The Infinite Zenith

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This Is How I Feel: Harukana Receive Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

Stephen Strange: “I went forward in time, to view alternate futures…to see all the possible outcomes of the coming conflict.”
Peter Quill: “How many did you see?”
Stephen Strange: “14 000 605.”
Tony Stark: “How many did we win?”
Stephen Strange: “One.”

Avengers: Infinity War

While Haruka and Kanata train tirelessly ahead of the qualifying competition for the Valkyrie Cup, Akari learns that owing to a lack of participants, only one Okinawan team will participate in the Valkyrie Cup. She hesitates to tell Haruka and the others of this news, fearing that the beach volleyball club will disintegrate from the pressures of competition, but after a call with Ayasa and Narumi, Akari decides to let the others know. Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily are not particularly worried about the news, and Akari gives everyone matching scrunchies, before they resolve to put their efforts into the qualifying tournament. On tournament day, the girls run into Mai and Ai: Ai’s become a post-secondary student and is helping out as a referee. Haruka and Kanata set off for their first match, as do Claire and Emily. With their training, Kanata and Haruka put on a strong performance and advance to the next round. After this match, they run into Youna and Kanna Aragaki, sisters who had faced off against Claire and Emily previously on the court and saw defeat. Vowing revenge, Haruka announces that they’ll have to best her and Kanata first, since that’s who they’re slated to play in the second round. Kanna employs a top spin in her spikes, and Akari feels that the two seem to be playing against Haruka entirely. As the match progresses, Kanata asks Haruka to place her faith in her, and when one of Kanna’s spikes gets past Haruka’s block, Kanata is able to receive it, allowing Haruka to send it back over the net and scores them the match point. Kanna and Youna resolve to return, and Haruka and Kanata march towards their inevitable match against Claire and Emily.

Three-quarters of Harukana Receive is now in the books, and things have accelerated wildly towards the march onto the Valkyrie Cup; by now, Haruka and Kanata have improved their play substantially, leaving the playing field open for exploring notions of sportsmanship, friendship and the strength of one’s word as the series marches into its final quarter. The focus of the ninth episode lies predominantly in Akari’s fear of having to watch Harukana play against Éclaire: although Harukana Receive has only seen Akari join the beach volleyball club recently, Akari’s concern about her friends shows that in the time that she has spent with them has been very meaningful to her. This fear leads her to worry about delivering news of the two pairs having to face one another to reach the nationals, and Akari decides to get in touch with Ayasa, who tells her that being honest with Haruka and the others is best. Narumi appends that everyone will understand that in a competition, there will be a victor and vanquished. Akari is able to thus put her feelings into hand-made scrunchies for everyone, and as it turns out, the prospect of having to face one another has little impact on Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily. They simply resolve to do their best and see what happens, thanking Akari for looking out for them. That everyone approaches things with this clarity is meant to reiterate that the bonds among everyone are such that the prospect of competition has done nothing to diminish the strength of their friendship. When the time for the competition arrives, both Harukana and Éclaire score victories in their matches, setting the stage for friends to compete against one another on the court. Their friendship will now be set aside for the moment, as both of Harukana and Éclaire will be playing for keeps to fulfill their own aspirations. However, regardless of how the match turns out, each of Claire, Emily, Haruka and Kanata will come out all the stronger, and closer together than before.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The progress that Haruka and Kanata makes becomes apparent by the ninth episode, once Claire remarks that she’s come quite a way in blocking. Exposure and experience are among the more effective of the conventional teachers: constantly doing something eventually turns it into a reflex. For molecular biologists, knowing the names and structures of all twenty amino acids comes as intuitively as a software developer might know their way around a particular stack. In Harukana Receive, things that Haruka might’ve had to think about now come to her much more quickly.

  • The endless energy and cheer that Haruka and Claire bring into Harukana Receive is quite infectious: I am constantly driven and encouraged by people like these in reality. Being a bit of an introvert myself, extroverts who bring positive energy to the table also motivate me to push myself harder and do better – Emily and Kanata similarly draw encouragement from their more energetic friends. This is why Emily refuses to play with anyone other than Claire: despite Claire trolling her in various ways, the fact remains is that when things get serious, the two sisters know how to work together.

  • When Akari receives word that the Okinawa qualifying tournaments will only send one team out to the nationals, she struggles to bring news back to her friends, worrying that things might become strained should Éclaire be made to play against Harukana. Having found it difficult to make friends, Akari’s worries are quite natural; she’s worried about losing everyone, rather similarly to how Yuzuki wanted to put her friendship with Komari and the others in writing during the events of A Place Further Than The Universe. However, like Yuzuki, Akari learns that genuine friendships are not conditional, nor are they contingent on a little competition.

  • Encouragement from Ayasa leads Akari to create a solution of her own: she crafts scrunchies modelled after the Hibiscus flower. Akari chooses the flower in Harukana Receive to symbolise treasuring of memories: the yellow Hibiscus is indeed a symbol of friendship and happiness. The flower also represents a perfect wife in North America, and in China, the flower signifies transient glory or success in the moment. It is a well-chosen flower for what Akari wishes to convey with it, and after hand-crafting scrunchies, she finds her friends wrapping up their practise by evening.

  • The passage of time in Harukana Receive appears very inconsistent: slice-of-life anime tend to follow a very steady and slow progression of events, allowing viewers to really slow down and take in the moment. This holds true for many Manga Time Kirara series, but Harukana Receive seems to be the exception on first glance, with things jumping forward in time and then depicting some moments in great detail. Because Harukana Receive is meant to show the girls’ development over time, the series consciously chooses to highlight milestones in their growth, which, similar to how real life can be, occur in irregularly-spaced intervals.

  • After Akari breaks out in tears and Claire consoles her, Haruka joins the party and happily declares that everyone will remain friends. Her actions dissolve some of the tensions of the moment, and are a constant reminder to audiences that at the end of the day, Harukana Receive is intended to be, first and foremost, about friendship, promises and themes that are standard to Manga Time Kirara series. The series is serious where it needs to be, but otherwise, is a very light-hearted one that does not warrant getting into lengthy disagreements with others about. On this note, I will be, on request from readers, be doing a post on 2016’s Captain America: Civil War as an example of where the serious co-exists with the comedic and the elements in the film that merit more serious discussions than, say, Harukana Receive.

  • The last time I saw a group of friends with matching scrunchies was in Wake Up, Girls! – I had compared Harukana Receive negatively to Wake Up, Girls! previously on account of the CG, but because this moment was so jarring and out of place, one cannot help but wonder if this was deliberately done to capture the anime idol feeling from something like Wake Up, Girls!. For its shortcomings, I greatly enjoyed Wake Up, Girls!, as it was a plucky anime about overcoming adversity. While there were more tears than strictly necessary, and the animation is famously bad, it’s got heart.

  • The total spanking count in Harukana Receive goes to a total of three when Claire hits Kanata’s lower half, eliciting one of the most adorable squeals and reactions I’ve heard in a while. While earlier episodes gave the impression that this was going to be common, Harukana Receive has been remarkably disciplined with this. Notice here that the girls are wearing competition tops over their standard tops: frills would indeed make it difficult to keep them in place, and their bright colours makes it immediately apparent as to who’s who.

