Man, I can’t believe I have to watch these two bomb out of the prelims. It’s not that I don’t care about Hayama and Isehara. It’s that I had been waiting all week to hear what Uchika could possibly say to her daughter. Unfortunately, she probably has less than ten lines all episode. The episode instead focuses on Nagisa’s decision whether or not to forfeit her upcoming match against Ayano, and the two boys’ quest to understand just how much they love badminton. These are both find subplots, but Ayano and Uchika, man! That’s the good stuff, and you’re gonna make me wait another week to see what develops next? Bah.
— So we pick up where we last left off, and Ayano has nothing to say to her mother. After taking off her shoes, she coldly walks away from Uchika. I can’t blame her; I wouldn’t wanna talk to a mother like that either. I mean, c’mon, I can’t believe she has the gall to show up after all these years and act as if everything’s okay. The real problem here is that Uchika is refusing to acknowledge her daughter’s feelings.
— The girl stays in her room and skips out on dinner. Her food looks delicious, too. I’ll take some.
— Meanwhile, Uchika has an awkward encounter with… her mother and father-in-laws? I forget… the point is, they don’t act as if they’re her parents.
— The obasan asks if the woman would consider moving back home. Uchika thinks about it, but she doesn’t respond to the question. She just changes the subject. Lame.
— The next day, we see Ayano practicing against Kentarou, and it’s a close match. He barely eeks out a 21-17 victory over a high schooler. Granted, he’s probably out of game shape and she’s uber talented, but there’s also the strength and reach advantage.
— Ayano insists on a rematch, and this is a bit of a slight against the other girls. After all, none of them can really push her. Nagisa can probably make Ayano sweat, but they have a match coming up.
— It looks as if Nagisa is about to accept Ayano’s challenge, but Kentarou finally steps in and calls an end to practice. That’s pretty much all he does for the entirety of this episode, though.
— The boys’ prelims are coming up, and of course, qualification for Inter High is on the line. It would be too unrealistic for both Isehara and Hayama to represent their school, so I’m not expecting much from them.
— Off to the side, Yu continues to look troubled whenever Hayama is brought up.
— In the girls’ locker room, the atmosphere is tense, so Riko tries to lighten the mood. It doesn’t take long, however, for Ayano to start running her mouth and talking shit for no apparent reason. Nagisa just walks off without a single word. Meanwhile, the other girls sigh, but they don’t reprimand Ayano or anything. I don’t get that. That’s not what you do on a team. When someone gets out of line, it’s your responsibility as a teammate — as a metaphorical brother or sister to said person — to say something. You protect each other. You also correct each other. I don’t understand why they’re allowing Ayano to be such a brat.
— More importantly, I just feel as though I missed something somewhere along the way. Yes, I know that the summer camp changed Ayano adversely. I know that she now cares too much about winning. But why did she go from being a sweet, pleasant girl to trashing her teammates? I don’t see the connection between winning and “LOL U SUCK WHY ARE YOU EVEN TRYING?”
— Anyways, Nagisa goes to meet with Kentarou and Miyako. They want to check up on her health, i.e. her one problematic knee. She tells them that it feels “tense,” but she’ll still be good to go. Uh, no. If her knee is really that messed up, you don’t rely on a kid to tell you the truth about her condition. You get her checked out by a medical professional.
— After Kentarou leaves, Miyako revealed that the man had also had to deal with a bum knee. And because he sat out of a tournament, he failed to qualify for the Olympics. Nagisa also doesn’t want to let her chance slip away. But what chance? This match is just for bragging rights. She and Ayano have already qualified for Inter High, so this match doesn’t really have any important on the line.
— Later that day, Riko also offers her two cents. She also remarks that Ayano has been acting strange lately. Gee, ya think? But in the end, Nagisa’s best friend takes her two cents back, because it’s not her decision. Um, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give you opinion. I dunno, I feel like these characters are too concerned with being nice to each other. Other than Ayano, that is.
— Also, I’m too busy watching Yu hide behind a tree during this same scene.
— Afterwards, we see Yu hit up the local park once more. And of course, she finds Hayama working his butt off. He likes to crack jokes during practice, but he truly, truly wants this. His jokes — like many jokes — are probably just a defense mechanism against his insecurities: he’s not as talented as his best friend. It probably hurts doubly so because he taught Isehara how to play the game.
— When Ayano gets home, we see Uchika on the phone with Connie. The woman tells her other “daughter” that the girl can leave “it” to her. Not sure what “it” is, but if I had to guess, “it” probably has to do with all three of them being a family.
— The boys’ prelims are finally underway, and for some reason, Isehara has fans from other schools. It’s not surprising that a hot guy would have admirers. It’s just odd that girls from other schools would care so much.
— When Hayama cheers for his bud, Yu notices that the guy has callouses (or blisters?) on his right hand.
