The Infinite Zenith

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I Want to Regain My Former Self: Harukana Receive Episode Three Impressions and Review

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” —Bruce Lee

Shortly after formalising her transfer to Uruma High School, Haruka meets Claire and Emily Thomas after seeing Claire hauling Kanata off, and learns that they’re part of the school’s volleyball club. Haruka agrees to go practise with them, and after jumping into a match, she learns of the pokey, a ball contacted with the knuckle to receive the ball. This method is intended to surprise an opponent, and as the match progresses, the Thomas sisters smoke Haruka and Kanata. Kanata is reluctant to utilise the full set of techniques, irritating Emily, but when Haruka decides to give it a go and scores, Kanata is inspired to attempt, as well. Following their practise, Haruka and Kanata agree to participate in a junior tournament, and Kanata later recounts her story with Narumi. Kanata befriended Narumi and became partners with her, winning a tournament against the Claire sisters, but when her height held her back, she elected to leave beach volleyball. Haruka decides to become Kanata’s partner nonetheless, and the two complete their registration forms to join the beach volleyball club at Urama High. Introducing the Thomas sisters into Harukana Receive adds two new characters whose personalities, while outwardly resembling Haruka and Kanata’s, also have their own unique points. The outgoing Claire and reserved Emily are opposites, so it is unsurprising that Claire immediately hits it off with Haruka. Similarly, both Kanata and Emily seem to struggle in communicating how they feel about things. This is a recurring theme in Harukana Receive and many other slice-of-life anime: introverted individuals who encounter extroverted folks invariably gain something from their resulting friendship, and in spending time with quieter individuals, extroverts also become better at gauging a situation before jumping in. The resulting synergy is rewarding to watch, and it is clear that Harukana Receive is going to portray growth in both Haruka and Kanata as they learn to work together as a team and encounter more beach volleyball players in their journey towards the junior tournament.

In the third episode’s match against Claire and Emily, Kanata’s development comes to the forefront. Her friendship with Narumi is explored in greater detail, as well, showing that she once was more direct and confident. Her height has since caused her to lose this confidence and led her to renege on her promise to continue playing beach volleyball with Narumi, explaining why Narumi since regards Kanata more coldly. Similarly, her play-style against Claire and Emily also reveals a stubbornness to wield other techniques. When she was younger, Kanata’s height was not an impediment, and was a power player (the individual who primarily handles scoring). However, since her height became a disadvantage, Kanata began believing that spikes were the only way to score points. Emily saw Kanata’s refusal to utilise what’s necessary to win as an insult, as though she were holding back, which is why she reacts negatively to Kanata’s actions during their practise match: they’d once played against one another and expected that in a rematch, they’d be playing a Kanata who was giving it her all. However, like how the rowdier Claire can pick up on the feelings of those around her quickly, Haruka is able to similarly encourage Kanata and make what would have been a difficult moment for Kanata better: once Haruka mentions that scoring is scoring regardless of whether the point was earned through a spike or pokey, Kanata opens up. She later promises to begin where she left off and become the player she’d longed to be. Having more friends and forward individuals around drives Kanata to embrace the present and future, rather than worrying about what could have been.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After Haruka speaks with an instructor, she makes off to find Kanata, who is being hauled off by a blonde girl. She assumes that the other girl is a foreigner and cannot speak Japanese, but once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Haruka learns that this girl is Claire Thomas, a member of Urama High’s beach volleyball club. I note here that I’m rather fond of the traditional, simpler design of the Urama uniform, which looks much more conventional in comparison to the strange full-body dresses that were seen in the likes of Amanchu! Advance.

  • Haruka learns from the Thomas sisters that the only regulation in beach volleyballs on uniform is that pairs must play with the same swimsuit. Emily is unhappy that Claire’s chosen such a bold uniform, and a look through the regulations show that technically, any one or two piece swimsuit could be used in beach volleyball. With this in mind, one-piece suits are rarely chosen for practicality’s sake: sand gets trapped more easily, reducing comfort.

  • Haruka and Claire get along like peas in a pod: after Haruka asks to immediately play a match, Claire shares her excitement and surprises Emily. Claire reminds me a great deal of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Fū Inubozaki, being as outgoing and sociable. Claire is voiced by Atsumi Tanezaki, who has played as Mei Irizaki of Hai-Furi and Hibike! Euphonium‘s Mizore Yoroizuka. She stands in stark contrast with Emily, who is more stoic and quiet. The choice to have Claire and Haruka in sync with one another, as far as reactions go, gives the sense that the two are very similar.

  • Extroverts typically get along quite well with one another, although introverts can take some prodding before they warm up to a crowd. Talk of the two personality types means that some clearing up of the terms are a good idea: introverts are folk who prefer solitude and enjoy quiet, socialising less and focus inward, whereas extroverts enjoy company and love communicating with others. They socialise more and focus outward. There are more vigorous definitions, but that is outside the scope of discussion: simply put, extroverts love being around many people, and introverts prefer the company of fewer people and themselves.

  • With Haruka and Claire fired up, Kanata and Emily have little choice but to go along for the ride. Their game starts, and in moments, it is apparent that like Ayasa and Narumi, Emily and Claire are experienced players. One of the details in Harukana Receive that I’ve come to greatly appreciate is the depiction of sand: while not quite as realistic or detailed as the sand seen in the Pixar short Piper, sand is nonetheless presented as being deformable and scatter about as particles whenever the girls move around the court. I wonder if the sand in Harukana Receive uses physics-based rendering or a simpler particle system.

  • Of all the characters, Haruka’s chest still bounces the most while moving around even following modifications to her swimsuit. Oscillations of the chest are disadvantageous in sports, as it represents a wasteful transfer of kinetic energy, and hear me out: I know this to be true. I wear jackets with chest pockets and typically carry my phone in these pockets, so when I run while wearing these jackets (usually to catch a bus), having the phone move up and down gives the feeling that I am being weighted down. This is why good fitting athletic wear becomes so important: a good fit ensures that nothing moves around, reducing that loss of kinetic energy.

  • It seems that randomly striking someone’s posterior is a thing in Harukana Receive after Claire hits Emily in the lower backside: , Emily threatens Claire with an unknown form of retribution that Claire dismisses. The two sisters are as different as day and night, but even in a practise match with no stakes, their performance and coordination show that the two get along very well despite their squabbles. Emily is voiced by Rie Suegara (Brave Witches‘ very own Takami Karibuchi).

  • I imagine that seeing the different personalities in Claire and Emily, as well as in Ayasa and Narumi, are intended to foreshadow to audiences that differences in the team members are complimentary: one player is strong where the other is weak, and vise versa. Consequently, I expect that as Haruka improves, and Kanata’s confidence grows, the two could be a formidable pair of beach volleyball players, as well.

  • Friendly fire, taking the form of Haruka tripping over Kanata, who’d dived to try and keep the ball in play, shows that for her raw potential, Haruka is someone who gets caught in the moment and sometimes forgets to be mindful of her surroundings. An interesting level of detail goof can be seen here: the polka dots on Kanata’s swimsuit do not scale with the perspective that this frame depicts, and if they were to be preserved when coming closer, they’d be much larger.

