Hanebado

December 22, 2018

It’s about time! About time they made an anime about badminton. Heh. I suppose this is the most popular racquet sport in my country. But I believe this timely anime adaptation wasn’t made because of Malaysia’s current number one. Coincidentally, Japan too has a current rising star in the badminton world and with China’s domination and grip on the sport slipping, I have a feeling there is no better time for a badminton series. However Hanebado isn’t going to showcase the rise of a certain Japanese badminton shuttler. Just another one of those high school sports club who is the underdog when you know, the cliché new player with talent joins them and now they have a chance to advance beyond. Lots of side drama to boot…

Episode 1
It’s that time when you start questioning the things you’re doing. Like Nagisa Aragaki. Tired and desperate. Eventually she lost her badminton match without scoring a point! OMG! 21-0! Ayano Hanesaki and Elena Fujisawa are new high school students of Kitakomachi and they make friends with Noriko Miyura. She suggests they all join the tennis club because the captain, Akifumi Saionji is such a hot guy as well as other favourable stuffs. Let me guess. You wanna date this dude? Yup. She even confirms it that what’s the use of being female if you can’t land a guy like that! We take a detour to see a more gloomy badminton club. Obviously Nagisa is practising so hard like a robot but she is also taking out on her club members and some are already at their limits. Is this some torture club? Club vice captain, Riko Izumi talks to her about losing current members in addition of not getting new ones but Nagisa isn’t listening. With the Spartan training continues, I guess that is it for some members. Those who cannot take it anymore, confront Nagisa. Perhaps they’re just waiting for her to say it. If you can’t take the heat, beat it. And that’s what Yuka and co did. As Nagisa is jogging, she is shocked to see Ayano trying out in the tennis club. Yes, this was the girl that defeated her 21-0. Before she could do anything, this weirdo, Kentarou Tachibana climbs over the fence and is singing praises all Ayano. He wants her to play badminton. What kind of guy suddenly touches a girl’s hands?! Is this a new way to pick up girls? Thanks to Elena her eternal protector, she is spared from further ‘molestation’. From Ayano’s movements and her hand blisters, Tachibana can tell she used to play badminton. It’s no surprise Ayano runs away. Enough shock for today. Badminton club advisor, Miyako Taroumaru introduces her ‘secret weapon’ that would help the club: Tachibana! Not only he is the alumnus of the badminton club, but played in the Olympics! But… I never heard of him. Yeah, he was selected to play but got injured and had to pull out. So technically he didn’t play… So to bounce back from that failure and play in the Olympics, he is going to turn them into gold medallist material. I have to ask why this particular school anyway? Just then, Elena drags Ayano in. She believes she should be playing badminton. Ayano still feels playing badminton as pointless. This makes Nagisa’s blood boil but Riko tells Ayano otherwise. Nagisa wants to play a match with her.

Episode 2
Ayano is actually playing quite well until halfway some trauma kicks up and she just quits. Nagisa continues to practice tirelessly. Tachibana talks to Ayano about her flexible wrist and she being naturally left handed is a big advantage. He would have sounded more convincing if he isn’t prone to touching her hands! As Nagisa plays Riko, she keeps thinking her smash is her ultimate weapon. Eventually she narrowly beats Riko. Nagisa and Ayano team up in a doubles practice match. They often bump into each other and Nagisa always blames her for getting in her way. Tachibana has Nagisa switch with Riko. It seems Riko could make judgments that allow them to play perfectly as a team. Hence Tachibana tells Nagisa that it is this judgment she is lacking. Nagisa isn’t happy either. She thinks this is just part of his plan to make his number one look good and that is what talentless people are for. To aid that. A junior even talks to Nagisa about how she envies her being taller, stronger and talented. She is just in a slump right now. Nagisa believes she doesn’t rely on talent. Then a confrontation with Yuka about taking out on her juniors. Not that Nagisa would want to hear from a quitter. Yuka also claims she envied her not because of her talent but because of her wholehearted love for badminton. Tachibana has Nagisa practice with her. From her weak movements, he can tell why she is in a slump. Nagisa too keeps pondering why her smashes aren’t cutting it. Tachibana returns it with an easy trick shot. Lesson time. She thinks being tall and using her jump smash is her advantage. But being tall makes her heavier, hence she needs to work out her legs more. She won because of hard work. She loves badminton, does she not? Now that her mind is clear, first thing she does is to apologize to all her members. They make a vow to get through the inter-high tournament.

