So much for Uchika’s screentime.
It always amazes me how Hanebado! sometimes builds up for something big and important only to then shy away from it in favor of subplots. I thought, maybe just this once, it’d actually would focus on the mother-daughter drama between Uchika and Ayano but nah, we got to give our utmost attention to two guys we barely knew about up until now. This far in, I really should know better.
To be fair, the few scenes between Ayano and Uchika that you do get are serviceable. They do a good job conveying the distance between these two and it’s appropriately baffling that Uchika waltzes back home and acts like it’s all normal. She just greets Ayano and lets her be. She even offers her daughter a chance to leave Japan with her. Whether that would include Connie is unknown but knowing this lady, one of her daughters needs to get the short end of the stick.
And that’s why the lack of time devoted to Uchika’s character feels so frustrating. You know what she’s doing but you don’t know why she’s doing them. There’s simply not enough text or even subtext to draw from. Did Uchika expect her return to go swimmingly or did she have no idea what kind of fallout ensued following her departure? Does she even feel bad for leaving? Is she trying to reconnect with her daughter now that she’s back? How exactly does Uchika feel about Ayano? Apathetic? Remorseful? Loving? There’s making a character mysterious and then there’s actually not providing enough material.
Ayano’s reaction to all this feels odd too. With how rude she’s been (and oh boy, is she rude in this episode), I expected something heated upon seeing her mother for the first time in years. Maybe she yells at her mother for leaving her. Maybe demand to know the reason why she left. Or I don’t know, maybe just ask how she’s been doing. Anything but instead, she’s silent. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just felt wrong, like a deliberate stop gap to this plot thread so that the surprise ending will land better.
Of the two subplots shoved in our faces, the one involving Nagisa is at least interesting. I suppose it’s about time that we’re finally back to her rivalry with Ayano. You know, the very first relationship advertised in the beginning of the stinking story. I want to say I don’t care anymore after neglecting this dynamic for so long but to be honest, the rematch could still be fun. The set-up is pretty extreme though. At this point, Ayano is pushing everyone’s buttons for the sake of it and Nagisa is willing to risk a potentially career-breaking injury just to be hear in badminton is bold but also pretty stupid. If you ask me, Nagisa should beat Ayano and that’ll serve as a wake-up call for the latter. At the same time though, she should still ruin her knees in the process both to make the victory a Pyrrhic one but also actually make the recent doom and gloom carry weight.
I really did roll my eyes at almost every scene Gaku and Hayama took center stage. I mean seriously, we’re ten episodes in and we’re going to focus on the men now? What are their characters anyway? I guess Gaku is the generic stoic one, Hayama is the generic average Joe, and both of them are in fact men. That’s honestly it. They’ve largely been in the background up until now. Plus, this whole “never give up/underdog” story has gotten old. Riko had that exact same premise and her arc pulled that off much, much better.
Granted, I say I rolled my eyes but the truth is that I am still disappointed in how Hanebado! handles the guys’ tournament. Gaku’s matches were horribly skimmed over. It kind of bums me out because if you’re going to focus on him, at least let me see him play. Hayama’s match is actually not that bad, highlighting that the boy does have his moments. I think if the staff showed both characters’ matches and cut between them, this episode would come out a lot more strongly.
I don’t even like Hayama or Yu and yet, somehow this romantic stalemate Hanebado! leaves them in drove me crazy anyway. With this being the one subplot the show actually bothered to do consistent check ins for, the most it could at least do is make the payoff work. But rather than actually make them a couple, you have Yu backtrack her confession a bit and leave Hayama horribly confused. I think it bothers me more because the build-up this episode almost worked. Yu finally caves into her feelings, shares some actual moments with Hayama. There’s even a nice bit where Nagisa helps her sort out those feelings. Hanebado! really could’ve made this romance count at the last minute but instead, it’s left with one mind-boggling conclusion it may want to fix later.
You know, I get it. Hanebado! is a character-driven anime and likewise, it wants to get through all its characters. That still doesn’t justify it being all over the place with its narrative; multitasking and meandering through different arcs when it really shouldn’t. If your story is about a bunch of characters, maybe not shove two of them into the background in the first place like you did with Gaku and Hayama.
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