  • Kanata’s physical limitations are at the forefront in their first match against the Thomas sisters: Kanata is very much aware that being shorter constrains her ability to play, and she’s quite uncomfortable on the court because she does not feel that she’s able to use her preferred approach during a match. However, that Kanata has returned to the court, even if it is just playing informal matches, shows that Haruka’s arrival has catalysed the beginning of a change in her.

  • Because Claire is an extrovert, she’s more understanding of what Kanata might be thinking and quickly reprimands Emily for being tactless with her words after Emily demands to know why Kanata seems to see herself as not playing her best. While generally easygoing and spirited, Claire shows that she can be serious when the moment calls for it. Because Emily and Claire attend the same school as Haruka and Kanata, I expect that we will see more of the two and their interactions with Haruka and Kanata.

  • I’ve heard that being short is a detriment with no easily solution: height confers an advantage in sports, which is why professional athletes are, for the most part, taller than average. However, this isn’t always the case: there are some professional athletes who are shorter than their peers and nonetheless have had an impact within their sport. Martin St. Louis is one of the best known players in the NHL: despite standing at 5’8″ (172.5 cm), St. Louis’ greatest strength was his spirit and being able to accelerate faster than other players. His NHL career began with the Calgary Flames in 1998, but he returned to the AHL for a period before playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, leading them to a Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames in 2004.

  • Presently, the Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau is another example of a shorter player: he’s 5’9″ (175 cm), a ways smaller than most NHL players, but plays with incredible speed. His most spectacular goals involve him blazing down the ice, outmanoeuvring other surprised players and scoring goals before the other team’s defensive line has a chance to regroup. While Kanata is not a professional athlete, the mindset of putting one’s all into the game and making the most of what one has will be to her advantage. I am presently inclined to speculate that speed could become the name of Kanata’s game, but Harukana Receive could yet surprise us.

  • Kanata’s insistence on spikes reminds me of a phenomenon in first person shooters and fighting games, where players stick to one particular weapon, character or setup. In the likes of Street Fighter, for instance, players routinely stick to playing as Ryu and Ken because they’re the most well-balanced characters, and similarly, in Battlefield 1, I fall to Automatico M1918-wielding players more than any other weapon. Personally, I hate the Automatico because of its limited usefulness and prefer the Hellriegel for the assault class, and will switch weapons depending on the situation, rather than pick my weapons because I’m good with them.

  • Haruka decides to give the pokey a shot and scores a point with it, reasoning that a point is a point no matter what technique was used to score it. Similarly, players in the NHL will take any goal, garbage goal or not, that they can score, and in Battlefield 1, I am not adverse to sinking to the level of Automatico users if my team should require it. With this being said, I still have an ardent refusal to use gas grenades: being annoying area-denial weapons that take no skill to use, they also interfere with friendly lines of sight and may also confuse allied players into thinking that they should not be in the area lest they take damage.

  • Inspired by Haruka, Kanata takes another step forwards and attempts a pokey. Although the ball is out, Emily is happy that Kanata is beginning to open her mind again, and Kanata herself is surprised that she was able to send the ball over the net. This post has had a much greater number of Kanata moments because she was the focus of this episode, and Kanata is beginning to grow on me now that she’s seen some more development. Kanata reminds me somewhat of Locodol‘s Yui Mikoze (albeit a much less outgoing version of Yui).

  • After playing several more matches, evening sets in, and Haruka decides to join the beach volleyball club, as well as participating in a tournament at Nishihara Kirakira beach, some 40 minutes south of the Kinbu Bay location we’ve seen so far, on the basis that things are more fun in competition. Haruka’s love for competition and accepting challenges is one of my favourite parts of her personality, although one has to wonder whether her not she’ll get taken down a few notches later. Meanwhile, Kanata and Emily share a conversation: Kanata is now determined to make a return to her former glory, to regain it, as it were. The folks running the party definitely took the time to get the details, and the word “receive” does have its roots in the Latin capiō, and this has proto-Italic origins (rĕ referring to “again” and capiō for “capture”). So, there’s a bit of a linguistics story in Harukana Receive, and Kanata is trying to re-conquer a part of her past.

  • The episode takes the time to showcase Kanata’s past: she and Narumi were capable beach volleyball players and met the Thomas sisters in tournament, besting them. They later resolve to play another match: after tears are shed from the vanquished, and the victorious rejoice, both Kanata and Claire demonstrate exemplary sportsmanship and promise to face one another again. The fact that sportsmanship is woven into Harukana Receive means that audiences are to suppose that sportsmanship will be a given in this series; focus will be on self-improvement and the other accompanying experiences that follow such a journey.

  • It turns out that Kanata was the one who introduced Narumi to beach volleyball: Kanata’s mother encouraged her to pick it up, and the girls’ practises turned more serious, leading them to participate in a tournament later on. We are very nearly done with this episodic discussion, and the page quote for this Harukana Receive comes from martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who believed that rigidity was death, and that adaptiveness was the key to victory. Miho Nishizumi of Girls und Panzer applied this, Sun Tzu’s Art of War emphasised being able to change as a situation demanded. Kanata’s shortcoming (pun intended) was being stuck in one mindset, and her first step towards rediscovering her game came in this episode.

  • I note that this past week has been incredibly busy, which is why I’ve not had any other posts: work’s been very busy, so by the time the workday is over, my inclination to engage my mind and write is simply absent. However, looking ahead, I do have plans to write about Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment, and with the Violet Evergarden OVA out, that also merits a look-see. With this third post in the books, I will be continuing on my journey with Harukana Receive and looking at various aspects of the anime with the approach that I’ve taken thus far, which I feel to be viable: consider that there’s actually quite a bit of other topics I’ve managed to touch on despite my complete lack of experience in beach volleyball.

I realise that the use of beach volleyball as Harukana Receive‘s focus is conducive towards moments that may make the show off-putting for some. However, there is a series beyond this that is worth watching. While the second episode was particularly egregious with showing Haruka oscillating because her swimsuit had not been modified for beach volleyball, and this episode shows a more little posterior-striking than is strictly necessary to advance the narrative, overall, Harukana Receive does not come across as being overly focused on anatomy shots to the point where it detracts from the story. Character growth in Harukana Receive remains excellent, providing plenty of exposition and describing in detail what led to the current state of things. Every character has a story to tell, and these stories shape who they presently are, giving their reasons for playing beach volleyball weight: in its execution, Harukana Receive would be equally as engaging if hit were to substitute tennis for beach volleyball simply because of the characters. Things are picking up in Harukana Receive now: I expect that between the training that Haruka and Kanata will pick up, as Haruka needs to turn her raw talent into finesse, and Kanata must turn her prior skill and experience into developing a out a flexible, adaptive play-style to offset her height. Haruka and Kanata also have become a pair, so both players must now learn their partner’s strengths and weaknesses. These developments will be interesting to see, and looking ahead, I expect that between the more technical aspects, Harukana Receive will also showcase plenty of amusing moments of comedy to remind viewers that between improvement and a healthy competitive spirit, good sportsmanship and knowing when to unwind or regroup is also important.

