I did say I’d give Hanebado! the three episode rule and you know what? I did enjoy the second episode more than the first. There still a few things about the storyline and characters that bug me but I am liking where things are going overall.
While the show has established who’s the principal characters are, it’s Nagisa that gets most of the spotlight this episode. It’s a little surprising since both the OP and ED emphasize Ayano as the main protagonist. Even the very title of the show seems to be derivative of her last name: Hanesaki. When I think about it though, giving Nagisa character development now was the smart thing to do. She spent all of last episode being nothing but a bully so it’s better to make her come across as likable ASAP. And considering that she’s likely the one to get Ayano back into badminton, keeping her pissed off all the time probably wouldn’t work in that arc’s favor.
I got to say, Taromaru-sensei ended up being right on the money on how helpful Tachibana would be as the new coach. The man is maybe a bit too obsessed with fingers (what an unusual fetish) but he’s clearly skilled at badminton and observant of his opponents. That match between him and Nagisa was a great way to put the latter on the right path again. It forces Nagisa to accept that she isn’t perfect at badminton but it also validates her hard work and encourage her to keep pushing through the adversity she’s been dealing with.
It was certainly more helpful than whatever the hell Riko was doing. I’m sorry but Riko sucks. Handicapping herself during a practice match with Nagisa was insulting to the latter and all she really does in terms of support is stand around and smile. I’m starting to see to why Nagisa stayed angry for months on end.
Regarding Ayano, I’m on the fence on the way she’s recruited into the badminton club. It’s an event that admittedly needs to happen but the fact that she’s shoehorned into it because Elena offers to be a manager for the club is really contrived. No way is the power of friendship that compelling. It also just convinces me more that Elena is a terrible person. If anything, I think it’d be more impactful if Ayano straight up declined even after Elena’s “ultimatum”. That would make it more apparent to everyone that there’s a good reason why she quit and it would better prompt Nagisa (preferably the less moody version) to step in and help.
At the very least, you do get some insights into Ayano’s character. No doubt about it, she is really talented; able to react and counterattack just about anything thrown at her. It’s easy to see why Nagisa sees her as a rival. The fact that she’s a more defensive player than Nagisa reinforces the duality between the two. If you had both characters learn to work together more, they’d be unstoppable. At one point during a match against Nagisa, Ayano suffers from a flashback that hints that her reason for quitting badminton is related to her mother. It seems that her mother is a highly skilled badminton player herself. Maybe Ayano felt too much pressure from living up to high standards? Like I said last episode, I’m really curious about what happened to her.
The one thing that really mystified me this episode was the screen time to devoted to one of the supportive characters and badminton club members, Yu. Maybe she’s acting as a POV character privy to how hard working and motivated everyone in and out of the team is but there must’ve been a better way to execute this. Frankly, you could’ve cut out her scenes with the club members who quit last episode. It’s also hard to say if what she learned this episode will amount to anything important. With the end of Episode 2, Hanebado! is starting to show what kind of opponents Nagisa and Ayano will face so it’s hard to imagine Yu getting involved in any of this.
Once again, the animation continues to be a high point for Hanebado! It really says something about a sports anime if even the practice matches look so fluid and kinectic. I think the best piece of animation in this episode though was the part where you learn of the kind of insecurities Nagisa dealt with. This is random to say but that might be the best looking faux chalk I’ve ever seen since Hyouka. And something about it being visualized as chalk drawings really emphasizes how the gossip was affecting her internally.
Overall, I’d say this was a pretty good episode. The character development for Nagisa was solid and having two likable leads definitely makes the second episode more enjoyable than the first. I’m looking forward to the next episode.
ED: “High Stepper” by Yuiko Ohara
Thanks for reading!