Ayano Hanesaki, a first-year student at Kanagawa Prefectural Kitakomachi High School, has a badminton ability able to surpass others effortlessly yet avoids playing the sport. She meets Nagisa Aragaki, a third-year student who practices day and night aiming to become the best player in Japan. Encouraged by coach Tachibana Kentarou, supported by club colleagues, and fired up by various rivals, the two engage in their youth and adored sport so thrilling like a shuttle flown at high speed!
If you didn’t already know, there is a subset of the anime community called the Sakuga Community, whose principle value in anime lies solely within it’s production value. No matter how good or bad a show is, considering the hundreds of aspects that go into it’s production, this community will watch or drop a show on it’s quality of animation alone. While I never thought negatively of these people, I can say that I certainly never understood them. These are people who watched the entirety of Fate/Apocrypha for it’s sakuga, and watching a show THAT bad to completion just to see a few flashy
fights simply boggles my mind. I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that I, myself, would watch a show as melodramatic and cheaply written as Hanebado! for it’s gorgeous athletic choreography and animation alone.
The direction, the shot composition, the lighting, the angles, the perspective, the editing, the animation, especially the realistic choreography, everything about the visual presentation of the badminton matches was spot on perfect. The direction was often done in perspective animation of the birdie dashing like lightning back and forth across the court, with quick, intense, and energetic frames of the characters’ faces flashing by. The shot composition showed the impact of the birdies on the rackets, the muscle it takes to lean or jump for long shots, and the sweat leaping off the athletes’ faces when they switch directions to dance across the gym. Never does it slow down, drop detail, or pan across still frames, thus spending every second of every game zipping around the court and the characters playing on it. I cannot stress how much time and money was clearly expended hand-drawing these sequences. Do you remember all those production documentaries of the key animation team at Production I.G. studying professional volleyball players to animate Haikyuu? I can guarantee to you, one hundred percent, that the team at LIDENFILMS put in nearly the same amount of effort in animating Hanebado! because it’s almost as impressive as the likes of Haikyuu! and Kuroko no Basket…almost.
As for the rest of the show, well, you know, it’s pretty not great.
Our protagonist is a girl named Ayano who is the daughter of the most decorated female badminton athlete ever to grace Japan, and, as such, has been raised for the sole purpose of playing badminton and living up to her mother’s lofty expectations. As if that plot wasn’t already embellished enough, Ayano is portrayed as a “badminton monster” (I know it’s stupid, but they actually say it in the anime) who flips her crazy switch in matches that literally makes her eyes dilate and her hair messy. I guess I could take this seriously if her mother beat her or something abusive to warrant this level of distress, but every single flashback to her childhood shows her and her mother happily practicing badminton with no stakes and all smiles, so when the show suddenly cuts back to present day with Ayano looking like she’s ready to murder her opponent over a simple practice game I can’t help but wonder how she became so comically overdramatic. It’s not just her either. Her opponents are just as ridiculous and over-the-top. For example, there’s a Danish girl who threw her life and home country away to come to Japan for the sole purpose of beating Ayano and winning her mother’s favor. How are any of these personalities supposed to be believable or realistic in the slightest?!
Despite the matches LOOKING phenomenal, the script itself can only be compared to shounen battle manga. If I had to give an example, I’d say Fairy Tail, but all shounen battle manga have their own version of “the power of friendship”, otherwise known as the-writer-is-a-hack-and-the-main-characters-are-just-going-to-win-now-for-no-good-reason. Hanebado! has it’s own version of this too. Instead of following the examples of critically acclaimed sports anime such as Haikyuu! and Baby Steps, wherein the cast has to work for their skill and success with blood, sweat, and tears, Hanebado! just introduces characters with predetermined skill sets that we’re just supposed to accept. At no point in the show do they sit down and actually explain HOW or WHY someone is a good or bad player (even though they continuously use badminton terminology without explanation or demonstration.) After watching Haikyuu! and Baby Steps, I know the rules of both Volleyball and Tennis like the back of my hand. After watching Hanebado! on the other hand, the only thing I really understand about badminton is that when the birdie hits the ground someone gets a point.
