Stephen Strange: “I went forward in time, to view alternate futures…to see all the possible outcomes of the coming conflict.”
Peter Quill: “How many did you see?”
Stephen Strange: “14 000 605.”
Tony Stark: “How many did we win?”
Stephen Strange: “One.”
—Avengers: Infinity War
While Haruka and Kanata train tirelessly ahead of the qualifying competition for the Valkyrie Cup, Akari learns that owing to a lack of participants, only one Okinawan team will participate in the Valkyrie Cup. She hesitates to tell Haruka and the others of this news, fearing that the beach volleyball club will disintegrate from the pressures of competition, but after a call with Ayasa and Narumi, Akari decides to let the others know. Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily are not particularly worried about the news, and Akari gives everyone matching scrunchies, before they resolve to put their efforts into the qualifying tournament. On tournament day, the girls run into Mai and Ai: Ai’s become a post-secondary student and is helping out as a referee. Haruka and Kanata set off for their first match, as do Claire and Emily. With their training, Kanata and Haruka put on a strong performance and advance to the next round. After this match, they run into Youna and Kanna Aragaki, sisters who had faced off against Claire and Emily previously on the court and saw defeat. Vowing revenge, Haruka announces that they’ll have to best her and Kanata first, since that’s who they’re slated to play in the second round. Kanna employs a top spin in her spikes, and Akari feels that the two seem to be playing against Haruka entirely. As the match progresses, Kanata asks Haruka to place her faith in her, and when one of Kanna’s spikes gets past Haruka’s block, Kanata is able to receive it, allowing Haruka to send it back over the net and scores them the match point. Kanna and Youna resolve to return, and Haruka and Kanata march towards their inevitable match against Claire and Emily.
Three-quarters of Harukana Receive is now in the books, and things have accelerated wildly towards the march onto the Valkyrie Cup; by now, Haruka and Kanata have improved their play substantially, leaving the playing field open for exploring notions of sportsmanship, friendship and the strength of one’s word as the series marches into its final quarter. The focus of the ninth episode lies predominantly in Akari’s fear of having to watch Harukana play against Éclaire: although Harukana Receive has only seen Akari join the beach volleyball club recently, Akari’s concern about her friends shows that in the time that she has spent with them has been very meaningful to her. This fear leads her to worry about delivering news of the two pairs having to face one another to reach the nationals, and Akari decides to get in touch with Ayasa, who tells her that being honest with Haruka and the others is best. Narumi appends that everyone will understand that in a competition, there will be a victor and vanquished. Akari is able to thus put her feelings into hand-made scrunchies for everyone, and as it turns out, the prospect of having to face one another has little impact on Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily. They simply resolve to do their best and see what happens, thanking Akari for looking out for them. That everyone approaches things with this clarity is meant to reiterate that the bonds among everyone are such that the prospect of competition has done nothing to diminish the strength of their friendship. When the time for the competition arrives, both Harukana and Éclaire score victories in their matches, setting the stage for friends to compete against one another on the court. Their friendship will now be set aside for the moment, as both of Harukana and Éclaire will be playing for keeps to fulfill their own aspirations. However, regardless of how the match turns out, each of Claire, Emily, Haruka and Kanata will come out all the stronger, and closer together than before.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The progress that Haruka and Kanata makes becomes apparent by the ninth episode, once Claire remarks that she’s come quite a way in blocking. Exposure and experience are among the more effective of the conventional teachers: constantly doing something eventually turns it into a reflex. For molecular biologists, knowing the names and structures of all twenty amino acids comes as intuitively as a software developer might know their way around a particular stack. In Harukana Receive, things that Haruka might’ve had to think about now come to her much more quickly.
- The endless energy and cheer that Haruka and Claire bring into Harukana Receive is quite infectious: I am constantly driven and encouraged by people like these in reality. Being a bit of an introvert myself, extroverts who bring positive energy to the table also motivate me to push myself harder and do better – Emily and Kanata similarly draw encouragement from their more energetic friends. This is why Emily refuses to play with anyone other than Claire: despite Claire trolling her in various ways, the fact remains is that when things get serious, the two sisters know how to work together.
- When Akari receives word that the Okinawa qualifying tournaments will only send one team out to the nationals, she struggles to bring news back to her friends, worrying that things might become strained should Éclaire be made to play against Harukana. Having found it difficult to make friends, Akari’s worries are quite natural; she’s worried about losing everyone, rather similarly to how Yuzuki wanted to put her friendship with Komari and the others in writing during the events of A Place Further Than The Universe. However, like Yuzuki, Akari learns that genuine friendships are not conditional, nor are they contingent on a little competition.
- Encouragement from Ayasa leads Akari to create a solution of her own: she crafts scrunchies modelled after the Hibiscus flower. Akari chooses the flower in Harukana Receive to symbolise treasuring of memories: the yellow Hibiscus is indeed a symbol of friendship and happiness. The flower also represents a perfect wife in North America, and in China, the flower signifies transient glory or success in the moment. It is a well-chosen flower for what Akari wishes to convey with it, and after hand-crafting scrunchies, she finds her friends wrapping up their practise by evening.