Episode 3
Elena remembers Ayano used to love badminton. Until one day she just quit. She learnt her mom just left. Noriko is devastated. Initially she had a date with Saionji but that guy called to cancel it. What is she going to do with those extra movie tickets? She wants to ask Ayano to accompany her but Elena tells her she has club activities. Is she now her personal coach? And then ‘ditches’ her to join Noriko? Yeah, she looks so bored. At the end of the day, Elena stumbles into Nagisa jogging. The latter asks why Ayano quit badminton since she was perfect during the junior nationals. Elena agrees to figure it all out. During practice, this snobbish girl, Kaoruko Serigaya drops in to play with Ayano. Can she from another school just waltz in like that? Kaoruko is good but Ayano is obviously sloppy and loses badly. Kaoruko is very disappointed and leaves, reminding Ayano she can never beat her. With that, Ayano has not been going to school for a few days. Tachibana and Nagisa go pay a visit to her home. She’s not in but her grandparents are. They know Ayano’s problem is badminton related. Tachibana is shocked to know that Uchika Shindou is Ayano’s mom. She won 10 straight wins at the Japanese nationals. But I never heard of her on the world stage… Meanwhile Elena finds Ayano sulking at the playground (I suppose it’s a place where she goes when she is having troubles). This was what happened. Ayano was supposed to play a match with Kaoruko. The latter was sick and wanted to play on the same terms. Guess what? She forcefully transferred some of her illness to her!!! WTF???!!! Hence Ayano was also as ill as her on match day but lost. That was when Uchika left. She believes because she lost to Kaoruko is the reason she left and has never been back since. Ayano didn’t give up and became better at badminton hoping she would come back. But here’s the real kicker. She saw an article of her mom trained and raised a new badminton prodigy who then won some crown! It was when she realized she has lost all reason to play badminton. Nagisa isn’t going to let her off easily yet. Practising hard to beat her, she wants them to play a game. Right now. With everyone else joining in and you can tell Ayano getting her love back for badminton, it goes without saying that Ayano and Elena soon hand in their application to officially join the badminton club.

Episode 4
Summer training camp. It is a joint training stint with Frederica Girls School. A local powerhouse. Ayano volunteers to do some errands at the convenience store but thanks to Nagisa’s weird map, she got lost. Just like this Danish girl too, Connie Christensen. They manage to find their way there as Connie reveals her goal in this training camp is to beat a certain someone. Guess who? Yup, look at Connie’s face now upon learning who Ayano is. Then it is Ayano’s turn to be a little surprised to find Connie is a badminton player of Frederica when they return to camp. Yeah, their talk was so vague, it could have meant anything. With Kitakomachi and Frederica having one a game each, looks like it is down to this important match. A doubles match between Ayano-Riko and Connie-Hina Tagajo. Connie warns Tagajo not to interfere. But when Tagajo returns a shot, Connie subsequently stands there and not play at all. If she is going to beat that someone, she will do it by herself. So if Tagajo wants to play them herself, be her guest. Yeah, whatever Frederica problems, not Kitakomachi problem. Play on. They take a huge lead until Tagajo admits she cannot beat them herself. So switching means Connie will play them herself? Connie has her speed and high jump and claws her way back in no time. And she is disappointed in the way Ayano is playing. So boring. Tachibana then realizes Connie is that young prodigy Danish player who won multiple world titles at 16 years old. But here is the real kicker. Connie starts to tie her hair that resembles so much like Ayano’s mom. And Connie knows all about Ayano as her ‘big sister’. But she didn’t know how she looked like?

Episode 5
Connie wins the set by a mile and mocks Ayano she is not Uchika’s real daughter. You mean by blood also doesn’t count? Ayano is on the road to depression but thank goodness for Riko’s words of motivations about being partners, right? Tachibana suggests the next set for Riko to defend the front near the net while Ayano covers a wider area at the back. This is because Connie’s greatest weapon comes from her powerful high vantage smash. With this method, Ayano-Riko is able to pick up some points and return some of Connie’s shots. Blonde b*tch still think she can do this herself so why is she surprised when Ayano returns them? On the match point to Connie’s advantage, Connie sprain her muscle. She couldn’t return the hit until Tagajo steps in for her to win it for Frederica. Blonde b*tch still not impressed and limped away alone. The drama doesn’t end on that side. Ayano too is b*tching she didn’t lose. She blames her racquet’s string broke at the last moment and Tagajo stepped in. So she really thought it was 2 against 1? Since she is sulking, no sympathy points from Sora Isehara who lectures her how she came and go from the club as she likes. In short, stop making excuses. To show Connie is not 100% demon, she is also in depression but mainly because she feels bad on how she treated Tagajo. Too bad everybody was hiding and listening so Connie has to live up to her words to atone. So bath together is the answer? I guess Connie is only a demon when it comes to badminton. Otherwise she’s just a typical girl. Now everybody starts molesting her in the bath. The only place where it is fair game for all? Before all depart home, Ayano tries to ask Connie more on her mom. However Connie trolls her. Something about how Uchika saved her when she was all alone and is the most important person to her. And then this: Even if Ayano manages to find her place in the team, it is all meaningless if mama doesn’t acknowledge her. Trauma switch on. Oh, haven’t you heard? Uchika is returning to Japan soon. And so Ayano being her usual depressed girl on the way home. But something in her might have snapped as she now spots those crazy eyes and psycho herself that she doesn’t need mom! Oh sh*t. I fear she might go on a killing spree on everyone on this bus.

