The Infinite Zenith

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

And That’s Why We Choose Our Irreplaceable Partners: Harukana Receive Finale Impressions and Whole-Series Review

“They push, we push. Every once in a while, we push hard enough that the light breaks through the clouds, and the world beyond the court glimmers.” —Battlefield 1 Prologue

With the match tied, Harukana and Éclair have a furious rally; Harukana pulls ahead in scoring and ultimately, Haruka blocks Claire’s spike, scoring the final point to win the match. Although Claire and Emily congratulate Haruka and Kanata on their victory, it is a bittersweet one. While Emily comforts Claire, who expresses no regrets in having trained Haruka and Kanata, Akari passes news of Haruka and Kanata’s win over to Narumi and Ayasa: they wish Kanata to be happy with their victory and look forwards to the possibility of facing one another in the Nationals. Later, the girls take some well-earned downtime, celebrating the aftermath of the Okinawa tournament with a barbeque on the beach. Narumi calls Haruka and thanks her for having helped Kanata rediscover her love for beach volleyball. After spending the afternoon enjoying the beaches of Okinawa, Emily, Kanata and Akari give Haruka and Claire some time alone, where Claire is able to be truthful about how she feels on the outcome of their match. She is surprised that Haruka was able to block their final spike, and Haruka feels that it was having trained with Claire and Emily that gave her the confidence to block spikes. Claire places her faith in Haruka and Kanata, to win for everyone’s sake. Emily and Kanata thank Akari, feeling that were it not for her presence in the beach volleyball club, they might not otherwise have an opportunity to remain close following that titanic match. When they return to Claire and Haruka with cold drinks in hand, the girls grow fired up and resolve to continue training together in preparation for the Valkyrie Cup. This brings Harukana Receive to an end for the present, and with all twelve episodes in the books, the time has come to look back through the entire series and ascertain what messages the anime intended for audiences to take away. Simple-minded discussions might claim that Harukana Receive is intended to be “intentional homoerotism…achieved through some subtext and an ambiguous comparison of the sporting partnership in the series with romantic relationship”, but the reality is that Harukana Receive has none of this; at the end of the day, it’s a story of friendship, discovery and learning.

Manga Time Kirara series are not known for being subtle about their themes of friendship and camaraderie. In the case of Harukana Receive, the message lies in the importance of supportive company as the motivator for progress and growth. Having lost her interest in beach volleyball from her short stature and other circumstances in her life, Kanata’s decision to leave the sport left an impact on those who looked up to her. Narumi was particularly disappointed, as the two had been partners previously, and similarly, Claire and Emily were left facing an opponent who was a shadow of her former self. When Haruka arrives, with her boundless energy and optimism, Kanata’s desire to support Haruka slowly brings her back into beach volleyball. With a partner who views the world as a place to explore and try one’s strength in, Kanata redevelops her passion for beach volleyball. This resurgence draws the attention of her old friends and rivals, and as she embraces beach volleyball again, Kanata also forms a much closer relationship with her cousin. These changes show the extent that good support can have on one’s well-being, and for Kanata, there is no one better than Haruka to brighten her day up. Similarly, when Claire and Emily are set to face off against Haruka and Kanata, the pairs set their friendship aside to face one another as opponents. Emotions run high during their match, and in its aftermath, the atmosphere is subdued, quite unlike what a victory would feel like. Haruka and Kanata may have won, but there was a price to pay. The toll extracted, however, would have been much heavier had Akari not been present. Rooting for everyone and promising that everyone’s friendship will remain intact no matter the outcome, Akari’s presence grounds both pairs and keeps them from losing sight of what is truly important: the memories and experiences they have all shared together. Because she is not in a pair, Akari brings to the beach volleyball club a new perspective on things, and this is precisely what allows Claire, Haruka, Emily and Kanata to remain on excellent terms with one another.

