Hanebado! Ep. 6: Bottled up

Hanebado? More like I wish this show was Hanegoodo! Ha, gottem! I’ll be here all day, folks. 

— JK, JK… I still like this better than Harukana Receive, but of course, that doesn’t really say much. Both shows are pleasing on the eye, but they have major storytelling issues. I just wish Hanebado! was a little less intense.

— So what’s the major problem in this week’s episode? For the third years, this will be their last summer tournament. Everyone always wants to go out with a bang, but sports is a zero-sum game. You can only win if someone else loses. Something always has to give.

— But let’s start from the beginning. Miyako doesn’t really know much about badminton, but she’s trying to do her best in designing a cute uniform. Let’s just hope she succeeds. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what they’ve been wearing, but then again, I’m boring. I like to just wear all white on the tennis court. Yeah, rock it Wimbledon style.

— At practice, Nagisa is putting her best friend Riko through her paces. Unfortunately, the latter’s voice is so high-pitched, she just squeaks when she tries to yell as loud as she can.

— As for Ayano, her best friend Elena can tell that something’s off about the girl. Unfortunately, Ayano likes to bottle things up. Either she’s playing dumb or she’s just oblivious to the fact that last week’s unsettling chat with Connie has really done a number on her mental landscape.

— Later in the locker room, the girls get to see the upcoming draws. Most of them got good match-ups. Unfortunately, Riko finds herself up against Nozomi, a very talented opponent. Not only that, the other girl also happens to be a former friend.

— Right away, Riko’s confidence sinks. She also has a less-than-positive attitude, which rubs Nagisa the wrong way. Riko could help by opening up about her feelings, but she understandably keeps them bottled up. Most people do not want to look vulnerable to their friends.

— The other girls aren’t really equipped to help their senpai, so I don’t really blame them for not saying much. This is where a sports psychologist would make their money, but this is a high school team. There’s no way they would have a budget for a professional. As a result, I would like to see either Kentarou or Miyako step up to the plate. Take these girls aside and talk to them. I know it might not seem like the most exciting thing to watch on paper, but if you execute it right, I think these mini-therapy sessions would be super fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, this is anime, so if you have issues, you can only depend on the power of friendship to save the day.

— Seeing as how we’re only a few minutes into the episode, however, friendship is going to have to wait. Friendship takes a while to percolate, y’see. So in the meantime, two best friends will inexplicably get into a shouting match.

— Nagisa tries to give Riko a bit of advice for the latter’s first round match-up. Basically, Nozomi doesn’t have a lot of stamina, so if Riko can just draw things out, she can definitely turn things around in later sets. This happens a lot. In men’s tennis, most tournaments are best-of-3s. In grand slams, however, you play best-of-5s. In terms of talent, the gap really isn’t that large in the top 20s. The problem, however, is that most of the guys just don’t have the physical and mental fortitude to endure so many games, sets, and matches. That’s why Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic almost always win every goddamn grand slam tournament. They have the best fitness and the best mental game.

— What’s odd to me is how Riko suddenly snaps at her best friend. She instantly realizes the error of her ways, but like I said, the show’s too intense. Sure, she doesn’t want to have any regrets. She wants to win. At the same time, however, she doesn’t have any belief in herself. She isn’t tall and strong like Nagisa, but she doesn’t have Ayano’s otherworldly defense either. So sure, the weight of her impending defeat is getting to her. But to snap all of a sudden like this? I dunno, I think the writers need to chill out.

— Of course, Nagisa gets all mad. She starts throwing barbs back at Riko: “You said you’d work hard because it’s our last summer.” Her argument doesn’t even make sense. Riko doesn’t think she can win. That doesn’t mean she isn’t working hard. You can want to win and still believe that you will lose. These aren’t mutually exclusive positions to hold.

— But what it really comes down to is that these are just kids. And because they’re kids, they’re far from perfect. Nagisa just wants to lift her friend’s spirit, but she doesn’t really know how to do this. She just takes her usual aggressive approach, and not everyone responds well to that.

— Later that night, Riko sits dejected in her room until her siblings remind her that she still has other (sisterly) obligations. Meanwhile, Nagisa wants to apologize, but she can’t find the right words.

— The show does a lot with the animation, and I really appreciate that. It also does a lot with the drama. Too much with the drama, actually.

— So this is Nozomi. Her plump lips kinda make her look older than everyone around her. Riko and her former friend exchange pleasantries in the restroom, but it’s a bit awkward.

