“At that age, the smallest thing can throw you off your game – but you can rocket back just as quickly.”
Overview (Spoilers Below):
Ayano has just started fitting in at the badminton club when Serigaya Kaoruko, an ace at Konan High School, appears to challenge her to a match. Ayano is upset by her presence and appears to have some past connection with her. And that connection turns out to be more sinister than anyone could have predicted. In a roundabout way, Kaoruko is the person who caused her mother to walk out of her life.
Okay, before we begin, let’s just get it out of the way: that opening scene was adorable. Seeing tiny lil’ Ayano playing badminton with her mom is a sweet way to endear us to both of them. Now, onto the rest of the episode! She Was Perfect is a solid 24-minutes of sports, friendships, and mommy issues. The title could be read as referring to either Ayano or her mother, which is pretty neat.
By opening the episode with a reverse time skip for a few minutes, HANEBADO! threw me off. The opening scene aside, I’m not sure what it adds to see Alaina dragging Ayano to the badminton club again. At least it sets the stage and lets us know what to expect: With Aragaki out of the way, the show takes time to flesh out Ayano and explore the reasons she quit playing the sport she used to love so much. (And be so good at! She absolutely crushed Nagisa in that tournament.)
Yu and the other club members try to welcome her into their group, but she just isn’t as excited about badminton as everyone else. Alaina runs off on a movie date with Noriko and comes across Nagisa. She asks the club president to get Ayano back into badminton, as she thinks the two of them share a similar love for the sport.
After getting trounced by pink hair (aka Serigaya Kaoruko), Nagisa and their coach visit Ayano’s grandparent’s house in order to find out what’s up with her. There, they learn the reason why she ended her badminton career so early – it’s all thanks to a match she lost to pink hair that her mother walked out. (If this does turn out to be what genuinely occurred, then Ayano’s mom may be one of the worst villains of all time.)
The dub retains its high quality, and allows the VA’s for Alaina and Ayano to take the reins. They had to do a lot in this episode, especially when you consider all the flashbacks to their younger selves, but they handled it admirably. The script was very good, with no unclear translations or awkward phrasing. Funimation has many years of simuldub experience at this point, and it really shows in the level of dub they manage to put out in such a short timeframe. (The subtitled simulcast is only about three weeks ahead, for reference.)
Overall, the third episode of HANEBADO! wasn’t as exciting or engaging as past episodes, but that’s because it took a step backwards to give viewers a fuller picture of Ayano’s backstory and what motivated her to give up playing badminton altogether. There was plenty of character building, and the animation and voice acting were top-notch. She Was Perfect won’t be winning any first-place awards in tournaments, but it was a necessary step in our journey to see the badminton club regain its glory.