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. With this, we’ve worked out that Kanata and Haruka play beach volleyball on the shores of Kinbu Bay, located along the southeastern side of Okinawa. 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.

Fibbing Camp: Yuru Camp△ OVA Review and Reflection

“Half a truth is often a great lie.” —Benjamin Franklin

When Chiaki remarks that different countries camp differently, Aoi tells Nadeshiko of a variety of bald-faced lies about how New Zealanders, Canadians and the Swiss camp. Nadeshiko buys this without a second thought, but Chiaki catches her. Later, Aoi’s younger sister, Akari, shows up and, when Nadeshiko remarks that she’s fond of Mount Fuji’s view from all directions, the sisters trick Nadeshiko into believing that she’ll be punished by being exiled to the Narusawa Ice Caves for loving the Yamanashi view as much as the Shizuoka view. Chiaki thinks that Nadeshiko should be more skeptical, but Aoi is cool with Nadeshiko being as gullible as she is. During this conversation, Akari arrives and attempts to convince Nadeshiko that Rin is leaving for Alaska – while Nadeshiko is sure that the real Rin is not so small in stature, Sakura then shows up with Rin’s hairstyle. Chiaki and Aoi also style their hair in Rin’s distinct bun, causing Nadeshiko untold confusion as she struggles with which Rin is the real deal. The second of the OVAs amounts to little more than an adorable romp through what the Outdoors Activity Club does outside of their camping activities: besides researching on camping equipment and technique, it seems that the girls also bounce off one another to create humour. In this OVA, Aoi’s enjoyment of being a prankster is presented – the TV series suggested that she’s able to tell lies without blinking, and the OVA further illustrates that she actively enjoys deceiving others.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Canadians love to canoe, for the record, Canadians also love to RV, and most of us camp normally: I immediately knew that something was off when Aoi asserted that us Canadians canoe to camping spots frequently. Because the Yuru Camp△ OVAs run for a short five minutes, my posts for them will be correspondingly shorter, as well – I have ten screenshots for this Yuru Camp△ post, as I did with the previous “Room Camp” special.

  • As it turns out, Aoi’s sister, Akari, is also a bit of a prankster, as well: Nadeshiko feels that something is off about “Aoi” when Akari tries to pass herself off as Aoi. In this image, besides obvious differences in size and eye colour, the two look nearly identical. Apparently Akari is here to rectify a bit of a ruckus that ensued ever since Aoi tried to sell the idea that her family’s noodle shop has sobaudon, implying they have udon noodles served with an exotic bird meat. This a play on soba and udon, two different kinds of Japanese noodles: shops that serve both kinds of noodles will advertise that they sell sobaudon.

  • If Akari is to be believed, Aoi’s pranks are pretty large in scale and lands her in hot water, but how much of this is true remains open for discussion. While Akari explains what’s going down, Minami is depicted as being stuck answering an overwhelming number of complaints about Aoi’s actions, which seems a bit of a stretch, considering that Yuru Camp△ depicted Aoi as a capable student who has no troubles with studying and keeping up with her coursework. It should then become clear that such an incident never happened, and that Akari is visiting for any reason besides trying to pick up the mess that Aoi’s supposedly caused.

  • Akari and Aoi’s eyes take on a creepy shape when they’re lying: Chiaki warns Nadeshiko that this is the surest way of telling when the Inuyama sisters are distorting the truth for their own amusement, but being naïve about the ways of the world, Nadeshiko is unable to discern what’s real and what isn’t, resulting in a hilarious moment filled with what have since been referred to as Crying Nadeshiko Noises™. This is the closest the infamous Aokigahara, better known as the Suicide Forest, is mentioned in Yuru Camp△: the Narusawa Ice Caves are lava tubes located in Aokigahara, and has an average internal temperature of 3ºC, hence their naming. It is highly unlikely that the girls of Yuru Camp△ will visit Aokigahara – besides the lack of designated camping areas in the forest proper, the macabre possibility of encountering corpses would certainly ruin the comfortable sense that Yuru Camp△ is known for.

  • Admittedly, it feels a little strange to talk about Yuru Camp△ and not feature any screenshots of camping. In spite of the lack of camping, some aspects of camping are still mentioned, and the OVAs allow for five minutes of humour that otherwise would not fit anywhere else in a proper story about the girls preparing for and going camping. With the manga on-going, Yuru Camp△ could see a sequel in the future, and I would definitely watch a continuation of this series.

  • Regardless of the season, Yuru Camp△ is always welcome. However, the anime’s setting in the winter, and the fact that the first season aired during the winter meant that the anime feels distinctly like something that should be watched during the coldest months of the year. The anime did end up being the perfect remedy for when the days were short, and the air frigid, so to watch Yuru Camp△ again during the warmest time of year does feel a little strange.

  • Nadeshiko’s smile is unparalleled, and it was quite welcoming to see it return again in this OVA. Here, Nadeshiko is proud of herself for having managed to see through yet another ruse when Akari shows up, trying to pass herself off as Rin and claiming that Rin’s going to Alaska to camp. However, things get a bit more complex when Sakura shows up with, leading Nadeshiko to become confused as to why Rin is apparently in different sizes.

  • Summer is in full swing by this point in time, and because of the multitude of Stampede lunches around, leftover food from barbecue events are commonplace: hot dogs, fried chicken wings, Caesar salad and cheesy hash browns made up tonight’s dinner. The temperatures today reached a balmy 29° today, and there were no clouds in the sky. Summer’s been a relaxing one so far, and I’m looking forwards to making the most of the summer weather by taking morning walks around nearby parks, drinking slushies on hot days and the like.

  • The legendary Shimarin Dango makes a return in this OVA, and Nadeshiko is genuinely unable to differentiate between everyone once Chiaki and Aoi switch over to Rin’s hairstyle. Ena orchestrated this particular stunt, and by OVA’s end, it’s nearly impossible not to feel bad for Nadeshiko. I encountered difficulty in translating the OVA’s title, ほらキャン,  to an appropriate equivalent in English. ほら typically means “hey!”, but in this context, is used as ほら話 (approximately “tall tale” in English). However, this sounds a little awkward as a title. I’ve thus decided to give the best translation as “Fibbing Camp”: fibs are inconsequential lies, befitting the casual nature of Aoi and her sister’s pranks.

  • With this OVA in the books, I’m going to return to scheduled programming: Harukana Receive‘s second episode airs tomorrow, so I will be watching and writing about it in lieu of spending the evening unwinding in Battlefield 1. Ever since the Battlefield V closed alpha, Battlefield 1‘s been feeling a little more foreign to me, and adopting the strategies of a more defensive playstyle proved to be surprisingly effectual. I’ve since unlocked the new Burton LMR, and there are some interesting stories to tell about my Road to Battlefield V experience, as well, so between the Harukana Receive posts, I’m going to try and work in a Battlefield 1 post.

