Ukai was initially hesitant to go back because he didn’t want to cloud his own nostalgia for his high school days. That’s a nice little touch of backstory that immediately lets me imagine how his high school days went, and concoct elaborate stories for what his life has been like in the intervening years.

His gruff personality balances out faculty advisor Ittetsu Takeda, who is polite, plucky about everything, and a bit clueless about volleyball. I just think they have a great vibe as co-workers and eventual friends!

Takeda, a dark haired bespectacled man, and Ukai, a man with long dirty blonde hair, enthusiastically cheer. Both men wear matching black tracksuits. Image: Production I.G/Crunchyroll

On the most superficial level, Ukai is blond — or rather, anime blond, in that he has yellow hair. I have a weakness for blond fictional men — one of these days I’ll try to pinpoint the origin of that response, but for now, I’m simply letting it dictate where my heart lies. And Ukai is hot in that “sexually competent dirtbag line cook” way, in that he’s a bit surly but definitely not unkind, maintains a certain edgy appearance, and also drinks and smokes, but in a sexy way that shows he knows how to have fun. To me, this is only attractive when the guy isn’t real — but boy, does it hit!

In one episode of the show, a few of the players who are struggling with their schoolwork come to Ukai for advice. He lights a cigarette and glares at them with a cocky grin, saying “Does it look like I was good at school?” That’s when I fell for him.

Coach Ukai isn’t heavily featured in Dumpster Battle — or heck, even in the TV show. But seeing him in the background of the movie still reignited my crush. Sometimes less is more when it comes to latching onto a fictional character.

Or maybe not! Maybe your crush of the week is the main character of your latest TV obsession, or the featured protagonist in your favorite video game. Or maybe, like me, you’ve decided to be really into a gruff guy with a secret soft side, even though he mostly stays in the background. Let me know who you’re crushing on this week!