The Infinite Zenith

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

I Won’t Break: Harukana Receive Impressions and Review At The Halfway Point

“I’m really gonna wipe you now.”
“Bring it on, bro!”

Finn and Jake, Adventure Time

Emily discerns that Kanata’s game plan with pokies must have another goal, and back on the court, Kanata is able to send the ball across the court. Mai is exhausted in trying to keep up, slipping on the sand and slowing in her ability to receive the ball. Harukana thus catches up on the scoreboard. They reach the match point, and Haruka realises that she can use a drop shot after Ai spikes the ball: this unexpected action allows Harukana to win over Aimai. In the aftermath, Haruka and Kanata are overjoyed to have won their first game as a pair and embrace, while Ai and Mai resolve to continue playing beach volleyball as a pair, with both confiding in the other that they were worried about letting the other down. The junior tournament winds down with Claire and Emily victorious; Haruka and Kanata were defeated in their second round. Undeterred, Haruka remarks that she’s greatly enjoying the experience, and when Claire announces that there are two slots for the Valkyrie Cup, a national-level competition, the girls resolve to train hard and meet one another at the national tournament. Kanata begins drilling Haruka on hand signals, and in the post-credits scene, Akari asks Kanata if she’s a member of their high school’s beach volleyball club. We thus reach the halfway point for Harukana Receive, and with six episodes in the books, Harukana Receive has remained very consistent with expectations as to what sort of messages it intends audiences to take away from the series: sportsmanship, self-discovery and improvement are core to Harukana Receive, and nowhere is this more apparent than with novice Haruka, whose spirits seem imperturbable. Instead on dwelling on loss and failure, Haruka is always intent on pursuing the next challenge, and this drive is beginning to move the needle for Kanata, as well.

Interpersonal growth is evidently the core of Harukana Receive: beach volleyball merely acts as the vessel for driving the narrative, providing something concrete and tangible that the characters can work towards. Had Harukana Receive done something similar with ping-pong or tennis, the messages would still hold true as they do now. It is clear that both Haruka and Kanata are learning: Kanata strives to teach Haruka more of the technical elements, while Haruka’s energy continues to inspire and motivate Kanata. However, I am perhaps unique in thinking about the series in this manner: discussions elsewhere have fixated on technical elements surrounding Kanata’s strategies, and purport that the approach Kanata took towards besting Aimai will not be viable against any skilled pair. While it is the case that Haruka and Kanata lose their next round, Harukana Receive chooses deliberately to not show this round; this indicates that the details underlying beach volleyball matter less than interpersonal and intrapersonal growth. Matches are shown when they contribute to a pair’s development, and from the looks of things, omitted when specific details are not immediately relevant to the thematic aspects. As a result, I hold that looking up the fundamentals of beach volleyball and then trying to apply them to discredit Kanata is to miss the point of what Harukana Receive is about. The series is not the novice’s introduction to beach volleyball, it is about how it sometimes takes a bit of disruption for people to change their status quo and the sorts of learnings one picks up after this disruption occurs.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the past week, it’s been non-stop discussions about why Kanata’s repeated use of pokies are unwise and the like. I will say this outright: anyone who’s acting like they know beach volleyball when their only exposure to it was through Harukana Receive should take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves what they’ve made of their lives. The phenomenon is colloquially referred to as “Engineer’s syndrome”, but applies to all disciplines involving expertise. The short of it is that folks who are highly skilled in one area imagine that their abilities may also extend outside of their field.

  • To act like one knows more than they do only results up in humiliation when anyone learned in the matter (beach volleyball, in this case) actually enters the discussion. As a result, I’ve not placed too much focus on the technical aspects of the sport because I do not feel that I can adequately cover it, although even if an anime does deal with my areas of expertise (biology and software development), I will not bother with technical details more than is necessary because it is not my intent or duty to provide an undergraduate’s introduction to those areas.

  • I further wonder why Manga Time Kirara shows are especially susceptible to discussions where people present themselves as being more knowledgeable than they are on various topics. I would speculate the presence of attractive female characters subconsciously inspires a desire to impress among some individuals; if the reason isn’t actually thus and is something else, I’d love to hear about it. We finally return to Harukana Receive proper, where exhaustion is driving Mai to make increasingly poor plays.

  • While discussions raged about on whether or not Kanata’s tactics were efficacious, I already was convinced that with Kanata’s experience, she picked her approach for a reason. However, messing with an opponent isn’t always the most viable of tactics and only really works if one is going against folks who are weaker than oneself: consider the example of Battlefield, where I sometimes roll with unusual loadouts (such as repair tool or Kolibri-only) for an assignment or amusement. Against poor players, it can be amusing, but against skilled players who are playing for keeps, frustration results.

