Hanebado! – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Despite her great potential, Ayano Hanesaki would rather avoid badminton than play it. But, when she meets Nagisa Aragaki, a third year who spends every waking moment perfecting her game, she’s inspired. Encouraged by their coach, Tachibana Kentarou, Ayano and Nagisa will hit the court and rally against opponents and rivals with amazing skills! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Hanebado! offers strong animation during its badminton-focused segments, with the girls depicted with highly detailed artwork that often impresses as they take to the court. The series can’t keep it up all the time however, and during non-play sequences frequently dips into mediocre territory.It rarely looks outright bad, but to achieve those highly impressive badminton sequences clearly something had to give. However that’s not really Hanebado!’s big issue. Instead Hanebado!’s biggest problem is best exemplified by its catchy and breezy opening song, coupled with animation that sometimes portrays the character in a far darker light. It’s this opening showcasing our lead, Hanesaki, with a crazed, mentally unstable look in her eye, that exemplifies how utterly disjointed Hanebado!’s tone is, frequently flip flopping between a more stable, normal sports tone and something altogether psychologically darker and angstier.
Linny: Hanebado! has a flair for the dramatic, which is perfect for those who like their stories filled with characters struggling with inner turmoil even if it be over some of the most common anime tropes; like being abandoned by your parent. If you’ve usually found sports anime and manga to be too light hearted and hopeful, Hanebado’s regular dives into almost psychotic levels of dark content might be something for you. However, as Tom just mentioned, there’s no avoiding the tonal whiplash, which is a major road bump and one that makes the show feel like it has a split personality, preventing it from really selling either of its two natures; the happy badminton club hijinx, and the twisted psychological breakdowns of some of the characters. For example, in episode 5, we have a scene where one of our protagonists is verbally mocked about having driven their parent away with the atmosphere getting very dark, even if filled with a few cheesy cliche, ‘twisted’ lines and the scene then abruptly continues onto a bunch of girls naked and giggling and playing around in a sauna/hot spring. It happens so quickly and the change in tone is so extreme that it feels like someone literally switched the channel to another series entirely.
Tom: Part of the problem is due to who our focal characters are. Initially we’re focused on the school Badminton Club’s team captain, Nagisa, a young woman who is intent on proving she’s more skill than simply her natural height. Early on she’s so emotionally intense we veer into pure angst, but even then the series manages to pull itself out of that funk fairly quickly. The real issue is when we change to the true star, Hanesaki, who suffers far greater psychological angst based around a mommy complex with an underlying motivation so thin, so stretched, that it fails to justify Hanesaki’s present mental state, making it all feel so ham-fisted and silly. Other characters, primarily the villains, are so much larger than life, so over the top, smarmy and evil that they just don’t fit in with an otherwise grounded series. The only time any of these characters truly work is when we focus on anyone who isn’t emotionally explosive, and those moments are unfortunately few and far between, with the only standout sequence being Episode 6, with focus squarely placed on the team’s vice captain, Riko, who simply lacks confidence and drive. Her story is far more relatable, even minded and while emotions do run high, it’s never laughably so.
Linny: For better or worse, Hanebado! flits about its cast constantly. This is great for those who like the constant shift in focus, which could potentially help to make the cast feel more well rounded and keep things from feeling monotonous by introducing a million options and personalities to entertain the viewers. But in the case of Hanebado! , it also sometimes leads to confusing content as the change in focus and character exploration can go by so fast and in such a frantic manner that a lapse in attention for a minute could leave you utterly confused and lost.
Tom: Due to the shifting focus Hanebado! flips between something that feels akin to this season’s Harukana Receive, with a more even-minded take on badminton, to bordering on full angsty, melodrama and such psychological damage you might feel like you crossed into Happy Sugar Life, the true blue horror series for this summer. To be fair, other sports anime tend to shift in tone a lot too, often alleviating drama with little spurts of comedy. But while that works in something like Haikyu, Hanebado! takes its drama to such deep levels that the tone shift feels altogether jarring and off-putting, rather than a simple breather. In part this is due to the anime’s insistence on taking the Manga’s early chapters and instilling them with the dramatic tone that eventually builds as the original manga went on, but is so indecisive in its commitment to that goal that instead it just feels confused.
Linny: Hanebado! feels like it is trying to woo two different types of audience; one that just wants the typical happy and silly high school sports club story, the other that wants a more raw and twisted take on what’s usually otherwise a very hopeful tale. If you’re interested in the sound of this hybrid of a show, by all means, dive right in. The drama might still work for you if you have a tendency to enjoy similar high emotion anime. But those more fond of the usual perky sports anime type probably won’t be won over. Ultimately, Hanebado! feels like it’s doomed to a small fanbase thanks to its constant and frantic change in tone between cliche happy and cliche dark, both aspects clashing too much with each other and producing too little praiseworthy content to be worth the time investment.
Tom: Hanebado! doesn’t know what kind of sports anime it wants to be. Right now it feels like a Frankenstein: a mix of a lighter series with something far angstier. While trying to introduce the manga’s later shift in tone was admirable, perhaps to make the series feel more even beginning to end, the ultimate lack of commitment to it, that creates so much confusion in the atmosphere, leaves Hanebado! instead a sloppy mess.