Speaking of the overly convenient script, people competing in this show only win or loose when they WANT to. As I just mentioned, there isn’t any progression in the characters’ skill sets, so the thing that ends up deciding the matches is, you guessed it, their emotions. If Ayano is feeling unmotivated or corrupt, she looses, and if Ayano is feeling determined or righteous, she wins. This is true for every character in the show. If the lesson they have to learn involves suffering defeat, then they loose, and if the lesson they have to learn involves tasting victory, then they win. Skill and especially technique simply do not matter in this anime. Like, you don’t even know. There’s a match wherein the player knows, in no uncertain terms, that her opponent has a weak knee. Her coach knows this too, and he advises her to make her opponent run side to side in order to blow out her already weakened knee, and she then decides to ACTIVELY DISOBEY HIS OBJECTIVELY HELPFUL INSTRUCTIONS AND DELIBERATELY PROCEED IN A MANNER THAT SHE KNOWS SHE WILL LOOSE THE MATCH because his strategy, and I quote, “was not the badminton I wanted to play.” I guess you could make the argument that this allows the thematic depth of the show to really shine, but it’s only doing so at the cost of the script and logical progression.
In the end, just like the Sakuga Community who finished Fate/Apocrypha for the fights, I ended up finishing Hanebado! for the animation. I can’t say I regretted it, but I can definitely say that I would’ve dropped the show in episode one if it hadn’t been such a feast for the eyes. If you are also enticed by a high quality production like I am, or if you simply don’t mind melodramatic teenagers yelling at each other until they decide to be friends, then I highly recommend you watch Hanebado!. If you don’t, then just pass it off as yet another ambitious production that only got as far as it’s budget would allow it to.
Ever wonder what the female version of Haikyuu!! would look like?
No, you say??? Alright, then…..carry on.
Its just, this anime bears some resem—….oh, you still don’t care. Okay. I’ll just leave you alone….
F—k you! I’m writing this review whether you like it or not.
As regular as the seasons change, another sports-genre anime has graced our computer screens for what seems like the umpteenth time, the flavor of the month being: badminton. Not the most exhilarating sport in the world, but it definitely has intermittent moments of shock and awe (much like Hanebado!).
Following in the footsteps of its male counterpart, Hanebado! is
a semi-serious sports anime that deals with the psychological consequences of youth athletics. As the story progresses, we begin to learn that each girl is plagued by a personal shortcoming that impedes their progress as an individual player. These visceral, psychological battles become the focal point of the entire series, making the girl’s opponents, more or less, inconsequential, as they are primarily focused on their own internal “demons” (i.e. battling themselves). An excellent example of showcasing this internal struggle happens in episode two, where chalkboard animation is used to emphasize the duality of Aragaki’s height “advantage,” provoking her to overcompensate in other facets of her game. Not only is her height an emotional weakness (as other children call her a “beanpole,” and make fun of her masculine appearance) but it turns out to be a physical one, as well. The astute coach for Nozomi employs a strategy to force Aragaki to move from side to side, putting an enormous amount of stress on her knees, resulting in overexertion and possible injury. But due to her commitment of staying true to herself (i.e. overpowering her opponent through strength), she is able to circumvent this clever scheme.
Of course, this is all well and good for our protagonist, but a more pressing dilemma emerges during the match, because while Aragaki simply needs to impose her will — her identity, if you will — on the game, Nozomi comes to the realization that she has no identity. Her entire career has been dictated by “guidance” of her coach; thus, deteriorating her passion and creativity for the game. The themes that Nozomi and Aragaki experience are quite typical for teenagers in high stress, athletic competition, yet the resolution of said themes felt a bit artificial, too romantic. Is it truly believable that Nozomi’s coach would transition from yelling at her profusely (like she’s a red-headed step—…you know what, I’m just going to stop right there), to accepting her new perspective on badminton in the middle of a match — literally, on the drop of a dime?
