At its core, Hanebado! is about high school badminton players trying to become the best at the sport, often despite having obvious roadblocks that prevent them from improving. Whether its Ayano Hanesaki having been abandoned by her mother, Nagisa Aragaki recalling her loss of confidence in a match where she could not score a single point, or a secondary character like Yukiteru Hayama working hard to overcome his lack of natural talent, all of Hanebado’s characters have a personal obstacle they need to surmount to improve from where they were at the start of the series.
To honor the value of being the best at badminton in Hanebado!, Honey’s Anime will rank the Top 10 Badminton Players from Hanebado! as they are at the end of the series. Our sole qualification to be considered for these rankings is that the show gives us a clear indication of the characters’ skills either by mentioning their successes or by showing us through competitive or practice matches. An example of a character we wouldn’t include but who is likely talented is Nozomi’s coach, we’re never given a clear indication of how good he really is or what successes he’s had in the past. Alternatively, a character like Yuika Shiwahime may not be shown playing, but we know she qualified for the Inter-High Tournament, so we have a clearer idea of how good she is compared to those who failed to qualify.
10. Riko Izumi
Riko Izumi plays the role of Nagisa’s sidekick throughout Hanebado! and it’s clear she never sees herself as reaching the level of skill Nagisa has. Between having to take care of her numerous siblings and having to manage the other dramatic members of her club, often more than the coach or the team manager, it’s not a surprise that Izumi has little time to concentrate on her own skills.
Throughout Hanebado!, we mostly see Izumi practicing with other players and encouraging them to be their best. Although we get glimpses at her skills in a practice match with Ayano, one in which they lose, we get our best view at how good she truly is when she faces one of last year’s final four competitors, Nozomi Ishizawa. Despite Nozomi’s experienced coach advising her on the best course of action for a victory, Riko pushes Nozomi into a tough match. She shows surprising brilliance by analyzing the match and discovering a weakness in Nozomi’s game: her backhand. Although she still fails to win, Riko forced the match to stretch out further than Nozomi or her coach wanted.
9. Gaku Isehara
The boys of the badminton club at Kitakomachi High School don’t get a lot of attention compared to the girls, and we only get to see them compete in two brief matches from the Inter-High qualifying tournament. While it was Yukiteru Hayama that introduced Gaku and his sister to badminton, it was Gaku that really took off with the sport. In flashbacks, we see that Gaku received special attention from coaches when he demonstrated unusual talent compared to Yukiteru.
Although Gaku does not seem as passionate as Yukiteru, he finds more success in the tournament than Yukiteru does. While Yukiteru ends up faltering at the first round of the tournament, Gaku makes it further before losing in the later rounds. Nevertheless, Gaku is motivated by Yukiteru’s passion for badminton and promises to continue playing after high school. Perhaps with newfound motivation, Gaku will take badminton as serious as Nagisa and Ayano seem to do.
8. Nozomi Ishizawa
Nozomi has always lacked confidence in her game, especially after she was scouted while in middle school over Nagisa. To everyone else, it was clear that Nagisa was the better badminton player, so Nozomi always had self-doubt over whether she deserved her spot. Thanks to her intelligent coach and her own solid skills, Nozomi was always able to make it far in tournaments, reaching the final four spot in the year preceding the start of Hanebado!.
Entering her last year competing for high school badminton, Nozomi still has her self-doubts haunting her and a desire to play a game that isn’t dictated by her coach’s strategies for a clear victory. In her semi-final match against Nagisa, Nozomi’s coach advises she take advantage of her opponent’s weakened knee. Nagisa overcomes those strategies and wins the first set causing Nozomi to tell her coach she would play her own way. Although she loses even more decisively, she finally feels comfortable with her game, and Nozomi’s coach shows maturity by accepting he may have been going down the wrong road in how he was coaching Nozomi.
7. Kaoruko Serigaya
While Kaoruko saw herself as Ayano’s rival, she was unable to beat her when they were younger. It wasn’t until Kaoruko was sick that she decided to even the odds and contaminate Ayano that she was finally able to beat her. Unfortunately, that defeat caused Ayano’s mother to abandon her and soured the sport of badminton for Ayano. Years later, Kaoruko beat Ayano decisively in a single set that highlighted her incredible prowess against a player that had looked unbeatable to that point.
Despite Kaoruko’s recent successes, it was clear when she faced Ayano in a rematch that Ayano was no longer the same person. Kaoruko’s skills at analyzing her opponent and playing mind games were turned upside down by Ayano, foiling her ideas that with enough hard work she could overcome Ayano. While Kaoruko falls short of expectations in her rematch against Ayano, it still makes one wonder how she would have fared against Nagisa or Connie without a significant rivalry clouding her thoughts.
6. Yuika Shiwahime
Yuika is the captain of Fredericia High School’s badminton team, but we never get to see her in action. Although Yuika is a tertiary character at best, she probably plays the role of captain and mentor better than anyone else in the show. She is a good role model for Connie and strives to help her become a better person. While no one from Kitakomachi helps guide Ayano in her struggles, Yuika makes a deliberate effort to help Connie connect with her adopted sister and with her teammates.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to pinpoint where Yuika really belongs on this list, but we do know that she qualified for the finals of the Inter-High tournament alongside Connie Christensen. Considering the talent of those who qualified in the tournament Kitakomachi High School participated in, it’s safe to say that Yuika must be seriously skilled to have qualified for the Inter-High and we can put her above those who failed.
