The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Believe in Me: Harukana Receive Episode Two Impressions and Review

“You don’t have to believe in yourself, because I believe in you.” ―Drax to Mantis, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

In order to get Haruka comfortable with moving around in the sand, Kanata instructs her in basic moment patterns. Haruka remarks that her swimsuit is a little ill-suited for movement, and upon learning that any swimsuit can be used as a beach volleyball uniform, she asks Kanata to help her modify it. As Haruka improves, Kanata begins teaching Haruka basic receive and spike patterns, including a cut shot for surprising opponents. A week passes in no time at all, and Haruka is fired up at the prospect of a rematch. While running on the beach by morning on the day of their rematch, Haruka runs into Ayasa, who explains that Kanata was once a beach volleyball player and partners with Narumi. However, she would run away from the ball in fear. When the rematch begins, Narumi is surprised to see Kanata geared in her old beach volleyball uniform. In the ensuing match, Haruka’s efforts at a cut shot fail, but she encourages Kanata, who finds the courage to receive the ball. This unexpected turn of events is enough for Haruka to score a point, and in the aftermath, Narumi regrets her cold attitude towards Kanata. Haruka and Kanata celebrate with some ice cream, and Haruka notes that she realised Narumi’s dislike for Kanata during the match, allowing her to work out something that led them to win. Finding beach volleyball fun, Haruka resolves to play more seriously and partner with Kanata. Later, Claire and Emily Thomas come across the beach volleyball court where Haruka, Kanata, Ayasa and Narumi had their match. Harukana Receive begins picking up by its second episode, exploring Kanata’s doubts about her own ability and also giving viewers a glimpse of two new characters that will invariably play a role in the upcoming narrative.

Despite her relative lack of experience, Haruka picks up on the nuances of beach volleyball very rapidly: her prior experience with other sports and general athleticism is quite visible. Physicality is not a particular concern for Haruka, and over time, she will continue to refine her technique so that the ball goes where she means for it to go. Instead, the psychological aspects of beach volleyball look to play a much greater role in Harukana Receive; in the first episode, Narumi mentions that a good team is one where both partners trust the other and understand their respective strengths and weaknesses. Here in the second episode, Haruka realises mid-match that Narumi’s offense is directed entirely at Kanata, whose small stature limits her performance, and is able to turn the tables accordingly, guessing that Narumi and Ayasa will not see this coming. That the mental aspect of sports is significant should be no surprise to viewers: while audiences watching sports may only see the physical game, the thoughts that go through a player’s head and their confidence play as much of a role in their performance as much as their physical condition and training. This is something that Harukana Receive takes the effort to portray, and for its efforts, Harukana Receive is rapidly proving to be more than twelve consecutive weeks of watching Haruka’s perfectly formed arse while she plays beach volleyball: character dynamics are beginning to materialise, and with new characters coming in, it looks like things will become even livelier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Seeing Haruka with the simplified eyes consistently brings back memories of Non Non Biyori Repeat, when Hotaru shows how she normally is at home. Here, she wonders why all of Kanata’s exercises involve movement in the sand, rather than the volleyball itself, and Kanata replies that mastering the basics is essential. Much like how students in karate must learn the fundamentals of breathing and movement before moving onto basic techniques, Haruka must first learn what it feels like to move on a sandy surface and become comfortable with dives and dashes. Before we delve any further, I remark that with the amount of fanservice-type screenshots in Harukana Receive, if readers are not big on the jokes that I crack surrounding this, then you should leave…right now.

  • When Haruka finds her new swimsuit to be somewhat obstructive, Kanata helps her modify it: a tighter, basic swimsuit prevents sand from entering and causing irritation, as well as minimise energy wasted. Here, Kanata looks more closely to see what modifications are required and finds herself admiring Haruka’s ass to a much greater extent than she expected. Frequent mention of Haruka’s ass is likely meant to remind audiences that Haruka is very shapely.

  • While Kanata is helping Haruka train, the scenery around the beach is shown. A cable-stayed bridge can be seen in the distance: this is the Kaichu Doro Bridge, which connects Katsuren Peninsula on Okinawa Island to the Henza, Miyagi, Hamahiga and Ikei islands. With its distinct red tower, it’s visible from Yonashiroteruma, which is immediately south of Uruma. Together with the chimney visible when looking the other way, which belongs to the Gushikawa Thermal Power Plant, I was able to narrow down the shore to search along and found that Gushikawa Beach, the shores of Kinbu Bay, located along the southeastern side of Okinawa, was where Kanata and Haruka play beach volleyball. Henza, Miyagi and Ikei can be seen on the horizon in this screenshot – if I may crack a bad joke, I’m certain that most readers are not looking at the islands on the horizon in this particular image.

