Japanese Title: Hanebado
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 13 episodes
- The badminton is great
- What is with the protagonist?
- Who is the protagonist?
- Split personality storytelling
- Worst parent in anime
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What a rollercoaster of opinion Hanebado is for me! This was a request from a dear reader for an anime I hadn’t heard of (though did see a clip of the badminton). When I looked it up to see what it was about, I noted the poor ratings. Didn’t think anything of them at the time. We fast-forward to this week, where I am supposed to review Yowamushi Pedal (finished watching it over a month ago) and am watching Hanebado for the future. Hanebado turns out to be such a baffling anime that I must talk of it immediately.
The story is about high school girl Ayano who reluctantly joins the badminton team. This prodigy had stayed away from the game for a while after her mother, a 10-time badminton champion, abandoned her.
The story is about Nagisa, captain of a high school badminton team, who hasn’t gotten over a 0-21 loss at the hands of prodigy Ayano last Nationals. She takes out her frustrations on members of the team. One day, an Olympic player joins as their coach and he recruits Ayano to the team with sights on Nationals.
I’ll get to the reason for these two versions of the story in a moment. I want to start positive with my first impressions.
Hanebado opens on the Nationals match between Nagisa and Ayano on the verge of a 0-21 finish (perfect game). The animation is fluid, the choreography is tight, and sound design is flawless. Everything about this scene draws you into the sport. If you’ve ever played badminton, you’ll know the feel of flicking the racquet, that ping of resistance when the shuttlecock hits the strings, and the swiftness of your shot into the opponent’s court. Hanebado captures this.
With such a good first impression, those poor ratings return to mind. What could possibly go so wrong?
The first negative, though not a critical one, is indecisiveness on the protagonist. This relates to my two story angles above. It starts by presenting Nagisa as protagonist, but then from episode four, Nagisa is barely in it and Ayano takes the position. It switches again later. Whoever wrote this (or adapted it, if different from the manga), could not decide on a clear direction. We even see a smaller version of this problem later, where some guy we barely know form the boys’ badminton team gets a dedicated episode. If you only watch this one episode, you would be excused for thinking him protagonist. It’s a mess.
Not a deal breaker though.
Early episodes are standard sports anime fair. You meet the team, there’s a bit of comedy, a bit of personality, ambitious speeches, the shy one, the mean one, and the cocky one. The usual. Then it gets stuck into the matches and we see Ayano’s competitive side. During a serious game, this timid girl turns into a coldblooded killer of badminton. She even has the dead anime eyes when “in the zone”. It’s cheesy as hell. More than this, her whole personality changes into a bitch. She becomes so nasty to everyone that no sane person would want to associate with her again. When a friend wishes her good luck, she insults her for it. She even badmouths a teammate for trying hard to win.
What a failure at portraying a “tough” character. She has split personality disorder, surely, but the writer doesn’t treat it as such. Barely anyone even comments on how nasty she is. I cannot emphasise enough how disparate her two versions are, as if replaced by a different character. And if I haven’t made it clear yet, she is trash writing. This also ties back to the protagonist confusion, as when Ayano is “in the zone” she comes across as the antagonist!
The justification for her personality is from past trauma. This is where I introduce you to an even worse character – the mother. Let me give you the 411, as they say, on this woman. She abandons her daughter after she loses a match while sick (the opponent pinned her down and coughed on her because it wouldn’t be fair if only one person was sick). And her justification for this? It’s for Ayano’s good, that it would make her a better player. Which parenting school did she go to? Abandon your kid for years out of some sense that it will be good for her? Ayano spots her years later in a magazine alongside a Danish girl, a badminton champion and her adopted daughter. Replaced… Harsh.
It would be one thing if she were a neglectful parent antagonist to Ayano’s arc. However, Hanebado doesn’t see her that way. When she comes back to Japan, there’s barely a criticism against her. The grandparents on the father’s side don’t seem to care whatsoever for abandoning her infant. Their response is akin to having missed her daughter’s school play. “Oh that’s too bad. Maybe next time.”
