by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Harukana Receive ?
Time flies when you're having fun. Can you believe it's been a year since the Ai and Mai match in episodes five and six? Harukana Receive has maintained a swift and breezy pacing throughout, which is well illustrated by episode nine. “This Is How I Feel” covers a lot of ground without resorting to impersonal exposition at all. We've skimmed past a lot of the beach volleyball club's time together, but their bond still feels established and real.
Akari hasn't been with the team long, but when the group gets some bad news about qualifiers, she's the one who takes it the hardest. Now that only one team from Okinawa can qualify for the national tournament, Akari is worried the team is in for an angst-filled schism. Of course, this show is the polar opposite of Hanebado!, so everybody just takes it in stride. This is maybe the chillest sports show I've ever watched. Even when Haruka and Kanata lose, they're just happy to be playing their favorite sport together. Even at a high-stress event like qualifiers, where she will probably have to play against her teammates, Kanata is practically glowing. She's just so happy to be here playing volleyball again that the pressure doesn't get to her.
Still, Akari takes a negative situation as an opportunity to show the girls how important they are to her by gifting them the scrunchies we see in the opening. I can't believe it took this long to hear the story behind those! Akari is so afraid of the team breaking up, no matter how small the risk, because it's taken her so long to open herself up to new people. Child stardom isolated her for such a long time. Just like the Okinawan love pattern Haruka sewed onto their bikini tops, Akari has sewn a message into the scrunchies: the sea hibiscus flowers signify “beautiful memories.” Like the rest of the show, that character development has occurred rapidly. Akari has grown into a manager who is more capable than she is coy.
Maybe it's the tropical setting that makes everyone so laid-back. Even if they lose, they're still playing volleyball on a gorgeous beach. The result is an equally chill tournament, told in broad strokes that illustrate a montage of Haruka's improvement in particular. It all goes smoothly until we meet Haruka and Kanata's second round opponents: the Aragaki sisters. Harukana Receive develops its characters in pairs, and I'm beginning to see a pattern here—there's always one hot-blooded member to face off against passionate Haruka, and one apologetic put-upon teammate to gel with mild-mannered Kanata.
The sisters use a “long game” strategy similar to the one Kanata once used with her pokeys in episode six. They continually use topspin over and over, losing point after point, in a convoluted effort to slow Haruka down. The show points out that Haruka's teamwork with Kanata saves the day, but even without that, constant missed points seem like an unwise strategy. There's never any concern that Haruka and Kanata will have a hard time. That lack of tension wouldn't work for most other shows, but for this breezy series that's more about friendship than hot-blooded competition, it's just another fun day at the beach.
Harukana Receive is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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