Are you ready for Nagisa to win this? ‘Cause you know she will.
— Ayano continues to dig a deeper hole for herself as she struggles with her motivations to continue struggling with badminton. Finally, she manages to get on the board, but she’s already given her opponent a 10-1 headstart. That’s not exactly a winning formula.
— Apparently, our heroine is actually ambidextrous.
— Eventually, Ayano starts winning points after points. She’s finally making her comeback, but of course, this is all just for drama. Like I said at the end of last week’s post, I’m pretty confident she will lose. In real life, it doesn’t matter if you deserve to win or not. You win if you’re better in that moment, on that day, so on and so forth. But that’s not the case for these made-up stories. In fantasy land, we want the hard-working, humble underdog to win. Somehow, this has become Nagisa’s role. This is her moment to shine. Since Ayano has been such a jerk lately, the best she can do is make this match seem close, but ultimately, her opponent’s going to pull this out by the skin of her teeth. Because, y’know, Nagisa “deserves” to win. In our stories, this sort of thing matters.
— And true to form, despite her bum knee, Nagisa eventually pulls herself together against Ayano’s relentless onslaught. She’s pushing through this with sheer determination. If only this match actually mattered… I mean, sure, it means a lot to her, but in the big picture, she’s still risking so much for nothing more than a singular win over a rival.
— Finally, we reach the critical point in the match, and everything goes black-and-white. We hear nothing but the two athletes’ labored breathing. Everything is in slow motion. I generally hate slow motion in sports anime, but eh, I’ll overlook it here. This is the climax of the series, after all.
— In the end, Nagisa ends up being triumphant. Welp, we all kinda saw this coming. Not only is Riko in tears, but Nagisa as well. Personally speaking, I’m not particularly enthused.
— Maybe I’m just salty, but I don’t think Nagisa would have won if the mental playing field was even. I don’t think she would have won if Ayano didn’t have baggage to deal with. It’s a funny thing, really. The winners will always say, “Don’t make excuses. You either win or you lose.” But life isn’t black-and-white. Context matters. I don’t think anything has changed. Ayano is the better player. She’s just going through a lot right now. So after it is all said and done, I still don’t feel like the girl ever got a fair shake. Abandoned by her mother, bullied left and right, challenged by people when she’s not in game shape, so on and so forth. Then outta nowhere, the story turns her into a jerk just so people will root for Nagisa instead. It’s like meta levels of bullying. Now she’s being bullied by her own creator. In the end, what exactly does Ayano achieve? Just a reason to keep playing badminton? That’s all she gets? The satisfaction that she truly loves the sport? Ugh.
— After the match, our heroine bumps into Uchika in a hallway. Well, she’s been avoiding her mother for the past few weeks, but now that the show is ending, I guess she may as well get this conversation out of the way.
— Predictably, Ayano rejects her mother’s offer to go overseas and be a random ass family with Connie. She then admits that she hated her mother. Hated. Past tense. Finally, she tells her mother that although she intends stay in Japan in the meantime, she hopes that they can play badminton again one day. Ugh. Don’t get me wrong, because hate is ultimately unhealthy. You shouldn’t hold onto hate in your heart. But I’m just gonna be real: I hate this “water under the bridge” nonsense. Uchika is a bad mother, and this is all she gets? I don’t feel like justice as has been served at all. I guess the implication here is that she’s been “abandoned” by Ayano. Even if it is done in the nicest way possible, she got rejected and thus this is some form of comeuppance. But meh, it’s just not satisfying.
— Speaking of which, that’s how I feel about this series in general. It’s just not satisfying. Early on, I felt sorry for Ayano, so I was rooting for her right from the get-go. Abandoned by her mother and bullied left and right — I really, really wanted to pull for her to just unleash her skills and take everyone to school. But somewhere along the way, Ayano became a bully herself — a heel turn I still don’t fully understand — so I had to stop rooting for her. I guess I was supposed to jump onto Nagisa’s bandwagon next, but… I dunno, man, I just didn’t. I couldn’t. So I’m left with this ending where Nagisa is triumphant, but I don’t really care. Meanwhile, Ayano is… back to normal, I guess? That’s my payoff? Eh.
— Now it’s Nagisa’s turn to have a heart-to-heart with Riko. Despite winning the tournament, she still feels unsure about the sport. She’s unsure if she has the talent to reach the highest stage. All she knows is that she’s going to stick with the sport until she no longer can. That’s commendable, I guess. Honestly, I’m not really sure why Nagisa never endeared herself to me as a character. I think maybe first impressions were just too strong. Because she was a bully herself in the first two episodes, I never could shake my initial impression of her. So even when it became her turn to be the plucky underdog, I just never got behind her. I didn’t want her to win against Ayano. But at the same time, I didn’t want Bully Ayano to win either. It’s weird.
— Riko says she’s frustrated, because Nagisa has gotten to a level in badminton that can’t be reached with just hard work alone. Eh, I think that’s bullshit. I really don’t think talent makes a big difference at this level. Sure, there’s a huge gap between Michael Jordan and, say, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but at the high school level? Nah. Riko should know she didn’t work as hard as Nagisa.
— Elsewhere, Ayano apologizes to Elena for obvious reasons. I feel like I don’t need to expound on this. I’ll just say I don’t feel as emotional as the anime wants me to be.
— On some other day — maybe the very next day — we hear that Nagisa has gone to hospital with Kentarou for her knee. She’s probably fine, but she does need to rest it.
— In the meantime, we wrap up some loose ends. The guys pretty much intend to keep playing badminton in college, which we already know. I guess the show feels the need to remind the audience.
— Nagisa returns with her right knee all wrapped up. She has tendinitis, but it sounds like she’ll make a full recovery. Again, nothing too surprising. Nevertheless, Ayano challenges Nagisa to a practice match anyway.
— Weird angle.
— And now, Ayano and Nagisa are trash-talking each other, but… in a jovial way, I guess.
— In the after credits scene, we see those two get in the gym and start practicing. I was hoping for some sort of stinger, but I guess not. Nothing but sunlight streaming through the windows. Yep, that about does it for Hanebado!
— I’m happy to see a sports anime with good animation, but it’s not just about that. I’m especially happy to see a sports anime where the action doesn’t rely solely on slow-motion (looking at you, Harukana Receive). “Solely” is the keyword. Every sports anime is going to rely on slow motion to an extent. Hell, this final episode features a ton of it during the black-and-white section of the match. Nevertheless, you sometimes do get to see a back-and-forth rally play out in Hanebado!, and it’s nice to see.
— But man oh man, the writers just kept piling on the drama one after the other. It just became utterly ridiculous.
— Like I said up above, I really wanted to pull for Ayano. As a result, this conclusion is just… it’s whatever. The only silver lining is that I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel if only to see Ayano — normal, non-bully Ayano, that is — finally win on a big stage. I mean, the Inter-High tournament is just around the corner, right? C’mon, you can’t just leave us hanging.
Final grade: C