  • Haruka and Kanata run into Ai and Mai; Mai’s lost none of her edge and can provoke the normally easygoing Haruka, while Kanata and Ai end up being exasperated at their friends’ immaturity.  I’ve not read the documentation for Ai’s height as of yet, but she seems slightly taller than Haruka. Despite this, Haruka is never frustrated in her presence the same way she reacted to Marissa. By this point in time, Ai’s become a post-secondary student and is a referee: Haruka and Kanata are now in their final year of high school, as well.

  • Haruka and Kanata’s first match results in a victory, although because the specifics were not shown, it stands to reason that it was a fairly pitched battle. I will address one of the elephants in the room that has appeared in discussions elsewhere, and this is the near-total absence of men in Harukana Receive. Aside from Kanata and Haruka’s grandfather, who appears briefly without any speaking roles, male characters do not have any sort of presence in Harukana Receive. This is the polar opposite of a vast majority of first person shooters, which have traditionally had all-male casts and is, from what I gather, a major point of contention for the upcoming Battlefield V. I admit that, if Battlefield V has a customisation system sophisticated enough to let me play as Kanata, that would hilarious, since I would have a smaller hitbox.

  • While some folks of old would be tempted to wonder about population dynamics in Harukana Receive, I have a simpler explanation that does not involve ecology or anything of that sort. The absence of males in this series is probably an artistic choice, rather than a practical one. Strange it may be, it’s not impeded the narrative in any way as of yet, and so, I see no need to look at the population traits in Harukana Receive and then attempt to prove that it would not work in the real world using a modified version of Conway’s Game of Life. Males exist in the series, but simply aren’t present. Moving away from this topic, I have a feeling readers would enjoy this still of Claire: this should make up for the Claire screenshot shortfall I mentioned last time.

  • Kanna and Youna are sisters who have faced Claire and Emily previously. Walking into the competition with a chip on her shoulder, Kanna holds out a declaration of revenge that is tantamount to a glove slap. While Claire welcomes a good challenge, it turns out that Kanna and Youna are set to face Haruka and Kanata first. Haruka steps in and states that a shot at the Thomas sisters will necessarily entail going through them first. A part of the fun in Haruka’s personality is how quick she is to accept challenges, and her occasional immaturity, which makes her a more credible character.

  • One of the most amusing aspects about animation in Harukana Receive is the notion of level of detail, or LoD. In computer graphics, LoD refers to increasing or decreasing the complexity of geometry and shader detail depending on the camera’s distance to an object, and this is done to optimise resource usage: there is little point in rendering an object and then keeping it in memory if a user is not going to be looking at all the details. In Harukana Receive, details on the swimsuit bottoms have inconsistent levels of detail – Claire and Emily sport a colourful diamond pattern, and these seem to be properly rendered, but the stripes on Youna and Kanna’s swimsuits seem to change in weight and number depending on the scene.

  • Outside of the junior tournament, this is the first time we’ve seen Haurka and Kanata play together in the competition setting, and by this point in time, the advances the pair have made since their first game. While slow motion shots are still being used, they show the girls as having a much more dynamic range of motion, indicating that Haruka and Kanata are comfortable with utilising a wider range of techniques now to keep the game going.

  • It would prima facie seem that Ai and Mai put up a more impressive showing against Haruka and Kanata than do Kanna and Youna, but one must recall that Kanata and Haruka have progressed substantially since their participation in the junior tournament, at least reaching a level of skill such that they can win over other teams. At one point during their match, when facing Haruka, Kanna briefly sees herself taking on Claire; this visual indicator might also be seen as hinting to viewers that Haruka’s play-style has evolved into a bit of a hybrid between Claire’s and Kanata’s.

  • The teams that face Éclaire get schooled, and audiences are meant to think that Claire and Emily have no trouble with defeating local teams. This creates a sense of anticipation: while audiences have seen Claire and Emily play against Haruka and Kanata, the lack of a competition and the attendant emotional weight of the match means that we have yet to see Claire and Emily going all out. With Haruka and Kanata wanting to win to help Kanata fulfil her promise to Narumi as Harukana’s raison d’être, the series foreshadows that the match will be titanic in nature from an emotional standpoint (I personally feel that from an animation perspective, we will be treated to more of the same).

  • In the match’s final moments, Kanna manages to get a spike through that bests Haruka’s block. However, Haruka is not worried: as Kanata has promised, she will be there for Haruka whenever needed. Utilising the way of thinking picked up from their time spent training under Marissa, the two move as one, and Haruka sends the ball over the net, scoring the final point that wins Harukana the match. Owing to the focus on Haruka, I find that this match was depicted in detail to show how far Haruka has come since the earlier episodes.

  • I’ve heard that some folks wish for Kanata to get a bit more of the spotlight, as well; I imagine that Kanata’s growth is more related to interpersonal components rather than beach volleyball, and we’ll have a chance to see Kanata excel as she strives to fulfil her word to Narumi in the upcoming episodes. As a result, I now will explain the page quote: Infinity War is remarkably quotable, and today’s quote comes from a dialogue in the film after Stephen Strange uses the Time Stone to explore outcomes against Thanos, seeing only one among the fourteen million six hundred and five where they prevailed. It is logical, then, that all of the illogical decisions made for the remainder of Infinity War must be leading up to this one outcome. The number of outcomes in Harukana Receive are not quite as numerous, but because of how prominent Kanata’s promise is within the narrative, it is not difficult to see the outcome of the match between Éclaire and Harukana.

  • This post is very nearly in the books, and my schedule for the upcoming while is a bit clearer: I will be flying out once more for work in the first week of September. Consequently, I will be delayed in watching and writing about the tenth episode, which is one I look forwards to seeing. As I have done before, I will aim to publish a discussion for it before the weekend is over. Subsequently, I am likely to be able to write about episodes eleven and twelve as I have for the others. Harukana Receive‘s been an interesting ride for me in more ways than one – doing episodic reviews while flying around all over the place is not a trivial feat, and bloggers who can do so have earned my respect several times over.

  • The last screenshot I will feature for this post will be one that I’m certain readers will find aesthetically pleasing – this twentieth screenshot marks the end of the talk, and with it, the end of August, as well. Tomorrow, we will be entering September, and looking back, this summer’s disappeared in the blink of an eye. I would’ve wished it lasted longer, and that I had a few more lazy days to do nothing, but the flow of time is relentless. It suddenly strikes me that three quarters of Harukana Receive has aired, and that we are very nearly into the final quarter of 2018, as well.

With Haruka and Kanata facing the toughest opponents they’ve played since Narumi and Ayasa, where both Emily and Claire will be going in with nothing less than their best, the upcoming episode of Harukana Receive will be an intense one. While Haruka and Kanata have improved beyond recognition as a pair since the series started, Claire and Emily have the advantage of experience in their corner. They are not opponents to be taken lightly, and so, the tenth episode will likely see the onslaught that brings out the best in Haruka and Kanata. This is their story, after all, and as such, while it is clear that Kanata and Haruka will prevail, the path it takes to reach that point will be a difficult one. This is the only outcome that allows for the narrative to move on, to allow Kanata a shot at fulfilling her promise, and so, while the result is predictable, as with every slice-of-life anime before it, Harukana Receive‘s greatest strength is showing the process it took to get there. Even knowing in advance that Haruka and Kanata will have to best Claire and Emily to make this promise possible, what I look forwards to watching most will be just how intense of a match that will ensue in the upcoming episode. Showdowns between friends are powerful in fiction: to watch people who understand and know one another fight each other creates a highly suspenseful, thrilling moment that keeps audiences on the edge, especially if there is an emotional component as well. Well-known showdowns in fiction have been the subject of no small discussion: from Obi-Wan and Anakin fight on Mustafar, to Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes squaring off against Tony Stark, such moments have always been powerful from a cinematic experience, and so, with the stakes in Harukana Receive known, one has to wonder if something like beach volleyball can command the same level of anticipation from viewers.