Quixotic happenings aside, Hanebado! suffers from the same deficiencies that infect its male counterpart, those being:
-Random comedy from which there’s no reasonable explanation.
-A character (i.e. Ayano) with “superhuman” ability that cannot be matched by anyone else.
-The EYES of Ayano and Hinata both resembling a predator stalking its prey (both are small in stature, as well).
-Displaying unrealistic feat’s that are not attainable in real life for the sake of entertainment
-[Insert 5th point here — too lazy at the moment, its 3:30 in the morning]
Hanebado!, in all seriousness, had an extremely promising start with interesting conceptual ideas about the psychological consequences of competitive athletics; yet, with each passing episode, it quickly decayed into a bizarre, nonsensical comedy with a weird daughter/mother/step-daughter dynamic that was particularly unappealing for the viewer. Furthermore, the amount of melodrama was off the charts, with an innumerable amount of peaks and valleys, making even the most mundane task feel like it was a life or death situation. Ayano’s metamorphosis from a timid, reserved girl, to a heartless, animalistic human hybrid was remarkably far-fetched, not to mention tropey. It seems the desire to emulate its male counterpart was too strong, reducing Hanebado!’s effectiveness as a compelling story that can stand on its own weight.
Sometimes, I wish sports anime gets more attention whether it’s swimming, basketball, soccer, tennis, or anything competitive in nature. Sure, there was Free! from these past few years but it clearly had an audience from the very beginning. Badminton is a one of those sports where it doesn’t get too much attention, at least not on an international level. Yet Hanebado has its own fame when it comes to selling its sports drama.
I would have originally watched this show just for the sheer competitiveness feeling. However, Hanebado persuaded me to invest into its character cast from the first few episodes. We meet a colorful group
that includes Ayano, Nagisa, Riko, Elena, among others. From my initial impression, it reminded me of characters trying to make a name for themselves. But as more and more the story progressed, it felt like some really were pushing themselves to the limit. The most noticeable character is Ayano where she enter an insane beast-like mode when she is motivated. Some of her matches are noticeable of being extreme such as the case with Kaoruko. While Ayano is a main character, I find it difficult to root for her. The show chronicles her personality as being overly competitive to the point where it can toxic to watch her matches. On the other hand, I do think that Ayano is able to bring out the nature of badminton to a level that people were not anticipating for.
It’s probably easy to overlook some other characters at first glance but the show does attempt to bring out the best from others. Nagisa is another noticeable name that I ended up rooting for late in the story. As a way to prove herself, she pushes Ayano to her best in one of the most intense matches in the series. We also got to learn a bit more about both girls along the way. But unfortunately, I can’t really say this series makes Ayano likable. It’s like there’s two completely different characters of her – one that evokes fear and another that behaves like a casual schoolgirl. It’s much easier to relate to the latter. Ayano’s competitive side often reaches to a point that is unbelievable in this show. I find it even baffling at how she deals with depression because her past shows a case of abandonment.
Realism, in fact, does exist to some extent in the show. The characters skill sets are easily watchable as it’s not hard to tell who can beat who before a game is even over at times. But on the contrary, some matches feel like it didn’t live up to expectations with curb-stomp like moments. I also have some problems with how much characters changes, not just in the case of Ayano. For instance, there’s Connie who develops a meaner attitude after facing off against her. Regarding Ayano herself, it seems no one really tries to help her change either. This extends to their coach, Kentarou Tachibana. I’m not going to lie, this guy is hard to accept. He helps out Nagisa with her own problems but doesn’t attempt to do the same for Ayano. The show did make him likable in the beginning but his development doesn’t get enough attention.
As you may have guessed, Hanebado isn’t going to spoon feed you information much so you’ll have to learn along the way. Badminton isn’t an overly complex sport but it does require a lot of attention. To me, the pure competitive energy of the sport is enough sometimes. The series sells its drama this way during the matches. It’s a bit strange though. The more I watched badminton, the more I feel like this show mixes in psychology during the storytelling. Every match feels like there’s something at stake such as a player’s pride. As one of the positives in this series, every match carries an emotional weight that I think is worth watching for. If only the main character cast could be worth talking about just as much in a positive light.
