The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

We Don’t Need Aces: Harukana Receive First Episode Impressions and Review

“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” —Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

When her mother moves overseas for her work, Haruka Ōzora moves to Okinawa to live with her grandmother and cousin, Kanata Higa. After landing in Naha, Haruka meets with Kanata for the first time in four years, and becomes excited at the prospect of being so close to the water, where she may dive, surf and swim. While running about on the beaches, Haruka runs into a pair of beach volleyball players, Narumi Tōi and Ayasa Tachibana. Narumi grows cold when Haruka wonders about becoming an ace, and when Kanata shows up, Narumi challenges the pair to an impromptu match. Haruka’s inexperience on the court becomes apparent, and although they lose their first game, Haruka remains fired up and longs for a rematch. Narumi reluctantly agrees, provided that Haruka learns the basics and rules within the span of a week. Later that evening, Kanata reveals that they’re going up against experienced volleyball players, although this does little to deter Haruka, who settles in to life in Naha with Kanata and resolves to master the basics, now that it’s summer vacation. For me, Harukana Receive is the anime of the summer season that I was most anticipating, primarily because the warm, sunny beaches of Okinawa are precisely the image of summer that is conjured whenever the hottest season of the year is mentioned: I’ve never watched a distinctly summer anime during the summer before, and the premise of Harukana Receive was particularly conducive towards being the perfect accompaniment for the hottest and sunniest days of the year. In this aspect, Harukana Receive is very strong; the artwork is amazing, capturing the heat of summer through the deep azure skies and warm ocean waters reaching towards infinity. Shadows and light also feature prominently in Harukana Receive to create the sensation of heat: without question, the visuals in Harukana Receive‘s environments are stunning.

However, I imagine that most readers are not here about the lighting effects and details of the landscape: aside from the frequent stills of the sun, and the brilliant light that sunlight casts the land in, the warmth in Harukana Receive comes from Haruka herself. Despite being described as sensitive about her height and figure, there is little denying that Haruka’s seemingly boundless energy is one of the biggest draws in Harukana Receive. Haruka’s sunny disposition and excitement suggests that she’s always ready for adventure and experience. From stripping down on the beaches to accepting a challenge without much thought, Haruka is happy-go-lucky in manner and lives in the moment. Her positive mindset thus acts as the perfect foil for the quiet and reserved Kanata; such contrasts amongst characters are deliberately thus, intended to have different facets of one’s personality influence another individual within a friendship to depict how characters grow and learn over time. While Haruka’s enthusiasm is nothing new (she reminds me of a cross between GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Brave Witches‘ Takami Karuibuchi), placing such a sunny, friendly person into a landscape characterised by warmth sets the table for what’s likely to come in Harukana Receive. Haruka’s optimism will serve her well as the series progresses, especially when she begins learning about just how far she has to go in beach volleyball, and it will be particularly interesting to see just how Haruka handles adversity and learns over the course of Harukana Receive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After four years, Kanata (left) and Haruka (right) reunite at Naha Airport. Because I’m doing episodic posts for Harukana Receive, each post will have twenty screenshots and accompanying figure captions. A long-standing trend here is that posts have been progressively becoming longer, both in terms of word count and number of screenshots, and while it’s nice to be able to really flesh out certain ideas or crack bad jokes about scenes, there is also value in being concise.

  • My praises for Harukana Receive‘s visuals are not unfounded: this view of Okinawa, with the glistening ocean and lens flare showcases the sort of visual fidelity in the anime. The subtleties in the environment indicate a commitment to detail, and this particular aspect will become important as Haruka becomes more learned in the techniques and nuances of beach volleyball. The implications of the anime’s attention to detail also suggests that the places seen in Harukana Receive are doubtlessly modelled after real-world locations.

  • If this indeed holds true, there might be an opportunity in the future to do another armchair tour of locations in Okinawa. Here, Kanata watches Haruka running joyfully onto the beach after their ride from the airport. In contrast to Haruka, who is positively glowing, Kanata is much more taciturn: their conversation back suggests that the only topic that bothers Haruka is her height, and Kanata is similarly envious of Haruka for being much taller.

  • Readers better get used to screenshots such as these over the next eleven weeks that Harukana Receive is airing; while not a series dedicated towards fanservice, the simple fact that Harukana Receive is set around beach volleyball on the warm coasts of Okinawa means that swimsuits will be a very common sight. The manga simply shows Haruka stripping down in one small panel, to Kanata’s surprise, but the anime adaptation goes the whole nine yards in closeups of Haruka’s chest and posterior. At the very least, there is no excessive oscillations, which are again, a subtle reminder that Harukana Receive is not about the fanservice.

  • Harukana Receive‘s manga is not in the four-panel format, being structured in the traditional fashion. While it looks to deal with topics surrounding teamwork and friendship in a more serious manner than something like GochiUsa, because Harukana Receive is a Manga Time Kirara publication, it stands to reason that things won’t ever get serious to the point of breaking the atmosphere. The simple white circles for eyes Kanata’s got in this moment is an indicator of shock, and funny facial expressions are the norm in Harukana Receive, reminding audiences that first and foremost, this series is about being fun.