I’ll Keep Our Promise: Harukana Receive Episode Eight Impressions and Review

Silent darkness creeps into your soul
And removes the light of self-control
The cave that holds you captive has no doors
Burnin’ with determination
To even up the score

—John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, Hearts on Fire

After introducing herself to Haruka, Marissa immediately sets about teaching Kanata and Haruka to approach beach volleyball as a synergy between two individuals. Through an exercise where the two are two receive her spikes, Marissa reminds Haruka and Kanata that even with a mastery of the fundamentals, the effectiveness of a team boils down to how well the two players can complement one another on the court, working together what a single player cannot do alone. With practise, Haruka and Kanata manage to receive one of Marissa’s spikes. The girls continue training under Marissa’s tutelage, and Akari receives training of her own. With Akari joining the beach volleyball club, their club is reinstated, as well. New Year’s is soon upon Okinawa, and the girls visit a temple, wishing for luck in the upcoming year and for success in their desire to play at the Nationals. Haruka learns from Ayasa that she and Narumi are on a layover in Okinawa, and prompt Kanata to drop by the airport before they check in. Barely making it to the airport, Kanata shouts out to Narumi that she has not forgotten their old promise to reach the Nationals, but that this time, she’ll be playing alongside Haruka. Narumi holds up her pinky, acknowledging their promise, before departing. Similar to the seventh episode, Harukana’s eighth episode is focused on slower-paced character development; training is punctuated by the ever-familiar reminder that in beach volleyball, the pair matters more than the individual, and Marissa’s remarks that a beach volleyball pair is, in her words, similar to a married couple reinforces the idea that there’s a closeness amongst partners that allow them to be strong where the other is weak, and support one another to the extent that two act as one. A glimpse of this is seen during their training: formidable Marissa’s spikes might be, Kanata and Haruka learn that together, they can act in ways that would be impossible alone, and moving ahead, can put their faith in one another with greater conviction than before.

Half of episode eight deals with training, and the other follows the girls pushing Kanata to reach Narumi on New Year’s Day. Prior to their sprint to the airport, the girls wish for the best in the upcoming year, draw fortunes and write their goals on an ema. These acts accentuate the similarities between Claire and Haruka, as well as Emily and Kanata. Claire and Haruka simultaneously desire to win the tournament and draw spectacular fortunes, while Emily and Kanata pray for safety and draw moderate luck for the new year. Akari, still the newcomer, draws terrible luck, and earlier, while the girls share their wishes, remarks that there are many similarities within the group, as well. Akari’s fitting in quite well, but her presence does seem to have a lonelier feel to it: Haruka is partnered with Kanata and gets along with Claire like peas in a pod, while Emily plays her best beach volleyball with Claire and is on the same plane as Kanata. As Harukana Receive continues, one hopes that Akari will find her place in the sun amongst the closely-knit beach volleyball club, but in the meantime, she’s still a part of a larger group, and when Haruka learns that Narumi is at the airport, Akari motivates Kanata to go meet her before she and Ayasa leave, mentioning that beach volleyball and its potential to bring people together is what led Kanata to approach her. Being a new member, Akari is able to see things from a new perspective and reiterate things to the others, which gives everyone the motivation they need to go see Narumi off, and ultimately, Kanata is able to communicate to Narumi that their promise is still on.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’m not too sure how many more weeks remain on my current project, so it will be the case that there will be at least half of the remaining Harukana Receive posts that do not come out on the same day as the episode. With this being said, I will still aim to make these posts of a passable quality. Haruka is shocked to encounter someone taller than herself; eyeballing the image puts Marissa as being around 5’11 or so (180 cm): she hugs Haruka as a way of greetings here. Envy soon turns to relaxation, and Haruka enjoys the moment. Marissa addresses Akari by her nickname, and Akari immediately works out that it must’ve been Claire who’d made things this way.

  • I imagine that readers have grown accustomed to fanservice in my Harukana Receive posts, but seeing as the eighth episode is remarkably restrained on this, save for when Marissa pulls off her sweater ahead of training. To offset this, I figured that I will offer fanservice in another form for folks who read through the figure captions in full. Seeing Marissa’s abs elicits a sense of joy in Akari, who immediately longs to know Marissa’s “secrets” in keeping fit. However, there is no real secret: maintaining the discipline and will to constantly train is about all there is to it.

  • Up until now, spikes in Harukana Receive have been depicted normally, with motion lines and blur. To set Marissa’s spikes apart from the others, and to emphasise the differences between the girls’ capabilities and that of an experienced player, Marissa’s spikes leave a glowing trail behind them. They are fast enough so that Haruka and Kanata cannot even begin reacting to them. Harukana Receive presents the physical elements to a much lesser extent than the mental aspects; sports anime would typically depict both the mental and physical aspects in equal measure, so seeing Harukana Receive focusing on psychological aspects reinforces the idea that from the audience’s perspective, little is to be gained by considering the technical elements.

  • The point of this exercise, as it turns out, is to get a pair used to playing with one another: even when faced with what appears with overwhelming force, what allows a pair to succeed is communication and trust between the two partners. With their objectives better characterised, Haruka positions herself up front, with the aim of slowing the ball down to a point where Kanata may receive it. Once the girls know what needs to be done, the rest is a matter of improving on technique, and after several more attempts, they manage to succeed in sending the spike into the air, in preparation to be returned.

  • Marissa remarks that the closeness amongst two members of a pair is not so different than being married: in her words, “pairing with a partner is like getting married, in a way“. Her words here makes the distinction of saying that beach volleyball pairs are similar to rather than being equivalent to a married couple; I’ve received feedback here that I’ve not been adequately acknowledging yuri in Harukana Receive. The reason for this is that I have nothing substantial to say about yuri, in the sense that even if I were to mention it, there’s very little I can do with it beyond making Thor Ragnarok-style jokes about it: I don’t think that I could properly tie it with the narrative, relate it to contemporary Japanese social norms or its significance in modern Japanese literature. It would be discourteous to readers to pretend that I know more than I do, so I shan’t step into that realm.

  • Marissa’s words are those of a professional’s: the whole point of sport is working as a team, and whether or not a team has two members active on the court, or eleven on the field, the same basic concepts hold true. Working together to create space, close distances, make opportunities and ultimately, score points, seeing good teamwork in sport is very inspiring. For instance, in a hockey game, players on a team truly playing together will skate and position themselves to create good plays. Such teams will clearly have the initiative, and I’ve found that a team whose players are constantly moving about while on the offensive is much more likely to win a game than the team whose players are stationary.