Episode 6
The tournament is around the corner. Miyako is more concerned of the new uniform the badminton club should be getting. And here is the matchup list. Nothing smells like drama because Riko’s first round opponent is Nozomi Ishizawa from Zushi Sogo High School. Yeah, once old friends who went to the same school. That gloom on her face must really tell something has happened, huh? Heck, why do their eyes have to meet when they get there? Why is Riko being shunned by her? Oh, we’re here just to play badminton. Miyako is eager for the girls to put on their new uniform. Even made extra special as she sewn the school name on it. It’s got to be worth it. The matches get underway and we see our usual characters breezing through. Hence the drama focus is on Riko-Nozomi match. Riko is nervous and loses a few points. With some motivation from Tachibana, she gets serious to plot her strategy. It worked for a while when Riko has found her weakness and exploits her backhand that she hates to use. But it is back to Nozomi dominating again with her cut smash. Riko then tries to play long rallies because it’s like she knew Nozomi was being told by her dick coach to quickly finish her low level opponent off and to conserve energy for the next match. After a long drawn out match, eventually Riko lost in straight sets. Damn her young siblings are crying. Heck, even Elena is crying on her behalf! But Riko is just so sunshine face and asserts her love for badminton. But when she is alone and reality sinks in, she starts crying her heart out. Yup, she wants to play more but too bad, this is her last year in high school. Guess what? Ayano’s mom is here and is looking for her! Meanwhile Ayano is being confronted by Kaoruko who gives her a handkerchief. It is so that she can wipe the tears and snot after she losses! What a f*cking b*tch!

Episode 7
But Ayano isn’t scared. She replies she has worked hard to grind her into the dirt! Maybe she is the one who needs the handkerchief? Kaoruko is so confident that she goes to request personally to Tachibana that they could talk to each other after the match. Yeah… Suddenly once she steps into the court, her cute face turns into a freaking serious one. Did they turn her into Jojo?! Kaoruko thinks Ayano is easy meat. Until her speed just blows her away. Didn’t foresee that, huh? Heck, even her teammates are mocking her about her earlier cockiness comments that she has visualized the pattern to victory. Well, better adapt fast because Ayano has raced to 5-0! And when Kaoruko scores a point, it’s like she’s won the whole thing. To cut it short, Ayano wins the first set. The girls play at faster pace for the second set with Kaoruko hoping it would wear her down so that she could do her tricky cross cut move. After all that drama and tension, Kaoruko lost the set. Oh here comes Ayano’s reply now: You need a handkerchief? Kaoruko retires to the locker room. A bit awkward with her teammates. Everybody is just stunned or in no mood. And of course, Kaoruko cries alone. What do you mean you almost got her? Sure, the scores were close but you were the one dancing in her palms. Oh well, she doesn’t have to cry alone since her lackey, Miki Sasashita also cries with her if not even harder. I think it’s to make us have some sympathy for Kaoruko because now we see the real b*tch in Ayano as she mocks her opponent as pathetic and disappointing. Even if Elena disapproves of disrespecting her opponent, Ayano has a point because winning is all that matters.

Episode 8
Nagisa’s next opponent is Nozomi. Oh, some short flashback as to why they are ‘rivals’. From the same middle school, it was Nagisa that was supposed to get a scholarship to Zushi Sogo but somehow Nozomi got it. And everyone knew Nagisa was the better player. So until today, they’re like both hurt from that? Nozomi’s coach seems to have found Nagisa’s weakness. She has an injury on her knee and wants her to wear her down by making her run around. Meanwhile we see Ayano playing her opponent. Ayano must be so tough that her opponent got a little injured and Ayano assumes she has already won. When her opponent insists she can still go on, Ayano with that b*tch look tells her what is the purpose of doing so. Eventually she forfeited. Might as well withdraw than continue to play with such b*tch. Once more Elena is not pleased with Ayano acting this way but Ayano doesn’t care as long as she wins. Nozomi still got bad blood with Nagisa that she doesn’t want to shake her hand? During the match, Nozomi’s coach is just damn noisy, shouting combos and formation for Nozomi to do. Double the annoyance with Ayano criticizing Nagisa’s play like as though she knows it all. Flashback shows Nagisa could be bad in judging in weather the shuttlecock is out of bounds and hence every shot she returns, hence contributing to her wearing out her knee. Even when Nozomi tries to play on her own and wins a point, her coach chastises her for not following orders! Nagisa gets some motivation to find her own way to play by Tachibana. It isn’t long before she finds her form and scores successive points. This puts Nozomi under pressure and confused. She remembers the Spartan training her coach always gave her. She sees Nagisa’s determination to beat her even if it is risking it all. With the first set going to Nagisa, looks like Nozomi’s coach is going to blow his top again but this time Nozomi talks back. She always blamed everything on him but when tried to play her own style, it was less than impressive. She wants to continue finding it. Hence her coach finally shuts up as Nozomi plays the way she wants and she looks so happy. Eventually Nagisa wins the game that lasted closely into the rubber set. Nozomi makes peace with Nagisa and shakes her hand. It’s like her coach suddenly realized his wrongdoings and that he was too focused on winning. I guess the only b*tch left now is Ayano who is just bored and unimpressed. Final match: Ayano vs Nagisa! Although both qualified for the nationals.

