by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Harukana Receive ?
Harukana Receive, you better be ready to take responsibility for this shipper bait. This episode reminded us in no uncertain terms that beach volleyball partners are nothing less than soulmates. I'd call this gratuitous swimsuit-shopping episode fluffy if it weren't carrying so much plot development alongside it. We learn a lot about Haruka and Kanata's world, with new settings and characters. But more importantly, we witness their rapidly deepening relationship. We haven't reached a volleyball tournament yet, and already this show has fallen into a good rhythm; it's as much a show about sports as it is a show about girls who love each other.
This week the girls decide Haruka needs some jumping practice, which definitely doesn't have an ulterior payoff for the viewer. Haruka herself knows it when she tells Kanata she covets a certain swimsuit top because “whenever I jump, the frills bounce a little.” Haruka is formulating a two-pronged attack to draw Kanata closer to her; she's working on becoming a better blocker, so Kanata doesn't have to cover for her, and she's buying them matching swimsuits at Claire's suggestion. Of course, just like the swimsuit shopping episode in Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, this is less about finding supportive swimwear than it is about ogling the characters. It's not without substance though—we meet two new characters, Ai and Mai, who will certainly show up in a future tournament. It also shows us some great development between our two main ladies when Haruka would rather wear a swimsuit that's not to her taste than make Kanata uncomfortable. (As a boob-haver though, I think Haruka should have bought the next size up.)
I went into this anime expecting plenty of shots of bikini-clad bods, but I didn't predict seeing so much of its characters' equally eye-catching expressions. This episode included an earnest declaration of love from Haruka to Kanata. While there's nothing groundbreaking about this yuri shipper bait, everyone's reactions (even Grandma and the turtle!) signify this as a momentous scene in their burgeoning relationship. Many sports shows have a romantically coded aspect, but it's not usually as direct as it gets portrayed here. This might be a deal-breaker for some considering Haruka and Kanata are cousins, but it's been signposted pretty clearly since episode one. We're getting similar vibes from Emily and Claire, who are literal sisters. If anything, the incestual undertones are a reminder that this isn't going to go anywhere, so don't get your hopes up. Yuri!!! on Ice this ain't.
“Isn't This Perfect For Us?” doesn't have the high-stakes urgency of an episode focused on competitive beach volleyball, but it still manages to keep our engagement with some seriously sentimental payoff by the end. There's a lot of fanservice and yuri hinting, but it all surrounds a genuine emotional core. Romantic or not, this relationship development reads as honest and real. Harukana Receive may be trying to manipulate me into thinking there will be more later, but it still has a lot to offer just the way it is now.
Harukana Receive is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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