  • Just so search engines do not get the wrong idea, there is no imminent threat to Mai here: she’s merely drenched from having exerted herself to the extent that she did. Admittedly, without any context, people’s imaginations may run a little wild imaging the sort of beating that Aimai is on the receiving end of, or even the sorts of things that shall never be mentioned here. This turn of events is what motivates the page quote, which is sourced from Adventure Time‘s “Who Would Win” episode, when Jake and Finn are fighting one another. After falling down a canyon, Jake and Finn’s fight gets desperate, devolving into a variety of dirty moves.

  • The pacing of the match’s second half is a bit more dynamic, although slow motion stills are still very much the norm in Harukana Receive. I would tend to think that this is also deliberate, to give viewers a much better idea of what the players themselves are thinking at various stages of a match. Close-ups allows this story to be told, and since facial expressions can convey feelings quite effectively, it further stands to reason that the human aspects of beach volleyball are rather more relevant than the technical.

  • At the halfway point, Haruka remains my favourite character, although Claire’s a very close second, as well. As this match progresses, Haruka is still in the process of learning, and while she may have raw talent, her skill level is not quite there yet: she lacks precision. However, with her own innate talent and suggestions from those around her, Haruka picks things up very quickly. The choice to have Haruka as being a natural athlete means that her advances in skill are not so jarring, in turn allowing for the story to progress without being constrained by Haruka’s ability to play beach volleyball.

  • As the match between Harukana and Aimai progresses, things become a bit more tense as the scores draw even. Insofar, pacing in Harukana Receive is much less even in that some episodes cover a considerable amount of ground with respect to character development, and others focus on beach volleyball in a blow-by-blow capacity. This could make the series’ objectives unclear, inducing a sense not dissimilar to sea-sickness. However, much like how looking at the horizon can help alleviate sea-sickness, the pacing in Harukana Receive is less of a bother if one watches it from a higher-level perspective.

  • The inconsistencies in Harukana Receive means that some episodes will invariably have a great deal of content to cover, and in others, things will be slower, forcing me to get creative with my writing. However, the one thing in Harukana Receive that’s keeping me around, even ahead of Haruka’s aesthetically-pleasing figure, is the fact that every episode (so far) is set under a brilliantly blue summer sky. The forest fires a province over have returned, meaning that in my area, the skies are smoky and hazy now, saturated with ash and dulling the sun. By comparison, Harukana Receive provides consistently beautiful weather.

  • Yesterday was said to be the hottest day in Calgary’s history: the termometer reached 36.8ºC, eclipsing the previous record of 36.1ºC (which was reached on July 15, 1919, and July 25, 1933). After arriving at the airport, I was hit with a wall of heat when walking through the jet bridge. Things have thankfully cooled off for the weekend, and after a full day of smoke yesterday, a thunderstorm rolled in when I was sitting down to dinner. Back in Harukana Receive, one of the things that the show does excel at, through the use of slow-motion moments, is to building suspense and anticipation for the outcome of a particular rally.

  • After Harukana manage to even the scores up, Claire attempts to signal to Haruka, who is at a complete loss as to what Claire’s message is. The Thomas sisters appear to be very serious and no-nonsense on first glance, and while Emily remains quite quiet, Claire is rather boisterous under most circumstances. This dichotomy is one of the reasons that I’m so fond of Eclaire.

  • I’ve heard arguments that people take Harukana Receive seriously because the show takes itself seriously. However, because of how comedy figures in Harukana Receive, such as Haruka’s total confusion at what Claire is trying to say to her, it stands to reason that Harukana Receive cannot be approached with this mindset. The balance of serious and humourous means that while good discussion can be had, people should not be tearing characters down when they act in a manner that may seem contrary to common sense. I liken watching Harukana Receive to watching an MCU film: there’s definitely meaningful topics being explored, although the humour also reminds audiences to also enjoy the show.

  • I doubt I’ll get tired of featuring Haruka screenshots: I’ve heard complaints about fanservice in Harukana Receive, and to exacerbate things further, here’s a random bit of trivia. Haruka’s given name is Ōzora, 大空. But, in Cantonese, 空 (jyutping hung1, “sky”) is phoenetically identical to 胸 (jyutping hung1, “chest”). So, all I hear is “大胸 Haruka”, which lends itself to some hilarity for Cantonese speakers (I’m not going to bother explaining the joke, as sticking this into any machine translator will quickly show why I won’t go into more details). With this being said, I don’t think Haruka’s the most stacked of anyone in the cast, and further remark that this joke does not work in Mandarin Chinese (空 is kōng and 胸 is xiōng).

