“You do not truly know someone until you fight them” –Seraph, The Matrix Reloaded
Claire and Emily open the scoring in their first set against Haruka and Kanata, pushing the offensive and coming out to a four nothing lead. However, Kanata remains quite unperturbed, and asks Haruka to have faith in her. A nervous Akari watches from the sidelines, and as the match progresses, Kanata begins picking out patterns from Claire and Emily, allowing her and Haruka to begin closing the gap. The intensity of the match picks up, and Akari decides to perform the shequasar dance, encouraging both teams to perform their best. Emily realises that Kanata plays differently now, but reflects on how her own experiences also count for something: up until now, Haruka and Kanata have played on the assumption that Claire would be the power player, and acclimatised to her actions on the court. However, Emily began taking a more active role in their pair after they’d lost to Kanata and Narumi previously. In the present day, Claire and Emily take the first set, and Kanata expresses surprise that Emily’s taken a more offensive role. When the second set begins, Kanata opens with an offensive receive of her own, and scores the first point, wearing a blazing look of determination on her face. Impressed, Emily and Claire realise that Kanata’s back in full now and they are now playing the rematch they’d longed for since that day when Kanata and Narumi defeated them. Harukana Receive‘s tenth episode is the beach volleyball showdown audiences have longed to see, featuring a much higher degree of skill and dynamic moments than previous matches seen in Harukana Receive.
Whereas previous matches were characterised by inconsistent play, the match between Harukana and Éclaire is fluid, precise and purposeful. Éclaire’s superior overall experience allows them to take the lead over Harukana and overcome some surprises with their skill. However, Harukana does not perform poorly – despite having the disadvantage in experience, they’ve come quite a long way themselves. This is precisely why they were depicted as vanquishing two other teams in such a concise manner: Harukana Receive aimed to show audiences that over time, Haruka and Kanata have learned much, overcome their individual weaknesses and have made substantial progress as a pair. By being able to play against other teams with a degree of finesse, Haruka and Kanata show viewers that they are ready to compete against more experienced opponents, setting the expectations for what is to come when they do finally face off against Claire and Emily. The tenth episode does this very well, and Kanata’s calm, collected manner also helps Haruka to focus: she’s constantly giving subtle reassurances to her, and Haruka is able to keep her head in the game. The match between Harukana and Éclaire also serves to explore the Thomas sisters’ background further: the reserved Emily decided to take on a more proactive role in helping Claire out, and Claire herself is a bit of a hothead who can succumb to pressure on some occasions. It gives the characters more dimensionality and opens the next segments of the match up to more exciting play, as both Harukana and Éclaire strive to win.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This is the deep breath before the plunge: the most intense showdown of Harukana Receive begins with a handshake and a smile. Every fight that I’ve seen involving friends (or former friends) always is thrilling to watch because these are folk who know one another well enough to read one another’s moves. This forces the participants to actively work out ways to counter on the spot to avoid falling predictability.
- Because we’re back to beach volleyball in a big way in Harukana Receive‘s tenth episode, almost all of the screenshots count as having fanservice is some form or another. By this point in time, however, such screenshots can hardly be said to be distracting: the viewer is likely focused on the match’s progression above everything else. This episode delivers on both fronts: the volleyball is dynamic and engaging, and because we are watching Harukana square off against Éclaire, I’ve also had the opportunity to feature some of the most dynamic and engaging screenshots of the season thus far.
- A worried Akari looks on: while Haruka and Kanata resolved to do their best earlier, Éclaire firmly control the match in its early stages. While the outcome is going to be a clear one, the episode establishes that the journey it takes to reach the destination will be one that must be earned. While Akari grows concerned for her friends, Mai’s remarks show that she’s still somewhat antagonistic towards Haruka.
- Given the pacing and speed of this match, I feel that this episode is meant to show the difference between capable players and beginners; if the choice to portray earlier matches as being slower and more restrained was strictly intended to give a point of comparison for later matches, then this was a very clever and well-chosen decision on Harukana Receive‘s part. The manga would not have the luxary of being able to do this, and one of the main reasons why anime adaptations are enjoyable is precisely because motion is added to the narrative.