Placing Claire and Emily as the final opponents for Haruka and Kanata to overcome before Kanata can push ahead and keep her promise with Narumi also serves one important function: throughout Harukana Receive, Kanata’s desire to keep her promise to Narumi is a sometimes-burden, sometimes-motivator. Kanata is evidently someone who holds true to her word and expresses visible regret when she feels as though she might not be able to uphold her end of the promise. When the opportunity for keeping it presents itself, Kanata seizes it; she and Haruka make remarkable progress as a pair over the course of a year, reaching a point where they are able to play on par with the second-ranked players in all of Japan. The power of a promise as a motivator is clearly felt, and ends up being a powerful driving force for Kanata. When faced with the ultimate test of her will, Kanata shows that she is willing to do all that is necessary to keep her word, even if it means vanquishing her friends in competition. This level of determination underlies several interesting facets of Kanata’s character: besides staying true to her word, Kanata is also evidently someone who treasures those around her. Narumi might be paired with Ayasa now, but she still desires to uphold their promise to one another as friends. In an age where one’s word is often worth as little as the air it took to make it, such faithfulness to one’s promises is admirable. As Kanata discovers, there are many ways to keep one’s promises and make the most of the moment; in accepting this, Kanata is above to rediscover her old self and live in the present, finding new happiness with Haruka, Claire, Emily and Akari.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In this finale post, I’ve featured thirty screenshots, as I have done for previous finale posts. However, because I’ve spent the last three posts showcasing screenshots of beach volleyball, I am going to focus less on the final moments of the match between Harukana and Éclair. Looking back, with three straight posts of beach volleyball, it stands to reason that as far as content goes, Harukana Receive has delivered on the beach volleyball aspects as per its premise, and a year into her experiences, it is clear that both Kanata and Haruka found the answers they sought on the court underneath the vivid Okinawan sun.

  • After two episodes of play, the match finally comes to an end when Haruka blocks one of Claire’s spikes. The court quiets, and on the viewer’s mind is what Claire’s reaction will be when she faces Haruka and Kanata: it has been established that Claire has a boisterous and competitive nature, switching from being friendly and open to being dead serious in a moment’s notice. Waiting for Claire’s reaction to losing thus becomes a bit of a lengthy one.

  • While the crowd cheers for the match’s outcome, amongst the girls closest to Harukana and Éclair, there are no celebrations. Going in, Akari knew with full certainty that there would be the victor and vanquished — now that the moment for cheering on and supporting her friends have passed, she dreads seeing what will happen next. Likewise, Ai and Mai are equally as silent: Mai had been expressing support for Harukana despite her earlier dislike for Kanata, and when questioned, unconvincingly states she’s simply enthralled by the match itself.

  • If Akari, Ai and Mai were concerned, it pales in comparison to Haruka’s reaction. Her face is filled with sadness at the prospect of the emotion running through her friends’ minds, and this is mirrored in Kanata’s expression, as well. Haruka and Kanata’s reaction is a natural one, akin to two brothers playing in opposite conferences and facing down one another during a Stanley Cup final. As exhilarating as it is to win, both would always wonder how the other might react if they’d lost or won.

  • Aside from a clenched fist signifying her frustration and dejection, Claire gives no outwards sign of the loss, shrugging it off and expressing that she’s exhausted. After they shake hands, Claire rushes off to buy drinks, and the faintest trace of her voice breaking can be heard. Emily takes off after her to make certain that Claire is alright, and Akari calls Ayasa and Narumi to inform them of the outcome.

“Victory costs. Every time, you pay a little more”

– Laurence “Prophet” Barnes, Crysis 3

  • It speaks volumes to the strength of their friendship that there is no celebration following their victory; both Haruka and Kanata feel the toll of their victory, knowing that in order to win, they had no other choice but to hurt Claire and Emily. Narumi congratulates them and asks them to enjoy the moment, having understood how strongly Kanata wanted to fulfil her promise, but right now, nothing else is on Kanata and Haruka’s mind except for Claire and Emily. Every success, every victory has a cost attached to it, taking the form of a sacrifice of some sort. Whether it be a time commitment or giving up something for the sake of another, no true victory can be had without sacrifice. Prophet of Crysis 3 put it that victory costs, with each successive victory forcing one to pay more for it.

  • This was my site’s tag line for the longest time, and looking back, it’s one of my favourite quotes from any game for the simple fact that it’s a reality. Back in Harukana Receive, it seems that Claire’s had time to compose herself, and for Emily, she puts on a display of bravado. Being her sister, and knowing her better than anyone, Emily voices what’s on Claire’s mind: a part of Claire likely does regret pushing Kanata and Haruka to have progressed as far as they did, but she’s also glad to have helped create worthy opponents to spur them on.

  • A million things must be running through Claire’s mind, and Emily simply leans on her, comforting her. Harukana Receive is generally a very well-lit anime, with a bright, vivid palette in many of its scenes, so when a stark contrast between light and dark is established, it is intended to convey the emotional tenour of a moment. A similar effect was used after Narumi realised that Kanata now had someone in her life to motivate her, and here, the bright surroundings of Okinawa are forgotten as the two sisters accept that their shot at playing in the Nationals is over for the present, taking solace in one another’s company.