The flipside of showing Aoi’s propensity to lie for her own amusement is that Nadeshiko’s trusting, naïve nature is also presented. The unique personalities among members of the Outdoors Activity Club allow for some genuinely hilarious moments in the girls’ everyday life at school outside of their time spent camping together. The relaxed environment in their club allows the girls to be themselves, and in this OVA, have a bit of good-natured fun at Nadeshiko’s expense: while it’s just Aoi and Akari making various fibs to Nadeshiko, it seems that Nadeshiko is rthe sort of person who can be pranked easily – by the OVA’s end, Sakura, Ena and Chikai are in on the jokes, as well, resulting in a hilarious, yet pitiful moment for Nadeshiko that was quite heart-meltingly adorable. It is clear that Yuru Camp△‘s characters are a dynamic bunch, although the short lengths of each OVA suggest that the bulk of the series’ magic comes from camping, as well. This second OVA is set entirely in the Industrial Hallway that acts as the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom, the upcoming OVA for Yuru Camp△ is set to take place in a southern part of Japan that is quite warm and will be set for release just under two weeks from now. It’ll mark a change of pace from the two OVAs thus far, although I do wonder how things will unfold if there is only five minutes of time to work with.

We Don’t Need Aces: Harukana Receive First Episode Impressions and Review

“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” —Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

When her mother moves overseas for her work, Haruka Ōzora moves to Okinawa to live with her grandmother and cousin, Kanata Higa. After landing in Naha, Haruka meets with Kanata for the first time in four years, and becomes excited at the prospect of being so close to the water, where she may dive, surf and swim. While running about on the beaches, Haruka runs into a pair of beach volleyball players, Narumi Tōi and Ayasa Tachibana. Narumi grows cold when Haruka wonders about becoming an ace, and when Kanata shows up, Narumi challenges the pair to an impromptu match. Haruka’s inexperience on the court becomes apparent, and although they lose their first game, Haruka remains fired up and longs for a rematch. Narumi reluctantly agrees, provided that Haruka learns the basics and rules within the span of a week. Later that evening, Kanata reveals that they’re going up against experienced volleyball players, although this does little to deter Haruka, who settles in to life in Naha with Kanata and resolves to master the basics, now that it’s summer vacation. For me, Harukana Receive is the anime of the summer season that I was most anticipating, primarily because the warm, sunny beaches of Okinawa are precisely the image of summer that is conjured whenever the hottest season of the year is mentioned: I’ve never watched a distinctly summer anime during the summer before, and the premise of Harukana Receive was particularly conducive towards being the perfect accompaniment for the hottest and sunniest days of the year. In this aspect, Harukana Receive is very strong; the artwork is amazing, capturing the heat of summer through the deep azure skies and warm ocean waters reaching towards infinity. Shadows and light also feature prominently in Harukana Receive to create the sensation of heat: without question, the visuals in Harukana Receive‘s environments are stunning.

However, I imagine that most readers are not here about the lighting effects and details of the landscape: aside from the frequent stills of the sun, and the brilliant light that sunlight casts the land in, the warmth in Harukana Receive comes from Haruka herself. Despite being described as sensitive about her height and figure, there is little denying that Haruka’s seemingly boundless energy is one of the biggest draws in Harukana Receive. Haruka’s sunny disposition and excitement suggests that she’s always ready for adventure and experience. From stripping down on the beaches to accepting a challenge without much thought, Haruka is happy-go-lucky in manner and lives in the moment. Her positive mindset thus acts as the perfect foil for the quiet and reserved Kanata; such contrasts amongst characters are deliberately thus, intended to have different facets of one’s personality influence another individual within a friendship to depict how characters grow and learn over time. While Haruka’s enthusiasm is nothing new (she reminds me of a cross between GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Brave Witches‘ Takami Karuibuchi), placing such a sunny, friendly person into a landscape characterised by warmth sets the table for what’s likely to come in Harukana Receive. Haruka’s optimism will serve her well as the series progresses, especially when she begins learning about just how far she has to go in beach volleyball, and it will be particularly interesting to see just how Haruka handles adversity and learns over the course of Harukana Receive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After four years, Kanata (left) and Haruka (right) reunite at Naha Airport. Because I’m doing episodic posts for Harukana Receive, each post will have twenty screenshots and accompanying figure captions. A long-standing trend here is that posts have been progressively becoming longer, both in terms of word count and number of screenshots, and while it’s nice to be able to really flesh out certain ideas or crack bad jokes about scenes, there is also value in being concise.

  • My praises for Harukana Receive‘s visuals are not unfounded: this view of Okinawa, with the glistening ocean and lens flare showcases the sort of visual fidelity in the anime. The subtleties in the environment indicate a commitment to detail, and this particular aspect will become important as Haruka becomes more learned in the techniques and nuances of beach volleyball. The implications of the anime’s attention to detail also suggests that the places seen in Harukana Receive are doubtlessly modelled after real-world locations.

  • If this indeed holds true, there might be an opportunity in the future to do another armchair tour of locations in Okinawa. Here, Kanata watches Haruka running joyfully onto the beach after their ride from the airport. In contrast to Haruka, who is positively glowing, Kanata is much more taciturn: their conversation back suggests that the only topic that bothers Haruka is her height, and Kanata is similarly envious of Haruka for being much taller.

  • Readers better get used to screenshots such as these over the next eleven weeks that Harukana Receive is airing; while not a series dedicated towards fanservice, the simple fact that Harukana Receive is set around beach volleyball on the warm coasts of Okinawa means that swimsuits will be a very common sight. The manga simply shows Haruka stripping down in one small panel, to Kanata’s surprise, but the anime adaptation goes the whole nine yards in closeups of Haruka’s chest and posterior. At the very least, there is no excessive oscillations, which are again, a subtle reminder that Harukana Receive is not about the fanservice.

  • Harukana Receive‘s manga is not in the four-panel format, being structured in the traditional fashion. While it looks to deal with topics surrounding teamwork and friendship in a more serious manner than something like GochiUsa, because Harukana Receive is a Manga Time Kirara publication, it stands to reason that things won’t ever get serious to the point of breaking the atmosphere. The simple white circles for eyes Kanata’s got in this moment is an indicator of shock, and funny facial expressions are the norm in Harukana Receive, reminding audiences that first and foremost, this series is about being fun.

  • The only time I’ve been somewhere with waters warm enough to wade in without requiring a wetsuit was Cancún, which was two years ago: I woke up early in the mornings and walked the beaches, where the waters were a turquoise colour and the beach sands where white. Mornings were the best time to enjoy the beaches, as the sun would be too much during noon. At this time, I attended various presentations and panels at the ALIFE conference.

  • In her haste to enjoy the beach, Haruka’s forgotten her sunscreen. An absolute essential in places like Cancún (even as early as eight in the morning) and Okinawa, sunscreen blocks UVA and UVB radiation, high intensity photons that can cause melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma (two kinds of skin cancer) by punching through the skin into cells and damaging the DNA within. I rarely go for long without sunscreen when spending more than half an hour outdoors during the summer: even at the higher latitudes, UV hazards can be quite high for many days of the year, and my city’s high altitude actually increases exposure to UV.

