Two weeks ago on Newman’s Nook, I spoke of Hanesaki from HANEBADO!. This time, I want to take a different view and talk about Nagisa Aragaki. A fantastic badminton player, Aragaki is the first to the practices and last to leave. She lives and breathes badminton, thinking of almost nothing else as an incredibly focused athlete.
This dedication to her craft is seen throughout the series. She’s at the core of the team with an intensity that is incredible. That intensity drives away her friends at times since she feels that if others are not as intense as she is, they are failures. But in episode one, prior to this current Aragaki, she faced off against Hanesaki in a Junior High match. As I said, Aragaki is good, very good, but she’s not Hanesaki. In episode one, Hanesaki is in her machine mode. She is a robotic, unstoppable force. Despite all of Aragaki’s best efforts, she loses to Hanesaki.
Everything she does, everything she worked for, fell apart in that single moment. Aragaki failed despite putting forth the fight of her badminton career at this point. She failed, and that is okay.
But she did not see it that way. Aragaki was upset and angry at herself. She questions why she was even playing the sport in the first place if she could work that hard and still fail. Yet, she doesn’t quit. Aragaki is persistent and continues to push forward, becoming better, stronger, faster. She does not want to fail again. She does not want to falter. She does not want to lose. Throughout the rest of this season, she becomes stronger, smarter, and better at her craft. Yet, in the end, she still may fail. Again, it’s okay. Sometimes failure happens in life when we put out our best, but our persistence to continue onward despite our failure is important and worthy of praise.
Once again, as I am wont to do, I am reminded of the Bible when thinking about this character. Specifically, I am thinking about Ezekiel. I’ve been reading Ezekiel on and off with my oldest son a lot lately and in addition to the wild visions Ezekiel sees, there is an interesting undercurrent beneath it all. Right off the bat, God tells Ezekiel that he is going to fail (Ezekiel 2). Ezekiel was given a number of messages to give to the Israelites in exile. He was told to inform them of their eventual return and to remind them to turn to the Lord. He was to serve as a physical example of their own failures of the faith. Yet God continues to remind him that the Israelites most likely won’t listen to him. He says to do it anyway. So, Ezekiel persists.
Ezekiel continues on the path that was laid before him even though it will be difficult and he’s likely will fail. He does it anyway. The Book of Ezekiel chronicles the terrible things he goes through. Yet, here he goes continuing onward despite inevitable failure. Ezekiel and Isaiah have that trait in common.
Aragaki’s story arc feels much the same way. She is fighting through the season to be the strongest she can be. She is plowing through old and new rivals with grace and strength. She is practicing non-stop to hone her skill set. Yet, in the end, she may fail. She will go against her teammate and biggest rival, Hanesaki, in the finals. She has a serious issue with her knee that could blow her ability to play for life if she exacerbates the damage. She already qualified for the next round and this actual match against Hanesaki is irrelevant to her standing. She plays anyway.
Aragaki is persistent through it all—through all the trials; through all the pain; through all of the bitterness, snark, and demeaning comments from Hanesaki. She will not surrender easily. She may, in the end, still fail. Yet unlike her first match against Hanesaki, this is no longer as big a deal. She has a better understanding of life and sport, a better idea of what is to come. Aragaki sees this as a true opportunity to test her skills. She no longer has the fatalistic mentality she had in middle school. She is ready to fight even if this is the last one. Aragaki continues onward and I, for one, admire her tenacity.
HANEBADO! can be streamed at Crunchyroll