Because I love badminton!
- Episodes : 13
- Genre : Sports, Seinen
- Airing Date : July 2018 – October 2018
- Studios : LIDENFILMS
Ayano Hanesaki is a badminton prodigy, but after her mother, a 10-time national badminton champion, abandoned her, she gave up on the sport. Elena, Ayano’s childhood friend, convinces her to take up badminton again and join her high school’s badminton club. It just so happens that the top player at the club is Nagisa Aragaki, a girl she effortlessly defeated during a previous tournament.
Nagisa, Ayano, and many of the other players of the high school badminton club all have personal character flaws they need to overcome to take a step forward as individuals. Ayano, who is still reeling from being abandoned by her mother, has the biggest hurdle after she closes herself off when she discovers that her mother raised someone else to play badminton while she was away. Nagisa and Ayano inevitably clash in the finals of the inter-high qualifying tournament, a battle that helps them overcome their personal ordeals.
1. Protagonist turned Antagonist
Although Hanebado has many protagonists, Ayano takes the spot as the show’s main character above all others. On the 5th episode, Ayano discovers that her mother raised a Danish girl to play badminton and it worsens her feeling of abandonment. To get back at her mother, Ayano vows to win no matter what and to abandon her mother in turn. She becomes cold, hyper-competitive, and disrespectful to teammates and opponents alike. It genuinely becomes a challenge to support Ayano, but it’s worth keeping in mind that no one is making any effort to help her overcome those feelings of abandonment either.
2. Antagonists turned Protagonists
Thanks to Ayano’s darker turn, Hanebado turns a lot of Ayano’s rivals into sympathetic characters. Kaoruko Serigaya, the girl whose victory over Ayano let to her abandonment, is shown to be incredibly hardworking despite her harsh exterior; and Connie Christensen, the girl Ayano’s mother adopted, tries to befriend Ayano after realizing her first impressions weren’t all that amicable. Even Nozomi, Nagisa’s rival and a tertiary antagonist, is made sympathetic in trying to overcome a career riddled with self-doubt. In fact, we also see the loud-mouthed coach of Nozomi apologize to Nagisa’s coach for his own toxic tactics.
3. Incredible Animation
Especially in the first three episodes, Hanebado has some of the best animation you’ll see all summer season. If you’ve ever played or seen badminton, then the action will feel real. Part of that is because there is some rotoscoping being done, but also because it’s clear the animators studied the sport quite a bit. Hanebado is one of those special anime worth watching for the animation alone.
1. Unsatisfying Ending
As of episode 4, Hanebado begins to focus on Ayano’s character arc and how she adjusts to her mother’s abandonment of her. Now that she has accepted Badminton back into her life, she becomes dislikeable in her contempt for nearly everyone else around her, especially if they aren’t good enough at the sport. When her mother returns to Japan, Ayano is cold towards her and refuses to talk to her aside from brief conversations. Her mother doesn’t show much regret for having abandoned Ayano either and flashbacks highlight somewhat psychologically abusive behavior on her part. After losing to Nagisa and rediscovering a love for the sport that isn’t tainted by Ayano’s relationship with her mother, she decides to forgive her mother for abandoning her and to move forward with her life. It’s unsatisfying largely because the show makes no attempt to condemn or have consequences to either Ayano or her mother’s behavior; in turn, the resolution feels too neat and disingenuous to Ayano’s arc.
2. A Cast Too Big
Hanebado’s large cast and desire to give everyone some spotlight makes it so that many characters’ arcs are too short, and the characters who initially appear to be the stars of the show quickly fall to the background. Nagisa and Coach Tachibana are the biggest victims of the show’s pacing. Nagisa’s failings against Ayano are put to the wayside after the first episode and she falls to the background until her match against Nozomi (in which Nozomi has more development) and her rematch against Ayano. Coach Tachibana’s lack of presence is especially notable because he makes no effort to help Ayano overcome her very apparent trauma, and his role as the person to help the badminton club take a step forward feels extremely subdued throughout.
Hanebado’s best qualities are also what causes its biggest defects. The thirteen episodes simply aren’t enough to give the cast the spotlight the show is determined to give them, and its willingness to allow us to see the antagonists’ best qualities prevents us from getting a proper resolution to Ayano’s relationship with her mother that doesn’t feel rushed and unearned. While Hanebado’s characters all wrap up their personal arcs which make a follow-up season somewhat doubtful, we would still love to see how the inter-high tournament would go and if Connie and Ayano’s relationship would develop now that Ayano’s getting past her abandonment issues.