  • After meeting Ayasa and Narumi, Haruka strikes up a conversation with Ayase, who is approachable and friendly. By comparison, Narumi is much more distant, serious and cold. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing such characters in anime, and as such, my first inclination is to wonder what flow of events will eventually lead Narumi to warm up to Haruka and Kanata. This could be the subject of a story arc later, and typically, such events are very rewarding to see. Of course, some folks elsewhere are less interested in these aspects and find that Haruka’s posterior is rewarding to see ಠ_ಠ

  • My eyes and ears tell me that Harukana Receive is similarly being counted as a show that is appropriate for summer. However, there does seem to be an exception in that one of my bêtes noires counts this series as being outside the scope of their interests – should the show fall through for them, I suppose it will mean that I won’t be seeing efforts to psychoanalyse whatever personality flaws are holding Kanata back or questions about how differences between Okinawan and Japanese culture impact Huruka’s ability to learn beach volleyball. I admit that it was amusing to read these from Tango-Victor-Tango’s Manga Time Kirara experts, since it then gave me something additional to discuss (and then usually, invalidate these points for fun).

  • Haruka jokingly remarks that with her predisposition for atheltics, she could perform quite well in volleyball, only for Narumi to give her a verbal beatdown on how aces don’t exist in team sports – a team is only as good as its weakest link, and a fine example of where team play matters more than individual skill is in ice hockey. The Edmonton Oilers finished just below the Calgary Flames during the 2017-2018 season, despite the stellar performance of Connor McDavid – one fantastic player wasn’t enough to bring the Oilers to the playoffs. Likewise, while Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Michael Ferland’s first line have been relatively consistent to watch, but the Flames’ deficiencies in special teams have been felt: towards the end of the 2017-2018 season, the Flames dropped from the playoffs.

  • Immediately through this exchange, it’s clear that Narumi is very serious about beach volleyball, although her delivery of this message to Haruka shows that she’s not very concerned about what others think of her. Such a presentation indicates that there’s more to Narumi that audiences will likely learn more about later, and here, when Kanata rejoins Haruka, it is clear that Kanata and Narumi once knew one another. In addition, there’s also a bit of a distance between the two. Kanata’s previous experience in beach volleyball is a known, and her reasons for quitting will likely be the subject of a future episode.

  • If readers have no objections, then for the next eleven weeks, this blog will feature many more screenshots similar to this one. It’s still early in the game, but Haruka’s my favourite character in Harukana Receive for both her personality and other design attributes. Despite being a total novice at beach volleyball, she’s presented as being very active and athletic, having familiarity with a wide range of sports. As such, Haruka’s background makes her well-suited to be the central character of Harukana Receive – her fitness level and knowledge of other sports allows her to keep up, such that when she advances in skill level, it is never implausible or unrealistic.

  • After the first episode, one challenge I will immediately face is being able to capture action shots well – Harukana Receive makes extensive use of motion blur and depth of field effects to bolster its visual impact, which is great from a viewer experience perspective, but from a screenshots perspective, it means I’ll have to be a bit more mindful as to which frames I will end up using. This was especially a problem for live-action movies, which is why I don’t review them as often, but usually, is not a concern in anime.

  • Against the likes of Ayasa and Narumi, Haruka and Kanata are completely outmatched: their game here is a first-to-seven, with the handicap that Haruka and Kanata win if they can manage one point against Ayasa and Narumi. During the course of the match, Kanata explains various details to Haruka, such as how players need to compensate for wind and switch sides to even matches out in events of strong wind, adjust for the differences that sand has on footwork and how overhand techniques make it easier to foul. It’s nice to have Kanata explain things to audiences: she fulfills a similar role to Yuru Camp△‘s narrator, and as such, viewers get to ease into the meat-and-potatoes of Harukana Receive without getting lost.

  • Haruka manages to hit the ball and with Kanata’s help, attempts to score a point, only for Narumi to counterattack. With the score at 7-0, their game comes to an end, and Narumi warns Haruka that in beach volleyball, a team is only as effective as the two players. This brings to mind the sort of logic that drove the Jaeger pilots in Pacific Rim, where the Jaegers were sophisticated enough so that two pilots, with their minds bound by a neural bridge, must work together to operate the Jaeger. While beach volleyball does not involve fanciful technologies, the concept seems similar enough: the two players on a team must be able to understand their partner’s playstyle, working with them to maximise their strengths and minimise weaknesses to cohesively put the ball in a position where a point can be scored.

  • Having had her first experiences with beach volleyball, Haruka is perfectly unperturbed by their loss and promises to have another match once she improves. Her words exude a positive outlook on the world, befitting of youth. I am very much drawn in to Harukana Receive by Haruka’s enthusiasm and energy, and she’s absolutely right in that things only become more fun as one invests the time to improve. My seniors at the dōjō say the same thing: reaching shōdan only marks the beginning of a journey, and it is only into black belt that the more interesting aspects of Okinawa Gōjū-ryū are learnt. I suppose now is a good as a time to reiterate that from time to time, I will be talking about Gōjū-ryū in my Harukana Receive posts, because Gōjū-ryū karate originates from the Naha area of Okinawa.

  • As the sun sets, Haruka learns from Kanata that Ayasa and Narumi are champion players. While Kanata is worried about their prospects of winning, Haruka states that champions or not, she looks forwards to playing them. The only way to get better is to challenge what one cannot defeat (initially): while it’s not always the case, losing and failure are some of the most effective teachers out there, and those who never lose or fail are setting themselves up for more difficult losses and failures later down the line. A major part of being human is knowing how to pick oneself up and regroup after a setback, although at this point in Harukana Receive, it’s difficult to tell if Haruka’s naturally got this mindset or if she’s starry-eyed.

  • Ayasa is evidently more easygoing than Narumi – she wonders why Narumi is going full-force against someone with no experience, and feels that having Kanata train Haruka might be enough to get Kanata back into the game. The second aspect that Harukana Receive introduces in its first episode, then, is what caused Kanata to leave beach volleyball, and watching how Haruka influences her to return and make the most of things. I tend to take Ayasa’s approach while providing younger students with instruction and exercise full restraint during sparring if my opponent is learning. The way I spar is much slower, intended to instruct rather than punish.

  • As the episode winds down, Haruka and Kanata share a welcome dinner from their grandmother, which features a variety of Okinawan dishes. Unlike Japanese dishes, Okinawan cuisine tends to feature more spices and meat. Chanpurū is also commonplace: this stir-fry dish is representative of Okinawan food, the same way one might associated dim sum with Hong Kong. Being a slice-of-life anime, I imagine that Harukana Receive will also depict more about life in Okinawa: it’s commonly portrayed as a vacation destination (the upcoming Non Non Biyori Vacation movie is going to follow Renge and company’s adventures in Okinawa), but to see things on a day-to-day basis is a welcome change of pace.

