by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Harukana Receive ?
By the time the pivotal qualifiers match is decided, the final episode of Harukana Receive isn't even halfway over. It's typical of this well-paced and breezy summer show to give us plenty of buffer time to land at a satisfactory resolution. As summer rolls into fall, Harukana Receive doesn't overstay its welcome, but gives us one beachy last hurrah. Between action, humor, and heartstring-tugging sincerity, this show packs it all in as it says goodbye.
Emily, Claire, and Haruka are all exhausted. But Kanata still has some energy left, and that makes all the difference. There's only a bit left of this match, and the show depicts every volley, often in slow motion. Every rally feels pivotal because it is—each one could be the final play that decides the game. It's still hard to believe how what many (including me) assumed was going to be a fanservice anime turned into a heartstopping depiction of sports done right. Above all, I think this can be credited to tight editing. The show skims over the majority of practice or tournament play, so when it delves into a blow-by-blow, we know to pay attention. Unlike many twelve-episode seasons, this one feels conscious of its time limit. Instead of fighting with the length, it fills it up without overflowing. So by skipping some games entirely, it has time in this final episode to show us every nail-biting serve, spike, and block.
Halfway through the final match, Haruka reflects that it's been a year since beach volleyball came into her life. Fast forward to her close match against the number two team in Japan, and it's clear this show really isn't that big on realism. Haruka is a newbie, Kanata is a lapsed middle school volleyball champ, and there's no way they have chemistry on the level of twin sisters who have been practicing their whole lives with their professional coach mom. In real life this match wouldn't be so close, but in this summer fantasy with its sunny color palette and characters' huge gradient eyes, it's a little easier to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.
If you can believe in this match's underdog upset, the emotional payoff is intense. When close friends play one another, it's going to be a bittersweet victory either way, but when the students have beaten their teachers, it's especially heightened. “Do you regret that we trained those two?” Emily asks her frustrated sister. “Not for a moment,” says Claire, tearful but putting on a brave face. Things are strained, but friendship wins in the end. Akari throws a beach barbecue for the team, reminding them that they're more than opponents, they're all a team. A smoothly-executed moment alone for Haruka and Claire eliminates the last of the tension. There's a lot of humor in this leisurely final episode, like Claire's loud American bedroom and the moment we almost see Grandpa's face, only to be confronted by the turtle.
Harukana Receive presented a lot of emotions, but most powerful among them was joy. The characters' infectious enthusiasm for their sport (and each other) was the continuing thread that tied the whole show together. These twelve episodes worked cohesively to share the story of that joy, skimming over anything that wasn't important so that when it slowed down, we knew there would be serious payoff for doing so. We won't see Haruka and Kanata face Narumi and Ayasa in the finals, but after this well-paced finale, it'll be a little easier to say goodbye. Harukana Receive was never the most high-stakes series of the season, but its relaxing vibes gave me everything I'd want out of a summer anime: a sunny, cheerful story about beach volleyball and the girls who love it.
Harukana Receive is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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