  • Haruka and Kanata enjoy their lunch in between practise under the beautiful Okinawan weather. The weather back home has been every bit as pleasant as it is in Harukana Receive: we’ve had beautiful weather for the past week, and during the last Sunday, I stepped out to The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ to enjoy a complemenary pancake-and-sausage breakfast, before exploring the Stampede grounds’ midway in search of interesting carnival eats. I ended up having the equivalent of two lunches: one stall was selling what they dubbed the “Mr. Crab”, a tempura nori taco shell loaded with sushi rice, California crab meat and topped with a tempura fried soft shell crab, drizzled with a special unagi and mango sauce. This was absolutely delicious, and it was such a treat to have soft-shell crab, which retained a distinct crab flavour despite being deep-fried to perfection. The bite of the sauce complimented the rich flavours of the crab and nori shell.

  • After walking around for a bit trying to find a place that was selling a hot dog and fries wrapped in a taiyaki pastery, I found the vendor selling them, but was informed their waffle iron had malfunctioned. I thus decided to go for a Philadelphia Cheese-Steak poutine (featuring sirloin steak, melted cheese, cheese curds, sautéed onions and mushrooms), which was very rich and hearty, especially for a warm day. Back in Harukana Receive, as the week wears on, Kanata feels that Kanata’s gotten a good enough grasp of the basics and begins training her in how to receive a ball.

  • Kanata introduces Haruka to the cut shot, and while Kanata describes it as a diagonal offensive shot, some cuts can be executed so that the ball flies nearly parallel to the net. Volleyball technical terms are as numerous and detailed as the language of biological sciences, software development and engineering, so it is fantastic that Harukana Receive takes the time to explain things to viewers as they go: the choice to have Haruka as a novice means that there is justification for introducing definitions as they are needed without breaking the narrative. Yuru Camp△ had been very successful with this approach, and Harukana Receive is doing a fine job of ensuring that viewers do not get left behind.

  • On the day of their rematch, Haruka is filled with restlessness and decides to go for a morning run. The sun rises at 0550 JST in Okinawa, and this early in the morning, the beach is calm. Looking more closely at landscapes in Harukana Receive, I find them to be quite rudimentary compared to the likes of Violet EvergardenTari Tari and those of Makoto Shinkai films, but the lighting and details of Harukana Receive are very impressive. Volumetric lighting is seen when Haruka sets off on her run, for instance, and even at this hour, it already feels quite warm going from the lighting alone. To further give the feeling that Okinawa’s beaches are a tropical paradise, a hermit crab can be seen. With over eleven hundred species, identifying the one seen here is beyond me, but all hermit crabs share the property of having a curved abdomen and utilise discarded shells to protect their abdomen from other predators.

  • Ayase explains to Haruka the history between Narumi and Kanata, as well as apologising for Narumi’s blunt nature. It’s certainly true that shy folks find it more difficult to express themselves, and consequently, I hold nothing against Narumi herself. Ayasa has since become very close to Narumi as a player and worries that if Kanata were to take up beach volleyball again, she might be abandoned. She further warns Haruka about Kanata’s limitations as a volleyball player, but Haruka is undeterred, stating that she believes in Kanata.

  • While she’s gearing up, viewers see a picture of Narumi and Kanata together with medals around their necks and smiles on their faces, showing that the two were once close and excellent beach volleyball players. Here, Ayasa strikes Haruka’s ass and compliments her, noting that she must be popular with the gentlemen. The minimal wave propagation shows that Haruka’s backside has a relatively high Young’s modulus, and I’ll let someone else explain in layman’s terms what that means. Haruka understandably reacts in embarrassment, and I empathise with Haruka – being touched downstairs can be uncomfortable, even if one is in good shape.

  • So far, existing discussions have focused on characterisation, and in the knowledge that both Kanata and Narumi are introverts, quiet by nature and not quite as effective at conveying their feelings verbally, it becomes clear as to why Narumi was not able to spur Kanata along to the same extent that Haruka has. Similarly, the reason why Narumi gets along well with Ayasa is because Ayasa is her opposite in personality, being quite expressive and outgoing. Two extroverts typically have no trouble in striking conversation with one another, which is why Haruka and Ayasa interact cordially immediately after meeting.

