This Week in Anime
Hanebado! Has No Chill

by Michelle Liu and Steve Jones,

Hanebado! came on strong as the world's most melodramatic badminton anime, but has it taken those heights of angst too far? This week, Micchy and Steve hang on for dear life through this series' wild mood swings.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for language.


@Lossthief

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You can read our weekly coverage of Hanebado here!

Steve
Micchy, I don't know why they call it badminton. It seems pretty good to me.

Micchy
So that's actually something of a misnomer. It really should be badmomton, if Hanebado! is to be believed.

Welcome to Hanebado! Your one stop shop for muscle and sweat sakuga, angry anime girls, and parental trauma!

Hanebado! was sold to me as a sports manga about angry buff girls; nobody told me it was actually a horror story about traumatized children!

That's Ayano Hanesaki, the badminton prodigy who quit and refuses to come back because her mom literally abandoned her for not being good enough at a damn game. Seriously what the heck. Hanebado! operates on 110% drama mode almost all the time and I don't really understand why.

It's really weird how this started out as one of the more inviting debuts of the summer, before people realized exactly what they were in for. Like, I've done a full 360 and looped back to loving it, but it's certainly been a bumpy ride.

It should be noted that a lot of Hanebado!'s weirdness comes as a result of its origin manga shifting its tone wildly over the course of its publication. It started as a pretty lighthearted story about a girls' badminton club, where a character design like this wouldn't have caused you to look twice.

It's since morphed into something more like this:


And I guess the anime wanted to preempt all that by adopting a more serious tone from the get-go, which works really well for some things and stumbles for others.

I gotta say, if they were going for serious, they kind of overshot it by a few light-years.

Now I'm not opposed to a hyper-emotional, laser-tight focus on small-scale conflicts in sports anime. Teenagers, especially anime teenagers, can get really worked up about things that don't really matter in the long run, and that's totally cool. When done right, you get stuff like that fantastic scene at the end of Haikyuu!! S1 where the boys stuff their faces to keep their minds off their anguish. Hanebado!, on the other hand, piles on the histrionics until I'm not sure if I'm supposed to laugh or cry.

I think that's where most people have experienced friction with Hanebado!'s presentation. My own perspective is that this is a situation where you absolutely do not want to conflate "serious" with "believable," because so much of Hanebado! is flat-out ridiculous. HOWEVER, it 110% commits to its own brand of ridiculousness, and that's where I respect it. It's a sports melodrama, not a sports drama.

I think I'd respect it more if the melodrama were limited to the teenage characters and not reinforced by the adults. Like, if Ayano were just concerned that her mom's love was conditional, that'd be one thing. But the fact that her love really is contingent on her daughter being good at badminton takes things from "this is a kid with kid insecurities" to "what the actual fuck Mom." Now to be fair, we haven't seen her mom's perspective yet; for all we know Ayano might be jumping to conclusions about a situation that's way more complicated, but that's still a hella huge bombshell to drop. Also, none of the other characters seem to care one way or another that this kid's suffered serious emotional trauma, so I'm not sure what plane of reality this show's operating on.

That is totally fair! Like I said, it's completely ridiculous, and it's a far cry from how the show sold itself initially, which is where I think people might be feeling betrayed. Hanebado! starts out by focusing on Aragaki, who is much more along the lines of a standard melodramatic teenager from a sports anime. She's insecure and hot-headed, and the first episode does a beautiful job illustrating her frustration and how it's impacting her team.



Yeah, aspects like Aragaki's self-centered ambition or Riko's anxiety about graduating without having accomplished anything work really well! But that means it's all the weirder to have those normal-ass teenager anxieties juxtaposed or equated with the Bad Mom Trauma Fest between Ayano and Connie. There's this strange clash between the way Ayano and her opponents treat badminton like a life-or-death struggle and the relatively grounded and relatable perspectives of her upperclassmen.

The show is tonally all over the goddamned place for sure. I think the worst (or, depending on your perspective, best) example happens when Connie goes from quietly contemplating her relationship with Ayano and her mom...

...to getting thrown into the fanservice bath, all in the span of like five seconds.

She even does the falling into boobs thing, sasuga anime.

Speaking of that fanservice though, do they gotta go there? The muscly thighs are plenty, and we already have volleyboobs (Harukana Receive) for the tiddy sports niche.

I'd wager we can chalk a lot of this up to the vestiges of the manga's early sillier chapters, but it still calls into question why the anime would even include these parts if it wanted to commit to the manga's current tone and atmosphere. That aside, one of the best things the show has going for it, the reason why I'm more forgiving of its shortcomings than I might be otherwise, is that it continues to look fantastic.

hell yeah it does

Even the most recent episode, which is over halfway through the show's run, has a bunch of great cuts of animation and some stellar editing.

Most shows would start looking really dumpy around now, but not Hanebado!, still got nifty transitions and everything!

It isn't quite on par with a work of uncommon genius like Ping Pong, but it's still a treat to watch week to week. Even if the story is bonkers, it sells the drama of its matches and the relationships between its competitors.

The animation's definitely what keeps me coming back every week, I'll be honest. For all its warts, Hanebado! still keeps me engaged during every match, even if its soundtrack does belong in a Hollywood thriller from the '90s. And to be perfectly fair, even Haikyuu!! had stretches where the animation was the #1 reason I was watching.

God I kind of love the soundtrack. There are some pillow shots in the most recent episode featuring side characters stretching to the sound of dissonant strings, which is over-the-top and amazing to the point of almost being avant-garde. You certainly can't say that Hanebado! isn't trying!

You know what, that's absolutely fair. It's good music that I think belongs in a totally different show, but hey, points for trying.

I totally don't begrudge people for getting turned off by Hanebado!'s particular brand of trashiness. Mom NTR isn't for everyone! But as the show has gone along, and as I've let myself settle into its weird pace and tonal whiplash, I've come to enjoy it a lot. I also think the last two episodes have been the best yet. Riko's inner struggle was probably the most down-to-earth the story's been, while Ayano's terminator-mode occupies the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

She's unequivocally the tragic villain now, and I dig that.


Personally I want to send her to therapy, but that's just me. She's an interesting character, I'll give you that.

Yes, absolutely, so much therapy. But also, her vacantly drinking a bottle of water is good.

Oh that's me at Otakon trying desperately not to melt in the heat.

Ugh, don't remind me.

#eastcoastsummers

#somuchsweat

Anyway, with Ayano's mom back in the picture, shit's gonna happen whether they like it or not.

Yeah, for all of its absurdity, it has done a pretty good job setting its dominoes into place. And you know I can't wait to see them fall.

So I guess you could call this situation maternetorare?



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