- The sound engineering in Harukana Receive has always been of a high standard during beach volleyball matches, but the match between Éclaire and Harukana sees every spike, receive, block and impact with the ground with a highly visceral sound. Claire’s spikes are powerful, but while Haruka and Kanata struggle to find an answer early on, Kanata eventually works out a pattern and with Haruka, they slowly close the distance in scoring.
- Claire’s main weakness seems to be that she relies primarily on power as a means of overcoming an opponent, and while effective, over time, opponents will acclimatise to things. Haruka stops marveling at the strength in each of Claire’s shots, and concentrates on her own task of blocking shots, and I’ll leave readers with a screenshot of Haruka to marvel at, as well.
- Both members of the Éclaire and Harukana pair put their fullest efforts into the match; this is the first time we’ve seen the results of the Haruka and Kanata’s training being put to the test by worthy opponents, and for this, the back-and-forth momentum in the match creates a sense of anticipation and urgency not seen in previous matches.
- Pressure in the match becomes tangible, so Akari decides to lighten the mood up with the Shequasar dance. Despite her reservations about showing this to people out of embarrassment, her willingness to perform it here shows her commitment to her friends. Encouraged by Akari, Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily respond with a smile, and Akari relaxes, understanding that this match is about being faithful to one’s partner and focusing on winning for one another.
- Because the whole of the tenth episode focuses on the pivotal moments of a beach volleyball match that will decide whether or not Kanata is able to fulfill her promise to Narumi (and Haruka), and because these moments are vividly presented, reception and discussions on the episode have been generally positive, even if they have been somewhat limited. I am therefore unsurprised that few have given this series an episodic review: messages and ideas take a few episodes to flesh out, and for me, it would’ve been easier to write for Harukana Receive had I gone with my quarterly reviews.
- I admit that while a fun episode to watch, the focus on details means that there is less to cover from a thematic perspective; Harukana Receive has further proven to be slightly more challenging to write for, given that beach volleyball is not something I am familiar with. This is why I’ve not bothered with analysing the moves, tactics and patterns the girls employ throughout Harukana Receive: I do not wish to mislead readers because I did not understand something in full.
- The quieter of the siblings, Emily’s presence in Harukana Receive is a bit more muted when she’s beside Claire, whose energy and spirits tend to steal the spotlight. However, in taking a more active role on the court, her visibility is much more pronounced in this episode than before. It strikes me that excluding training sessions, where the Thomas sisters would evidently hold back and work to teach Haruka and Kanata techniques, we’ve not seen Claire and Emily play with their full efforts previously.
- That Haruka and Kanata are able to prevent Éclaire’s lead from becoming insurmountable, then, is an impressive achievement in and of itself. This is less a consequence of skill, and more a matter of progress and effort. Because the progression of time in Harukana Receive is quite uneven, and that the girls are mentioned to have moved up a year, the match here is anywhere from a half-year to a year since Harukana Receive first started.
- In the name of balancing out the screenshots, I figured it would only be fair to also have a Kanata moment. With ten episodes in the books, each of Kanata, Haruka, Claire, Emily and Akari are unremarkable on their own: it is when they are learning and laughing together that Harukana Receive is at its strongest. It is for this reason that I regard series differently depending on their setup with the protagonists. Series with a single central character must work to make this individual relatable and interesting, while series with several central characters must focus on creating plausible, engaging interactions amongst the group.
- Lessons about partners and teamwork are firmly entrenched in the girls’ minds at a young age: Marissa reminds her daughters that an effective beach volleyball pair involves both players stepping up, after Emily remarks she’s okay with playing a support role for Claire; Emily looks up to Claire as a role model, but Marissa notes that having Claire out front means invariably, superior opponents where both partners can step up will best them.