  • Even when they were younger, Claire still retained a very cheerful and optimistic outlook, while Emily was much more reserved and prone to worry. Following their defeat at the hands of Kanata and Narumi, Claire and Emily would befriend one another and train together. Lessons about defeat and failure in the realm of sports very much apply to life: a critical skill is being able to lose or fail gracefully. This ultimately boils down to accepting that there will be another opportunity, that what transpired is valuable experience, and that the world is quite large.

  • Humility is perhaps the most valuable lesson to be learned from losing: the very best accept that they aren’t the best, and simply strive to keep learning and pushing their limitations. These people are less worried about winning and glory, and more concerned with finding their best, understanding that their best is the consequence of cooperating with the best. Humility applies to every discipline, including software developers. I am well aware of my limitations (for one, my mathematical background and theory of algorithms are very weak) and so, appreciate the fact that in software development, there is an opportunity to work with people who are both more experienced and with different backgrounds than my own, since that helps me learn.

  • In between their training, the girls share a moment together at the same ice cream shop that Haruka and Kanata visited after their first time playing together earlier in the season. Eight episodes into Harukana Receive, I’ve yet to see a rainy day in the anime: Okinawa’s rainy season runs from early May to June, but the rainfall is intermittent, and for the most part, weather in the summer is very pleasant. This stands in stark contrast with the weather back home: Calgary has broken a record for the number of smokey hours on account of the forest fires raging in British Columbia. It’s been smokey for the whole of August so far, and this has done a number on my lungs.

  • While I had originally anticipated the episode to have focused on training, it turns out that only half the episode is really about training. However, there is indeed a training montage in this episode; despite lacking the emotional intensity of Rocky’s training in preparation for his match with Ivan Drago, the fact that a montage is present shows that the girls are indeed preparing for their efforts to enter the Valkyrie Cup. The girls exercise and practise together, and Kanata drills Haruka on theory, as well as hand signals. Downtime is also shown, along with the girls moving through their school year.

  • As a consequence, it was appropriate to feature an opening quote sourced from Rocky IV‘s Hearts on Fire, one of my favourite training songs of all time. Montages are typically used to condense a process such that moments relevant to the narrative can be shown in greater detail: the whole point of the final stages of Rocky IV was to show Rocky’s grit and determination against a grim, seemingly indestructible opponent, and so, the training leading up to this was placed into a montage to remind audiences that coming into this fight, Rocky has prepared to the best of his ability, while at the same time, showing that his opponent also enters the fight with the intent of destroying Rocky. Harukana Receive only shows things from one perspective, and while their training montage is much more relaxed, audiences should similarly gain the impression that Haruka and Kanata improve under Marissa’s coaching.

  • While the others are much more conservative in their dress style, Claire is bold and chooses apparel that leads her to stand out in a crowd. Time flies, and it is January now. However, going purely from the screenshots alone, one could not make this assessment: January temperatures in Okinawa average around 17°C, which is roughly the average temperature of a September day back home. It suddenly strikes me that I give all of my units in metric here on this blog: to my readers from the United States, I must apologise: I grew up with the metric system, and measure almost everything in metric, except for height and weight, for which I use the Imperial system. I am reminded of this because in the past few days, speaking with folks from the United States, I gave temperatures in Celsius, resulting in confusion.

  • In Cantonese, 凶 (jyutping hung1) is pronounced the same as 空 (the kanji in Haruka’s family name), lending itself to another phonetic joke with Haruka’s name. 凶 (Kyō) translates to misfortune in Japanese, similarly to its meaning in Chinese, and it is a common joke for people to receive these during the New Year at a shrine. Emily reassures Akari that this means things can only look up, and while other series often have a cruel laugh at the expense of the characters who receive 凶, Harukana Receive spares Akari, who recovers her spirits and buys an ema for everyone to write their wishes onto.

  • While her swimsuit might not show otherwise with its frilly design, it’s clear that Akari’s figure is “いいスタイル”. “Style” is one of the false friends in Japanese, and while we tend to refer to a good style as something with good aesthetics, whether it be UIs or the design of a building, in Japanese, “style” is synonymous with being sexy. It is always a thrill to read about false friends, which occur when two similar-looking or sounding words have completely different meanings. The incorporation of English into Japanese (Wasei-eigo) has resulted in some interesting false friends, and to the best of my knowledge, false friends in English and Chinese are rare owing to the differences of origin between the two languages: I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

  • When Haruka receives a phone call from Ayasa, and attempts to encourage Kanata to hit the airport so they may see her off, Kanata initially hesitates. Akari steps up to the plate and convinces Kanata otherwise, and Marissa shows up to give everyone a ride to the airport. With its distinct red roof, Haruka and her friends visit the Naminoue Shrine to pray for success in their upcoming year; overlooking Naminoue beach, Naminoue Shrine was founded in 1890 and is counted as the main shrine of the Naha prefecture. It was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa and underwent reconstruction in 1953, with new buildings constructed in 1993.

  • Marissa’s driving is nail-bitingly dangerous; having grown up with her driving, Claire and Emily brace themselves for a ride that leaves Haruka, Kanata and Akari frightened. A glance at Marissa’s route shows that she takes the long way around: after getting stuck in a traffic jam besides a Eneos gas station along Prefectural Route 221 (Emcos in the anime), the girls decide to leg it to the airport. It’s a 4.0 kilometer distance in total, and one could jog the distance in within half an hour if they were in reasonable shape (8 km/h is the average jogging speed, and 13 km/h is the average running speed; the girls are above-average in fitness, so they likely run more quickly than this): the girls are shown running underneath the monorail track as they close in on the airport, indicating that they did not make use of the Okinawa Monorail system.

  • I would suppose that taking the monorail would be rather less dramatic and diminish the emotional intensity of the moment: that Kanata and the others choose to run to the airport, spurred on by their desire to get their feelings across, intentionally shows the strength of how Kanata feels about her promise to Narumi. As well, Haruka and the others also feel strongly about supporting Kanata, to be running with her all this way. For folks wondering how I worked out the locations, the process was simple: once I found Naminoue Shrine, I looked at the bridges over the Kokuba River that could lead to Nara Airport. Using the bridge Kanata is seen running along, I looked over the bridges crossing the river and concluded that Prefectural Road 221 running over the river was most similar to what we saw in Harukana Receive. From there, it was a matter of tracing the path of least resistance between the Eneos gas station and the airport.

  • Kanata cuts it very close, managing to catch Narumi and Ayasa just as they prepare to cross over. Here, Kanata shouts out that she’s never forgotten their promise to her. In a tense moment, it looks as though Narumi dismisses Kanata, but mere seconds later, Narumi wordlessly holds her pinkie up, indicating that she’s heard Kanata and recalls their promise. Narumi’s never been particularly great with communication, and this is one of the reasons that led to the miscommunication between her and Kanata.

  • It is therefore expected that as Harukana Receive reaches its conclusion, the tension between Narumi and Kanata will be resolved: beach volleyball bringing people together does seem to be a strong contender for the anime’s main theme, and I cannot imagine a more suitable ending for Harukana Receive than having a proper, heart-to-heart reconciliation at the series’ end. For the present, however, Ayasa and Narumi depart, and the upshot of this is that we’ve now seen a more confident, determined Kanata. She is able to seize the opportunity with encouragement and reach out to Narumi once more.

