by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Harukana Receive ?
Enough training; it's tournament time! This week on Harukana Receive, Haruka and Kanata launch into their first real competitive match together. As our girls face their first opponents, it's anyone's game, and the cliffhanger ending doesn't give away any clues. But even with no outcome, it's a riveting game that shows Harukana Receive's smooth animation. Dynamic camera angles bring us right into the action in more ways than one.
Haruka and Kanata go to check their first opponents' names, and it's conveniently the pair we met last week, Ai and Mai. Some well-placed backstory shows us why these two decided to work together and what motivates them both. Mai, like Kanata, has a complex about her height. Ai ropes her in when she tells her that volleyball is “a sport where you defeat tall people.” Mai is a libero, a defensive player who is usually one of the shortest on the team. For her part, Ai wants to show her underclassman just how true that can be. They both realize that Kanata is targeting Mai for her height—not because she's mean, but because it's a logical strategy, one that has been used against Kanata herself heaps of times. Ai and Mai are probably not going to win because they're not our protagonists, but I love sports shows that make me root for both sides. It's a close game, but one where each team has a heartfelt reason that they absolutely can't lose.
For the first ten minutes of the episode, we get a play-by-play of each moment in this match, which drags more than it should. The slower pacing doesn't work for me, but the slow-motion animation absolutely does. Even if you know very little about beach volleyball (like me), these slower plays guide viewers along and visually explain each move. A gradual depiction of each play also shows off Harukana Receive's fluid animation, from Kanata's graceful serve to Mai's nimble somersault for the ball. Speaking of which, athleticism isn't the only thing the camera is showing off. Angles that show us the game from sand-level bring us into the game for sure, but they also give us some glimpses of the girls' bodies. It's great to see the game in three dimensions, but the perspectives are more explicitly titillating than Haikyuu!! ever provided. Between the close-up shots and Haruka's orgasmic reaction to getting poked in the side, there was more fanservice today than usual. Still, in a show about beach volleyball where characters wear bikinis by default, it's just a reasonable amount of teasing rather than a full-blown ecchi fest.
By the end of the episode, things are not looking good for our heroes. Still, with second-place National champions Emily and Claire there for support, Haruka and Kanata are almost certainly on the verge of a breakthrough. We're going to figure out why Kanata keeps using pokeys even though they slow down the ball and make it easier to receive. Maybe some sort of switcheroo is in the works? With a slow guiding hand for newcomers, some provocative glimpses of skin, and a constantly moving camera that shows us the game from all perspectives, Harukana Receive is more than up to the task of depicting competitive play.
Harukana Receive is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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