Episode 9
Oh look. Connie is here. I guess she qualified, huh? Yup, she and fellow Frederica, Yuika Shiwahime. High and mighty Connie is brought down when Ayano points out she can see her pantsu. This is what you get when you take the higher ground. They’re supposed to spar but Ayano gets devastated that her Wei-Wei strap (some Chinese whale shark mascot) got torn. Shiwahime suggests skipping the match and head to this Wei-Wei amusement park. How convenient. You can see Ayano as a big fan of this mascot and she’s literally acting like a kid. Even more so when Shiwahime wins the big prize and gives this huge Wei-Wei backpack to her. Time for the drama to start when they witness a pair of sisters arguing but finally making up. Because Connie confesses she wants Ayano to be part of the family. That is what she came to say. WTF???!!! You acting like a b*tch previously and now you say you want to be family?! You can tell how mad Ayano is despite her creepy smiling face because she starts a badminton game with a super powerful smash! Can’t take that, can she? I guess badminton is their only way to communicate. But Ayano descends into a badminton monster. So different than before that Connie looks like a weakling! WTF?! Flashback shows Uchika was in some badminton training stint for kids. Just because she noticed Connie all alone and found out she was the best player among the kids, spar a bit and then suggested they become family. Like, WTF???!!! Connie saw a picture of Ayano and was told she is her ‘older sister’. So basically Connie wants Ayano’s acknowledgement? WTF. In the end, monster Ayano defeats Connie. Is this the Connie we know?! More salt to injuries when Ayano tells her off it is impossible for them to be family. Because she is abandoning mom. Holy sh*t! Hey. You started it. Connie leaves depressed and sulking. When her Frederica girls happily greet her, Connie starts crying her heart out. The warmth of friends, eh? I guess she didn’t get the sisterly warmth she wanted. Is this the Connie we know?! WTF?! Ayano returns home but there’s a surprise waiting for her: Uchika. Long time no see. How do you abandon something or somebody who has returned to you?

Episode 10
Ayano ignores Uchika and shuts herself in her room. Can’t force her out, can you? Ayano plays against Tachibana and narrowly lost. She wants another game and since Tachibana isn’t going to oblige, she bugs Nagisa for one. In the locker room, the others are trying to live up the mood that their school have both representatives for the next round. Too bad Ayano had to shoot her mouth saying Nagisa will definitely lose to her if she plays her now. Cat fight coming up? Nothing happens. Nagisa is called to see Tachibana and Miyako. It seems Tachibana wants her to forfeit her match with Ayano because of her knee. She can always face her at the nationals as long as she keeps winning. This is hard to digest for Nagisa so Miyako explains how Tachibana was part of the team for the Olympics but he chose to pull out due to his own knee injury and then retire. It might look like he let slip a golden opportunity but he felt awful ever since. That is why he is speaking from experience to Nagisa. We take a detour as we see the boys’ tournament. The only ones in Kitakomachi are Gaku Isehara and Yukiteru Hayama. Isehara wins his first round and he has a few girls from other schools cheering for him? Must be his looks. It is Hayama’s turn and he is struggling his opponent. No surprise as he was last year’s semi-finalist. Then we have some flashbacks of him getting into badminton and why fellow badminton player, Yuu Ebina is so ‘concerned’ about him. Probably the tension is too much that she can’t watch his match. So she watched him practise every day after school and felt frustrated and painful? I don’t think she is jealous. But once Hayama lost in straight sets, she cried the hardest. Eventually Isehara too lost in the quarter-finals. Both aren’t giving up on badminton yet despite they are already high school seniors. Hayama continues to practice after that as Yuu confronts him. She confesses she loves him but surprisingly she isn’t sure. Because he showed her how to play badminton, she wanted to really support him. So is this love? He thinks she loves badminton. Thanks for clearing that up. We don’t need some distracting side romance, do we? Nagisa tells Tachibana she is still going to play Ayano. After all, she was that girl whom she lost to 21-0. Fighting her means fighting the person she was back then. Hence Nagisa would like Tachibana to coach her. Ayano still ignores Uchika. Until Uchika says after the tournament, why not leave Japan with her? Abandonment route cut off…

