So that scene where Uchika asks Ayano to leave Japan with her? Do we get a follow-up? No, of course not. That would make too much sense. But oh well, we’re actually focusing on the big rivalry advertised ten episodes ago. About time, Hanebado!. Was it worth the wait? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh…
I’ll admit that when Hanebado! actually focuses on its central plot, it is somewhat interesting. Conceptually, making your titular character more of an antagonist and the main rival the one you want to root for is a nice subversion of expectations. But boy did this anime meandered to it. I don’t want to say “cut stuff out”…well okay, maybe get rid of the love triangle and anything involving the Bad Club boys. At the very least, the issue is how unfocused this anime has been; exploring subplots at just the wrong times.
Positioning Nagisa and Ayano’s rematch at the end does make sense in terms of the narrative but it doesn’t really feel all that earned since this rivalry has only been explored very passingly throughout the cour. Instead, more emphasis was given on just about every other rivalry besides this one or a love triangle involving C-list characters. Frankly, it feels like Hanebado! is squarely focused on this rematch now simply because it’s obligated to…that and it ran out of side characters to waste time on.
And the best part? You still have to sit through more set-up in this episode before the match truly begins. I think the bits and pieces sprinkled in last episode sufficed. We don’t need more of Ayano being a piece of shit and Nagisa training. Or at the very least, this all should’ve been what comprised the previous episode. Again, why did we even focus on the Bad Club boys at all?!
Actually, I take it back. The best part of Hanebado! taking this long to get here is that this far in, Ayano just isn’t that interesting anymore. At first, I thought her becoming this arrogant and rude was a bit bold and even very entertaining but now, it’s gotten old. This girl has a huge case of Flanderization. Being rude is all her character is at this point and it’s very one note too. Just Ayano saying she doesn’t need friends or that Nagisa sucks over and over again. It feels cartoonish, phony even. Plus, the more times this anime chalks up it up to her mommy issues, the more it begins to feel like an excuse.
It’s a shame because I actually thought Nagisa is pretty interesting in this episode. I still can’t believe she’s risking a potentially career shattering injury over a grudge but this rematch really does show how much she’s grown as an athlete. She isn’t relying on her raw strength this time around but rather, her wits. She analyzes Ayano’s play style, deploys trickery to secure an early lead, and saves her smashes as a last resort. It’s a far cry from how she was in Episode 1 and seeing her in action now does feel thrilling (especially with Liden Films’ animation quality).
Frankly, the highlights of this episode are Uchika and Elena. Let’s start with the former. I am amazed just how bad of a mother Uchika is. Turns out she isn’t an abusive parent, just a complete idiot. She left Ayano…because she wants her to be a good badminton player without her guidance? I don’t even know where to begin with how stupid that is. But I have to admit that this makes her so appropriately infuriating. It’s not that she doesn’t love Ayano but rather that she loves her and invests in her in the worst way possible. That she didn’t even account for the negligence it evokes or the damage it would cause is mind boggling and I mean that in favor of Hanebado!. This anime did create a good antagonist here.
As for Elena, I must admit that I have softened my opinion of her as time went on. I know she’s a fan favorite but I personally thought her heart was just in the right place more than her brain. She honestly could’ve done things better in those early episodes. But give credit where it’s due, Elena is the only character in this stinking story besides Nagisa who has actually taken issue with Ayano’s attitude. That anyone else in the Bad Club, student or freaking faculty, go along with that behavior baffles the hell out of me. Not Elena though, she’s actually being sensible here. I also really like that Hanebado! has her expressing regret for pushing Ayano to pursue badminton again. That part of the story never sat well with me so seeing her blame herself and try to damage control really makes me think she’s matured here.
To be honest, I’m way more interested to see what Elena has to say to Uchika next episode than Ayano and Nagisa’s match. Regardless of who wins or loses, the projected character development is written on the wall and I can’t say I care anymore thanks to Ayano sucking out so much enthusiasm. Elena, meanwhile, could say all sorts of things to Uchika and I can only imagine the result to be satisfactory to some extent. It does say something if I anticipate a conversation more than a “thrilling” game of badminton but at least it’s something.
Thanks for reading!