“Does anyone have any orange slices?” —Scott Lang, Captain America: Civil War

  • At the episode’s halfway point, the mood shifts back to the easygoing, light-hearted one that Harukana Receive utilises outside of beach volleyball. Here, Haruka and Kanata prepare to join the others for a barbeque on the beach, and I take a moment to explain the multiple page quotes. I mentioned in the talk for Harukana Receive‘s penultimate episode that I would be fielding a quote from Captain America: Civil War, and while I originally intended this to be the main page quote, Haruka’s inner monologue during their match, that she wanted to push through and see the world that was ahead of them, was surprisingly relevant.

  • Immediately, the quote from Battlefield 1‘s cinematic trailer came to mind. Likely referring to fighting hard for a better future, it fits with Harukana Receive very nicely, more so than the quote from Civil War. However, with the mood in the finale lightening at the halfway point, I figured it would be appropriate to use the quote here. After Scott Lang reverts to his normal size when Stark and Rhodes knocks him down, he asks if there are any orange slices around. His quip is meant to signify that their bout was really more of a competitive one, rather than a life-and-death one. Traditionally, orange slices were handed out at youth soccer games, so by throwing that in there, Lang reminds viewers that the fight between Rogers and Stark’s groups is not all-serious.

  • Ayasa and Narumi share a conversation about Kanata while stretching; Narumi feels that their win will now force Kanata to play with more focus and determination than before. She wonders if Kanata will be up to the challenge, but Ayasa reassures her that Kanata will uphold her end of the promise. Ayasa and Narumi are always seen to be training, showing their dedication towards their sport, as well. The price of victory in Harukana Receive is shown in more ways than one, and for me, it also suggests that there is more to the story than what we’ve seen so far.

  • I am a big fan of barbeque: during one of my trips to Denver, I stepped out to dinner at a restaurant close to my lodgings and ordered their a delicious beef rib and sausage special. Tender and succulent, the grilled taste was evident in the beef ribs, while the sausage was flavourful and juicy. There’s only really one place back home that compares to American barbeque, and that’s Big T’s. In Harukana Receive, fancy beef-and-sausage kebabs, fish, steaks and even a beer-can chicken are present during the girls’ beach barbeque party. With the emotional match over, it’s a return to the everyday experiences the girls share with one another, and although their dynamics are as spirited and joyful as they’ve always been, audiences will definitely feel that things have changed following the match. For now, the girls are free to enjoy themselves, and in the moment, the exuberant Claire I’ve come to know and love comes out in full force.

  • This is what likely comes to mind whenever Okinawa is mentioned: frolicking on the beautiful beaches and warm waters of a tropical island. While Harukana Receive might be at its conclusion for now, Non Non Biyori Vacation and its depiction of Okinawa will step up to fill that void. I’ve been longing to see this movie for quite some time, and it screened in Japan back in August. Naturally, some have flown over to Japan with the singular purpose of watching Non Non Biyori Vacation in theatres and write about how they didn’t enjoy it; as the date for the home release remains a bit of an enigma, I have no estimates of when I’ll be able to take Anime News Network’s writers to school.

  • While some have felt Akari to be a bit of an outsider, the time she’s spent with the beach volleyball club means that she’s much more comfortable and familiar with the others now, enough to be on the same wavelength as Claire; the two here are making to prank Emily and shove her into the waters of Okinawa’s beaches. As of now, we are twelve for twelve on weather in Harukana Receive; each episode is marked by pleasant weather and sunny skies.

  • Sunlight can be seen glistening on the turquoise ocean surface here, giving a tropical sense that is a world apart from the cold, foggy mists and drizzles covering my area right now. We are only two days from the Autumnal Equinox for 2018, and the weather in my region has definitely been feeling more like autumn. Strangely enough, the trees have not yet begun to yellow; by this time of year last year, most of the trees in the neighborhood and in the aspen groves nearby had already become a vivid gold. Under the deep blue autumn skies, the colour contrast is beautiful, and cooler weather at this time of year generally makes it pleasant for walks.

  • In the excitement of the moment, Akari’s forgotten to put sunscreen on, and realises the others have not done so, either. She immediately treats everyone to a lecture on the importance of protection from the sun’s rays. Intuitive for tropical locations, it may come as a surprise to some that UV radiation on an overcast day in the Canadian Rockies can be quite high; even if the sun is not shining, UV radiation penetrates cloud cover and so, application of sunscreen is necessary to protect against the radiation Akari is sensitive to.