That isn’t to say the series is unwatchable even with its questionable character roster. Jumping into Hanebado is a visual feast to the eyes with the production quality. There’s a lot of fluidity in the motions of the characters. Every movement in the series felt real and important especially during key moments of the matches. This ranges from the clever camera angles on the muscles to little details like body language. Character designs also look clean that gives each character a distinctive look. Ayano is an exceptional case once you see both sides of her character. That also leads to character expressions that I see very much as impressive. Ayano’s personality is highlighted with how she reacts to her friends or rivals. Others show their emotions without holding much back. Even during lighthearted scenes, there are moments that defines characters for what the creators wanted them to be in this adaptation. The theme songs (particular opening) contains a variety of dynamic camerawork that is admirable. It’s stylish that enhances the energy of the show. The ED theme song contains carefully crafted framework and artistic coloring. Definitely very thought provoking like a work of art.
There’s not too many sports series that hooks my attention and Hanebado did that in the beginning. While I still can’t forgive the character destruction of some of the cast, there’s definitely a few that are worth watching. You can be the judge on who to root for. For a show with sports competitiveness, there’s the feeling of emotional stakes. I did hope the series took better care of its characters in terms of their development and personalities. But Hanebado is a watchable. It’s not perfect by all means or even outstanding. Yet, it has an ability to tell a dramatic sports story.
I'm not a fan of the sports genre, I may be missing out on some treats, but I'm not interested in cliche games where the main character always wins. I came across Megalo Box and it proved me wrong, so I thought why not give this a try? It might impress me too... but it didn't.
The story is about a tournament in which challengers play against each other. I guess that's it, that's the most of the story. There's also the unnecessary drama which is also criticized by its fans, but if you dislike the drama, then what do you exactly like about the show?
The tournament? Is it really something praiseworthy? I'm not here to judge anyone's taste, you can like whatever you want to, but I really want a legit argument as to why this is likable. Anyway, each character has some sort of story with badminton and they're as forgettable as the characters themselves, with the exception of Hanesaki because the anime shoves down your throat that she plays badminton for her mother and you should not forget that. Then her mother comes back to live with her one day and we don't even get any kind of development or reunion scene. She comes back, and the director thought, let's skip to another scene, shall we?
I'm guessing the animators thought they could win over the fans with some good animation for the games and forget that a story or even character designs exist. The characters were so forgettable that I had no choice but to distinguish them by appearance, but even that was impossible because the characters pretty much look the same, just alter the hairstyle a bit, or not, depends on the character. They even forgot how to draw Hanesaki in episode 12 and made her look like she grew 30 years in the time frame of one game. They tried to have style over substance but couldn't nail both. As for the soundtracks, easily best part of the show, they were chill, intense, or anything that was needed. They didn't stand out much but they made the show a bit more enjoyable.
And now come the characters. I mentioned how forgettable they are so I pretty much forgot what I wanna say about them. Hanesaki hates the world for some reason, Nagisa is flat, not her breast though, and she was just... there, possibly to rival Hanesaki. The teacher had Nobuhiko voice him and that alone made him a bit remarkable, he was encouraging I'd say. Other characters had an episode dedicated to them but I can't really recall their names, personality, maybe even their looks, or their motives. They played games constantly and the game were just shortened to add in some irrelevant drama which does not affect the game. Characters keep on playing regardless of their past in their oddly paced matches. But it's notable to say the strategies used in the games were convincing so that's a merit to notice. Anyhow, I kind of lost track on what I was gonna say about them, but losing track is what their personality is best at. They're just bland and present to give you a well animated, oddly paced match featuring characters that look and act the same.
Rant of the day is over. You can now go watch this (or not) and ignore my opinion because this is definitely AOTY.