  • This simple gesture shows a change in Kanata, and while Haruka might have been responsible for setting about the start of this change, it is really the culmination of everyone’s support that makes a difference. On the whole, it feels that Kanata is more of the central character in Harukana Receive: compared to her at the beginning of the anime, Kanata is regaining her courage and resolve. By comparison, Haruka may be improving in beach volleyball, but her cheerful, happy-go-lucky demeanour has remained largely unchanged since the series’ beginning. Now that I’m back from Denver, and with this post in the books, I will be around in the upcoming week to write about the ninth episode in a more timely fashion.

With two-thirds of Harukana Receive in the books, the general atmosphere and modus operandi in Harukana Receive has been strongly established by this point, and it appears that this series is ultimately going to focus on the journey that Kanata takes towards fulfilling her promise to Narumi, working together with Haruka and along the way, sharing in the small but memorable moments of life as a team. The overarching theme of Harukana Receive thus begins to make itself known here: promises are often a central part of the story in many works of fiction, and while circumstances might shift, the worth of a promise is only as valuable as one’s ability to follow through and act on their promises. Keeping one’s word is not always easy, especially if one is going it alone, and so, with Haruka, Emily, Claire and Akari in her corner, Kanata begins to discover her place in the sun again through beach volleyball, which has been stated in several instances, to be something that brings people together. With friends encouraging her and supporting her at each turn, Kanata’s confidence and resolve will strengthen as Harukana Receive gears up towards the ending; I anticipate that, par the course for standard Manga Time Kirara works, audiences will be treated to an ending with a strong payoff. However obvious the outcome of Harukana Receive is, the journey it takes to reach this point will be Harukana Receive‘s strength, as it has been for other series of its lineage, and it will be quite exciting to see what milestones and discoveries await Kanata and Haruka as they push towards the Valkyrie Cup.

We’re Already Friends: Harukana Receive Episode Seven Impressions and Review

“All right, kid, you’re an Avenger now.” —Tony Stark to Peter Parker, Avengers: Infinity War

Akari Ōshiro speaks with Kanata, expressing an interest to bolster her renown by becoming a beach volleyball idol. However, when she fails to recruit Claire or Emily into becoming her partner, she decides not to join the beach volleyball club. Leaving hastily, Akari leaves her bag behind; Haruka and Kanata make to return the bag, and running into Akari’s classmates, learns that Akari is a minor celebrity of sorts, having appeared in televised commercials previously, and does not have any friends. They decide to befriend her, and during lunch, Haruka and Kanata manage to convince her to partake in a contest where, if Akari should lose, she will join the beach volleyball club. Their match is simple: Akari must score a single point against Kanata in seven spikes. However, Kanata reads each of Akari’s moves, and all thoughts of the outcome forgotten, Akari persists on. As evening sets in, Akari admits defeat, and Claire gratefully receives Akari’s completed application form. When speaking with Haruka and Kanata, Akari is happy to have befriended the pair and expresses that she’s enjoying her time spent with them. Later, the girls run into Marissa, Claire and Emily’s mother, setting up the court. With the seventh episode in the books, Harukana Receive resolves the mystery of who Akari is: she’s not a coach, or a senior, but rather, a minor celebrity with a love of performance and, similar to A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Yuzuki Shiraishi, has an entertainment background. Her addition into Harukana Receive initially seems to be for the purpose of rounding out the beach volleyball club, but the episode shows that her tsundere personality also adds new dynamics into the club, which had hitherto been composed of two pairs of individuals that get along quite well.

In this week’s Harukana Receive episode, beach volleyball takes a backseat to character development: whereas the previous two episodes were high-excitement that drew in viewers for the sport, this seventh episode slows the pacing down and spends time introducing a new character, Akari, who had previously appeared in the background. Her role is established to be a first year with an interest in beach volleyball for glory, and while her match with Kanata shows that she’s a novice in beach volleyball, her experience in entertainment looks to make her a bit of a manager for the club. Haruka outright remarks that this is the case, and while her character seems quite unnecessary, many slice-of-life series seem to feature five characters. The reason for this is precisely because with four individuals, the two pairs often share sufficiently compatible personalities that allow them to get along with one another. This creates an equilibrium that would be quite uninteresting to watch as a series progresses: the strength of fiction lies in disruption, specifically, the series of events that follow disruption, and as such, a fifth character, whose personality stands out from the other characters, adds panache to group dynamics. Much like how Karen Kujō of Kiniro Mosaic and Cocoa Hoto of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? are considered to be “disturbers of the peace”, Akari appears to be fulfilling that role for Harukana Receive. At five characters for shows like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Kiniro Mosaic, the odd individual out has a very versatile role in creating new interactions with existing members of a group. Akari stands out with her fixation on idols and tsundere personality, so the status quo of Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily training together for the Valkyrie Cup tournament is now disrupted as a new group member enters the party, and so, while Akari’s presence appears extraneous now, it will be interesting to see what sort of role she plays in upcoming episodes of Harukana Receive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’m coming out of a longer workday (eight-thirty start, finished officially at seven at night), which is why this post is going to be a little shorter than average – the episode opened with a very Wake Up, Girls!-like performance, complete with subpar CGI effects, although this moment is short-lived, giving way to the revelation that it’s a part of Akari Ōshiro’s imagination. As it turns out, she’s not a coach or scout, but is a first-year student with acting experience, having appeared in a television commercial. Here, she speaks with Kanata about her desire to become more popular by excelling in beach volleyball.

  • There has been a deficit of Claire screenshots around here as of late, so I’ll rectify this with a still of Claire massaging her leg after overextending it during stretches; she had previously seen Kanata with Akari and in a fit of surprises, stretches a bit too far. With this close up, it is shown that Claire wears her watch on her right arm (and so does Emily) – most people who wear their watches on their right hand are left-handed, but I appear to be the exception. It’s actually a bit of a bad habit that stems from primary school, where I found it cool. The watch does not particularly impede my ability to write, and so, I stuck with it; in present day, I feel very uncomfortable wearing a watch on my left hand despite being right-handed and find it difficult to put a watch on if it’s on my left hand.

  • As it turns out, Akari is here to join the beach volleyball club, having seen what Claire, Emily, Ayasa and Narumi can do on the courts (and the subsequent media coverage they’ve been getting). Because she’s looking for what amounts to a shortcut to the top, she asks one of Emily or Claire to be her partner, but both turn her down: for all of their differences, Claire and Emily greatly respect one another as partners and trust the other enough so that they perform their best when together. The closeness between two members of a pair are a core component of Harukana Receive, and as such, it should not be surprising that members in a pair are adamant about playing with the partner that they know best.

  • The importance of teamwork is essential in all walks of life, and there are very few occupations or disciplines where teamwork is not required. The pair is the most basic unit of cooperation, bringing back memories of my old multi-agent systems course: in a multi-agent system, cooperation is tightly defined as the break down and assignment of tasks in an organisation (really, a group of agents), as well as the reassembly of tasks into a result or solution. Such formalised definitions can be generalised to almost anything, even beach volleyball: both players (the agents) break down their tasks (offense and defense, to abstract things out) and cooperate with the goal of scoring points (the solution).

  • Of course, since this is not a post on multi-agent systems, I’ll leave the definitions at that and return to Harukana Receive, where a disappointed Akari runs off, leaving Claire disappointed in equal measure – having long felt that the beach volleyball club can be revived purely on her and Emily’s performance, Claire strives to bring the club back even as Emily disagrees, maintaining that rules are rules.