Episode 11
Ayano continues to ignore Uchika but the latter continues to talk to her. Is she hoping she’ll get confused and give in? Hayama drops in to practice badminton instead of studying for his finals. So Ayano suggests he plays her and she routed him. So now he doesn’t want to play the next set and return to studying? Yeah, studying is less brutal. To create the necessary build up for the final, hence we see the characters training, talking here and there. So hard to just skip to the finals. This includes Elena confronting Ayano to ask her what she is fighting for. Ayano then reveals mom abandoned her just to make her stronger in badminton. WTF reasoning is that???!!! If that was really the reason, can’t blame Ayano for turning psycho now because now she believes she has the power to abandon mom! Elena feels sad but blames herself for bringing Ayano back to badminton. You really regret it, huh? And finally the final starts. It is a slow start as both sides are trying to access each other. Thanks to smarty pants Kaoruko analysing and predicting the moves before she oh so knows it all. Sorry, can’t understand. Not really of a badminton nut. What I understand is that Nagisa wants to try avoid using her smash and force Ayano to overthink and make so many prediction options that she will hesitate. Like if this moment is Nagisa going to smash or not. Nope. Did not. Nagisa races to lead 2-0. And at this point Uchika leaves the stand?! I hope she’s not abandoning her so early when it’s just getting started. Of course somehow Elena sees this and follows her. They need to talk. Looks like Ayano has learnt to be more talkative because she notes how sneaky Nagisa is playing. She’s saying that with even deader eyes. Just wondering when she’ll turn into a full zombie mode.

Episode 12
Flashback shows after Ayano lost to Kaoruko, mom left. Without saying a word!!! Despite Ayano’s pleas not to go!!! WTF???!!!! And to answer Elena’s question, she did it because she wanted Ayano to improve since Ayano started doing badminton for her sake. WTF???!!! I have so many issues with that. It doesn’t sound convincing. Uchika continues she also wanted to open Ayano’s eyes by having great skills. Because only a few can earn a living in sports. A small injury can ruin your career. Yeah, you ruined your relationship first. Knowing she did something unforgivable, Ayano is on the verge of taking a new step thanks to the club who stayed by her side. At the end of the first set, Ayano wins 21-16. But why she looking so angry? Second set, to cut it short, Nagisa makes a comeback to take it 21-18. During the break, Tachibana assesses Nagisa’s knee. Still can go on but he again hints if something goes wrong, she must throw in the towel. I guess Ayano is even angrier that she even chides her fellow mates who are trying to cheer her up. She thinks they want her to lose. Until Sora lectures her how all of them wanted to play in the finals and go on to the nationals. Right now she is fighting for them too. For that moment, the crowd all cheer to support Ayano. Damn flashback messing with her mind. She wants to be strong that nobody will need but those damn moments in the badminton club made her heart soft. So what’s it going to be? Let’s get this last set going. Ayano starts with a shocker because she uses her right hand. Looks like somebody can be sneaky too.

Episode 13
Ever since Ayano used her right hand, Nagisa has raced up to a 10-0 lead! Tachibana has noticed that Ayano has always been ambidextrous but maintained only using 1 hand because of the time lost while switching. But when Ayano gets her first point, the tides are turned and she catches up. Yeah, Nagisa is getting pretty tired and her knee is still hanging in there. More drama as we hear Ayano’s thoughts why she is playing badminton. Then she found her answer. It’s to beat Nagisa. Well, duh. At least that’s your current goal, right? With Nagisa’s knee seemingly going to give way, Tachibana wants to call it quits but Riko believes in the power of believing. Believe in her a little more! Yeah, this is going to take a while before the game ends… So when the game goes into a deuce, more dramatic tension effects are added to drag out the drama. Like this long silence and you can only hear the heartbeats and the players panting. Oh wow. Such nail biting anxiety. Who is it going to be? And finally we have a winner. NAGISA! Oh yeah. You can start crying now. It’s a good thing her knee is still intact. Otherwise it will be tears of pain instead. It is also a good thing that Ayano has lost, her evil b*tch mode is gone. She apologizes to Yuu and Sora. Then she confronts mom. She admits she hated her and thought she abandoned her because she had no talent. To answer her question why she plays badminton, it’s because she loves the game. Yeah. Duh! Mom asks if she wants to go overseas to Denmark with her and Connie. Nope. She’s staying here. This is her starting line. Also, she has the nationals to play, right? Can’t just abandon the whole tournament, right? Oh Uchika, how does it feel to be left behind now? Ayano shows her smile. She hopes to play together some time. Ayano also apologizes to Elena for being a dick and b*tch all in one. Then she starts crying not because she lost but rather Elena has stayed by her side all this while as her friend. Damn those tears! Now it’s harder to hate her!!! Tachibana and Nagisa return from the hospital. Patellar tendinitis. Sounds horrible. But the real symptoms are not, so be glad that she can still play badminton with no big issues as long as she doesn’t push it. You think Nagisa isn’t going to surpass her limits? But hooray! Her career is still alive. And because of that, Ayano challenges Nagisa to play. Luckily Elena stops her before her b*tch mode starts rising again. They eventually do have their bout because the nationals are a few days away. Keep practising.

