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 (I remember this excursion best for a delicious beef rib and sausage platter I had during one of the evenings), 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.