  • By comparison, two introverts will likely have little communication unless they get to know one another well, and even then, it can be a little difficult for them to be truthful about how they feel. Right before the match starts, Haruka boldly ups the ante, saying that the vanquished will treat the victors to ice cream. Haruka is very competitive and energetic in nature, although when the moment comes down to it, she can also be very motivated and determined. These are excellent characteristics to have, and coupled with her endless sense of optimism, means that Haruka is unlikely to ever succumb to self-doubt. Instead, I imagine that her conflicts this season will result from her dynamics with Kanata.

  • While Haruka might have an innate talent in all things athletic, her inexperience means that there’s no sudden improvement in skills over a week, and there’s no awakening or miracle. Harukana Receive keeps things real, and while Haruka’s beginning to learn the basics, it’s not yet enough for them to hold out against a team who’s been training for quite some time. Having said this, Haruka never seems to be intimidated by Ayasa and Narumi’s skill; in fact, she’s impressed and gains the motivation to improve.

  • When Haruka and Kanata execute their cut shot, Narumi dives and manages to keep the ball in play. As it turns out, Narumi had been expecting the pair to try such a move; it’s a reminder that Narumi knows Kanata quite well, to the point where she is able to predict any tricks that Kanata might try to pass onto Haruka. I get that the weight of past failures can hold one back, and so, one of the things I’m curious to see is what will allow Narumi to move forwards.

  • To give the sense of speed, the volleyball is almost always depicted as being fuzzy and blurry while in motion at normal speeds, only being more clear when the passage of time is slowed for dramatic effect. Late in the game, once Haruka starts looking at Ayasa and Narumi’s play-style, and being reminded of Kanata’s words about teams traditionally targeting the weaker player to gain an edge, she realises that every shot’s been aimed at Kanata. Haruka thus asks Kanata to take a receive, and states that she has full faith in her: this is where the page quote comes from, being one of the more warming moments of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 when Drax encourages Mantis, who is trying to slow Ego with her telepathic powers.

  • Official documentation give Haruka’s height as being 172 cm (5’7½”), and Kanata is 151 cm (4’11”). Haruka is taller than average in Japan, where women are around 158 cm in height on average, but her stature is otherwise unremarkable: by comparison, Sword Art Online Alternative‘s Karen Kohiruimaki is 183 cm in height (an even 6’0″). Therefore, it is a bit surprising to hear that she sticks out in a crowd and has trouble finding clothing. For reference, I stand close to the same height as Haruka, which is the average height for people in Canada (and from the looks of it, for most of the world).

  • The unexpected turn of events allows Haruka to score a point, bringing the match to a close in a surprising manner. Haruka is voiced by Kana Yūki, who only has a minor role in GochiUsa but otherwise plays characters I’m not familiar with. Kanata is voiced by Saki Miyashita, and Narumi is voiced by Miyuri Shimabukuro; Miyashita is a newcomer, and Shimabukuro has only had roles in shows I’ve never seen before. By comparison, Kanae Itō plays Ayasa: I know her best for her roles as Hanasaku Iroha‘s Ohana Matsumae, Sanae Nagatsuki of Ika! Musume and Sword Art Online‘s Yui.

  • Haruka and Kanata are overjoyed at their victory, while Narumi runs off. It’s not so much that they lost, but rather, because Narumi feels terrible that she was never able to get through to Kanata in the same way that Haruka did and might have only led to Kanata’s unhappiness. Ayasa, showing concern for Narumi, asks that they do ice cream another day and runs off to look after Narumi.

  • The vivid contrasts in the background and foreground visually tell a story that dialogue alone cannot: there’s a great deal of emotions here. Ayasa reassures Narumi that Haruka will be looking after Kanata now, and I gather that even now, Narumi is still concerned about Kanata’s well-being, but simply has trouble expressing it. Amidst the warm, bright day, the girls’ emotions stand in stark contrast with their surroundings. While elsewhere, folks with expertise in Yuri-Vision™ are probably already going full force ahead with their discussions, I note that this particular aspect has never been something I have been strong with, and so, one will have to forgive the lack of this topic over here on this side of the internet.