  • While trying to find Akari such that they may return her bag, Kanata and Haruka run into classmates, who reveal that Akari is a minor celebrity best known for her role in a waku waku shekazāru (わくわくシェカザール, lit. “exciting shequasar”) commercial for a citrus drink. As it turns out, Akari and Yuzuki of A Place Further Than The Universe are not so different, being involved in acting and performances that they’ve not made many friends. Like Komari, Hinata and Shirase do for Yuzuki, Haruka and Kanata take the first steps in breaking the ice with Akari. If we suppose that A Place Further Than The Universe sets the precedence, then what will follow is a powerful friendship.

  • Haruka becomes mildly irritated that Kanata’s bringing up Narumi, expressing it as an annoyance one might encounter whenever conversation is steered towards an ex, and proceeds to blow in Kanata’s ear, resulting in Kanata’s first funny face in the series (mirroring Haruka’s earlier squeal when touched in the sides). Interpretations of the action vary greatly (some count it as being used to ask a favour, for example), but the commonly accepted interpretation of this action paints it as a flirtatious one because of the ears’ sensitivity to touch. I can’t think of any reasons why this characteristic exists from an evolutionary standpoint, but the fact is that there are many nerve endings here – flow of the air from vents over the ears, for example, causes a chill in me and I shiver involuntarily as a result.

  • The synchronous nature of Haruka and Kanata’s actions indicate how close they’ve become since Harukana Receive started, and here, they try to persuade a reluctant Akari to become friends. The play of lighting in this scene, although simple, is clever and effective; it shows Akari in the darkness, and Haruka and Kanata in the light, reflecting on how Akari is alone and knows not the warmth of friendship. After Haruka and Kanata manage to provoke Akari into a competition (with Kanata using her short height to anger Akari), the pair leave.

  • Evidently concerned about her skin, Akari puts on a copious amount of sunscreen. Despite appearing to fill out her swimsuit bottom well enough to avoid running into the same issue that plagued Haruka earlier, Akari’s swimsuit does not conform with the suggestion Emily offered to Haruka earlier about swimsuit selection – it would be hard to pin a number to her for competition because of the frills. This is an indicator that Akari likely will not be participating in beach volleyball in a competitive capacity. I also turn to folks more versed with fashion design and the like to explain what the point of the garter on Akari’s left thigh is about.

  • It is a bit of a surprise to look at the calendar and realise that we’ve just passed the halfway point to August: the entire month has been running by at a quick pace, and so, while I find that Harukana Receive might have lost an episode to exposition in place of seeing Haruka and Kanata train more seriously ahead of the Valkyrie Cup tournament, a part of me is also glad that we’ve gotten a bit of a break in things, to slow things down in an episode where there is nothing at stake beyond the possibility for Claire to reform the beach volleyball club.

  • Claire and Haruka act as referees to this match, where it pits Kanata in a one-on-one against Akari. The emotional tenour of the moment is such that one cannot help but wonder if Akari’s got any tricks up her sleeves (from a strictly metaphorical sense, of course). Emily outlines the rules for this competition: if Akari can score on one of seven spikes, she’ll have won, otherwise, she will agree to join the beach volleyball club as stipulated earlier. I personally find a world where conflicts were settled with sports, rather than bullets, would be much preferred.

  • It soon becomes clear that Akari is a n00b, and many of her spikes result in her putting the ball out, or hitting the net. Kanata calmly and methodically plays, reading Akari well enough to wait out poor shots and stopping the shots that go over without much effort. Claire remarks that Kanata once trained with the best, and that here, Akari’s own inexperience is the reason for the outcome as much as Kanata’s skill is. In spite of this, Akari is undeterred and decides to keep going well beyond the allotted seven attempts until exhaustion sets in.

  • When one trains in something or has worked with something for a long period of time, they often forget how far they’ve come over that time period, and what was once a struggle at the beginning now appears trivally straightforward. This is the gap between a beginner and a veteran: constantly working on and using fundamentals means that things that beginners must consciously remember come instinctively to people who are more experienced. However, there is a flipside in that bad habits can also accompany reflex; it is this reason that in my dōjō, we drill on basic techniques to make sure that the fundamentals are in good shape, and why teaching is encouraged, as it forces one to really think about what they are doing. The same holds true in software development: in providing instructions to beginners, I am forced to consider why I write code and organise my programs the way that I do.

  • It is rare that Emily smiles, so I’ve figured that it would be a good opportunity to expend one of my screenshots to showcase such a moment. While I may take exception to the opening of this episode and the low-quality animation that C2C had utilised here, the remainder of Harukana Receive‘s seventh episode is of the same visual fidelity as the other episodes in the season. C2C was established in 2006 and has a total of seven works under its belt, including Harukana Receive. Four of C2C’s titles were co-produced with another studio, and Harukana Receive is the first time C2C has produced a series on their own since 2014’s Onee-chan ga Kita (which looks to be outside the realm of my interest and is something readers will have to work to convince me to check out).

  • In series such as Harukana Receive, animosities and ill-will is very quickly displaced with friendship and camaraderie; even the cold and aloof Akari is not immune to this, and she admits to Haruka that she enjoyed their afternoon. Akari’s well-proportioned, and although her aspirations to play beach volleyball in a competitive manner appear to wrap up here, one hopes that we will get to see her train alongside Haruka and the others.

  • In accepting Haruka’s invitation of friendship and joining the beach volleyball club officially, Akari formally becomes a member of the main cast, and with this episode, everyone is now introduced. This is what motivates the page quote, which is sourced from Avengers: Infinity War, when Tony Stark officially marks Peter Parker as a member of the Avengers after he helps defeat the Maw using a trick from Alien. Similarly, Akari is now formally a member of the beach volleyball club, and at this point, I do not expect there to be any more new characters in the foreseeable future, meaning that focus can go towards depicting both the journey to the Valkyrie Cup and the various (mis)adventures that Haruka, Kanata, Claire, Emily and Akari find themselves in on this journey.

  • Claire’s ability to conjure up an application form to the beach volleyball club out of nowhere is a bit of a running joke in this episode of Harukana Receive, and while perhaps nowhere near as hilarious as Rocket Raccoon’s propensity to collect random body parts, such as some random guy’s eye from Contraxia, or Drax The Destroyer’s various jokes, the presence of humour in Harukana Receive is ultimately meant to remind viewers that life is a balance between the serious and light-hearted. In the week after Ai and Mai were defeated, and then Haruka and Kanata lost in their second round, the all-business conversation surrounding Kanata’s pokies evaporated.

  • So, with Akari opening up to Haruka and Kanata, Akari’s introduction to Harukana Receive is finished. I feel that with her background and aspirations to be an idol, she feels out of place in something like Harukana Receive, but ultimately, like every slice-of-life anime featuring five main characters, characters are present for a reason, and so, it would be unwise to quickly dismiss Akari’s role in the beach volleyball club. In this case, one wonders what Akari will do as manager for the team.

  • Claire’s stock for me has risen rapidly, and I would count her as tied with Haruka as my favourite character in Harukana Receive at the time of writing now. She’s shown to be a bold, “flaunt it if you got it” type of person, standing in even sharper contrast with the more conservative and reserved Emily here as the girls are out and about on Okinawa.