  • The only time I’ve been somewhere with waters warm enough to wade in without requiring a wetsuit was Cancún, which was two years ago: I woke up early in the mornings and walked the beaches, where the waters were a turquoise colour and the beach sands where white. Mornings were the best time to enjoy the beaches, as the sun would be too much during noon. At this time, I attended various presentations and panels at the ALIFE conference.

  • In her haste to enjoy the beach, Haruka’s forgotten her sunscreen. An absolute essential in places like Cancún (even as early as eight in the morning) and Okinawa, sunscreen blocks UVA and UVB radiation, high intensity photons that can cause melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma (two kinds of skin cancer) by punching through the skin into cells and damaging the DNA within. I rarely go for long without sunscreen when spending more than half an hour outdoors during the summer: even at the higher latitudes, UV hazards can be quite high for many days of the year, and my city’s high altitude actually increases exposure to UV.

  • After meeting Ayasa and Narumi, Haruka strikes up a conversation with Ayase, who is approachable and friendly. By comparison, Narumi is much more distant, serious and cold. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing such characters in anime, and as such, my first inclination is to wonder what flow of events will eventually lead Narumi to warm up to Haruka and Kanata. This could be the subject of a story arc later, and typically, such events are very rewarding to see. Of course, some folks elsewhere are less interested in these aspects and find that Haruka’s posterior is rewarding to see ಠ_ಠ

  • My eyes and ears tell me that Harukana Receive is similarly being counted as a show that is appropriate for summer. However, there does seem to be an exception in that one of my bêtes noires counts this series as being outside the scope of their interests – should the show fall through for them, I suppose it will mean that I won’t be seeing efforts to psychoanalyse whatever personality flaws are holding Kanata back or questions about how differences between Okinawan and Japanese culture impact Huruka’s ability to learn beach volleyball. I admit that it was amusing to read these from Tango-Victor-Tango’s Manga Time Kirara experts, since it then gave me something additional to discuss (and then usually, invalidate these points for fun).

  • Haruka jokingly remarks that with her predisposition for atheltics, she could perform quite well in volleyball, only for Narumi to give her a verbal beatdown on how aces don’t exist in team sports – a team is only as good as its weakest link, and a fine example of where team play matters more than individual skill is in ice hockey. The Edmonton Oilers finished just below the Calgary Flames during the 2017-2018 season, despite the stellar performance of Connor McDavid – one fantastic player wasn’t enough to bring the Oilers to the playoffs. Likewise, while Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Michael Ferland’s first line have been relatively consistent to watch, but the Flames’ deficiencies in special teams have been felt: towards the end of the 2017-2018 season, the Flames dropped from the playoffs.

  • Immediately through this exchange, it’s clear that Narumi is very serious about beach volleyball, although her delivery of this message to Haruka shows that she’s not very concerned about what others think of her. Such a presentation indicates that there’s more to Narumi that audiences will likely learn more about later, and here, when Kanata rejoins Haruka, it is clear that Kanata and Narumi once knew one another. In addition, there’s also a bit of a distance between the two. Kanata’s previous experience in beach volleyball is a known, and her reasons for quitting will likely be the subject of a future episode.

  • If readers have no objections, then for the next eleven weeks, this blog will feature many more screenshots similar to this one. It’s still early in the game, but Haruka’s my favourite character in Harukana Receive for both her personality and other design attributes. Despite being a total novice at beach volleyball, she’s presented as being very active and athletic, having familiarity with a wide range of sports. As such, Haruka’s background makes her well-suited to be the central character of Harukana Receive – her fitness level and knowledge of other sports allows her to keep up, such that when she advances in skill level, it is never implausible or unrealistic.

  • After the first episode, one challenge I will immediately face is being able to capture action shots well – Harukana Receive makes extensive use of motion blur and depth of field effects to bolster its visual impact, which is great from a viewer experience perspective, but from a screenshots perspective, it means I’ll have to be a bit more mindful as to which frames I will end up using. This was especially a problem for live-action movies, which is why I don’t review them as often, but usually, is not a concern in anime.

  • Against the likes of Ayasa and Narumi, Haruka and Kanata are completely outmatched: their game here is a first-to-seven, with the handicap that Haruka and Kanata win if they can manage one point against Ayasa and Narumi. During the course of the match, Kanata explains various details to Haruka, such as how players need to compensate for wind and switch sides to even matches out in events of strong wind, adjust for the differences that sand has on footwork and how overhand techniques make it easier to foul. It’s nice to have Kanata explain things to audiences: she fulfills a similar role to Yuru Camp△‘s narrator, and as such, viewers get to ease into the meat-and-potatoes of Harukana Receive without getting lost.

  • Haruka manages to hit the ball and with Kanata’s help, attempts to score a point, only for Narumi to counterattack. With the score at 7-0, their game comes to an end, and Narumi warns Haruka that in beach volleyball, a team is only as effective as the two players. This brings to mind the sort of logic that drove the Jaeger pilots in Pacific Rim, where the Jaegers were sophisticated enough so that two pilots, with their minds bound by a neural bridge, must work together to operate the Jaeger. While beach volleyball does not involve fanciful technologies, the concept seems similar enough: the two players on a team must be able to understand their partner’s playstyle, working with them to maximise their strengths and minimise weaknesses to cohesively put the ball in a position where a point can be scored.