  • Ayasa is likely running an iPhone X, as indicated by the vertical placement of the two twelve megapixel cameras on the phone’s rear. The iPhone 8 has a single twelve megapixel camera. These are Apple phones in all but name: the logo seen here placed in the same spot as where it would be placed on an iPhone X. Narumi calls Haruka to congratulate her for their win, and wonders how Kanata is doing. Haruka expresses that she’s been looking Kanata well, and Narumi thanks her for being there for Kanata, looking forwards to the day that they can face one another on the court.

  • Haruka uses an iPhone SE: with its rectangular edges, it is the smallest iPhone and with the announcement of the iPhone XS and XR, the SE is no longer being offered. Folks who use the SE have found it an attractive phone for its form factor, and I’m surprised that Apple is discontinuing the model. My iPhone 6 is still holding out okay in performance; with iOS 12, things have become a little faster than before. Last episode, I mentioned that Ayasa and Narumi still owed Haruka and Kanata ice cream. Haruka’s memory is as good as mine: she brings it up here, and Narumi promises to treat them next they meet.

  • Subtle details such as these convey to audiences that Haruka, like Kanata, is also someone who honours promises, and from the looks of it, is also someone who focuses on her goals with a powerful resolve. She mentions to Kanata here that it’s probably the first time she’s been able to take it easy since arriving in Okinawa. Real life is like this: we become wrapped up in our duties and aspirations, forgetting to take a step back every so often to enjoy the moment.

  • Many of my praises for Harukana Receive deal with the big picture aspects of the narrative: I’ve infrequently mentioned the technical elements in animation, artwork and audio in my other discussions. Overall, I’ve found that Harukana Receive has a very clean art style that is detailed enough to bring the environment to life without introducing too much visual clutter, which is important for keeping focus on the characters. Animation is generally smooth, and from a sound perspective, Harukana Receive is also solid; the aural elements are at their best during beach volleyball matches.

  • The original soundtrack to Harukana Receive is set to release on September 26, will have forty-six tracks over two disks and retail for 3456 Yen (39.70 CAD). The tracks have interesting names, being rendered in English. On the whole, the music in Harukana Receive has been suitable for the atmosphere the anime presents, although it was otherwise unremarkable. There are a few incidental pieces that capture the feeling of a tropical beach, and one track is named “Lombardo”, whom I quoted earlier in one of my reviews for Harukana Receive.

  • Emily turns the tables on Claires by slapping her posterior before taking off for drinks. Of everyone, wave propagation is portrayed with the most detail on Claire, and while I mentioned that I’m satisfied with animation for the most part in Harukana Receive, soft-body physics is something this series does not always nail. In the realm of soft-body physics, an entity with an increased Young’s modulus would be more resistant to deformation and so, bounce less. As such, I believe that oscillations seen here would be quite unrealistic for someone of Claire’s physique.

  • Claire is surprisingly adorable when bashful: with this, the number of ass-slapping moments in Harukana Receive goes up to four that I can recall of the top of my head. The count could be as high as six, but given that it’s been some time since Harukana Receive started, I can’t recall all moments with maximum clarity. While such moments might lead smaller-minded individuals to believe it is sufficient to describe Harukana Receive‘s themes as having a significant yuri component, time and time again, these moments are eclipsed. For quite some time, even Wikipedia possessed the misleading, and blatantly false, claim that subtext is a major part of Harukana Receive under the pretense of using an Anime News Network review. Just in time for the finale, it has been removed and rewritten to properly reflect on what the series is about.

  • Emily feels that without Akari, their friendship might’ve dissolved following that match. Kanata agrees: Akari’s concern for everyone has indeed forced everyone to look past their desire to win and beyond. At the end of the day, the friendship, memories and experiences that Harukana and Éclair share far outweigh the drive of competition, and while the girls become focused on their goals of winning, having Akari around also serves to remind them of the moments they’ve spent off the court. Admittedly, it does take a few jumps to reach this conclusion, but overall, I find that Akari’s presence in Harukana Receive is an appropriate one.

  • As she was truthful and open to Emily earlier, having time alone with Haruka also allows Claire to be honest with her. Relative to her match against Narumi and Kanata, Claire’s become a graceful loser; while expressing surprise that Haruka could counter her, she also acknowledges that she’d lost and places her faith in Harukana now. While they might have lost the tournament, Claire and Emily both win something much more important: the knowledge that they have been able to impart their considerable experiences and skills to Haruka and Kanata.