  • What I can talk about are random, various things in Harukana Receive, such as the ice cream that Haruka ends up buying from the store (which also sells freshly-made cane sugar juice). Up until now, I’d never even heard of Citrus depressa, more commonly known as the Taiwanese Tangerine or Shequasar. This highly sour fruit is native to Taiwan and Okinawa, having very similar culinary uses as lemons do, and despite their name, have nothing to do with active galactic nuclei that radiate massive amounts of energy as a result of gases emitting EMR while being drawn into a supermassive black hole. In comparison to the darker colours surrounding Narumi and Ayasa, when Kanata and Haruka are sitting in the shade of an umbrella whilst enjoying their ice cream, there’s a faint purple hue to them, indicating differences in their respective moods.

  • Since Claire and Emily have made an appearance, it is expected that they will have a much more major role in the next episode. Things are ramping up now in Harukana Receive, and two episodes in, I am becoming more confident in saying that this is my go-to show of this summer season for relaxing and unwinding to, fulfilling the role that Amanchu! Advance and Yuru Camp△ played in their respective seasons. Having said this, I am a bit more cautious about watching Harukana Receive out in the open, as doubtlessly, the contents of this anime means that questions will invariably be asked. As for how I feel about writing about Harukana Receive rather than shooting people in the head in Battlefield 1, it’s a welcome change of pace, and even with the Road to Battlefield V challenge ongoing, I’ve managed to shift my schedules slightly so I can still earn my 30k points per week to unlock the weekly prizes. For readers, this means you can continue to expect same-day talks for Harukana Receive.

With Kanata and Narumi formerly being partners now out in the open, Kanata’s motivations for quitting and resuming beach volleyball are now established, along with the basis for why Narumi is particularly apathetic towards Kanata. One can imagine being a team player, only to lack the ability to help a struggling teammate along despite one’s efforts: this is why Narumi insists that beach volleyball is a team sport, and likely views Kanata’s quitting as a personal failure. With Kanata returning into the game thanks to Haruka’s energy, this will rapidly change how Kanata herself views beach volleyball, restoring the joy back into a sport that Kanata had lost interest in. There are many directions that Harukana Receive can go in, and although it is still very early in the season, it is clear that how all of the different characters will interact with one another, and the subsequent learnings through these interactions, both on and off the court, will be the centrepiece of Harukana Receive. For the present, Claire and Emily still need to be formally introduced into Harukana Receive, and once that’s done, Haruka will still need to undergo much more training to improve her technical skills and finesse as a player. Similarly, Kanata must find her own way of approaching beach volleyball to be the best player that she can be, and her time with Haruka will doubtlessly facilitate this. Watching characters improve over time has always been one of the biggest reasons as to why I watch slice-of-life series, and Harukana Receive is no different than the shows I’ve seen previously: the journey of progress is always one that I enjoy watching, whether it be the construction of Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement project, the Space Race or a bunch of students in a fictionalised world learning about themselves in their youth.

3 responses to “Believe in Me: Harukana Receive Episode Two Impressions and Review

  1. Jrandom42 July 15, 2018 at 19:50

    Let’s face it. Women’s beach volleyball in real life (especially during the Olympics) IS fanservice. But that doesn’t make them any less dedicated elite athletes! My personal impression is that Kanata is a relative normal 165 cm in height (still way short for beach volleyball) and that Harruka is closer to 185 cm tall (no wonder she has a complex about it!) .

    Having been an athlete, I look forward to seeing Haruka grow and become a true beach volleyball star with Kanata’s help and competition from everyone else. I also like the spotlight on the mental and emotional aspects of competition as well

    Like

    • infinitezenith July 20, 2018 at 22:26

      First off, my apologies in taking such a long time to reply. It’s been a hell of a week, and I’ve only had time to write for the blog today, with it being Friday night and all that. I can’t say I’ve ever been inclined to watch beach volleyball as a sport because I spend more of my time keeping an eye on the NHL, but I appreciate that all athletes show a considerable amount of dedication and discipline – beach volleyball is no different.

      Having a taller Haruka means that her having trouble finding properly-fitting clothes and sticking out in a crowd would be more believable. Your numbers for Haruka and Kanata’s height definitely make more sense, but the documentation is what it is, and from the looks of it, Haruka isn’t even significantly taller than her peers, save Kanata 😛

      There’s definitely a mental aspect of beach volleyball that Harukana Receive is exploring, and the series continues to do an amazing job with portraying this. I hope you’ll continue watching this series, as it’s going in a solid direction so far.

      Like

  2. Pingback: The Real Life Hawaii of Japan and Beach Volleyball on the Shores of Okinawa: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Harukana Receive | The Infinite Zenith

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