  • As the evening sets in, Kanata and Haruka settle down for the evening, where Haruka meets Kanata’s pet turtle. It’s been an eventful first day, and with summer vacation on the horizon, it is plain that Haruka already has plans to fill those long, beautiful summer days to the brim with activity on her break. Depictions of summer in anime always present it as a distant season, and while this distance, this harukana, has been seen in Harukana Receive‘s first episode, I imagine that as things progress, the distance will close. If this is indeed the theme, then Harukana Receive‘s title is a very clever one. With this first post in the books, this is what readers can reasonably expect of my Harukana Receive posts: I look forwards to seeing where this series goes as I follow it on a weekly basis.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an episodic review for a series, but with the summer season otherwise being a slow one for me, I figured that the best way to keep my blogging game up is to occasionally work on it a little. Harukana Receive represents a new challenge for me: I am not an athlete and have no experience in volleyball whatsoever, much less beach volleyball. However, I do know a thing or two about teamwork and cooperation, as well as mutual support, sportsmanship and the like: these aspects of life extend well beyond the realm of sports, and individuals who understand teamwork and compromise tend to derive greater happiness in what they do. These lessons are what I’m looking to see in Harukana Receive, and in conjunction with the very strong, visceral showing that the first episode has presented, Harukana Receive is going to be a series that I look forwards to watching each and every week of its run, especially as more characters are introduced and Haruka comes further into her journey of learning about beach volleyball and over time, accepting that her height is what it is. I further add that the fact that Haruka can really rock a two-piece is further incentive to watch the show every week, and close this first episode talk with the remark that it is possible that anyone who states they picked up Harukana Receive, for the mechanics and rules of beach volleyball, have a non-trivial likelihood of being untruthful.

Comic Girls: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“Learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it and keep doing it until you get it right.” –Tom Clancy

At the dormitory, Kaoruko helps Ruki with her manga, spends a day with Koyume with the beach and meets resident horror manga artist Suzu Fūra. She struggles to continue with her own serialisation, discovers that her homeroom instructor, Miharu Nijino, is fond of Tsubasa’s manga and anime culture, encounters trouble when visiting Shinjuku on her own, and spends more time with Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa. Winter approaches, bringing with it exams; Kaoruko struggles to focus on her exams amidst her manga’s rejection, and Koyume becomes concerned with her weight. When the Christmas season nears, Ruki laments her lack of a love life, prompting the others to throw her a surprise birthday party, and Tsubasa deals with her family’s opposition to her intention to become a manga artist. Through the sum of her experiences, Kaoruko continues put in an honest effort, creating a slice-of-life manga that captures her experiences with friends. Mayu approves of this concept as an insert manga and requests that Kaoruko creates a second part. While she initially struggles, support from her friends and encouragement from her mother compel her to finish before the manga dormitory closes for the winter. The result is something that Mayu praises as Kaoruko’s strongest work up until now, and by spring, she reunites with her friends, resolving to continue working and spending time with Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa. With the sum of her journey culminating in an approval amidst the sea of rejections, Kaoruko’s journey in Comic Girls thus draws to a close for the present, and in spending so much time with other manga artists, each of whom have their own style and genre, Kaoruko begins to discover her own strength lie in works that are depictions of experiences within her life.

At the end of the day, Comic Girls is a story of persistence, determination and a journey taken to discover what it means to be authentic. These well-tread themes are encapsulated in an anime about an aspiring manga artist whose discoveries lead her to create a manga about her experiences. Summarily, Comic Girls is an anime about the making of the manga that became the manga which was adapted into an anime. Despite its derivative, familiar message and an end result that was long foreseen during its run, Comic Girls‘ theme of how simple experiences and journeys, seemingly mundane and trivial, can nonetheless be relatable and interesting when presented appropriately. Kaoruko is evidently unlearned in telling love, action and horror stories; although she started out as a four-panel manga artist, frequent rejections led her to experiment with a wide variety of genres. Her time spent at the Bunhousha Dormitory provides her with an eccentric, but memorable set of experiences that impact her greatly, and by transcribing this to paper, Kaoruko manages to create a relatable, engaging story. She thus returns to the genre that four-panel manga frequently depict: common, everyday aspects of life that are missed as readers surround themselves with the ceaseless activity of their lives. By applying her recollections to a genre she had been working in, Kaoruku discovers that an effective manga is created by being oneself. The twelve episode journey it took to reach this stage shows that the process is one filled with many memories, and I speak to my readers here, that Comic Girls‘ theme of being oneself is, despite being rather obvious, is one that nonetheless is worth reiterating every now and then, especially when it is applicable to the realm of anime blogging: I’ve noticed that some of my peers in anime blogging have struggled with their content of late, along with discouragement from declining traffic, likes and interactions. As with Kaoruko, rather than trying to emulate the success of other blogs and place unnecessary pressure on oneself, I would similarly suggest that my peers be themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because of her depiction, mannerisms and size, Kaoruko is perhaps more similar to Tamias minimus, better known as the Least Chipmunk. My responses to her suffering typically are a conflicting one between pity and mild irritation: Kaoruko is prone to fits of misfortune, although lacking the long-suffering nature of Anne Happy‘s Anne, Kaoruko devolves into self-pity and shame whenever things go south.

  • An e-manga artist, I found Ruki to be the most enjoyable character to watch. Some of the content she produces implies understanding of the male anatomy and its workings: in Eromanga Sensei, Sagiri was only able to produce compelling artwork because she used herself as a model, so when asked to take things to the next level, her lack of understanding of male anatomy led to some hilarious results. By comparison, Ruki’s works are more accurate, in a manner of speaking, and so, she covers Karouko’s eyes out of embarassment, preventing Kaoruko from helping out.

  • I’ve previously mentioned that Comic Girls could have become quite tricky for me to write for because of its focus on manga creation, but as it turns out, the anime’s focus on everyday life means that things are very easy to relate to and do not require an inordinate degree of manga creation knowledge to enjoy. With this being said, a bulk of the activities and events of Comic Girls are deliberately conventional; there’s a limit to what I could say in great detail about a day at the amusement park or spending a rainy afternoon playing games with a friend.

  • When one of Ruki’s manga are released, her editor asks her to do an autograph session. Frightened at the prospect of meeting her fans, encouragement from Tsubasa and Ririko give her the courage to step out into the spotlight, where Ruki learns that her fans simply love her work and onee sama-like presence. The event is a success, and Ruki is glad to have met her fans. This is the power of good writing: ideas and thoughts can reach and impact readers authors never thought possible, and my favourite stories of good writing making a positive impact on someone’s life is from MythBusters, where their colourful and approachable application of the scientific method have inspired countless into STEM careers.

  • Between her shapely figure and outgoing manner, Koyume finds it easy to draw attention in a crowd and befriend others, respectively. Fanservice in Comic Girls exists, but is not particularly overbearing. Despite being intended as cathartic series focused around the joys of everyday lives in a wide range of scenarios, Manga Time Kirara series also seem to have a bit more fanservice than would be expected of anime purely intended to help their viewers decompress – this suggests that manga of the Kirara style also have been tailored to interest audiences of a specific demographic.

  • It suddenly strikes me that a large number of Manga Time Kirara works feature a purple-haired character with a mature and serious demenour: we have Ruri Hibarigaoka of Anne Happy, Yōko Nishikawa from Sansha San’yōGochiUsa‘s Rize Tandea and Kurumi Ebisuzawa from School Live, all of whom have similar appearances and dispositions. Invariably, they all end up being my favourite characters for their respective series.