  • At episode’s end, Marissa shows up, to Emily and Claire’s surprise. It would appear, then, that the training is about to get real next week, which means that in my quest to feature random, irreverant quotes for Harukana Receive, I might go with lyrics from a training montage song of some sort for that particular talk. Here I note that I am going to be unavoidably delayed in getting out a talk for the eighth episode on account of work-related matters. As I have done previously, I will make an effort to get that post out for the Sunday instead.

I imagine that by this point in time, all of the major characters that need to be introduced are finally present: this is somewhat unusual, since most slice-of-life anime introduce all of their characters by the third episode so that their dynamics can be utilised to drive the narrative forward. In Harukana Receive, however, it’s taken seven episodes to fully assemble Urama High School’s beach volleyball team. The outcome might be the same, that there’s a cast of five central characters, but the different route in Harukana Receive shows is intentionally so: this has allowed Harukana Receive to focus on the pairs in beach volleyball, in particular, Haruka and Kanata, whose time together has allowed Haruka to continue discovering her joy for the sport and for Kanata to regain confidence. This latest episode is particularly telling in that Haruka remarks that the best way to get to know someone is to play a sport with them, and that she’s had fun each and every time. It takes different people to bring out one’s best, and as Harukana Receive continues on, it is expected that with Marissa’s appearance, Haruka and Kanata will get to know one another better as players, friends and cousins when they are put through their paces by one of the best beach volleyball trainers around.

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

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

Finn and Jake, Adventure Time

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until You Break: Harukana Receive Episode Five Impressions and Review

“I must break you.” —Ivan Drago, Rocky IV

Haruka and Kanata participate in the junior volleyball tournament, where they find that their first match is to be against Mai and Ai, who Haruka had run into earlier while shopping for their swimsuits. The first set begins with Mai making mistakes that Haruka and Kanata take advantage of: between this and Kanata’s tactics, Haruka and Kanata take an early lead and win the first set. However, upon realising Kanata’s intents, Mai and Ai strike back in the second set, taking the lead. Kanata asks Haruka to put her faith in her as they fall further behind in this set. Meanwhile, after defeating their opponents, Claire and Emily decide to watch Haruka and Kanata’s first match, where Emily wonders why Kanata’s pokies have such a poor form. Harukana Receive‘s fifth episode marks a return to beach volleyball, with the narrative moving to the point where Haruka and Kanata have practised sufficiently to the point where they feel confident in participating in the junior tournament: quite some time has advanced, and while things may have progressed very quickly during the previous episode, this episode’s focus on beach volleyball means that progression slows down as details behind a match are shown. Harukana Receive makes exclusive use of slow motion and close up shots, forgoing more dynamic camera angles from a distance to show the intensity of matches. Slow motion and close shots are generally used for emphasis, so when all of the angles are done in this manner, the weight of individual plays are diminished, and the pacing of the sport is lost: this would have been understandable with early practise matches, when Haruka and Kanata were getting into the swing of things, but to slow down a tournament match means that advances in Haruka and Kanata’s skill cannot easily be seen. This advancement is central to Harukana Receive, so the anime’s decision to predominantly use slow motion diminishes its ability to visually express the progress that Haruka and Kanata have made.

The focus of episode five is Mai and Ai, two indoors players who have a different background and reason for participating in a tournament. As it turns out, Ai invited Mai to play volleyball previously, stating that it was a sport where shorter people could still prove their great worth. However, during a competition, her school’s team was eliminated, leaving Mai heartbroken and Ai determined to show that Mai could do well in volleyball despite her height. In offering backstory for Mai and Ai, their motivations for playing beach volleyball are also shown, emphasising to viewers that every team in the competition have their own reasons for being here; consequently, each match will be an uphill battle demanding each team’s best. This approach is a staple of anime, intending to create an emotional connection so audiences can see what drives everyone. For Harukana Receive, past defeats and failures become things that lead individuals to want to redeem themselves; Ai is fighting to prove that volleyball can be for everyone, and Mai similarly wants to win with the aim of proving that she can do so. Having said this, anime with high school aged characters tend to end up dramatising the characters’ raison d’être to really convey this message, although with a liberal application of more light-hearted moments, Harukana Receive does not come across as a series that takes things too seriously. Striking this balance allows Harukana Receive to tell an engaging story without the characters coming across as being stiff or unrealistic: the humour aspects, such as the shocked expressions following Mai’s failed spike, or the rivalry between Haruka and Mai, add dimensionality to the characters.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If one were to book a flight to Okinawa, and walk the beaches of Nishikawa Kirakira beach, they would find that Harukana Receive does indeed faithfully reproduce the landscape around the area: in Google Maps, beach volleyball nets are set up by the beach resort building, just as audiences see in Harukana Receive. This beach is located some forty minutes south of where Haruka and Kanata live, and thanks to the anime using the park’s real name, I had no difficulty in locating this spot.

  • The rivalry brewing between Haruka and Mai is a hilarious one: Haruka has not yet gotten over Mai buying the swimsuit she’d been eyeing, and Mai is salty about how tall Haruka is. Upon meeting, Mai pokes her finger into Haruka’s side, resulting in a hilarious moment that my screenshots won’t be able to capture: one needs sound to fully enjoy Haruka’s reaction. There’s a bit of a firework that goes off in this moment, and I leave it to readers to make of that what they will.

  • Ai is more mature and more of a sportsman, asking Mai to settle things on the court. Ai and Kanata shake hands, intending to have a good match, but the more immature Mai and Haruka glare daggers at one another. From this screenshot, Ai is slightly taller than Haruka is, and with the two playing a more substantial role in Harukana Receive, it’s a good as a time as any to note that Mai is voiced by Riko Koike, while Ai is voiced by Akari Kitō, two voice actresses I am not familiar with.

  • Every beach volleyball pair in Harukana is referred to by their portmanteau name. The series takes its name from Haruka and Kanata’s names, while Ayasa and Narumi are known as Naruaya. Emily and Claire become éclair, while Ai and Mai are Aimai. At this point in Harukana Receive, there are enough teams so that it makes sense to refer to them by their team name, rather than typing out both members’ names every time. I will begin using this convention from this point on for brevity.

  • The beach resort building is visible here: with the match between Harukana and Aimai under way, the first bit is characterised by a bit of friendly fire: in her haste to school Haruka, Mai sends the ball directly into the net, and with several mistakes, Harukana take an early lead. However, it’s little consolation for Haruka, who is reeling from the near-miss of having the ball smoke her in the face.

  • Kanata explains to Haruka that Aimai are indoors players; we briefly recall that outside, players must also compensate for wind, so Kanata feels that they might be able to capitalise on Aimai’s reduced exposure to outdoors beach volleyball and play to their strengths. However, by targeting Mai, Kanata’s own doubts remain with her. This particular limitation is something that Kanata will journey towards rectifying, and for now, its effects do have an impact on how Harukana plays.

  • Because they are still a novice team overall, Harukana plays a very unique brand of beach volleyball that throws off Aimai’s rhythm. This phenomenon, more commonly known as “Beginner’s Luck”, manifests because new players have not discovered their own tactics or approaches yet. By being open towards trying anything, they might employ strategies or methods that seem contrary to expectation, surprising experts. Beginner’s Luck is definitely a thing in things like Battlefield or board games: players unfamiliar with something with likely look for local optima in their choices that seem illogical to experienced players, and do things that are unexpected.