5. Connie Christensen
Connie Christensen is a Danish exchange student and the adopted daughter of Uchika Hanesaki. Connie showed skills from a young age and that’s what earned her the attention of Uchika, but her development was certainly helped along by learning under a multi-time national champion.
There are two clear indications of Connie Christensen’s prowess beyond her background: her doubles match against Ayano and Riko and her qualification for the Inter-High tournament. In the first match, Connie is determined to prove herself against Ayano and demands that her partner does not participate in the match. Connie is so skilled that she nearly single-handedly beats Ayano and Riko, and it’s only nearly because her partner helped with the last point. All that said, Ayano does beat Connie decisively in a practice match at the park that indicates that Ayano could have won with the right mentality. Like Yuika, Connie manages to qualify for the Inter-High Tournament, but it’s not clear who won between her and Yuika in their finals match, so we could totally see Yuika going above Connie as well.
4. Ayano Hanesaki
Whether she’s a natural prodigy or Uchika Hanesaki is a talented teacher, it’s clear from the start that Ayano is an extremely skilled player. As far as we know, Ayano has only lost two competitive matches: against Karuoko thanks to a cold and against Nagisa in the Inter-High Qualifier. Aside from those two matches, we witness Ayano decimate everyone she faces in competitive matches. It’s only thanks to Uchika abandoning Ayano that Ayano’s game is hindered, but when she copes with that abandonment by promising to abandon her mother in turn, Ayano takes on a demonic persona while competing.
Ayano’s only failures happen in practice matches and typically when she isn’t in the right mindset. During the Inter-High qualifying tournament, her only tough match until the finals is against Kaoruko, her childhood rival. Even in that match, she overcomes Kaoruko’s strategies and wins in two sets. Ayano would have placed third in this list if not for her defeat against Nagisa in the final episode of Hanebado!. Ayano went into the match confident of an easy victory and her opponent had an ailing knee, but Nagisa’s pure desire to win, an intelligent strategy, and a dominant smash, all proved too much for Ayano to handle. Considering Ayano’s age, it seems clear that Ayano is poised to surpass Nagisa now that she’s able to play badminton for the sheer enjoyment of it as opposed to a desire to impress or get revenge on her mother.
3. Nagisa Aragaki
If not for the theme song, you would be forgiven for thinking Nagisa is the star of Hanebado! after the first episode. She has the most to overcome after we see her lose without scoring a single point in a flashback against Ayano in the first episode. She is the captain of the Kitakomachi High School badminton team, but her toxic behavior following her loss causes several of the other players to quit the team. It takes Tachibana, the new coach, to get Nagisa out of her slump.
Nagisa takes a backseat for most of Hanebado! which is unfortunate because it would have been interesting to see her compete against some of Ayano’s rivals like Connie and Kaoruko. Her biggest obstacle throughout the series ends up becoming her ailing knee which threatens to derail or end her career, but despite tough training and tougher opponents, she never succumbs to it. In the finals against Ayano, we see her knee constantly threatening to give up on her, but she keeps pushing on against an opponent she feels she gave up on the first time they faced. As we mentioned earlier, through a smart strategy, her devastating smash, and a desire to win untainted by something like revenge, Nagisa beats the odds and defeats Ayano in three sets.
2. Kentaro Tachibana
Kentaro Tachibana is a former Olympic hopeful whose dreams were crushed after he decided to opt out of a match to preserve his knee. Now coaching the Kitakomachi High School badminton team, Kentaro hoped to help the talented club members reach their potential. Although we would seriously question his coaching ability, there’s no doubting his badminton ability.
Aside from his past as an Olympic hopeful, we get to see Kentaro play badminton twice throughout the series. Kentaro challenges Nagisa to a match to get her out of her funk and beats her easily at the start of the series. The second time we get to see Kentaro play, Ayano has challenged him in preparation for her match against Nagisa because there are no other worthy opponents in the team. Kentaro’s skill as an Olympic-caliber player is in full swing and he defeats Ayano, prompting her to ask for a rematch that he rejects. Although Kentaro isn’t the greatest coach, he’s still a talented badminton player.
1. Uchika Hanesaki
There was never any doubt as to who is the best badminton player in Hanebado!: Uchika Hanesaki. We never get to see Uchika play outside of coaching Ayano and Connie when they were younger, but we’re often reminded of her unmatched dedication to the sport with her ten national championships. Uchika was so devoted to the sport of badminton that she was willing to abandon Ayano so she could find a new motivation to get better at the sport.
Furthermore, Ayano and Connie are examples of the result of Uchika’s training, both qualified for the Inter-High tournament and are some of the best badminton players we see despite being first-year players at their high school. Of course, it’s unsurprising to see that Uchika’s prowess at badminton caused her to have deficiencies in other areas of her life like parenting.
Hanebado!’s characters are all about badminton, and their arcs are all centered on what they need to do to overcome their deficiencies at the sport. Even the most insignificant members of the badminton team get to move forward as badminton players by the end of the series. This list would certainly look different at varying points in the series if not for the characters’ developments. For example, we wouldn’t have put Nagisa above Connie, Yuika, or Ayano, if not for her impressive victory to conclude the series. Having said that, Honey’s Anime would love to know if you feel someone else deserves to be on this list or if someone has been underrated or overrated. Feel free to let us know in the comments down below!