Bad-Drama-Mean-Mom-Ton
Sad to say… This series isn’t exactly a smash hit or anywhere near it. I doubt it will get another season because I don’t think we want to see Ayano get her revenge on Nagisa in the nationals. We have our fair share of drama for this season already. Even if they tried to make some amends in the final episode, the damage is done. It’s not entirely right for Ayano to continue hating mom, right? With them at least on talking terms, can we pin the blame on Ayano’s evil b*tch mode due to the pressure of the game? Uh huh. Because from what it looks like, Ayano was slowly turning into a demon and a character that you would hate. Until she lost and with no pressure left to do well, there is no more reason for her to stay that way. I mean, everything mostly remained the same even though she lost, right?

Unfortunately for a sports series that goes the realism route, there is only so much the plot can tell. Because it will be totally boring if it is totally focused on the court and the games only. Because might as well go and watch a real badminton match. Hence to give a reason why the characters play badminton, hence the much needed drama of the main characters to justify their existence in doing so. And too bad the drama here is boring and unexciting. Bad, if I should say but it isn’t so much that bad that it would be in the running of the worst anime of the season or the year. The drama and plot is made draggy and dragged out as the characters have their own inner battles to fight while they fight another battle on the court. Yeah, everybody has their own problems. Everybody wants to win. But many can only dream of that. Perhaps it is too early to criticise how bad the pace and direction of this series since there are only 13 episodes. It looks like not enough episodes to properly flesh out and develop the story and characters but considering how the draggy drama went, it felt like they were wasting time instead. Unless this is supposed to be the intended development.

Hence you can see the final few episodes of the series being dragged out for a few episodes because not surprisingly, this is what many sports themed anime would do. You have to really drag out the so called important matches and then spam it with a lot of monologue drama and flashbacks. Like everybody knows everything. But watching the final match between Nagisa and Ayano sometimes felt a bit funny. You see both girls suddenly going into overdrive mode that they look like different women altogether. They infuse it with a lot of angst and anger because it is understandable at this stage and considering their circumstances and relationship with each other, they don’t want to lose. But it’s just funny that after one scores the point, all that flurry of ferocious smashing movements just die down and they’re like, uhm, standing there? Yeah, better catch some breath. It’s like all that violence in the game suddenly come to a crashing halt. Funny if you consider all the drama that came in between. And when they’re having powerful rallies, sometimes I feel pity for the racquet and shuttlecock because I worry with all that power anger, they might just break them. Seriously.

As for the badminton matches, I am more inclined to say that if you are really interested to see one, you are better off watching a real live badminton match. I am not saying that the animation sucks but there are at times their movements are a bit jerky. In initial episodes, some of the movements look erratic that I thought the animation was a bit based on rotoscoping. Like as though they try to trace a badminton player’s movements into this anime. It looks a bit weird but if this was really what happened, I suppose it is a commendable way because what better way than to animate the human body of a shuttler in action? Otherwise, the other animation parts during the badminton matches look pretty decent and the sound effects of the shuttlecock hitting the wired racquets are really spot on.

Maybe that is why the series is trying to focus on the drama of its characters and not much of the actual badminton matches. As you would have realized, there are really no flashy exaggerated moves that some sports anime employ. I’m looking at you Prince Of Tennis and Kuroko No Basket. Thus no shuttlecock turning fireball smashes or shuttlecock that flies in like a homing missile! I’m glad they didn’t go with this route or I might have viewed this series with even more disdain. With realism in the game, may match scenes are not shown and before you know it, the match is won. Because it must be really boring if you see both players trade shuttlecock back and forth for every point. Yeah, we’re not going to stay and watch every point and might as well go watch a real badminton game. I guess we have to live with the infused drama then.