- These opponents end up being Narumi and Kanata, and while Claire is devastated by their loss, it turns out that losing also helped Emily realise she needed to step up. While Claire prefers playing an offensive role as Emily does defense, when the moment calls for it, Emily is willing to do what it takes to help win. Stepping up and making the sacrifice play is a central part of teamwork, although I remark that teamwork does not entail doing someone else’s job for them, either. During this flashback, Claire’s voice actress, Atsumi Tanezaki, delivers one of the most authentic-sounding “what”s in the history of anime in response to Kanata’s remarks that beach volleyball is determined by the skill of the pair, not the individual.
- My favourite “what” moments in any movie, however, still belongs to Jeff Goldblum’s performance as Thor: Ragnarok‘s Grandmaster, after Thor manages to smoke the Hulk in the Contest of Champions. Like this fight, I was too busy enjoying the moment in Harukana Receive to be cheering for anyone. The Contest of Champions in Thor: Ragnarok ultimately ended with Thor taking control of the battle with lightning, before the Grandmaster intervened, so when I hear Thor say that “[Hulk] didn’t smash anything, I won that fight!”, I’m inclined to think that is a fair assessment.
- On the topics of various movies that I enjoyed, the page quote for this Harukana Receive episode comes from The Matrix Reloaded, when Neo meets Seraph and is asked to prove his worthiness to speak with the Oracle. When Neo asks why Seraph does not simply ask his identity, Seraph replies with the quote above: traditionally, it means that one discovers more about another by seeing how they are in a difficult situation or conflict than they would otherwise, and in the context of Harukana Receive, I found that Haruka and Kanata learn more about Claire and Emily by taking them on in beach volleyball than they have previously.
- The first set ends with Éclaire taking the lead, and Kanata expresses surprise that Emily’s taken on a forward role as the situation calls for it. However, in the process, Claire’s become pretty riled: ever-drive by a desire to triumph and win, Claire can become frustrated when things go sideways for her. The reason why Éclaire succeeds is because Emily is there to reassure her and dial things back some for her. Conversely, we’ve yet to see Haruka and Kanata exhibit any major pressure so far, which means that the upcoming episode will almost certainly see the pair face their most trying times in the series yet.
- We are moving into the final two episodes of Harukana Receive, and I am brought back to memories of Girls und Panzer, whose final two episodes stand among the best I’ve seen. For the remaining two episodes, I am anticipating that I will be able to write about this series as I have previously and publish Friday evenings. With this post in the books, I am going to focus my efforts towards completing the Tides of War assignment in the Battlefield V open beta, which unlocks a special dog tag: I was absent for a day of the beta, but in the two hours I’ve got so far, I’m almost done with the assignment.
- In any other anime, Kanata could be said to have an awakening of sorts, and will be fighting full force for Haruka and her own promise. Claire and Emily look forwards to what’s coming, having long promised to face Kanata again, and my prediction from last week still stands: Kanata and Haruka will win in a very close game, although the outcome this time will be that Claire and Emily are proud to have been able to both play at their hardest against a worthy opponent and bring their friend back into beach volleyball.
Harukana Receive has been inconsistent in places with its pacing and development, sometimes focusing on minor elements in great detail, while at other times, skipping over things and leaving audiences to accept that there is a certain bit of magic happening behind the scenes. In spite of this, where it counts, Harukana Receive is consistently good in conveying emotional intensity during each match; especially amidst a match amongst friends, the stakes are high, with each team exploiting their knowledge about one another’s strengths and weaknesses to gain the upper hand. However, emotional intensity and friendship are not mutually exclusive – the match sees Harukana and Éclaire being impressed with one another’s performance, and the girls also learn more about one another in ways that they could not under more relaxed conditions. Like Akari, audiences will find it difficult to root for one team or the other, and moving ahead into the penultimate episode, I am certain that a fantastic showing awaits all viewers, as one team must vanquish the other in order to fulfil their dreams in a thrillingly close match that will be quite suspenseful to watch.