The problem with Hanebado! is that it tries to do too much with too little. There are three – count ‘em – three things this show has going for it, and those are its animation, its opening song, and Aragaki Nagisa. That doesn’t sound like much, I know, but if you have to finish something as unnecessarily gloomy as this, you’ll have to latch onto all of the happy things you can get.
Looking at the show’s poster, marketing, and summary, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was your standard sports show. But dip your toes into its world, and you’ll find badminton is actually a very dreary thing that brings no joy to the people playing it. It follows that Hanebado’s leads should be the same way. Having Nagisa and Ayano as the main characters should have made for a compelling clash of ideals and rich contrasts; instead, their opposite personalities make it clear the show doesn’t actually know what to do with itself.
One of its most glaring problems is its inconsistent tone. One minute, it’s a classic sports story with Nagisa as the lead, then a dark psychological drama starring Ayano the next. Hanebado comes armed with a checklist of all the genre tropes, but in a desperate bid to stand out, it goes all-in on the angst and edge. It might have been gunning for a more realistic take on the classic sports story, but because it’s tragic to the point of comedy, Hanebado only succeeds in making itself the laughingstock of the season.
Okay, so maybe that was a bit much. But if there’s anything that nearly proves this, it’s the way this show handles its characters. Villains never stay villains for long, because after they’re introduced in the most hateful way possible, Hanebado suddenly does all it can to make them sympathetic and – dare I say it – likeable. The only consistent force in the entire series is Nagisa, so it makes sense that her arc’s the one worth following and not Ayano’s.
The good stuff now: the animation sequences are definitely way up there in terms of execution, fluidity, and choreography. Once the athletes hit the courts, you’ll nearly forget about all the other dreary things happening in their personal lives. Hanebado shines when it’s all about the game and not the unnecessary drama that happens beyond it. This is why Nagisa works so well as a protagonist. Although the show becomes more standard and safer when the focus shifts to her, the story gains more solid, familiar ground when this happens.
The key issue here is balance. It’s something the show lacks, and it’s obvious in the way it doubles down on Ayano’s angst and seems to breeze through Nagisa’s journey like it’s an afterthought. You’d think increasing the episode count would help the show resolve its problems, but then again, a longer runtime might be the last thing you’d want from a gloomfest like this. If it sounds like I’m voicing a preference for the safer, more generic formula of sports anime, then know I’m only doing this because it got downright painful to watch this show cut itself open from the edge it so desperately wanted to own. Does Hanebado hate being a sports anime? Sure seems like it, what with the way it treated the material that could have at least made it coherent.
In the world of Hanebado, nothing is earned, the stakes are all made up, and nobody cops any consequences. Conflicts happen for no real reason and when they do, you’ll wonder what the characters did to deserve such a depressing storyline. Badminton is Serious Business, and unlike other series that might encourage you to take up the sport they’re portraying, Hanebado’s only good for showing how big a burden its sport is and why it ruins people’s lives.
A promising badminton anime with eye catching animation and almost hilarious overbearing attempts at being dark or edgy. Yes indeed this anime has a plot thread running through it bringing constant drama in a way that is almost funny. However in the end it sadly simply doesn't make sense due to the character motivations ending up being contradicting. The main story starts out focussing on Ayano a broken character that openly is disgusted with badminton. She hates it and never wants to go back to badminton ever again due to an experience not revealed until later. An experience which when looking at it from a plot standpoint is quite disgusting.
The animation of this series is largely very good. While the art sometimes does degrade if generally picks up when needed and the scenes that look a less well animated generally aren't too glaring either. Character animation is the most important in this it being what makes this series stand out using real life badminton motion capture to assist in animation. Truly it is captivating. The opening is catching both visually and musically and the voice acting is of course again good to good enough. It gets the point across together with an OST that get's the job done there's nothing really to complain about too much.
