I had never watched VB until the Rio Olympics. I was staying with a Chinese friend over the summer and she wanted to watch the Chinese NT. Needless to say, the dramatic arc for her over those few weeks was pretty intense. I watched a bunch of matches with her and wasn't excited about it all until I saw the Japan v Russia match. It was different. The Japanese team is an ant farm. Tiny, efficient, tireless. I fell in love with them. If I didn't look at the scoreboard I would have thought the Japanese won the match instead of being swept 3-0. I described it as being like watching a slumber party punctuated with violence. The match also had a sense of humor, the Russians respectfully mocking my little ones with smiles that said "What's it going to take to make these kids give up."
So I can't say I'm a Volleyball fan yet, but I want to consume as much of the Japanese Women's NT as I can. I enjoy watching them play Russia, Brazil, and Serbia. I like a few players on each of those three teams but haven't mustered any interest in watching them play anyone but Japan. I have peculiar requirements when it comes to sports enthusiasm and the JWNT fulfills them all. When they make a successful attack or block their reaction is one of joy, not like a testosterone bomb just went off. I've watched 20 or more matches from 2012-2016 and I have never once seen a player (or their Zen master coach) express frustration, disappointment, or anger at a fellow team mate, or with themselves for that matter. That's important to me. There's one team, who shall remain nameless so I don't offend, whose coach reduced his players to tears, getting in their faces like a Baseball manager does with an umpire. I will never watch that team play again.
Volleyball seems like a difficult sport to be a fan of, especially for someone like me who's not interested in their native language's team. I don't speak Japanese so I can't get gossipy fan love or the latest news from youtube clips or other fan sites. I'm super bummed that the Rio Olympics matches aren't available. (I did find a CCTV stream of my beloved Japan v Russia match, but it starts near the end of the first set). I guess it's only difficult being a fan if your interests are as narrow as mine.
My second favorite match is the Japan v China Quarterfinals from 2012 Olympics. Just wow on that one! I've watched it several times. Other faves are the 2016 Olympic Qualification match with Thailand--another team I'm fond of for their sportsmanship and joy; the 2015 World Grand Prix match with Italy (with one big caveat I won't mention); and the 2013 World Grand Champions Cup match against Russia. They actually won that one . The stream I found had English commentators and you could tell they were impressed and having fun. I think that version of the JWNT is my favorite, even though Araki was absent. I like Miyashita, and I like Arisa Sato a lot, but when I went back and saw the 2012 team's setter and libero ... them's big shoes to fill.
I, as a Bay Area guy, proudly compare the JWNT to the 2014-2015-2016 Golden State Warriors. They play different and they're the most fun to watch. Charles Barkley called the Warriors "girlie". He's a pud in the way he said it but he's right: the Warriors are the most feminine basketball team (except for Draymond, lol). The JWNT is the most feminine VB team. I love them to death, all 20-30 of them that I've gotten to know from 2012-2016, except Uchiseto maybe .
I hope there are others here who will enjoy the JWNT with me, and that a JWNT 2017 thread gets started soon so I don't lose interest before things kick off again. I read here they have a new coach, and ... well ... I've said enough for now!