Harukana Receive
Episodes 1-3

by Lauren Orsini,

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Harukana Receive ?

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Harukana Receive ?

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Harukana Receive ?

Harukana Receive is like somebody saw the homoerotic beach volleyball scene in Top Gun and decided to swap the genders and make an entire anime out of it. It's the story of supportive teammates wearing not-so-supportive swimsuits. They play beach volleyball in gorgeous Okinawa, where every episode is sure to be a beach episode. The storyline isn't exactly gripping, but fans of fluff will stick around for a cast of characters who are as enthusiastic about beach volleyball as they are about one another.

High-spirited Haruka is the perfect sports anime protagonist. An athletic amateur, she's ready to try beach volleyball as soon as the opportunity strikes. She makes a powerful foil to Kanata, a volleyball veteran who is struggling with self-confidence. At the core of the show is their give-and-take relationship, in which Kanata's knowledge fuels Haruka's budding passion for volleyball, which in turn gives Kanata new confidence in herself. They may be cousins, but their friendship is what some would call sisterly, and what I would call something like yuri. Beach volleyball is played in pairs, and the show frequently likens it to dating. It probably won't move beyond hinting, but Kanata's blushing proclamation of “I think your butt is absolutely adorable” is sure to become a frequently deployed screencap.

Together, Haruka and Kanata make up the “Harukana” of the title. But the supporting cast isn't any less lovable. We've only seen a little of two rival pairs—or a lot, if we're talking about fanservice. There are the local champs Ayasa and Narumi (Kanata's “ex” as in ex-partner, but the ambiguity is intentional), and the American twins Claire and Emily Thomas. Since everybody comes in sets of two, we learn about each character through her relationship with her partner, especially during a match. One thing every character has in common is being serious about beach volleyball. When Kanata self-sabotages through anxious thinking, a plot point that occurrs in matches against both pairs, that's when conflict arises. Emily's frustration and Narumi's disappointment are in response to the perception that they are giving their all against an opponent who isn't giving hers. Both times, the clouds start to clear when Haruka encourages Kanata, and the opponents notice a change in her. It's a heartening cause for conflict that helps to build up Kanata's courage, but it's easily resolved. It makes me wonder how the show will maintain tension once Kanata's got her groove back.

While the games so far have been anything but high-stakes, they've been the surest path to discovering each character's personality, interests, and motivations. It's less about whether Haruka is going to win and more about whether she's going to score a single point, and how happy she and the audience will be if that happens. At the end of the day, this is a show about characters who really love volleyball. They love practicing, picking out cute swimsuits, and competing in matches—and this enthusiasm is infectious. If you wish that “cute girls doing cute things” shows had a little more energy, Harukana Receive is a promising pick.

Rating: B+

Harukana Receive is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.


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