Characters however are a bit of another story. Ayano is largely riduced to a carciture of a character being ridiculously dramatic and has a increasing tendency to be mean in the series towards other characters. At first it seems innocent but it keeps developing in a strange manner. Nagisa is another main character who is more or less a hard worker with some hangups. She's a flawed character as well as seen in the first few episodes but develops as the series moves along, very quickly in fact. She's not that multifaceted however despite the first few episodes and falls into a role quite heavily. While three or so other characters have some plot involvement and feel involving there's a rather large number of characters that feel superfluous to the story. They have small side stories but feel poorly established and can feel uninvolving because of this. They're along for the ride most the time. Compared to other anime of this genre the side characters among this group are just unusually weak due to poor establishment. Their interactions with other characters than the lead are few and far between and generally don't feel particularly emotionally involving. While there's about one or two moments when a scene does capture the emotions quite a lot of scenes are too empty emotionally to get the point of these side characters accross.
The largest problem with this anime is sadly the plot and writing for Ayano and a certain family member. Ayano's motivation makes sense but the way she acts for most of the series just feels unnatural. As if she's a dramatic clown for the audiences experience. The reason she ended up like this and quit badminton was supposed to make her like badminton more. Despite this it is Ayano's friend that actually is the reason that Ayano is playing badminton at all and through the series rather than love badminton she despises it. While the ending wraps certain things up and changes the status quo Ayano ends up being all too forgiving despite being traumatized and the contradictionary logic of the certain character is never brought up.
The entire plot thread with Ayano in the end simply ends up being based on coincidences and in a large part doesn't make sense. Watch this anime for the badminton scenes and criingy over the top dramatic moments but don't expect a masterpiece of writing. The glaringly lazy character writing for Ayano and some other characters can be hard to overlook. Despite this you can easily enjoy this anime regardless.
But man, what a letdown. My review focuses on the biased and unfair perspective throughout the anime.
First of all, I finished this for the sake of my beloved sport. Throughout the episodes, I've also noticed that they see Ayano as an obstacle for Nagisa, they are all so fucking biased and don't get me started on the coach. Ayano is a part of their team, rather than helping her overcome her 'berserk' way of playing, rather they see her as an enemy. how in the actual fuck
The only few people who understood Ayano was Elena and Ebina, rest were meh. I don't hate Aragaki, I just hate how she held a pathetic grudge towards Ayano, that's not sportmanship. I hate that even though Ayano is a Main Character, she's often portrayed as a villain because of the way she plays? I also hated how they overhyped Ayano, to be unbeatable just to be a guine pig for Aragaki. Hell, Ayano couldn't even get an ounce of an redemption arc.
They should've made Aragaki the sole lead and made Ayano a secondary character, if they were just gonna use her to make a path for Aragaki. Honestly, I believe that Ayano was better than Aragaki, it made no sense why she lost. She's tactical and offense monster, although her smahes are not of match with Aragaki's, she can outwit her. Badminton is a tactical sport, strenght alone is useless if you don't know how to outsmart your opponent. Ayano had the upper hand, still she lost. Plot armour for Aragaki.
Why did she lost? You might wonder? THE COACH BASICALLY FOCUSED ON NAGISA BECAUSE HE WAS LIKE THAT? Ayano was also his student, so why did he focus more on Nagisa? Biased pfft. He didn't try to connect more with her, that's why Ayano was so messed up when she played. I blame the coach and Aragaki's plot armour honestly.
Imagine your mother abandoned you for losing a badminton match while sick, like dude WTF
Watching this anime is like watching actual hard hitting sweating badminton games. Great job on the animation and sound. The credits and music are good. The story, although was a little too familiar and could have used work: A former prodigy in a sports club loses hope after losing a game, losing his friends, losing his family, getting slammed, losing confidence, etc. The story could have used a little work. I did like the fact the the badminton featured variety of woman players in a variety of styles, including a lefty. Nice work overall and worth watching.