  • Having had her first experiences with beach volleyball, Haruka is perfectly unperturbed by their loss and promises to have another match once she improves. Her words exude a positive outlook on the world, befitting of youth. I am very much drawn in to Harukana Receive by Haruka’s enthusiasm and energy, and she’s absolutely right in that things only become more fun as one invests the time to improve. My seniors at the dōjō say the same thing: reaching shōdan only marks the beginning of a journey, and it is only into black belt that the more interesting aspects of Okinawa Gōjū-ryū are learnt. I suppose now is a good as a time to reiterate that from time to time, I will be talking about Gōjū-ryū in my Harukana Receive posts, because Gōjū-ryū karate originates from the Naha area of Okinawa.

  • As the sun sets, Haruka learns from Kanata that Ayasa and Narumi are champion players. While Kanata is worried about their prospects of winning, Haruka states that champions or not, she looks forwards to playing them. The only way to get better is to challenge what one cannot defeat (initially): while it’s not always the case, losing and failure are some of the most effective teachers out there, and those who never lose or fail are setting themselves up for more difficult losses and failures later down the line. A major part of being human is knowing how to pick oneself up and regroup after a setback, although at this point in Harukana Receive, it’s difficult to tell if Haruka’s naturally got this mindset or if she’s starry-eyed.

  • Ayasa is evidently more easygoing than Narumi – she wonders why Narumi is going full-force against someone with no experience, and feels that having Kanata train Haruka might be enough to get Kanata back into the game. The second aspect that Harukana Receive introduces in its first episode, then, is what caused Kanata to leave beach volleyball, and watching how Haruka influences her to return and make the most of things. I tend to take Ayasa’s approach while providing younger students with instruction and exercise full restraint during sparring if my opponent is learning. The way I spar is much slower, intended to instruct rather than punish.

  • As the episode winds down, Haruka and Kanata share a welcome dinner from their grandmother, which features a variety of Okinawan dishes. Unlike Japanese dishes, Okinawan cuisine tends to feature more spices and meat. Chanpurū is also commonplace: this stir-fry dish is representative of Okinawan food, the same way one might associated dim sum with Hong Kong. Being a slice-of-life anime, I imagine that Harukana Receive will also depict more about life in Okinawa: it’s commonly portrayed as a vacation destination (the upcoming Non Non Biyori Vacation movie is going to follow Renge and company’s adventures in Okinawa), but to see things on a day-to-day basis is a welcome change of pace.

  • As the evening sets in, Kanata and Haruka settle down for the evening, where Haruka meets Kanata’s pet turtle. It’s been an eventful first day, and with summer vacation on the horizon, it is plain that Haruka already has plans to fill those long, beautiful summer days to the brim with activity on her break. Depictions of summer in anime always present it as a distant season, and while this distance, this harukana, has been seen in Harukana Receive‘s first episode, I imagine that as things progress, the distance will close. If this is indeed the theme, then Harukana Receive‘s title is a very clever one. With this first post in the books, this is what readers can reasonably expect of my Harukana Receive posts: I look forwards to seeing where this series goes as I follow it on a weekly basis.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an episodic review for a series, but with the summer season otherwise being a slow one for me, I figured that the best way to keep my blogging game up is to occasionally work on it a little. Harukana Receive represents a new challenge for me: I am not an athlete and have no experience in volleyball whatsoever, much less beach volleyball. However, I do know a thing or two about teamwork and cooperation, as well as mutual support, sportsmanship and the like: these aspects of life extend well beyond the realm of sports, and individuals who understand teamwork and compromise tend to derive greater happiness in what they do. These lessons are what I’m looking to see in Harukana Receive, and in conjunction with the very strong, visceral showing that the first episode has presented, Harukana Receive is going to be a series that I look forwards to watching each and every week of its run, especially as more characters are introduced and Haruka comes further into her journey of learning about beach volleyball and over time, accepting that her height is what it is. I further add that the fact that Haruka can really rock a two-piece is further incentive to watch the show every week, and close this first episode talk with the remark that it is possible that anyone who states they picked up Harukana Receive, for the mechanics and rules of beach volleyball, have a non-trivial likelihood of being untruthful.

3 responses to “We Don’t Need Aces: Harukana Receive First Episode Impressions and Review

  1. DerekL July 8, 2018 at 09:29

    This is gonna be a fun show and at least decent… There’s some elements that suggest it could reach greatness, but it’s too early to tell.


    • infinitezenith July 9, 2018 at 22:39

      I definitely feel Harukana Receive is going to have an interesting direction; seeing people learn and grow has always been my cup of tea. As far as being an anime that changes one’s world-view or any other criteria that makes a masterpiece, it’s much too early to be making that call! Still, I am looking forwards to things – I openly say that I came for Haruka and will stay for the development and maturation among the characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Summer 2018 – Week 1 / First Impressions (Part II) – Apprentice Mages Lounge.

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