— We’re due for some levity, so Miyako shows up with the finished uniforms. I don’t like them one bit, though. The converging lines draw your eyes to the girls’ crotch. The sleeveless arms are bit silly, too. Meh.

— Shortly afterwards, the first round of matches begin. Nagisa dominates with her smash. Kaoruko sparkles against her opponent. And of course, Ayano turns into a wide-eyed android who plays perfect defense. Unfortunately, Riko’s confidence is at an all-time low, so she can’t help but tremble right before a serve. She keeps trying to take deep breaths to calm herself down.

— Aw, that’s cute.

— Kentarou hopes that the girl can shake it off, but I wish he could’ve been more proactive. It’s not like he has a very large team to manage.

— In fact, he only looks good, because every time we see an opposing team’s coach, they look like losers. I mean, check this guy out. He’s supposed to be Nozomi’s coach, but he looks like a super creep.

— In general, I really like the animation, but they overdo it with Nagisa’s chest. I get it. She has big breasts. Plus, there’s always going to be a little bounce. But putting aside the fact that cloth doesn’t conform to a girl’s chest like that, sports bras aren’t supposed to bounce that much. If they do, you probably bought the wrong size. Or, y’know, this is drawn by a bunch of guys for an audience of guys.

— Finally, after Riko has fallen into a deep hole against Nozomi, Kentarou decides to do a little coaching. He calms the girl down, but he also suggests that she switch things up a little. The girl immediately dives into her notebook to figure out a gameplan.

— Basically, Nozomi is hedging towards one side to protect her weak backhand. As a result, Riko starts hitting every shot in that direction. That reminds me of how Nadal suddenly started to get the upper hand on Federer. Against most people, Federer’s backhand is great. But Nadal’s unique top spin forehand makes the ball kick up super high. As a result, Federer’s backhand can’t return it with as much depth or pace. All it takes is a small advantage to swing a match in your favor. That doesn’t mean Nadal started winning every single set against Federer, but it meant he found something that he could rely against.

— What ends up happening, however, is that Riko’s shift in strategy simply forces Nozomi to step her game up. In a tournament, players have to pace themselves. Nobody goes all out in the first round. Even if Nozomi’s backhand is the weaker of her two wings, she still has enough talent to beat Riko with it. This just sends the girl into deeper despair. Maybe she just can’t win.

— As if Nagisa could somehow sense that her best friend was in trouble from across the entire gym, she suddenly screams out to her friend: “Shout it loud!” This manages to pump Riko up, so she screams out just like how she did back in practice. Riko also decides to finally put some trust in Nagisa. But yeah, I’m getting flashbacks from guys who would yell “Come on!” after every point. Even when you hit the ball into the net, they yell “Come on!” I’m not saying that Riko is doing this. I’m just saying that it’s obnoxious when your opponent yells out too often.

— Anyways, Riko puts her trust in Nagisa by finally taking her advice. Back at the start of the episode, Nagisa had laid out the perfect gameplan: tire Nozomi out. As a result, Riko starts playing deep in the backcourt. All she’s going to do is become a wall. Be one with the wall. Be the wall. Sure, this means she can never go on the offense, but hey, this is a viable tactic… for the first round…

— Nozomi starts making mistakes as the match wears on. Like Nagisa said, she doesn’t have a lot of stamina.

— Unfortunately, Riko took too long to adjust. She still ends up losing the match. Sure, the second set was close (21-19), but sometimes, you just dig yourself too deep of a hole.

— As she walks off the court, Kentarou tells her that she played a good game. The girl, however, keeps her feelings bottled up by putting on a brave smile: “I knew it! Badminton is really fun!” At this point, it’s not about avoiding regrets, because she already has them. As a result, she probably feels as though she needs to minimize the damage and not let anyone else knows that she’s full of regrets. After all, you can even hear Riko’s siblings cry in the stands. Do you think she would want them to see her crying?

— But sure enough, as soon as Riko gets to be alone with Nagisa, she finally breaks down and lets herself cry. At least the year’s far from over. The summer didn’t work out the way she had hoped, but aren’t there fall tournaments to look forward to? I actually don’t know…

— Man, Fredericia’s uniforms are even sillier. Apparently, they only get shorts on one leg.

— As for Ayano, she’s been sleepwalking through her first three matches. Things are about to get a little more serious, though. Not only has her mother dropped by, she wants to watch her daughter in action.

— Then of course, Kaoruko shows up to talk some more shit. She needs to take some lessons from Kevin Garnett, though.

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