Ayano Hanesaki is a natural talent when it comes to badminton, but she has lost her motivation to play. Even a nationals victory against fierce competitor Nagisa Aragaki leaves Ayano asking “what am I playing for”. She enters high school with a lack of interest in continuing to pursue badminton, instead apathetically joining the tennis club alongside her friend Elena.
Nagisa, on the other hand, was deeply shaken by her loss and is determined to put even more effort into badminton than ever during her final year of high school. However, her harsh training techniques and aggressive, angry attitude as team captain drive away both existing members and new recruits, leaving the club smaller than ever. Even Nagisa’s level headed friend and second in command, Riko, begins to despair and desperately encourages Nagisa to change her ways.
During tennis practice, Ayano accidentally shows off her badminton skills, impressing Elena, Riko, and Kentarou Tachibana, the badminton team’s energetic but perverted coach. Elena and Tachibana beg Ayano to switch clubs, but she refuses as she continues to see no reason to play badminton. Ayano’s unmotivated attitude infuriates Nagisa, who demands a rematch against her as the episode ends.
Longtime readers of this blog will probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of sports anime. Needless to say, I found myself quite surprised with how much I enjoyed this episode. While I have no real connection to badminton or sports in general, I could really relate to Ayano’s lack of motivation and her feeling lost and purposeless due to the disappearance of her passion for the sport. It got me in the heart in a way that not a lot of anime in this genre have managed to do.
I think what definitely helped keep my interest is that the animation and art for this show is BEAUTIFUL. I don’t usually talk about animation a lot, since I’m not super knowledgeable, but this one was clean, sharp and incredibly detailed. I especially loved the cool lighting work during different scenes and the surprisingly realistic scenery during the outdoor shots.
Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed it, this could definitely not be called a flawless first episode. I think my main problem was that the tension and emotional level were so high throughout, it felt almost…exhausting? to watch at some points. Like, there were a lot of high-intensity emotional scenes one right after the other with only a few breaks in between. While I understand this, because Ayano and Nagisa’s emotional states and motivations are going to be an important part of the show, I do hope future episodes get a bit better about balancing things out with calmer scenes.
My other major gripe was that the few moments where Hanebado dipped down into traditional “anime scenes” felt extremely jarring. It’s an emotional series with a strong premise and compelling characters – it doesn’t need to rely on fanservice or “people yelling is really funny, right?” And yet, we got Elena whacking Kentarou with a tennis racket while calling him a huge pervert and Riko randomly spending an entire scene in her bra while another minor badminton club member got major focus on her butt during an emotional meltdown. I think these scenes bothered me so much more than they usually would because the episode was otherwise so good. Let’s hope Kentarou’s “perv”ness doesn’t become any sort of running gag later on…
I’ll definitely be checking out some more episodes, although I don’t know if I’ll be blogging this because I’ve honestly never blogged a sports anime before and am not sure I’d be any good at it. Still, this was a really strong entry that managed to captivate me despite not being a fan of the genre, so major props for that!
Out of 5 Dios: