Remember in Episode 7 how it made the surprising move to make Kaoruko the center of sympathy despite Hanebado! originally setting it up as it as Ayano’s time to shine? Yeah…the same thing happened with Connie in Episode 9. Goddamn it, these rival characters really are too similar with one another. It’s not just the hairdos.
I’m not against the idea of Connie wanting to be an actual sister to Ayano. Far from it, I thought that was the natural endpoint for her arc anyway. Having it happen now though has its ups and downs. This does cement how much Ayano is in need of a serious attitude adjustment but the timing of Connie’s change of heart feels so out of the blue. It’s as though the writers forgot that four episodes ago, they had Connie tell Ayano about how she’s going to crush her at the tournaments and prove her worth as badminton to their mother, Uchika. Now, she suddenly wants to be sisters as well as want Ayano to acknowledge her badminton skills but also still beat her in a legitimate game? Just let the character pick one goal for goodness’ sake!
There is one brief flashback where you see Connie read an email of Uchika, informing her that her stepmother is watching Ayano’s prelim matches. I suppose that’s meant to show the beginning towards a shift in Connie’s attitude but even then, that’s a cheap tactic. A big development such as this shouldn’t occur off screen and then justified with a flashback for the convenience of the story. This is really something that should’ve been presented over the course of the series.
As mentioned earlier and in Connie’s defense, Ayano is much ruder than she needed to be. This girl has every right to be mad at her mother but her stepsister is innocent for the most part. Then again, it kind of is Connie’s fault that Ayano is acting the way she is now. I’m just saying, she did go around telling her sister that there’s no point pursuing what she loves if their mother doesn’t acknowledge her. That and, again, saying she’ll beat her in badminton to prove that she’s the better daughter. All things considered, Connie expecting this sudden plea to be a family with Ayano is poorly timed and kind of stupid. Oh and “naturally”, Hanebado! shifts all the blame to Ayano and make Connie look all sad and defeated. That makes sense, right? Why even make this a complicated issue?
There’s something about Ayano’s demeanor that I find to be jarring. Props to Hanebado! for showing that this girl isn’t always the worst. At the end of the day, badminton and any variation of “mom” just so happens to be her trigger words. Still, it was a little weird how civil and even playful Ayano is with Connie in the first couple of scenes they share only to later snap and humiliate and reject the latter during their mock match. I don’t want to say her behavior was unrealistic but to be honest, it feels less like a statement on the character’s mental health and more her actions getting dictated by the story when it really should be the other way around.
I’m torn over this episode as I thought there were some incredibly redeeming qualities. Take the Wei-Wei stuff for example. It is, admittedly, pure CGDCT material which feels tonally off from the generally dramatic tone Hanebado! has set itself with. Still, having the Connie and Ayano bond over their shared adoration of this weird whale mascot had potential. It’s really the only time Connie’s efforts to connect with her stepsister comes across as sincere. Maybe if Ayano and Connie have chosen their words more wisely (or I don’t know, had a better fucking script), this moment of bonding could’ve had a longer lasting effect.
There was also some solid framing with two face to face shots Connie has with Uchika and Ayano. The former is a moment of warmth and inclusion while the latter feels condescending and unwelcoming. It’s not just in facial expressions but also in the slight change of posture. Uchika kneels down to make direct eye contact with Connie while Ayano is slightly looking down over her. All in all, it’s a subtle and effective way to convey the different familial connections Connie is experiencing.
It was a little surprising to discover that Uchika seemed to have largely raised Connie the way any good mother should. I suppose that humanizes the character in a way though I worry over what this might say about Hanebado‘s overall portrayal of her. Whatever reasons this woman may have for raising Connie and however well she did it, the fact of the matter is that she left her own biological daughter without saying why. That’s not something that would go very well for a child and we’re seeing the damage as the show goes on. Don’t even try to put this person in a redeeming light and don’t even dare say that this is all just Ayano jumping to conclusions or something. I’m glad that Hanebado! is gearing up for Ayano’s first real encounter with her mother but this is also a scene it needs to get 100% correct. And if I’m being frank, this anime doesn’t leave me feeling confident that it will.
There’s also couple of B-plots happening in this episode. I particularly have to wonder if all this talk about Nagisa potentially spraining her knees and jeopardizing her badminton career will actually amount to something. It’d be daring of Hanebado! if Nagisa does blows out her knees but right now, it feels like fluff, something to make you think something bad will happen until the plot armor kicks in. As for the Yu-Sora-Hayama love triangle…who cares. Such little development happens in that department that I don’t get why this anime even bothered with it.
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