Yep, that Hanebado! bandwagon still eludes me. I mean, I came out of this episode a little bit more positive (key words being “a bit) but I still stand by my assessment that Hanebado! is all over the place with its execution. It doesn’t have terrible ideas but the writing could stand to be better.
Let’s start with the positives. How this story got to Ayano and Connie’s big first match was still really rough but it did get more entertaining in this episode. The big reason is that it does show what strengths our protagonists have. Tachibana employs a bold strategy where Ayano would deal with the brunt of Connie’s offense at the back. It’s risky but it makes sense given Connie’s obsession to show off to her “sister”. It also allows Ayano to learn how to counter her opponent faster and give Riko some openings for smashes. As for Riko herself, I’m still not the biggest fan of her but I did like her role this episode. She encourages Ayano not to give up and coordinates really well with her teammate during the match. Her talk of friendship is still grating but her most recent actions back them up at least. It’s definitely an improvement from letting Nagisa be a bully back in Episode 1.
…And that’s about the only positive thing I can say about this episode.
That Tagajo secures the win for Connie was a smart writing choice. On paper, it’s a strong blow to the latter’s belief that she’s better off playing badminton solo. I say on paper because to be honest because how Hanebado follows this up is horribly misguided. Connie regretting how she treated Tagajo like trash feels out of character. At the end of the day, she still thinks she doesn’t need a team and she still sees that as something that makes her superior to Ayano. It’s counter-intuitive and awkward to have her feel remorse for someone she still wouldn’t want to team up with.
For that matter, it seems odd that anyone in the Fredericia Team would bounce back to being buddy buddy with her. They really don’t mind Connie pushing them aside? I think they should be tired of her shit by now. It would make sense for the whole fanservice-filled bath scene (for characters you mostly won’t care about by the way) to be saved for later. Everyone should hate Connie and after, say, Ayano proves her “sister” wrong about teamwork and beats her in badminton, you can have the character be redeemed. Right now, this moment of sympathy and comedy doesn’t feel earned at all.
Sometimes, I get the impression that “Hanebado!” isn’t keenly aware of how mentally fragile its own protagonist is. It certainly provides evidence that Ayano needs help. Her desperation to beat Connie brought back her zombie state briefly. The flashback at the end of this episode once again proves that her mom is giving even the worst anime parents a run for their money. There’s no denying that badminton has left a nasty influence on the poor girl. But there’s something about the way characters have interacted with Ayano that feels rather shallow. Like, the more you learn about how shitty her mom is, the more Elena saying parental issues was not a good reason to quit badminton two episodes ago feels insulting.
In the case of this episode, you have Sora (who apparently is important to this story) downplays Ayano’s “ace status” while admitting she was cool during the match to play her off. It’s a pep talk that doesn’t work because 1) Ayano never had that ego and 2) Ayano’s desperation to win is rooted in trauma. It really isn’t about bragging rights. So having Sora tell her friend not to make excuses feels just as shallow as that Elena example I gave earlier. One argument you could make is that maybe Sora isn’t in the know about her friend’s past but that seems a bit odd since you had the coach and the team captain investigate Ayano’s past two episodes ago!
And here I thought, Elena was the only friend who could accidentally say the worst possible thing. Why does Hanebado! write these friend characters like this? Maybe that’ll change given this episode’s ending. Considering that Ayano has completely snapped over the truth Connie smacked her with, surely Elena and/or Nagisa has to be a bit more careful with how to go about this.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s a 50-50 chance with this anime.
Thanks for reading!