I honestly didn’t see this coming yet. What HANEBADO! did in episode two is a little shocking to me, because it’s quick, but for some reason it also doesn’t seem too forced. Let’s get into it!
Episode two starts with the challenge match between Hanesaki and Aragaki, and we get to see other characters realize that Hanesaki is the girl that destroyed Aragaki at the junior national tournament (the opening of the show). Great, so our characters are getting reputations.
But…Hanesaki has problems, and I actually like this. Hanesaki’s past shows itself as her vision distorts, she has a flashback, and her mom leaves. This is obviously playing on the picture we saw in episode one, and also gives Hanesaki some personal pain to deal with. Because of this, though, Hanesaki stops playing and quits. I’m curious if anyone can break though to Hanesaki on this…Elena (her friend), or maybe the understanding Riko? Kentaro the Coach???
Anyway, things progress and Kentaro badgers Hanesaki about why she quit. Because she’s left handed, and she has flexible wrists, and all this other stuff…and Hanesaki doesn’t respond. It’s personal I guess. Well, Kentaro decides to pair Hanesaki up with Aragaki in this practice for a doubles match.
Okay, this is classic sports anime. I don’t like this much because I get how it’s used to convey how one person has problems, or both people have problems, but for some reason, it didn’t end in both players figuring things out.
No, HANEBADO! takes it to another level and uses Kentaro as the engine of the episode. Which I love. Hanesaki and Aragaki struggle to play together; they bump into each other when there’s a lob in the middle; Aragaki screams at Hanesaki; Kentaro switches Riko in…for Aragaki.
Kentaro tells Aragaki to watch. Hmm… He basically lectures her about vision and communication, and this is honestly the best part of the episode so far. It’s raw, and shows how interactions between characters can make a show worthwhile.
While Riko and Hanesaki are playing, there’s a moment where each of them could go for a smash, and you’d think they’ll run into each other, but Riko moves out of the way and tells Hanesaki to take the shot.
Lesson? Aragaki needs to learn to be more aware of her surroundings and not get tunnel-vision while playing. She needs to compliment her partner instead of trying to control everything.
After this we get a flashback into Aragaki’s life, and how people always thought she was good at badminton because she’s tall. That’s it, she’s just good because she’s tall. While I like how we’re getting into Aragaki’s mindset and why she thinks the way she thinks, and acts the way she acts, is a flashback necessary? Honestly, having Kentaro lecture the club (and Aragaki in particular) made for a better story vehicle.
What I didn’t understand about this episode, though, was a small part where Aragaki gets into a verbal sparring match with a former club member. The member says she envied Aragaki’s “wholehearted love of badminton” and um…what? Okay, I get that Aragaki loves badminton, but it seems more of a single-minded, competitive nature kind of thing. Where is the wholehearted love? If she wholeheartedly loved badminton why does she never smile? Why is she always screaming? Why doesn’t it ever look like she’s having fun and letting loose.
Oh, wait, hang on.
We’re getting to that. Because Kentaro. Thank you Kentaro for being a character and making things seem like they can flow easily. Now, maybe it’s because he’s the coach character, but still…it works in a sports anime.
During the next practice, Kentaro pesters Aragaki to get her riled up and see what he can learn about her mindset. He says things about how she’s afraid she’s going to lose, how she got shut out in the match against Hanesaki, and Aragaki reacts intensely.
While they’re playing Kentaro realizes that Aragaki is so concerned about controlling the game, about where her shots are going, where her opponent is, where she can get a clean hit from, etc…that she’s lost one of the most valuable assets she has.
Instead of trying to control everything, just let loose. And eventually Aragaki does. Something feels better inside her, she lets go, and starts to smile and have fun.
CHARACTER INTERACTIONS LEAD TO DEVELOPMENT!
After Aragaki learns to have fun, and is super happy about it, we’re tossed into an apology-to-the-team scene, and then fade to black….
A NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS? Okay, sort of? We get a girl on a beach with long, pink hair screaming that she loves herself. Episode end.
Uh….okay, so what did we have in episode two? Well, character interactions. And they actually made sense. We got more out of Kentaro acting as a coach in two scenes than we did through the entire first episode. Where HANEBADO! had problems in episode one, diving into the characters intensely, and even giving us some flashbacks (poor choice in episode one, honestly), the second episode clears up most of the confusion and gives us a reason to care about the characters–even if it’s just a little bit.
As of right now, Kentaro is the best character in my mind because he’s the coach and only character to see everyone in an analytical light. Hanesaki seems completely shut in and disturbed mentally to flesh out right now, which is slightly annoying but I can deal with it, and Aragaki was so driven to perform better she ended up hurting everyone around her. Now that there’s some sort of balance in the show’s characters, and inter-personal relationships are being built, it’s easier to understand some characters.
However, I will say that because of what I mentioned above the story seems to be falling into the stereotypical sports anime where people don’t get along, something happens where they bond (like an event, or a coach forcing them to play together) and then they’re happy and best buddies. I really hope Aragaki grows as a character and isn’t the one-dimensional hardass, but to lose her drive would be too much. I also hope that Hanesaki opens up a little, but still remains haunted by her past (which I think would play nicely into her competitive struggles).
I still enjoy Riko’s role in the show, though, as the buffer for Aragaki and the one who seems to be worried about the club and team. I’m curious to see where the story is going to go with her, or if it’s going to pick up at all with many of the other club members and instead focus solely on Aragaki and Hanesaki.
Well, that’s all from me! I know this was long, but inter-personal relationships in shows really get to me, and there was a lot in this episode that made it so much better than the first.