Hanebado is a story about regaining lost passions and allowing the very things that may have sullied something you love turn into a reason for loving that exact thing in this case badminton. Its a story about a group of passionate young women who all have various reasons to be dissonant about playing badminton yet continue playing it regardless due to the simple thrill they obtain from playing the game. Despite tackling these themes the series manages to do this with such flair and tonal consistency that its hard to not be impressed and manages to do so while telling an uplifting story about these young girls using badminton as a vehicle to not only grow as athletes but also as people. Despite this the series tone remains largely lighthearted and while questionable elements remain a certain subplot tying to Ayanos character arc and the head of the badminton federation who lets face it has some shady as hell moments the series manages to convey this story well in just 16 volumes. Ayano is the central lead of Hanebado being introduced as an airheaded and unfocused goofball whos shy yet aloof of people around her. She largely keeps to herself and her best friend Elena yet is shown to clearly be proficient at badminton. Theres one problem though Ayano has lost passion for badminton and would rather not play the sport ever again. While she eventually loses a game and is dragged into the fold of the badminton club questions persist about why exactly she plays...which only gets answered when the team visit and see photos of her mom crossed out. Ayano played badminton because its a sport she loves yet this love was tainted partially by her own superiority to most players initially before she inevitably lost to Kaoruko leading to what appeared to be her mom abandoning her. As a result Ayano started resenting the sport and avoided it associating it with her mother abandoning her however she never could let go of the sport and her entering the badminton team eventually leads her to understanding that the sport doesnt need to be played simply for the sake of finding her mom but also as something she can enjoy playing with others. By no stretch of the imagination does this mean that her finding her mom isnt still a subplot in the series if anything Ayanos core character arc slowly becomes about her growing friendship and dynamic with various characters Nagisa and Connie as well as Elena slowly conflicting with her motivation to find her mom and receive her acknowledgment at long last. While Ayano finds an answer thats a mix between the two learning that focusing too much on her mom means being unable to enjoy the sport while also pressing on in finding answers over her mom. Her character arc is that both of what she wants are perfectly attainable and require assistance from her friends her match with Nagisa roughly halfway through the manga being an example of that with that match drilling into Ayano that she cant play badminton for that goal alone and needs help and shoulders to lean on from others with Nagisa constantly accepting assistance from Tachibana and encouragement from her friends while Ayano played alone. This contrast and the result of the game help set the stage for where Ayanos character arc proceeds from that point onwards having a more relaxed and free playstyle and being more open about what she wants to achieve. Nagisa is the second central character of Hanebado and my personal favorite of its three main characters starting off as a rough tomboy with a heart of gold that has become more withdrawn and isolated from the sport due to her loss in a past tournament. This makes her stop enjoying playing the sport and straight up resent it yet she pushes on desiring to improve despite that this however only leads to her selfdestructing further and finding the sport almost insufferable to play which she only snaps out of by playing with Kentarou. While her dynamic with her coach isnt the only one relevant to Nagisas character arc her dynamic with her friends as well as both Ayano and Connie is also important it is by far the most important one as her contrasts greatly with Nagisa by being a former badminton player whose career got cut short due to injury. This in itself highlights a character flaw of Nagisas her pride in willing to continue playing to the end ignoring any potential longterm damage that may happen to her for the sake of her selfcentered pride. The Nagisa of the beginning of the narrative is one whos licking her wounds yet determined to push on and wields that pride even if it also gets hurt fairly badly in the process at times due to her initial refusal to acknowledge that despite everything players much better than her exist. Kentarou acts as a worthy foil to Nagisa and his dynamics with her is my favorite dynamic in the manga being an upstanding and caring coach who constantly looked out for her health as well as empathizing with her due to understanding where her pride comes from and yet being unwilling to allow her to make the same mistake he once did. Her arc is about realizing that her badminton career isnt the only thing that matters to her but rather that by hurting that not only would she hurt herself but also the people around her. This makes her last match in the series one where despite the outcome feeling beyond satisfying and being in my eyes the best damn match in the series and one of my favorite out of sports manga in general. Beyond liking many of the basic tropes shes associated with her character arc was a powerful one about simply letting go of pride for the sake of not hurting oneself and others a breath of fresh air in a genre frequently known for characters that push themselves beyond their breaking point and are glorified for doing so. Connie is the third and final main character of this series being Ayanos sister in a sense due to both receiving training from Ayanos mother Uchika. Her upbringing is similarly influenced by Uchika much like Ayano and much like Ayano also suffers from a complex and neglect from Uchikas presence in her life yet retaining a more positive outlook in general despite this due to her having more friendly teammates for a longer period of time who she desperately tries to keep at arms length but fails at spectacularly. Her dynamic with Yuika in particular is worthy of praise being tightly written with both characters inspiring and bouncing off the other for selfimprovement while also being a crutch for the others flaws Connie being her lack of social awareness in how to deal with others often resorting to selfcenteredness by instinct before realizing her carelessness while Yuika tends to be overempathetic and often get lost in caring for others but not herself. This dynamic helps progress both characters considerably with Connie in particular receiving much character development and acting as an excellent foil both to Nagisa and Ayano Nagisa due to personality similarities in being selfcentered power oriented players with Nagisa being someone that is more extrospective personalitywise and Connie being more introspective as well as Ayano who shares a bond with Uchika that in many ways is more strained than Connies bond with her both striving to prove that theyre worthy of her attention. Connies character arc even symbolically in many ways acts as a foil to Ayano similarly becoming more outwardly expressive but become more emotional in her plays and approach to people as opposed to Ayano who still maintains a calmer even if passionate and heated occasionally demeanor. The artwork for the series is phenomenal and extremely capable of swapping tones often relying on broadly spaced panels and dynamic illustrations that make the series easy to read despite its very dialogueheavy nature outside of matches. Facial expressions are often beautifully drawn with subtle changes in character expressions all over the manga adding much to characterization Nagisa in particular has had a lot of care go into her changing features which adds a lot to the overall weight and tension of the badminton games. Speaking of the badminton games theyre in some ways the best and worst thing the series has to offer on one hand being beautifully drawn and extremely tense with one particular game being straight up one of my favorite matches in a sports manga period and a classic example of how a sports match can add so much characterization to characters. Other times it often feels like they progress too quickly and while this does not hurt the manga too much it does mean that certain matches happen too quickly for my liking. This is a minor complaint however and otherwise on a technical level the manga is absolutely beautiful and easy to read and reread if you want something easy on the eyes and yet extremely engaging. Another major flaw is a certain subplot that ties into Uchikas character which while thematically fits the series about how badminton if seen as a reflection of life itself is quick fleeting dynamic and forever moving forward still left me wanting due to both the suddenness of a revelation that happens near the end of the series as well as wishing to see a few more character interactions before her role in the series ends. To go beyond this is to enter heavy spoiler territory but anyone that read this series understands what Im talking about. Despite my gripes Hanebado is a fantastic sports manga that is well worth your time if youre a fan of the genre. Thank you for reading.
90 /100
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