Now comes the worst part of the series that I find: The characters. Sighs, why are there so many b*tches here? There isn’t a single character whom I feel like I want to root for. The main characters have problems big enough that it makes them look like bad guys. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Take a look at Nagisa and Ayano. The former became a slave driver after her devastating loss and even though she redeemed herself, the damage had already been done and cannot be healed. Like her knee. Starting off to be such a heckler to your own teammates doesn’t bode well with viewers. She only toned down because now Ayano takes the spotlight. Honestly, if the producers think if they want a main character to be hated just to be refreshing, I think they’re doing a good job. It is understand she has her own past and issues but does this mean that Ayano has the right to treat others like dirt? She was fast becoming from a main character whom we had no feelings for to a very much hated character. I won’t be surprised even if she redeems herself somehow, we won’t be able to forgive her for being a dick. Oh sorry, b*tch. Like Nagisa’s case, the damage is done and people’s perception of you will be very hard to change. Even if the series had another cour to make these characters likeable again. Last episode that has them redeem everything, it sometimes feel so rushed.

But can we all agree that the worst character goes to Uchika? She is definitely in the running for top spot as the worst mother of the year. If you want to blame Ayano for her b*tch character, Uchika is largely to blame. It is understandable that all mothers want their best in their child. But the fact that she got up and left without saying a word or even explaining why, that was really sh*t. Come on. Ayano is a little girl. She loves badminton as much as she loves you. And to just get up and leave like that without even saying anything, not even a simply goodbye, that is just cruel. Even if little Ayano will not understand what she explained (and hence the cliché you will understand it when you’re older), at least it is much better than leaving without saying a damn thing. That is just traumatic for a kid who has been relying on her mom a lot. I’m amazed Ayano didn’t turn into a serial killer after that. I won’t be surprise and in fact would be glad if Ayano hanged up her racquet and temporarily turned into a killer to kill off her mom! Yikes! Alternate fantasy. But it’s good to at least know that Ayano does not fear and to continue walking under her mom’s shadow. Sometimes the best way to follow the footsteps of the one you admire is to walk your own path.

Fuelling Ayano’s insecurity is the fact that she adopted another foreign girl as her daughter and she wins championships under her wing. Oh man, I really want to see that alternate fantasy of Ayano turning into a serial killer. Abandoning mom as revenge just doesn’t feel satisfying at this point. Uchika did say she did something unforgiveable and unforgivable indeed it is. However the way she says that sounded like she has no remorse! Not a single hint. Maybe at this point there is no use regretting and Uchika is a strong woman who doesn’t show her emotions. My guts tell me that parents who do despicable acts like this to their kids, we are sometimes shown a glimpse of their other hidden face of regret (unless the parents are genuinely despicable). Uchika has no shreds of that, indicating that she expected Ayano to become like this. She might be the best female badminton player in Japan and possibly the world but she is the worst mother and deserves a special place in hell! Do you not agree with me???!!!

And the rest of the other side characters feel like they don’t really matter. It’s so as to make it look like it isn’t just about Nagisa and Ayano and to some extent Uchika. Like the other members of the badminton club are so weak in their game that it is no surprising that they couldn’t advance far enough. I don’t even know why they had to include some boys in the club. Maybe so it won’t look like all girls only playing badminton. They don’t really matter at all and I’m wondering if this is for some cheesy romance distraction between Hayama and Yuu that this series doesn’t really need. But then again, it would be utterly boring if everything is focused on Nagisa or Ayano. So let’s have a bit of this less than memorable distraction. I don’t even know why in the final ending credits montage they need to remind us of Noriko and Saionji ending up becoming a couple. Like what is the relation to this series, man?! Even that loser tennis member got an admirer. WTF?! What’s tennis got to do in a badminton series, dude?!

The fact of having Tachibana as their coach feels like an excuse to make Kitakomachi as worthy opponents. After all, he is at least theoretically Olympic material. Oddly, of all other schools or even the dedicated badminton academy, why this underdog school? Suspicious, eh? Otherwise Tachibana doesn’t really stand out character wise as he just dispenses advice when needed to. Or else he would let his badminton players do as they wish. Yeah, the ultimate goal is to have fun, right? Tell that to all the future champion wannabes. Miyako even feels more redundant and we can’t simply put an ex-Olympian as the school’s coach and therefore we have this incompetent and forgettable advisor. I wonder how she even got him in the first place. What’s their connection? So as to not make her character feel useless, the reason why she is the one who designed Kitakomachi’s badminton uniform. Meh…

The other badminton rivals are also not very memorable. Even if they are, most probably for the wrong reasons. Like Kaoruko, that snobbish b*tch who transferred her sickness to Ayano just so she could beat her on equal terms!!! WTF???!!! Oh, she is the other big reason to blame for Ayano’s trauma. And now she gets to be some smarty pants commentator in the final match? Just shut the f*ck up! Connie feels weird. I thought she is going to be a sisterly rival but then suddenly woah! 180 degree change! She really wants to be family! So why started off giving that antagonistic feel?! Does this twisted ways exist in the Hanesaki family?! So if Ayano abandons mom, looks like Connie won’t be your Japanese onee-chan. Boo hoo! Nozomi (the girl whom I’ll remember for having chopsticks as her hairpin!) also felt redundant and should have been like the many other nameless opponents. But I suppose they need her character to play up some sort of past with Nagisa and as well as Riko’s last hurrah. With such lacking rivals from other schools, it is another reason why I don’t think they’ll have another season. They might have to make up rivals that have some sort of past or connection to our main characters as we go.

