Oh yeah, Nagisa is a relevant character…
And yes, I have actually started taking that for granted. In my defense, Hanebado! hasn’t really given much spotlight to this character as of late. Not that she hasn’t done anything these past couple of episodes but the lack of prominence is noticeable after hyping her up as someone who is just as important as Ayano in the first two episodes. And speaking of which, we haven’t really seen much of the dynamic between those two characters either. I imagine Hanebado! aims to get to that soon as both Ayano and Nagisa now qualify for finals and if anyone is going to get pissed at our protagonist’s attitude, it’d be Nagisa. That could be promising but this anime sure is taking its sweet time to get there.
But regarding the episode itself, I actually thought it was pretty good (shocking, I know). For one, it got me to like Nozomi a lot more as I realize that she’s more of a foil for Nagisa than for Riko. A few times throughout the show, you hear Nagisa saying that she has no talent and that she just diligently trains for a sport she loves. Facing Ayano in her first year has especially made her feel this way. In this episode, you witness a similar thing going on with Nozomi. She has felt that her badminton skills paled in comparison to Nagisa’s and has thus trained like crazy to be better than her. Even then, you can recognize her continued insecurity as she resorts to following her coach’s instructions to the letter to keep winning. As someone who sometimes feels low self-esteem, I found a lot to relate with Nozomi and after so many overconfident characters, it’s refreshing to see a different kind of rival in Hanebado!.
Having enjoyed this episode a fair amount, it almost makes me feel that Hanebado! should’ve just went straight to here rather than waste time with Riko’s filler episode. I know people like Riko though so I’ll stop there.
Despite the history Nozomi apparently has with Nagisa and Riko (they all went to the same middle school), you actually don’t see Nozomi interact a whole lot with Nagisa. Some eye contact here and a few lines (some of it internal) there but you don’t really see these two characters share a lengthy conversation or anything. I don’t mind the route taken though. It effectively conveys the distance these two characters have with one another and that Nagisa keeps fighting the good fight is enough body language to convince Nozomi to be her own badminton player again. By the end of the match, you buy her learning something valuable here, even in spite of her losing.
I kind of love Nozomi’s coach if only because he’s such a stinking loudmouth. How on Earth he gets away with yelling out instructions is beyond me but it was entertaining. To be fair, it’s a nice contrast to Tachibana, who chooses to stay silent despite Elena very reasonably suggesting that he should yell stuff to Nagisa as a counterattack. Tachibana has a point, Nagisa is the kind of player who’s better off getting lost in the zone rather than have an earpiece suggest things to her. This, in turn, also helps Nozomi’s coach recognize his own shortcomings: that he’s too demanding and strict with his trainee. All things considered, this was a nice bit of commentary about how to be a good coach.
Really though, the highlight of this episode was every time it cuts to Ayano lounging on the bleachers, talking smack about Nagisa. I know we’re supposed to hope for this attitude to change but I honestly wouldn’t mind it if this girl stayed this way. I was laughing like crazy in almost all of her scenes. It’s amazing just how committed Hanebado! is with this characterization. Honestly, it’s up there with tap-dancing Peter Parker in peak-level effort in making a character as disdainful as possible until the inevitable redemption.
And again, it seems that only Elena is paying a lot of attention to this attitude problem. Some of the side characters are picking up the signs but they could just chalk it up as Ayano having a bad day or something. Tachibana and Riko? Still not in the know apparently. That Elena tries to hide her concern feels odd to me. Riko has a strong rapport with Ayano and Tachibana is the stinking coach. If anyone can back Elena up with this, it’d be those two. Why keep them in the dark for this long?
Honestly, when Elena confronts Ayano about her attitude for the second time, I found myself leaning towards siding with the latter. Elena wanted her friend to play badminton and well, she got what she wanted. She just didn’t consider the possible baggage it comes with which need I remind you, she didn’t learn all of it until Episode 3 despite being Ayano’s best friend and no, I’m not letting that go.
I suppose the follow-up to this development should be interesting, especially if it involves Nagisa, but given Hanebado‘s track record, I really should keep expectations modest.
Thanks for reading!