  • Kanata later aims a serve deliberately out of bounds to score a point by surprising Aimai. Compensating for wind is another aspect of beach volleyball that Kanata’s using to her advantage, and this point sets the stage for Haruka’s drop shot, which ends up winning the game. When I played badminton as a student, the one move I was ill-equipped to deal with were drop shots. Haruka’s realisation that this can be a powerful tool comes in a timely manner, and with this, Harukana’s first game is over.

  • Without further context, this image could also get me turfed from search engines, so I will explain what’s going on here. After Haruka scores the game-winning point, Kanata is overjoyed and makes to hug Haruka, knocking her over in the process. There’s nothing dicy going on whatsoever, despite the use of this style of imagery in other series to imply thus: I would prefer that viewers think of this as what happens when players score goals in ice hockey and embrace one another after each goal.

  • At the end of the day, sportsmanship and other interpersonal skills matters more than technical aspects of beach volleyball. Harukana and Aimai thank one another for a good match before parting ways. On my end, I definitely have embraced the idea that soft skills are more important than technical skills in an individual now – technical skill can be taught and learned to a reasonable extent, but it is much harder to cultivate good people skills. As a result, I tend to respect folks with good soft skills even if their technical skills are slightly weaker, and on that note, I will not automatically give respect to people with strong technical skills if they are lacking people skills.

  • Par the course for a Manga Time Kirara series, defeat does not mark the end of the road. After Mai and Ai tearfully make their feelings and intents clear to one another, they decide to stick it out and continue playing beach volleyball, having found that their time together has, more than anything, created a powerful friendship between the two that made their journey together in beach volleyball worth it.

  • Haruka and Kanata are defeated by their next opponent – considering that Harukana Receive does not show how this occurs, it further gives credibility to the fact that specific details to beach volleyball aren’t as relevant. In spite of this loss, Haruka is elated to have been able to complete and test their capabilities. The series is advancing a bit more quickly than I thought it would: the junior tournament is already over, and the girls set their sights on the national-level Valkyrie Cup.

  • The stakes are rapidly increasing at the halfway point, although Haruka’s happy-go-lucky disposition and Claire’s antics prevent Harukana Receive from being full-on serious. I anticipate that the lessons that Haruka and Kanata learn along their journey will remain at the forefront of the narrative. It is meaningless to break down individual plays as TSN or Sportsnet do – understanding specifics behind how Harukana play their game is insignificant next to seeing the journey of growth and self-discovery that each of Haruka and Kanata experience, and if one wanted serious beach volleyball discussions, they would do better to watch the sport for real, rather than an anime about it.

  • When Kanata drills Haruka on hand signals, her turtle manages to give correct answers before Haruka does, leading to another amusing moment. Post-credits, Akari speaks with Kanata for the first time: she’s apparently a first year student, which means that previous speculations of her being a coach are incorrect. Her role in the upcoming episodes will be of interest, and with this, I cross the finish line for the halfway point talk. I will be able to write about episode seven on time, and I anticipate that the talk for episode eight will have similar scheduling to this post.

Moving into Harukana Receive‘s second half, I am excited to see how Harukana improve their performance: it seems that Claire’s called in a favour from their mother, and once the skill gap becomes a lesser concern, I expect that Harukana Receive will be able to continue dealing with character growth and convey this message to audiences. Focusing on the specifics behind beach volleyball techniques and ignoring the bigger picture will invariably diminish enjoyment of this series; Harukana Receive is not about providing specific instruction on how to play beach volleyball, but rather, focuses on how disruption can be a positive force of change for individuals. I’m excited to see how far Haruka and Kanata will go, and in the upcoming episodes, it would appear that Akari will formally be introduced to the cast. As well, Haruka and Kanata may receive some special training from Claire and Emily’s mother, which will give the two increased performance. As the girls improve their technique, their judgement will improve with it, allowing the pair to make better decisions and play in a match. All the while, audiences will doubtlessly be treated to a visually appealing show that has plenty of compelling reasons to hold one’s attention well beyond the slow-motion frames (and the associated opportunities to stare at Haruka’s body) that have come to dominate Harukana Receive‘s beach volleyball sequences.

