Hanebad! (はねバド!) is a seinen, sports anime that revolves around badminton. It was originally a manga written by Kōsuke Hamada. Liden Films is producing the adaptation, with direction from Shinpei Ezaki. After watching the first episode, I can safely say that this series is going to be one fantastic hit for the Summer line-up!
Hanebad! is a story about a group of teenagers who play competitively in a badminton club through their local high school. The main focus of the narrative is on the two girls, Aragaki Nagisa and Hanesaki Ayano, for whom badminton is much more than a mere sport; two girls who also happen to be rivals with one another.
My very first impression of the series, about four to five minutes into the first episode, was, “Holy shit, this is much more intense and serious than I thought it’d be!” We watch Nagisa as she is in a supremely heated match with Ayano, struggling to reel in a win. Everything that follows in the wake of this engagement, sets up the tone and foundation for things to come, which will be laced with emotionally evocative interactions, beautiful visuals, and heavy character-focused storytelling.
That intensity that slams into you in a handful of moments of starting the show is one that will veil Hanebad! as it progresses for the next eleven to twelve weeks. It keeps you tense and at the edge of your seat as you are introduced to the characters of the club. Most of them have their reasons for joining, which far supersede a passing interest in a physical activity.
Nagisa is a fantastic example of this. Through the 24-minutes we see as she battles some inner strife on just what it means to be a competitor with the sport. She is desperate to win so she can seek some sort of personal validation. The ambiguity of what her true motives are, of whatever dilemma she is trying to resolve, immediately creates a connection between her and the watcher. I became so curious as to what is eating her up that I know I will be back next week and the week after that and again after that until it is finally revealed.
This level of depth isn’t reserved for Nagisa either. We have Ayano, who while being remarkably talented, even innately so, has a level of loathing for the sport. A sense of tragedy or despairing emotional association is heavily implied, nevertheless, it has a level of vagueness that hooks your interest and draws you further into the story.
Character focused anime, especially ones with narratives that are driven by their plights, choices, and difficulties, tend to be my favourite types of anime to watch because they are so multi-faceted, and ultimately have qualities that many people can relate to on an intimate level. I strongly believe that Hanebad! will not be an exception to the rule at all. I am going to get rather attached to specific characters and that attachment, coupled with their individual tales, is what makes it so damn emotionally evocative as well. There will be tears and sadness, I can feel it in my heart, and I look forward to being so utterly captivated by these people.
A plethora of multi-dimensional cast members aside, the animation quality for Hanebad! is spectacular, especially during the badminton matches. There is emphasis on minor details—such as the sweat on a person’s body while they compete, the gleam of their eyes as they get angry or sorrowful, the lush colours of a sunset, and the flowy wisps of cherry blossom petals—complements the tone, mood, and atmosphere, crafting a fully interactive storytelling process. Everything is also very neat, crisp, and meticulously drawn, with a balanced infusion of 3D graphics that help to enhance rather than overwhelm. It’s stunning.
The last element I want to discuss briefly is the music. The musical score for the anime is perfect when you take everything else into account. The composition consists of classical-inspired notes from the violin and piano, with a gentle harmony of the bass or wind instrument where necessary, adding to the expressive intensity of some of the scenes. I would honestly watch the series just for the music, even if I didn’t like anything else.
All in all, Hanebado! is the pivotal anime to be watching this Summer season. If you are not really a sports anime type of otaku, like me, then I still recommend you watch it for the characters. They will be the masterpiece for the anime as a whole.
You can catch Hanebado! on CrunchyRoll on Sunday mornings.