  • The mental aspects of beach volleyball come into play in the fifth episode. Having fallen into a bit of a hole, Aimai are unperturbed and regroup, doing their best to continue keeping up with the early successes that Harukana enjoys. Over time, Mai begins picking up on Kanata’s strategy, which she claims is obvious, and once the first set draws to a close, Harukana are pleased to be performing moderately well.

  • I’ve seen discussions elsewhere on Harukana Receive, and they differ radically from my own, covering a variety of different topics and areas. Athletes and sports fans tend to talk about the sport aspects of the anime, while others deal predominantly with the interactions amongst the characters, and here, I deal with random, various topics for fun. For the technical details surrounding beach volleyball, I am not particularly familiar with the sport to decide for myself as to whether or not Harukana is making the right play on the court: ice hockey with NHL rules is the sport I am the most comfortable talking about, although I highly doubt we’ll have an anime about the NHL any time soon.

  • It would seem that enough time has passed between episodes four and five so that Emily and Claire have both found a swimsuit that they can agree with. When their match begins, it is played with such intensity and control that team Éclair draw a sizeable audience watching them. Their experience and skill are so that their opponents are obliterated very quickly, and Kanata later reveals that Éclair placed second nationally, presumably losing out the top spot to Naruaya. Personally, a duel between titans is always fun to watch, although given where Harukana Receive is going, I do not imagine audiences will have a chance to see the ultimate match between the best.

  • Mai is quick to warn Harukana that her objective is nothing short of breaking them completely, prompting the page quote, which is sourced from Rocky IV. This line is very famous: Mai is almost certainly using it to mean that she and Ai will utterly defeat Harukana to the point of making them quit, while Drago is making it clear to Rocky that he has no intention of losing and will win even if it means destroying Rocky. Because he speaks so rarely in Rocky IV, every syllable that Drago says is meant to carry great weight; all nine of Drago’s spoken lines in Rocky IV have become well-known in their own regard.

  • My personal favourite Drago line is “If he dies, he dies”. I doubt there will be a chance to use that in Harukana Receive, and back in the episode, during a break between sets, Haruka wishes that her timing would be more on point, but Kanata reassures her that her performance is improving. Kanata is evidently familiar with beach volleyball, and beyond her concerns about being short, retains a considerable amount of skill and coaching capacity: she knows how to encourage and pick up others, as well as regrouping in the face of setbacks and demonstrating sportsmanship.

  • It turns out that the reason why Mai and Ai are set on winning is to right their losses from earlier. Ai had recruited Mai to play volleyball on the promise that skill, rather than height, made a difference, and after they’d lost to a team of taller players, Mai was devastated. Ai feels responsible for this loss, having convinced Mai to try anyways. This raison d’être comes across as being a bit superficial, but the strength of their conviction also seems to suggest that Aimai’s loss happened recently.

  • While slow motion shots cannot capture the pacing of beach volleyball as effectively as real-time shots do, one advantage is that there is reduced motion blur, which in turn makes it much easier to watch the beach volleyball sequences and capture screenshots for them. One challenge of writing for Harukana Receive is that there are many screenshots that I could potentially include in a post, but to keep things from becoming longer than necessary, I force myself to stick with twenty screenshots per post.

  • By set two, Kanata’s returning balls with nothing but pokies, befuddling Aimai. Harukana takes a hit on the scoreboard for it, but with Mai angrily declaring that she’ll stop Harukana at every turn, there might be more reason to why Kanata has adopted this play-style. We recall that reading an opponent is a part of beach volleyball, like in any other sport; because Mai is so easily flustered, Kanata might be goading her in some way, setting up for a stronger finish in the final set.

  • If this is to hold true, then Kanata is also doing a pretty good job of concealing her aims: lending credence to this supposition is that she asks Haruka to trust her. As the episode draws to a close, it’s true that Harukana are trailing to Aimai, but the set does not appear to be over yet. This marks the first time we’ve seen a clear indicator of a continuation in Harukana Receive, showing that things are getting knocked up a notch.

  • After their match, Claire and Emily shake hands with their opponents and head off to watch Haruka and Kanata with their game. A handshake and a smile is the strongest way to lose gracefully, and I generally count myself a good sport, being able to win and lose gracefully. One must always be ready to work hard for a win, but the fact is that winning all of the time is simply not possible. As such, losses, with their attendant lessons, can make us stronger and wiser.

  • Akari Ōshiro is seen making several appearances in Harukana Receive‘s fifth episode. Her precise role in Harukana Receive has not been shown in the anime, but with art depicting her as being without a partner, one would reasonably surmise that she is a coach of sorts. Akari carries herself differently than the other characters, and while she looks quite young, no older than the girls playing beach volleyball, I imagine her to be a ways older than Haruka and the others. This is not so unrealistic: I was mistaken to be a participant at a science fair when I was judging a year ago, which suggests that I look ten years younger than I am.

  • Emily finds Kanata’s pokies to be of an unusually poor form, and various shots show Mai as slowly being worn down from trying to block everything Kanata’s throwing at her. Because Emily’s known Kanata for quite some time, this suggests that something is off, and what this is will likely be seen next week. I suppose that now is as good of a time as any to mention that I will not be around next week to do a timely review of the series at the halfway point: I am going to be travelling for my work, and simply won’t have the time or energy to write about Harukana Receive when I get back next Friday. To this end, I am going to delay the post by up to two days and write about it for Sunday at the latest. The remainder of August is similarly dicey, as I am not too sure how often I’ll be flying around.

  • The fifth episode of Harukana Receive is now in the books, and knowing that things are going to get very interesting very quickly once the long weekend is over, I have decided to wrap up two posts that have been on the horizon for quite some time: I will be talking about what I’d like to see in Battlefield V and also my thoughts of the Violet Evergarden OVA. Once those posts are done, and this month progresses, my blogging frequency will fluctuate greatly. Once I know a little more, I can keep you, the readers, informed; it should come as no surprise that real life takes priority over recreation without question, but you will know if there are any dramatic changes to my blogging patterns.

With the fifth episode ending on a bit of a cliffhanger, the next episode will certainly deal with the outcome of this match. Because Harukana Receive has already shifted to the junior tournament, my expectation is that Haruka and Kanata will narrowly win this first match. In subsequent games, Haruka will still be learning as she goes, while Kanata guides her and in turn, receives encouragement from Haruka as they progress further in the tournament. The basis for this is that having Haruka and Kanata defeated so quickly would extinguish the narrative; I do not anticipate them winning the tournament, given that Kanata openly expresses the skill level that other players demonstrate. Claire and Emily’s match are an indicator of this: they have no trouble vanquishing the team they play against, and as such, it would be implausible for a novice pair to pull off a victory against a highly skilled pair, such as Narumi and Ayasa. However, for series such as Harukana Receive, victory is not the end-all: the journey and experience have traditionally held much more weight than the destination in Manga Time Kirara series, and even if Harukana Receive is a part of Manga Time Kirara Forward, which is where more serious works are published, the entire line of manga remain focused on the subtleties and process, rather than the endpoints. The halfway point of Harukana Receive nears, and with it, I am of the opinion that this anime is proving to be quite enjoyable for what it does get right: the things that Harukana Receive does well outweighs my dissatisfaction with the animation of beach volleyball sequences.