As for Ayano’s response, she’s mad at her mother at first, but the final episode cops out and ends with, “Eh, I’m over it.” What just happened?
Usually when a story has a poor writing decision, I can see what the author was trying for. The result may not have worked, but the idea makes sense. In Hanebado, I don’t know what the author was thinking. Either it doesn’t make sense, like I have perceived it, or the author somehow thinks that the mother’s parenting is good and the split personality behaviour is praiseworthy.
When I say author, I want to be clear that I don’t know if it’s this way in the manga. I’m questioning whoever is responsible for putting it on screen.
It’s a shame that the characters and story have such problems, as the badminton itself is great. I love the matches. The animation, the cinematography, and the sound design – all fantastic. Sadly, there isn’t much outside of that to praise.
Art – High
Easily the best aspect of Hanebado, the art is clean, the animation fluid, and the opening sequence is beautiful. Such a waste on this story. I like the practical character designs that make sense in badminton, except for the pink haired girl (should have tied her hair up during the game).
Sound – Medium
The acting is fine in either Japanese or English and the casting is similar. The music is solid as well. Fine all around here.
Story – Very Low
A girl reluctantly joins the badminton team after bad memories of her mother kept her away from the game. Hanebado starts as a standard sports anime before it takes a turn for the stupid with baffling character choices and drama.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Skip it. Unless you want to see some well-animated badminton, stay away from Hanebado. I still don’t understand the story choices.
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6 thoughts on “Hanebado – Anime Review”
Oh, I do remember this show. I personally quite enjoyed the trashy writing. Ayano’s demented behavior towards her teammates & her mother’s brainless motivations for abandoning her were particular highlights.
At some point it almost felt like the “author” gave up on portraying a wholesome story about a troubled girl struggling to rediscover her passion, choosing instead to debase it with trivial nastiness for the sake of fake melodrama — something my sense of humor is predisposed towards.
All in all I found it a decent enough time-waster, but I can certainly understand why others would vehemently disagree.
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In my head, I’m imagining two co-authors on the project that had a falling out. When one was in charge of writing, Ayano would be all nice and sweet. Then the other would take over and go, “What is this baby crap? Need more edge!” and turn her nasty.
The mother backstory is totally ridiculous. No one is like that. Same with Ayano herself. Just, everything involving her made little sense. I was a lot more engaged when Nagisa was in focus, because her story of taking out her frustration over her loss on her clubmates seems relatable, as I’ve been on the receiving end of that before. I think Ayano’s arcs are too high stakes and overly dramatic to be relatable to me, while Nagisa’s is a lot more grounded, and hence relatable.
Quite a shame, overall. I probably liked it more than most because of how much I like badminton, and also because girls’ sports anime are a rarity nowadays (aside from some awful fanservice ones). Still, it should’ve been so much more.
I’ve never read the manga but from what I know, they are like completely different entities. The manga is apparently a lot more comedic and lighthearted overall, while the anime is more ‘serious’. Perhaps something in between would’ve worked better? The anime has way too much ‘edge’, especially with Ayano.
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I agree, Nagisa is the better of the two for protagonist. Ayano should have been the antagonist with a sad backstory (a simple one about being abandoned by a disappointed mother – no need to complicate it) that becomes nicer by the end.
There does need to be more girls’ sports anime. I was trying to find some good ones to put in the “Similar” area, but I couldn’t see anything worthwhile.
In my very brief look at the manga, the father is also still in the story? In which case, it would change everything.
Yes there really aren’t any modern girls’ sports anime worth mentioning. Which is very weird, considering some of the most acclaimed pre-21st century sports anime were girls’ sports (stuff like Aim for the Ace, Attack No. 1, or Princess Nine).
The father? Really? I probably need to peep the manga to see if Ayano and her family are handled better there.
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