  • The notion of a student besting their teacher is reminiscent of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise, a Sith Lord who was so powerful he could apparently save others from death. However, because he taught his apprentice everything he knew, his apprentice killed him in his sleep. The irony of this was that he could save others from death, but not himself. However, in Harukana Receive, while Claire and Emily did likely teach Haruka and Kanata quite a bit, they managed to retain some tricks up their sleeve during the final match that surprised Haruka and Kanata, so the comparison ends here.

  • I would liken Claire and Emily’s approach to be more akin to the Chinese fable of the cat and the tiger. In this fable, the tiger is a terrible hunter and learns from a cat. Over time, the tiger improves and plans to eat the cat, but the cat reserves one trick unknown to the tiger, using it to save himself from being eaten. From that day onward, the tiger remains a great hunter but is missing one skill that the cat possesses. I am to take it, then, that Darth Plagueis never heard of this fable before, although given what we’ve seen in Harukana Receive, Claire and Emily might be familiar with this tale.

  • For Claire and Emily, then, watching Haruka and Kanata advance further is also for their sake because it is a testament to their effectiveness as seniors and teachers. Haruka resolves to do her best with enthusiasm, and the girls begin to train again for the next great journey. With this, I am very nearly finished with the finale post for Harukana Receive — as of next week, I will have Friday evenings free again. It’s been one hell of a journey to write for Harukana Receive every week, and looking back, this was easily the toughest series I’ve ever done episodic reviews for. On top of writing about a topic where my knowledge was largely lacking, my schedule was very tumultuous, making it difficult to sit down and write for this series.

  • In the end, I think I’ve done a satisfactory job covering Harukana Receive despite my constraints. This experience also reminds me again of why episodic reviews are so challenging to write for, and in the foreseeable future, I do not think that it is in my best interest to do episodic reviews. With the summer anime season coming to an end, I might write about Cells at Work! once more should there be interest in it, and I’ve got a Terrible Anime Challenge post for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in the wings, as well. Beyond this, I’m going to continue with the CLANNAD Tenth Anniversary series as we enter October, dealing with ~After Story~.

  • Overall, Harukana Receive scores an A- (3.7 on a 4-point scale, or 8.5 of 10): being far more than just fanservice and slice-of-life, the anime struck a good balance between beach volleyball and life in Okinawa. Although there are many characters, some of which got less than half the exposure than they deserved, and the pacing was less consistent in places, the story and message was solid, as were the technical details of animation, artwork and sound. A part of the reason as to why I enjoyed Harukana Receive to the extent that  I did was because I never approached it as a sports anime – rather than the details of beach volleyball, my expectations were centred around character growth over time, and in this department, Harukana Receive exceeded expectations. Thus, my final Harukana Receive post in the foreseeable future comes to an end, and while it’s been an interesting ride, I’m also looking forwards to getting my Friday evening back for some Battlefield.

Harukana Receive deals with relevant matters on having supportive peers and how this can help one approach their problems in creative, novel manners; it is far from being an empty exercise in female anatomy. During its twelve episode run, Harukana Receive depicts pivotal moments in Kanata’s journey of rediscovery and regaining what was lost. Beach volleyball is an integral part of Harukana Receive, as are the more ordinary moments spent off the court. Because of the focus placed on these moments, as well as the presence of humour, Harukana Receive reminds its audience that life is not about the high-intensity moments. Everyday moments in Harukana Receive are present to humanise the characters, showing that events away from beach volleyball also have a tangible impact on the girls’ journey. Similarly, comedy, in visual and verbal form, lightens moments up and balances a situation out such that when characters encounter problems, they overcome them together. Harukana Receive never gave the impression as being that of a serious anime about beach volleyball, and the interspersion of humour, some of which occasionally takes the form of gentle teasing and flirting, is strictly present to this end. Striking this balance is why Harukana Receive is able to tell a compelling story that relaxes and captivates well when it means to. The serious moments hold weight because audiences have come to see the girls as human, with their own unique attributes and flaws, while the light-hearted moments relax and show that Haruka and the others are ordinary people with stories worth following. For this, I would give Harukana Receive a recommendation: the fanservice and occasional unfaithfulness to reality are eclipsed by the things that Harukana Receive gets correct. As such, unless one had a particularly strong aversions to watching young women playing beach volleyball, Harukana Receive is an enjoyable watch and a pleasant surprise. The source manga is still running, and with Harukana setting their sights on a National tournament, it is pretty clear that the foundations are laid for a continuation. Should sales be strong, one could reasonably expect a second season to materialise, and it would be most welcoming to see what lies ahead for Haruka and Kanata in the future.

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