While Hanebado!’s premiere doesn’t particularly convince me to keep watching, it’s definitely a title to keep an eye on for fans of sports anime.

Away!

There are a few anime genres that I tend to avoid, not because they’re bad but because they’re just not my cup of tea. Harems, rom coms, shonen, sports, and high school settings tend to set off my internal alarms to proceed with caution or avoid a title altogether. While Hanebado!’s premiere doesn’t particularly convince me to keep watching, it’s definitely a title to watch to keep an eye on for fans of sports anime.

ReturnHanebado! primarily focuses on Nagisa Aragaki, a third year high school student in the badminton club. At the start of the episode, she’s seen playing against a fierce opponent in the Junior Olympics Tournament, which is set 6 months prior to the story proper. Nagisa’s loss however, sets her on a path of determination to get better through sheer practice, even if it means playing furiously and relentlessly against her club peers, harming her the club’s reputation and Nagisa’s friendship with the one peer that supports her, Riko Izumi. Meanwhile, Ayano, the opponent that Nagisa lost to, has doubts about continuing to play badminton, despite showing a lot of natural talent for it. By the episode’s end, the two are reunited when Ayano’s friend Elena drags her to the badminton club, with Nagisa challenging Ayano to a match.

From a narrative stand point, Hanebado! has some typical, but still interesting, hooks to grab the viewer’s attention. Nagisa is trying to improve her skills through pure effort, but is doing so at the cost of her interpersonal relationships. Ayano meanwhile, has a lot of natural talent, as seen when she saves her friend from a stray tennis ball, but is hesitant to play badminton because she views it as a pointless sport to play. Raw, natural talent versus hard work is a very easy conflict to invest into, and it’s easy to see that Nagisa and Ayano’s future rivalry will help drive each other’s personal development and uncover the motivations beneath their actions (or lack thereof in Ayano’s case).

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Ayano’s sheer talent haunts Nagisa’s memories.

The music in the episode adds a nice touch to the dramatic scenes, which play out also too melodramatically but are helped by convincing voice acting by the voice cast. The opener itself is a cheerful pop tune that works well enough with the opening’s visuals, but nothing amazing.

Special note has to be said for the animation, especially the tournament match between Nagisa and Ayano at the beginning. To put it bluntly; it is gorgeous. The heavy emphasis on the movement of the players, the glistening bodies with exaggerated amount of sweat that shake off with each movement, and the cinematography that follows the birdie is just outstanding. The sound design is particularly effective in this sequence, as it complements the focus and tenacity of the players as they step around the court to return the volleys, while the birdie’s impact with the racket shows just how much effort is put into the swing. The rest of the episode doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the tournament scene, but is still quite solid with fluid animation and the sheen that you often see with newer anime. Backgrounds are nicely detailed and add to fully realizing the various settings and environments.

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The tournament at the start of the episode is gorgeous to watch.

Notably, there are small touches of fan service, whether it’s watching the badminton girls change in the change room (it is not particularly sexual, more matter of fact than anything) or how the camera focuses on some of the girls’ thighs when a male character is seen practically leering at the tennis club’s fan girls. While not particularly distracting, they don’t add anything either.

Ayano seems not to have a care for badminton.

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While I was intrigued by Hanebado!’s main character duo of Nagisa and Ayano, I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to continue watching Hanebado! as it combines two of my less favorable genres; sports and high school anime. However, for fans of these genres that also appreciate solid animation work, this is a title to keep an eye on during this season.

Episode 1: A-

Hanebado! is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.