6 responses to “I Won’t Break: Harukana Receive Impressions and Review At The Halfway Point

  1. Jerry August 12, 2018 at 13:02

    Enjoyable episode! I like how Kanata’s strategy exploited an aspect of AiMai’s play, and run them all over the court. I also like how Haruka was able to adjust her play and performance in-game. Their growing trust in each other, their bonding, greater understanding of each others’ strengths and their growing communication will lead them to greater success, as they prove to be a better team than just the sum of their individual skill and abilities.

    I noticed that Emily seems rather violent with Claire, especially when Claire is intent on something. I wonder if that’s the only way Emily can get her attention? Also, Claire has a nasty, evil grin and laugh when she’s plotting something.

    I too don’t get tired at looking at Haruka either. For me, there’s something about a tall, well curved, naturally athletic, active, determined, outgoing girl that I find attractive. The swimsuit doesn’t hurt either. She’s proven that she’s not just another pretty face.

    Harukana’s victory celebration reminds me of a junior league hockey team that has just won a playoff game, on a much smaller and more personal scale.

    Personally, I’d like to see the Valkyrie Cup tied into exhibition matches against international high school teams. I can imagine Haruka freaking out at seeing some of the American, Brazilian, or Australian girls and thinking, “She must be at least 190 cm tall! How does she find clothes that fit?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith August 13, 2018 at 21:26

      The way Haruka and Kanata play are fitting considering their being relatively short time together as a pair: they’re still gaining a feel for their partner and learning about one another at this point. Because of the nature of this show, I continue to hold that communication and togetherness, as you’ve astutely mentioned, are much more important than the techniques or minor details that real-world players need to master. In real life, mastering the specifics holds significantly more value, but since this is an anime, I am inclined to focus more on the characters themselves.

      Claire does seem to be a bit of a wild spirit who requires someone to hold her back, and given how Emily’s given Claire a physical beating of some sort on several occasions, I’m of the mind that Emily feels that it’s the most effective way to force Claire to dial it back some. This is admittedly, the fun part of Claire’s personality: I am more similar to Emily than Claire, and so, find Claire’s energy to be more interesting than Emily’s stoic manner.

      I imagine this your tacit approval to continue featuring Haruka screenshots: I realise that Kanata seems to be driving the story more so than Haruka, but Haruka’s positive energy and cheerful disposition is in part why she’s such an easy character to support and root for 🙂

      Looking into the future, I admit that I’ve got no idea where things will end up; playing international teams would be quite exciting to behold, but I also have a feeling that the current season will likely remain within Japan. Women being much taller than Haruka over here in North America, and around the world are not uncommon – Haruka is still taller than average, but would hardly have trouble finding suitable clothing around the world.

      Like

  2. Robert Black August 12, 2018 at 16:12

    Hahaha, I’ve never heard of “Engineer’s syndrome” before, and I *am* an engineer. It’s fitting.

    I’m also a writer, so while I don’t know anything about beach volleyball, I do know how to read a scene and pick up the clues that are being left in it. There was every indication that Kanata was up to *something*, even if I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith August 13, 2018 at 21:35

      I must first apologise: I mean no offense to engineers. Many of my friends are engineers, and they are competent, friendly and humble individuals. Perhaps “armchair expert” would probably be a more suitable descriptor for the phenomenon.

      While I am not particularly fond of picking shows apart for technical details and realism, fiction does exist to tell specific stories, and as such, it is not surprising that authors place plenty of details into a series to guide viewers along and reward them for following through with a show. In the case of Harukana Receive, it is to show that Kanata is experienced and has a degree of skill in reading opponents. I’m hoping you’re enjoying Harukana Receive: while it might not be the most creative or moving show around, it is fairly compelling and gives viewers a reason to watch it beyond more commonly-expressed reasons 😛

      Like

  3. KZO August 14, 2018 at 12:29

    Kanata isn’t that young, I’m pretty sure there isn’t any issues with search engines and that picture even without context, and even then, the context isn’t completely non-romantic considering the stuff the girls already said to each other 2 episodes ago and before.

    Like

    • infinitezenith August 14, 2018 at 18:43

      I would suppose that tongue-in-cheek remarks are pretty hard to capture in a blogging environment 😛 At any rate, episode four seemed to be the strongest about the ties between beach volleyball pairs how it approaches romance. With this being said, I’m a bit of a “I’ll believe it when I see it” kind of person, so unless they move beyond subtext, I won’t really mention romance as anything more than a metaphor.

      Like

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