by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Harukana Receive ?
It may be August for viewers, but in Harukana Receive it's the beginning of the new year. This episode takes us through a balmy Okinawa winter complete with a shrine visit and a tense, tearful airport farewell. Beach volleyball takes a backseat to inter-character drama, and the whole cast shows up to play a role. It's a very climactic episode, but one where the emotional aspect seems particularly forced and inhuman. These girls are very likable, but never before has it been this apparent how carefully their image is cultivated.
Meet Marissa, the ripped volleyball coach who you won't believe is the mom of teenage twins. Now that the beach volleyball team has its required five members, Marissa is here to be their coach. The series uses slow motion so often to convey how the game is played that to suddenly show the movement of the ball in real time during Marissa's serves elevates the game to hard mode for our protagonists. It's a clever payoff to a setup I didn't even realize was being built up! But this isn't about teaching the girls athletic skill, it's about helping them find the teamwork that's been part of their friendship all along. It's a reminder that while Harukana Receive is nominally a sports anime, it's less sporty than most and includes a lot of slice of life elements.
Since this episode takes place in winter, it's a rare occasion where we get to see the girls swap their usual bikinis for casual clothing. (In that way, it's the opposite of most shows that feature a single beach episode.) Claire's camo jacket, plus the fact that this is an American family in Okinawa, makes me wonder if perhaps their unseen father is in the military. The girls make a year-end shrine visit that's more atmosphere than character development, evoking a sense of island wanderlust with style over substance. It's one of those episodes where not a lot happens, but the envy-inducing setting still makes it fun to watch.
But enough relaxing. Let's manufacture some drama in the form of an irresponsibly late phone call! There was no reason for Ayasa to call the girls up right before she and Narumi returned to Kyoto. If she was already going to push a shy Narumi into meeting with her “ex,” she could have done it before they even got to the airport. It's not only Marissa's predictable Hummer, but this entire scene that reminds me of a cheesy American movie in which everything is riding on this one final goodbye before parting at the airport. It's all according to the typical script, including the (admittedly catchy) insert song as Kanata runs for a final glimpse of Narumi. It's suspenseful to be sure, but I still resent how carefully cultivated this tension was when it didn't have to happen in the first place. Both Kanata and Narumi act too cool to be real here—Kanata with her too-perfectly timed declaration, and Narumi in her simple gesture of a reply. After all that, Narumi doesn't even turn around! It's such flagrant overacting.
In “I'll Keep Our Promise,” I couldn't help but be constantly aware that these characters don't act like real people. This episode was far too aware of the camera. I'm not asking this inherently escapist type of anime to be realistic, but I do want to see its characters act like themselves. It's been fun to see the anime round out Haruka and Kanata's enviable Okinawa lives on and off the volleyball court, but it's clear that beach volleyball is what the story conveys best.
Harukana Receive is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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