Oh, before I forget, it seems there are so many characters who contributed to Ayano’s trauma. Uchika, Kaoruko, Connie and now I remember, Elena. Yeah, she was bugging Ayano so much to go back into badminton thinking it would do her good. Look how much it backfired. She thought she knew what is best for Ayano (what is she, her mother?) and look where it has brought her? Ayano was resisting not wanting to rejoin badminton but you forced her, right? Better take responsibility. Now that Ayano is playing her brand of less than desirable sportsmanship of badminton, Elena is now trying to virtue signal her? Sure, all of us love to see good sportsmanship from players in games. But like I’ve said, Ayano might be made to be a hated main character. Sometimes seeing Elena wallowing in despair over Ayano’s b*tch attitude feels more like she has made a mistake rather than wanting her friend to go back to the right path. Hey, sports is like showbiz and any other business in the world. It’s a dog eat dog world and nothing beats being number one. Winning is the only thing and everything! You don’t tell Ayano how to play badminton when you yourself can’t properly play the game! And thank goodness Elena doesn’t have to feel guilty for the rest of her life since Ayano came back to her senses and even thanking her for being her friend and reintroducing badminton back in her life. Gee, thanks. That’s what friends are for.

I have already covered the animation for the badminton matches, as for the other aspects, they just look decent. I just want to note that the art for Ayano’s face changes drastically during the finals with Nagisa. Ayano looks pretty plain already and then there is her zombie face! Is this creepy? If that wasn’t bad enough, Ayano and Nagisa’s art suddenly mature like as though they become different people! I thought they are different people! Especially Ayano who has this evil glint in her eyes, making her look like a bad guy. I’m sure they want to ramp up the drama and with such an important final, you got to take this seriously and look the part. Yeah, so serious that your art style even changes? Can I say that Ayano is a character with many faces? Plain face, happy face, crying face, zombie face, evil b*tch face. Even some scenes of the animation changes. Like as though they’re experimenting with it. For instance, some scenes just turn black and white. Wow. So dramatic. Kitakomachi’s badminton uniform… Did Miyako take inspiration of its design from a swimsuit? I’m not sure if this is works for aerodynamics but whatever.

Nothing much to comment about the voice acting. Feels pretty normal. Remember how I often attributed Sayaka Ohara’s voice to be perfect for villainess roles? If I consider Uchika as the villain, can I put her in this category too? Nobuhiko Okamoto seems to be taking a break from all the angry roles he voiced like Bakugou of Boku No Hero Academia, Accelerator of To Aru Majutsu No Index and Zack of Satsuriku No Tenshi. He is calm and composed like as though he has cast away his anger and no hint of it whatsoever. Other casts are Hitomi Ohwada as Ayano (Sana in Alice To Zouroku), Miyuri Shimabukuro as Nagisa (Narumi in Harukana Receive), Mariya Ise as Connie (Levi in Fairy Tail), Asami Shimoda as Kaoruko (Kotomi in Seitokai Yakuindomo), Konomi Kohara as Elena (Akane in Tsuki Ga Kirei), Yuuna Mimura as Riko (Kaede in Aikatsu), Arisa Sakuraba as Nozomi (Satan in Sin: Nanatsu No Taizai) and Mikako Komatsu as Miyako (Kanae in ClassicaLoid).

If there is one thing I prefer from this series, it is the opening theme, Futari No Hane by Yurika. It is very exuberant and energetic. A theme that should have really fit the badminton themed series like a glove had not all that bad drama ruined it. It’s the kind of song that is suitable for any high octane sports themed series. The ending theme is also an energetic rock piece, High Stepper by Yuiko Ohara. Not bad too but I prefer the opener. Again, would have been such a perfect fit if not for the bad drama.

Overall, it is a disappointing series because of the bad drama and main characters that you will instantly love to hate. Because it seems to indicate that the power of friendship is the one that saved Ayano instead of the power of family or motherly love. I’ll give them credit for this unique setting then instead of heading down the cliché path of the likeable underdog. This series would have had more potential if they put a little bit more focus on the drama on court rather than off court. I’m sure this series isn’t a good example to instil love for the game or attract more new players to it. Heh. I hope they won’t make current ones run away. It is even sadder in reality for Malaysians as our own badminton superstar is already nearing his setting sun and no potential successor at all. I guess the only smashing that we will get to watch is this series into smithereens. An instant kill shot. 0-21, 0-21. Game, set and match. Looks like an early retirement for this series.