  • According to some of my readers, my inability to comprehend yuri and its significance is my downfall. This is both true and false: I don’t typically watch series where yuri is the main focus, so I don’t purport to understand it, but for the slice-of-life series that I do watch, yuri is typically an element incorporated into the narrative to drive humour or to provide a chance for characters to get to know one another better. In the case of Comic Girls, Koyume develops an interest in Tsubasa and longs to spend time with her. This opportunity finally materialises when Koyume and Tsubasa go to an amusement park together, while Ruki and Kaoruko tail them.

  • A botched kokuhaku is the hallmark of most romance-comedy, but in slice-of-life such as Comic Girls, the decision to not have Tsubasa and Koyume’s relationship advance beyond anything more than bog-standard friendship is motivated by the fact that disruption to the status quo would quickly cause the narrative diverge from Kaoruko and her journey towards publishing a manga. Thus, in Comic Girls, Koyume remains unable to summon up the courage to ask out Tsubasa, and instead, voices her concerns about being left behind as a manga artist. I realise that my take on yuri is an unfavourable one (folks at Tango Victor Tango seem particularly hostile towards what I say), but writing about and analysing what-ifs for fictional relationships has never been my strength.

  • Suzu Fūra is the resident horror manga artist, and her onryō-like presence frightens the living daylights out of Kaoruko, who is reduced to this at the thought of a ghost haunting their dormitory. However, while Kaoruko is initially scared to be around Suzu, she’s the first to befriend her, finding a kind person underneath her terrifying exterior. Over time, Kaoruko’s strengths begin manifesting, and audiences can begin seeing how she will likely mature over time, enough to learn about what works best for her as a manga artist: she’s able to find positives for those she meets, and this particular aspect about her is a useful one for writing four-panel manga, where characters typically have a specific endearing trait about them.

  • New experiences are an integral part of Kaoruko’s journey towards gaining a better understanding of ordinary life, leading one to wonder what Kaoruko’s life was like back home. I remark here that Comic Girls‘ finale came out prior to that of Amanchu! Advance‘s, but I felt that Comic Girls was something I should sleep on further. I thus took Sunday afternoon easy, went to a local bookstore and picked up Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential (Second Edition), then enjoyed broasted chicken for dinner. Subsequently, I worked out what I wished to cover in this post.

  • Takami Karibuchi Miharu might be a strict disciplinarian, but she’s also a secret fan of Tsubasa’s work. When word reaches her ears that Tsuabasa is the author of the manga Miharu so enjoys, she is overwhelmed and becomes more forgiving of Tsubasa’s tendency to sleep in class. I’ve now been around the block long enough to be familiar with the instructor who’s also secretly into things like anime, cosplay and video games: this is done intentionally to help audiences connect with the world, and it is not implausible for a teacher to have such interests. One of my seniors at the dōjō is a teacher and watches anime, and my old data structures professor is a PC gamer.

  • One long-standing thought on my mind is that Kaoruko’s love for female figurines and the female form seems to be more of an attraction to the maternal characteristics of her peers, rather than the baser suppositions that others have put forth. I argue this because of Kaoruko’s child-like disposition and appearance, as well as how she’s innocent in the ways of the world and her propensity to become more relaxed in the presence of someone more mature.

  • While exploring Akihabara on her own, a police officer mistakes Kaoruko for a lost child, and Karouko runs off, hiding in a large cardboard box. When her friends find her, Kaoruko resembles a lost pet of sorts. The number of adventures and experiences Kaoruko finds herself on, both the good and the bad, are instrumental in giving her an idea of what people might do – her manga were unrelatable because she lacked exposure, and a large part of the journey in Comic Girls is really dealing with the sort of things that Kaoruko does, rather than the technical aspects behind manga creation. As a consequence, most discussions out there on Comic Girls largely takes the form of reactions to the various misadventures that Kaoruko goes on in her journey to create a manga that won’t be rejected.

  • Kaoruko feels that glasses might make her more mature and also help her with her vision: while there are some out there who find an appeal about eye glasses, I’ve long felt that they are an impediment for some physical activities, and they can be a pain when one is crying. I also recall a lecture during my time as a graduate student where one of the screws on my frame had loosened mid-class, causing the lens to pop out. I was stuck with only one eye for the remainder of that lecture and was forced to make haste for the campus optometrist to get my glasses fixed.

  • Watching Kaoruko see rejection after rejection is perhaps the most realistic aspect of Comic Girls: I mentioned in the Amanchu! Advance talk that the public is largely only familiar with Wernher von Braun’s successes with NASA and his well-publicised role in designing the massive Saturn V rockets, as well as the total success of the Titan II rockets used to carry Gemini capsules into orbit, but preparing the Redstone for the Mercury program was initially a challenging one. The Redstone rocket used in Mercury-Redstone 1 only managed to lift the capsule four inches off the ground, and von Braun insisted that all rockets must be proven safe before any manned flight could be attempted, delaying the American’s ability to conduct manned flights. However, once his rockets proved themselves, things picked up considerably.

  • If Comic Girls were to be a documentary, and we substituted out Kaoruko for von Braun, then the series would follow von Braun’s time between 1946 and 1961 as he developed the Redstone. Of course, no discussion of the Space Race would be complete without Sergei Korolev, the Soviet rocket engineer and designer. In Comic Girls, there is not such an equivalent, and while Kaoruko occasionally becomes envious of her friends’ successes, such as when Koyume becomes serialised. However, Kaoruko pushes forwards even when her own future is in doubt, and for all of her other shortcomings, some of which are merely in her eyes, Kaoruko’s persistence is her greatest strength.

  • Koyume’s weight becomes something of a concern for her: Koyume is rarely seen without something sweet in hand, and her liking for all things sugary is tied with her creative ability. Some folks assert that they must have sugar in order to operate, and there is some truth in this – the brain is the most energy-consuming organ in the body, and natural sugars are very easily broken down for cellular respiration. In moderation, these natural sugars provide a boost to neurological processes, improving memory, information retention and sharpness by providing energy needed for neurons to fire. However, high concentrations of sugar in the blood can reduce blood flow to the brain and lessen its performance. The lesson here should be a familiar one: moderation is key.

  • While perhaps exaggerated, Koyume’s sugar withdrawal and attendant poor manga work is a plausible response to her quitting cold-turkey in an attempt to lose some weight. I digress from the main topic and mention that the term “serialisation” is thrown around very frequently in manga discussion. In literary terms, serialisation refers to continuous instalments of a story published to sequential volumes of a periodical publication. A manga that is published monthly to Manga Time Kirara, every month, telling a progressing story, is serialised. This is a world apart from the serialisation that a very large part of my work involves: this is the process by which data is converted into different forms for storage, for access in memory and so it can be transmitted. A typical workflow might take the form of capturing JSON data from a REST call, parsing that JSON and turning it into objects so that my programs can operate on this data, then converting these objects back into a JSON or dictionary so I can use another REST call to store the data remotely.

  • When Tsubasa’s sketchbook, containing her manuscript, is lost, the other girls work hard to help her find it. Searching through the school, top to bottom, without any results is disheartening, and at one point, Tsubasa considers throwing the towel in, but continues with her friends’ support.

