What They Say:
Ayano Hanesaki is a natural at badminton, but her heart hasn’t been in the game ever since her mother left. Only a great coach and a tireless team can help her surpass her limits for a rally that smashes their rivals!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 mix, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that does lean more into dialogue overall but it has a solid approach to the matches themselves with the movement of both characters and the birdie. Both tracks handle this really well as there’s a lot of movement across the forward soundstage as they move about. The dialogue for the show is fairly straightforward in comparison with it mostly basic conversation when not involved in the action side. Both tracks are pretty solid with a clean and clear design to it and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/four standard format for a series like this. Animated by Liden Films, the show has a bright and colorful look to it with a lot of it taking place with the indoor matches but also getting plenty of outdoor time to show off as well. The character designs are bright and colorful as well and the highlight of both with the action sequences in a really good way. There’s a lot of vibrant elements to this beyond the bright colors of the uniforms but this plays more into some of the standard background design elements. Colors are solid throughout with no visible macroblocking or breakup to be had. It’s an appealing encoding with what it presents and will definitely please fans of the series.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case where both discs are held against the interior walls with no hinges. The first pressings from last year came with an o-card of different artwork than the case but this one is just the case sans o-card. The front cover artwork is nice as it showcases the ostensible two leads of the series set against the red, white, and blue background that looks dynamic and appealing. The back cover goes with the same background colors but rearranged and uses different character artwork while still using some solid action-ish shots from the show. The summary covers things well even as brief as it is because it’s a standard sports setup. We also get a good listing of the extras and the digital copy element. The technical breaks down the technical information for both formats clearly and accurately. The reverse side cover brings in two more of the Japanese covers that look great and we get a nice pair of illustration style postcards included
The menu design for this release is a nice one overall as we get a static image that goes for the bright and vibrant side of things. It basically uses all the elements from the cover to good effect with the color design, placement of character artwork, and the logo to give it a bright and inviting feeling to it. The logo is kept to the side of them and below it, we get the standard navigation design that has the basics and is easy to navigate both as the main menu and as a pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and some of the Japanese promos.
Based on the manga of the same name by Kosuke Hamada, Hanebado is a thirteen-episode anime series that aired in the summer 2018 season. The manga just wrapped up around when I was watching this after beginning in 2013 where it finished with fifteen volumes. The manga did spawn a novel that came out just before the show premiere for a bit more awareness but it looks like the anime didn’t bolster sales of the manga. The anime was produced by Liden Films, which gave it a solid look, and had Shinpei Ezaki directing based on the scripts coming from Taku Kishimoto. The project is one that I like in that we get a lesser-known sport that’s given the same attention to detail that you get with the bigger sports. Badminton is something I always enjoyed just for fun and during high school, much like volleyball, far more so than things like baseball and basketball. So getting an anime series for it is definitely welcome.
Like most sports series, Hanebado follows a familiar pattern but it’s the execution-style that provides the differences. The series is one that doesn’t take place exclusively on the court and deals with a bit of the personal lives of those involved as well as touching on the school side lightly. These are not deep dives but a lot of series tend to be all on the field and nothing else, which can make a difference in what you enjoy from a sports series. The focus is first-year high school student Ayano Hanesaki. Ayano has a past when it comes to playing badminton, which sounds ridiculous, but she’s the daughter of a champion. She had grown up playing and was quite competitively sound but an incident caused her to screw up in middle school and lose, which brought a kind of shame to her mother. So much so that Ayano was left with her grandparents to raise her which in turn fueled a bit of lightly discussed depression for Ayano.
So, with her being in high school now, the coach of the team, Kentaro Tachibana, knows who she is and attempts to recruit her and to get her to play because she’s definitely got the talent that can be refined. While the depression and anxiety are touched upon, not in the way you’d get with a live-action Western project but still more than usual, it’s understandable where Ayano is coming from but at the same time you know she didn’t lose before because of anything she did. And all that went wrong because of that loss is based on her mother’s actions and abandonment. What helps is that Tachibana is able to start breaking through some of that combined with the team captain, Nagisa. The same Nagisa that had beaten her back in middle school and was part of the whole shame spiral.
The show uses this as the building blocks over the first three episodes with some of the bits about Ayano’s mother not coming in until the third episode. That makes for an engaging opening as not everything is just dumped on us at the start and then it’s off to the races of competition. And even as the series progresses and the competitions go up in their scale we don’t end up with something outsized like in a more comical way with a massive stadium and hundreds of thousands of people watching. It’s kept realistic both in terms of play and the audiences, especially with just about all of it taking place in school gymnasiums or outside courts. This keeps the show grounded in the right ways as it unfolds alongside revealing things about the players that we interact with and their struggles.
The show works a lot of matches as it progresses and builds well to the larger competitive side in the final run of episodes. It has some solid players on the team that Ayano joins at Kitakomachi such as Riko, the vice-captain, and Elena, another first year that has a good history with Ayano. She’s been her friend for years and ends up as the always fun role of club manager that gets to be the right kind of support for Ayano. And she needs support at times considering how Nagisa is and just being back in the whole badminton field. We get a few other school teams showing up along the way and they add a bit of character to some of the moments but they’re never fully defined, never a part of the larger narrative beyond the moment which is unfortunate. One of the opponents, Fredericia Girls High, is a main rival for the team, but even that rivalry doesn’t really get the extended time it deserves. It keeps most of the focus on the core team members and their working toward being better players and how they engage with each other.
The series works its sports angle well and there’s plenty to like – I can’t even fault the uniforms as being too fanservicey even though they’re one-piece style suits instead of more breathable pieces because it’s not overdone like some other shows. The badminton aspects are fun and I like the slow build toward the end with the progress that the club makes. But the show also works the story of Ayano well as we see the struggles in flashbacks to explain where she is in the present, and leave you wondering what will happen when he mother does re-enter her life (which is toward the end here, giving it more seriousness but not overdoing it). I had a good bit of fun with this show and it fills its niche well in being more of a character-based sports series than just focused on the sport itself. And it plays it seriously which helps to cement it all very well. The release captures the source material well for its presentation with great colors and solid detail along with a fun dub that lets the cast get into some good issues and emotions that a sports series often doesn’t get to – or plays in a larger than life way.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless opening and closing songs, Japanese promos
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 22nd, 2020
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.