— Hayama and Isehara seem like decently fleshed out side characters. They don’t get as much development as the main characters, but they fare better than side characters that you might find in other anime. And this is precisely why I find it so odd that these two aren’t even listed as characters on the official site. Hell, even Miyako gets an entry and she barely does anything. Yu doesn’t get an entry either, but she seems just as important to the story as, say, Elena.
— After Isehara’s match, his sister Sora tells him not to get cocky. Yeah, I don’t get what her deal is either. Maybe she didn’t like seeing all those girls cheering for him.
— Hayama gets to play next, and everyone’s trying to encourage him to win. Out of nowhere, Yu yells out that he doesn’t try so hard. This confuses everybody, but I’m starting to get why she’s so frustrated. She thought that she and Hayama might be the same, and she might be right. They’re both not naturally talented at the game. She didn’t get very far in the tournament, and he won’t either. But despite what he lets on, Hayama cares a lot. He cares so much that he’s hurting himself by practicing so hard. This kinda calls out Yu’s dedication to the game. On the one hand, she respects his work ethic. It’s probably the most attractive thing about him. But on the other hand, this same attraction makes her feel bad about herself.
— Hayama’s match begins, and his opponent is heavily favored. Still, he manages to win the first three points, which gives his friends hope.
— What I like about Hanebado! is that I can actually see some decent action. You can witness how a point plays out.
— Unfortunately, the other guy starts to get into the game, and it doesn’t take long before Hayama finds himself on the losing end of the match.
— Yu is in attendance, but she can’t bear to watch once the guy starts losing. She eventually gets up and excuses herself. Nagisa will later convince Yu to return to the gym, but there won’t be any fairy tale ending here.
— Isehara also leaves, but that’s because he has an upcoming match. He still tries one last ditch effort to pump his friend up.
— Hayama remembers how he had taught both Isehara and Sora how to play the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for his best bud to surpass him. What’s good is that he doesn’t seem to hold any ill will towards his friend. Instead, he just tries to push himself harder and harder to win.
— Hayama eventually loses the match in straight sets. He might have worked hard, but was he practicing the right things? Is he receiving enough coaching? Who can really say? We don’t know enough about these him or Isehara. I just don’t want to dismiss effort, y’know? I don’t want to fall back on the age old excuse of “Oh, so and so is just so much more naturally talented than me.” You still need to cultivate talent, and it’s not impossible for athletes to win out of sheer grit and will. If you can’t make a shot, practice until you can. No one comes out of the womb with the ability to hit a smash perfect. Some people just get a head start.
— We later learn that Isehara had lost in the quarterfinals. Still, he confesses that he’ll stick with badminton even in college.
— We immediately cut to Hayama practicing hard in the park again. Since he has nothing left to play for in his high school career, this must mean that he’ll also keep up with badminton, right?
— Yu shows up again at the park, but this time, she has the courage to confess her feelings. The problem, however, is that things have changed.
— The girl tries her best to articulate her feelings. In essence, she used to think it was pointless for her to keep trying, because she’s not as naturally talented as either Ayano or Nagisa. But when she sees Hayama’s passion for the game, she understands that the game can be fun even if you lose after struggling so hard.
— So does she like him or not? The guy offers his two cents, and with that, the girl happily calls it a night and goes home. Hell, she even salutes him. You don’t salute someone you like. Still, the guy doesn’t seem to fazed. Rather, he voices his intention to also stick with the sport, but we kinda already knew that.
— The next day, Ayano continues to talk trash with no repercussions. Well, kinda. Nagisa immediately tells Kentarou that she intends to play in the finals. The guy goes, “There’s no need to rise to Hanesaki’s provocations,” so he’s aware of her bad behavior. He’s just not doing anything about it!
— In any case, Nagisa justifies her decision by arguing that she doesn’t want to give up. She lost badly to Ayano in their last official match, because she had given up. She doesn’t want to defeat herself anymore, so she’s going to play in the finals even though this might irreparably screw up her knee. Sorry, but I still don’t agree with her.
— Look, protecting your knee is not the same as mentally giving up. It’s just not. Nagisa promises that she won’t push herself past her limits, but you can’t 100% protect yourself against injuries. You just can’t. I’ve seen a countless number of athletes suffer freak incidents from doing something as deceivingly harmless as just jogging. Sometimes, things just snap. Sometimes, muscles, ligaments or what have you will fail on you because they’ve been pushed to their breaking point. And as a result, the next physical activity — no matter how safe it may seem on paper — will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
— Nagisa might not walk again because she insists on playing on her bum knee. That’s not smart. She’s not being brave or courageous by refusing to forfeit the match. She’s just being short-sighted, and I’m amazed that her coach is letting her go through with this. It’s downright irresponsible.
— Back in the Hanesaki household, relations are still ice cold between mother and daughter. You might get a warmer reception in Antarctica. Still, Uchika has the perfect icebreaker. And now, we get to wait another week.
— Even if Uchika has good intentions, I still think her invitation is pretty selfish. She wants to uproot her daughter from the only home the girl ever knew and for what? To be one big family with a stranger?