  • It turns out that Miharu was once into making yaoi manga. She visits the dormitory alongside Mayu, who learns of how determined Kaoruko is towards working on a submission that will be accepted. Audiences will immediately note that yaoi content is nonexistent on this blog, and that anything of this genre is something that I will not watch or discuss. This is strictly a matter of personal preference: there are plenty of other blogs and sites out there that deal in these matters, so it should not be the end of the world when I’m not interested in writing about something that does not work for me.

  • Ultimately, it is Suzu who finds Tsubasa’s missing manuscript. She looks a world apart from her usual, ghostly self at school, and is actually quite pleasant on the eyes without her usual tendencies towards scaring the living daylights out of everyone. Viewers were shocked to learn that this is the difference between Suzu’s appearance at the dormitory and at school.

  • When the Christmas season rolls around, Ruki becomes jealous of her own fictional characters, who are able to share intimacy while she is single. The thought is persuasive enough for her to duck under the covers, which is an absolutely adorable reaction. I understand this pain rather well, and consequently, when Comic Girls presented a solution for Ruki, I found myself impressed.

  • Seeing Ruki’s melancholy prompts Tsubasa and the others to throw her a surprise birthday party: showing that they care for her and providing much-needed company is what Ruki needs to regroup. Spending time with friends and celebrating the present is a legitimate and effective way of warding off the melancholy that can permeate one’s mind if their thoughts strayed towards the loneliness of being single. This is why friendship is such a substantial component of many series: social interaction and companionship go hand-in-hand with our evolution, so we are biologically hard-wired to want to be with others. Thus, even if one is single, having good company can still be sufficient for one to remain mentally strong.

  • Like Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls takes viewers through the New Year, where the girls pray for success in the upcoming year. Over the course of the winter break, the other girls learn that Tsubasa hails from a wealthy family, but in spite of this, wishes to walk away from a lifestyle she considers stifling in favour of her own pursuits. This was introduced very late into the series and was a bit of a surprise.

  • When the time comes to burn old storyboards, Kaoruko is reluctant to see the others’ work be destroyed, but soon accepts this and brings out her rejected work to act as fuel for the fire: the others remark that this is a sign of Kaoruko’s persistence. The resulting fire is used to roast yams that the girls enjoy. For me, the most common way of enjoying yams are either through yam fries or my personal favourite: 番薯糖水 (jyutping faan1 syu4 tong4 seoi2). Made with yams, rock sugar and ginger, it is delicious. My favourite incarnation of sweet yam soup is made with purple yams (D. alata), which results in a sweet soup looking like grape juice. One practical joke one could employ with this is deceiving one’s friends into thinking it were grape juice.

  • As the year draws to a close, the dormitory closes, requiring that the residents leave. There’s a bit of a finality to the end of Comic Girls, with the anime giving the sense that the girls are separating for good, but this turns out not to be the case. While we are on the topic of endings, June’s blazed by unexpectedly quickly, and we’re a mere four days from the month’s end. Even though June is ending, things outside of work have managed to somehow be more busy than things at work – The Division has reopened the Outbreak global event, which sees increased headshot damage. With my Predator’s Mark gear, I’m hitting for 2.2 million points of damage with my M700 Carbon, and although the GE caches aren’t too exciting, I am trying to work towards one of the event masks. Meanwhile, the Road to Battlefield V‘s second phase has begun, with three awards being available each week for scoring 30000 points. Between all of this, the fact that I was hoping for some downtime to play Go! Go! Nippon! in full, and the fact that it’s summer, it looks like the next while will entail my trying to work out just how to manage my free time outside.

  • The page quote is a Tom Clancy one, and it’s got a familiar message that Kaoruko certainly understands. Throughout Comic Girls, she is knocked down, but with her friends’ help, she continues to get back up and keep trying. Of course, reality sometimes is a little less unkind: for example, I simply lack the physicality and hand-eye coordination to play in the NHL, but with enough practise and good documentation, I could probably spin up my own REST endpoints. However, for the most part, if one has a modicum of talent in a field, then the rest of it is persistence and dedication.

  • In the finale, Kaoruko’s mother shows up, and while she initially embarrasses Kaoruko with some photos of Kaoruko as a child, she also reminds Kaoruko of how drawing was the one thing that reliably gave her motivation. Since then, Kaoruko has come a long way, and while she’d been struggling to work on the second part of her manga since her first part was accepted, her mother’s appearance, and her friends’ encouragement gives her the motivation to create something worthwhile. The end result is a product that impresses Mayu, who counts it as Kaoruko’s best work yet.

  • I note that my reception of Comic Girls is a bit cooler than the glowing reviews others have given it: while I liked Comic Girls, the series did not particularly click with me the same way that the top-tier Manga Time Kirara works have. This series has its moments, but I did not feel a particular draw towards watching it every week – halfway into the series, it became quite clear as to where things were headed, and so, I chose not to write about Comic Girls with the same frequency that I have for Yuru Camp△ or Slow Start. Nothing about the journey kept me guessing, so it would have been difficult to consistently find something interesting to say, or speculate, about Comic Girls.

  • All told, Comic Girls scores a B grade in my books: this is equivalent to a 7.5 of ten. Middle-of-the-road in every way, Comic Girls was a relaxing watch that brings nothing particularly new to the table. It’s worth watching for anyone who is familiar with Manga Time Kirara adaptations, but beyond this, won’t astound or impress for being novel. This is perfectly fine: I don’t expect every series to blow me away, and there’s nothing wrong with another take on a familiar concept. With this, the only remaining series left to write about is Sword Art Online Alternative, and then we’re off to the summer anime season, where I will be working on episodic reviews for Harukana Receive.

Overall, Comic Girls presents a message that is relatable and relevant. While the journey it took to reach this point is nothing novel, and meanders somewhat, the characters appear to have grown very subtly since Comic Girls began. This is most visible in Kaoruko – while she remains quite prone to tears and fits of self-depreciation, she’s also learned to pick up herself and has awareness of what works for her as a manga artist. The focus of Comic Girls is largely on Kaoruko’s growth; Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa remain as they did when introduced in Comic Girls, acting as static characters that provide a reference point. Beyond this, a large part of Comic Girls‘ progression is rooted in familiar jokes and presentation which, while smoothly presented, offers very little to make it stand out from other Manga Time Kirara series. Similarly, repetition of some things, especially Suzu’s onryō-like presence and Kaoruko’s tendency to dissolve into a blubbering mess when faced with adversity, wears thin rapidly. Overall, Comic Girls is a middle-of-the-road series: there are limitations in this series that make less memorable, but otherwise, did not diminish my enjoyment of this series outright. Comic Girls earns a weak recommendation in that it’s got its moments and remains enjoyable for those enjoy series published to Manga Time Kirara, but general viewers would do better to pass over Comic Girls. As far as a continuation goes, it’s tricky to see what new territory could be explored; the manga is still ongoing, and I could see myself watching this series if a second season explored Koyume, Ruki, Tsubasa and Suzu’s interactions in greater depth to bring out sides of their character hitherto unseen.