Ayano is no longer the person she was back then…
Overview (Spoilers Below):
It’s mere days until the finals, and the Kitakomachi High School badminton club members are each trying their best to make it to the big day. Nagisa stretches out her injury while Ayano challenges Hayama to a complete massacre.
When the day comes and the match begins, the total annihilation Ayano was expecting doesn’t happen. Nagisa has shown up to play, and she’s got a plan. Ayano isn’t even having fun, prompting her to ask herself… what is she really playing for?
Ayano’s mom is the worst, obviously. But maybe her grandparents aren’t so hot either. That was the first thought that came to my mind when watching the eleventh episode of HANEBADO!. It seems like her grandparents have welcomed Ayano’s mom back into their house with open arms, despite her sudden departure all those years ago. It leaves me to wonder if they know more about her leaving than Ayano does, or what they’ve been told about it. But seriously, Ayano’s mom is just the worst. Of course, Ayano still isn’t on speaking terms with her, even though she tries to weasel her way back into her daughter’s life by telling her things like her improved playing is the reason she’s returned.
Honestly, Ayano herself is so insufferable it’s a wonder her teammates have put up with her for the past several weeks. It’s sad for us as viewers to watch as she pushes every single one of her friends away from her, but we can understand where her anger and stress is coming from. Alaina confronts her and asks what she’s fighting for. After questioning Alaina’s motives for bringing Ayano back to badminton when she’d abandoned it for such traumatizing reasons, I really like that she’s blaming herself and reflecting back on if it was the right call to make. Riko and Nagisa’s friendship is still going strong, unlike Alaina and Ayano’s, and they get a nice scene where Riko wishes her captain good luck on the upcoming game.
As the big match begins, everyone is on the edge of their seats. It’s just like it was a year ago when these two talented players faced off for the first time. This year, however, Nagisa is determined not to be beaten. Despite her injuries, she seems to take the momentum at the start, avoiding her usual manner of play in order to mess with Ayano’s head. Rather than the strong smashes that utilize her strength, she chooses to play a more calm game, keeping Ayano off balance and off guard. Ayano may have the upper hand health-wise, but Nagisa has clearly thought through her strategy and has the mental game on lockdown. They’re alike when it comes to putting in an effort to become the players they want to be.
The dub had some very funny lines this week, including Hayama’s defense of his grades: “We’re off topic! I’m here because of my love for the game!” Ayano’s line introducing herself to a group of Nagisa’s friends is just brutal: “I’m gonna beat Nagisa for the second time. My name’s Ayano!” And pink hair’s comment from the bleachers had me chuckling: “Nagisa’s playing really cautiously for someone with a giant superiority complex.” The show has never looked bad, but there were some great-looking shots in this episode, like Nagisa standing on the bridge overlooking the city and nearby river.
Because I Love Badminton succeeds in pulling off a successful beginning to the final match between Ayano and Nagisa. We get to see some interesting scenes that set the stage for a lot of inner development and conflict in these last two episodes, like with Ayano’s mother and Alaina. Nagisa, too, is surely going to factor into Ayano’s ultimate realization. While this episode wasn’t a big spectacle in and of itself, it did a good job getting all the pieces in place for the final arc to play out.