- The passage of time in Harukana Receive appears very inconsistent: slice-of-life anime tend to follow a very steady and slow progression of events, allowing viewers to really slow down and take in the moment. This holds true for many Manga Time Kirara series, but Harukana Receive seems to be the exception on first glance, with things jumping forward in time and then depicting some moments in great detail. Because Harukana Receive is meant to show the girls’ development over time, the series consciously chooses to highlight milestones in their growth, which, similar to how real life can be, occur in irregularly-spaced intervals.
- After Akari breaks out in tears and Claire consoles her, Haruka joins the party and happily declares that everyone will remain friends. Her actions dissolve some of the tensions of the moment, and are a constant reminder to audiences that at the end of the day, Harukana Receive is intended to be, first and foremost, about friendship, promises and themes that are standard to Manga Time Kirara series. The series is serious where it needs to be, but otherwise, is a very light-hearted one that does not warrant getting into lengthy disagreements with others about. On this note, I will be, on request from readers, be doing a post on 2016’s Captain America: Civil War as an example of where the serious co-exists with the comedic and the elements in the film that merit more serious discussions than, say, Harukana Receive.
- The last time I saw a group of friends with matching scrunchies was in Wake Up, Girls! – I had compared Harukana Receive negatively to Wake Up, Girls! previously on account of the CG, but because this moment was so jarring and out of place, one cannot help but wonder if this was deliberately done to capture the anime idol feeling from something like Wake Up, Girls!. For its shortcomings, I greatly enjoyed Wake Up, Girls!, as it was a plucky anime about overcoming adversity. While there were more tears than strictly necessary, and the animation is famously bad, it’s got heart.
- The total spanking count in Harukana Receive goes to a total of three when Claire hits Kanata’s lower half, eliciting one of the most adorable squeals and reactions I’ve heard in a while. While earlier episodes gave the impression that this was going to be common, Harukana Receive has been remarkably disciplined with this. Notice here that the girls are wearing competition tops over their standard tops: frills would indeed make it difficult to keep them in place, and their bright colours makes it immediately apparent as to who’s who.
- Haruka and Kanata run into Ai and Mai; Mai’s lost none of her edge and can provoke the normally easygoing Haruka, while Kanata and Ai end up being exasperated at their friends’ immaturity. I’ve not read the documentation for Ai’s height as of yet, but she seems slightly taller than Haruka. Despite this, Haruka is never frustrated in her presence the same way she reacted to Marissa. By this point in time, Ai’s become a post-secondary student and is a referee: Haruka and Kanata are now in their final year of high school, as well.
- Haruka and Kanata’s first match results in a victory, although because the specifics were not shown, it stands to reason that it was a fairly pitched battle. I will address one of the elephants in the room that has appeared in discussions elsewhere, and this is the near-total absence of men in Harukana Receive. Aside from Kanata and Haruka’s grandfather, who appears briefly without any speaking roles, male characters do not have any sort of presence in Harukana Receive. This is the polar opposite of a vast majority of first person shooters, which have traditionally had all-male casts and is, from what I gather, a major point of contention for the upcoming Battlefield V. I admit that, if Battlefield V has a customisation system sophisticated enough to let me play as Kanata, that would hilarious, since I would have a smaller hitbox.
- While some folks of old would be tempted to wonder about population dynamics in Harukana Receive, I have a simpler explanation that does not involve ecology or anything of that sort. The absence of males in this series is probably an artistic choice, rather than a practical one. Strange it may be, it’s not impeded the narrative in any way as of yet, and so, I see no need to look at the population traits in Harukana Receive and then attempt to prove that it would not work in the real world using a modified version of Conway’s Game of Life. Males exist in the series, but simply aren’t present. Moving away from this topic, I have a feeling readers would enjoy this still of Claire: this should make up for the Claire screenshot shortfall I mentioned last time.
- Kanna and Youna are sisters who have faced Claire and Emily previously. Walking into the competition with a chip on her shoulder, Kanna holds out a declaration of revenge that is tantamount to a glove slap. While Claire welcomes a good challenge, it turns out that Kanna and Youna are set to face Haruka and Kanata first. Haruka steps in and states that a shot at the Thomas sisters will necessarily entail going through them first. A part of the fun in Haruka’s personality is how quick she is to accept challenges, and her occasional immaturity, which makes her a more credible character.
- One of the most amusing aspects about animation in Harukana Receive is the notion of level of detail, or LoD. In computer graphics, LoD refers to increasing or decreasing the complexity of geometry and shader detail depending on the camera’s distance to an object, and this is done to optimise resource usage: there is little point in rendering an object and then keeping it in memory if a user is not going to be looking at all the details. In Harukana Receive, details on the swimsuit bottoms have inconsistent levels of detail – Claire and Emily sport a colourful diamond pattern, and these seem to be properly rendered, but the stripes on Youna and Kanna’s swimsuits seem to change in weight and number depending on the scene.
- Outside of the junior tournament, this is the first time we’ve seen Haurka and Kanata play together in the competition setting, and by this point in time, the advances the pair have made since their first game. While slow motion shots are still being used, they show the girls as having a much more dynamic range of motion, indicating that Haruka and Kanata are comfortable with utilising a wider range of techniques now to keep the game going.
- It would prima facie seem that Ai and Mai put up a more impressive showing against Haruka and Kanata than do Kanna and Youna, but one must recall that Kanata and Haruka have progressed substantially since their participation in the junior tournament, at least reaching a level of skill such that they can win over other teams. At one point during their match, when facing Haruka, Kanna briefly sees herself taking on Claire; this visual indicator might also be seen as hinting to viewers that Haruka’s play-style has evolved into a bit of a hybrid between Claire’s and Kanata’s.
- The teams that face Éclaire get schooled, and audiences are meant to think that Claire and Emily have no trouble with defeating local teams. This creates a sense of anticipation: while audiences have seen Claire and Emily play against Haruka and Kanata, the lack of a competition and the attendant emotional weight of the match means that we have yet to see Claire and Emily going all out. With Haruka and Kanata wanting to win to help Kanata fulfil her promise to Narumi as Harukana’s raison d’être, the series foreshadows that the match will be titanic in nature from an emotional standpoint (I personally feel that from an animation perspective, we will be treated to more of the same).
- In the match’s final moments, Kanna manages to get a spike through that bests Haruka’s block. However, Haruka is not worried: as Kanata has promised, she will be there for Haruka whenever needed. Utilising the way of thinking picked up from their time spent training under Marissa, the two move as one, and Haruka sends the ball over the net, scoring the final point that wins Harukana the match. Owing to the focus on Haruka, I find that this match was depicted in detail to show how far Haruka has come since the earlier episodes.
- I’ve heard that some folks wish for Kanata to get a bit more of the spotlight, as well; I imagine that Kanata’s growth is more related to interpersonal components rather than beach volleyball, and we’ll have a chance to see Kanata excel as she strives to fulfil her word to Narumi in the upcoming episodes. As a result, I now will explain the page quote: Infinity War is remarkably quotable, and today’s quote comes from a dialogue in the film after Stephen Strange uses the Time Stone to explore outcomes against Thanos, seeing only one among the fourteen million six hundred and five where they prevailed. It is logical, then, that all of the illogical decisions made for the remainder of Infinity War must be leading up to this one outcome. The number of outcomes in Harukana Receive are not quite as numerous, but because of how prominent Kanata’s promise is within the narrative, it is not difficult to see the outcome of the match between Éclaire and Harukana.
- This post is very nearly in the books, and my schedule for the upcoming while is a bit clearer: I will be flying out once more for work in the first week of September. Consequently, I will be delayed in watching and writing about the tenth episode, which is one I look forwards to seeing. As I have done before, I will aim to publish a discussion for it before the weekend is over. Subsequently, I am likely to be able to write about episodes eleven and twelve as I have for the others. Harukana Receive‘s been an interesting ride for me in more ways than one – doing episodic reviews while flying around all over the place is not a trivial feat, and bloggers who can do so have earned my respect several times over.
- The last screenshot I will feature for this post will be one that I’m certain readers will find aesthetically pleasing – this twentieth screenshot marks the end of the talk, and with it, the end of August, as well. Tomorrow, we will be entering September, and looking back, this summer’s disappeared in the blink of an eye. I would’ve wished it lasted longer, and that I had a few more lazy days to do nothing, but the flow of time is relentless. It suddenly strikes me that three quarters of Harukana Receive has aired, and that we are very nearly into the final quarter of 2018, as well.
With Haruka and Kanata facing the toughest opponents they’ve played since Narumi and Ayasa, where both Emily and Claire will be going in with nothing less than their best, the upcoming episode of Harukana Receive will be an intense one. While Haruka and Kanata have improved beyond recognition as a pair since the series started, Claire and Emily have the advantage of experience in their corner. They are not opponents to be taken lightly, and so, the tenth episode will likely see the onslaught that brings out the best in Haruka and Kanata. This is their story, after all, and as such, while it is clear that Kanata and Haruka will prevail, the path it takes to reach that point will be a difficult one. This is the only outcome that allows for the narrative to move on, to allow Kanata a shot at fulfilling her promise, and so, while the result is predictable, as with every slice-of-life anime before it, Harukana Receive‘s greatest strength is showing the process it took to get there. Even knowing in advance that Haruka and Kanata will have to best Claire and Emily to make this promise possible, what I look forwards to watching most will be just how intense of a match that will ensue in the upcoming episode. Showdowns between friends are powerful in fiction: to watch people who understand and know one another fight each other creates a highly suspenseful, thrilling moment that keeps audiences on the edge, especially if there is an emotional component as well. Well-known showdowns in fiction have been the subject of no small discussion: from Obi-Wan and Anakin fight on Mustafar, to Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes squaring off against Tony Stark, such moments have always been powerful from a cinematic experience, and so, with the stakes in Harukana Receive known, one has to wonder if something like beach volleyball can command the same level of anticipation from viewers.