Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
High schooler Haruka is moving to Okinawa for her second year of high school, and she's thrilled to discover that the family members she'll be staying with live right on the beach. She immediately meets two girls playing beach volleyball, and all unaware of their champion status, she strikes up a conversation with them that leads to a game. Haruka falls in love with the sport, but her cousin Kanata is oddly reluctant – and oddly knowledgeable. Can Haruka convince her to become her beach volleyball partner?
It is fairly rare that I find the adaptation of a book to be the superior version, but in the case of Nyoijizai's Harukana Receive's first volume, that seems to be the case. The reason for this is almost entirely a question of visuals – Nyoijizai's art is stiff where it ought to be vibrant and stilted when it needs to imply quick movement. Given that this is a story about a fast-paced sport, these are major detriments to the tale's unfurling. Add to this a poor grasp of perspective and the art distracts rather than enhances the story, making it difficult to fully immerse yourself in the story.
That's a shame, because the story itself is interesting. It follows Haruka, a girl about to begin her second year of high school who has moved to live with relatives in Okinawa. She's extremely tall, which she's very self-conscious about, something that Nyoijizai handles really well. Haruka not only expresses her discomfort verbally, but little details like her tugging her skirt down lower or commenting to her cousin Kanata that she doesn't want to buy a new bathing suit because it's hard to find one in her size send the message home in a believable way. Haruka's worries are right in line with how teenage girls can obsess about their bodies and how they do or don't fit the mythical beauty standard, so her quickly born love of beach volleyball makes sense not only with her personality, which is bubbly and outgoing, but also in that it gives her a reason to be proud of her body, not just ashamed by the comments people make about it.
Meanwhile, her cousin Kanata is so short as to be mistaken for a little girl at times. While she's not thrilled with this, her main issue is that her height makes her a target in beach volleyball, as she's immediately labeled a weak player. This led to her break with the sport and with her former partner, Narumi – she internalized the jibes and the way people played against her to the point where she felt that she was no longer “allowed” to play the game. As a duo, Kanata and Haruka's personalities and worries balance each other out: Kanata tempers Haruka's mad enthusiasm while Haruka infects Kanata with the same. Even though they haven't really come together in a close way yet, it's easy to see how things will work in their favor once the series really gets going.
On the other side of this is Narumi, Kanata's former partner. She's clearly supposed to be the tsundere character, but the “tsun” is feeling overdone at this point. Her immediate dislike of Haruka based on her status as Kanata's cousin/partner and Haruka's misuse of a term that's not applicable in beach volleyball is a gross overreaction, and her continued antagonism feels more like genuine meanness than the actions of someone who misses a friend. She's incredibly off-putting for most of her scenes, and Nyoijizai isn't good enough with facial expressions to make her look truly sad or contrite during what ought to be her redemptive moment.
Since this is a book about a sport played in bathing suits (bikinis, according to the manga), there is a lot of flesh on display. While there are some light yuri moments and fanservice aspects, that doesn't feel like the goal of showing us the girls in their skimpy suits, but rather a side benefit. In part this could be because of the aforementioned art issues, but for the most part the girls are so comfortable in their swimsuits that it's easy not to notice it. It's only at moments when they are uncomfortable that the swimwear stands out – almost any moment with Ayasa, Narumi's partner, counts, or when Haruka is much more comfortable with nudity than Kanata is. Likewise when twins Emily and Claire come in in the final chapters, Emily's discomfort with bikinis makes hers more noticeable, not because it's skimpy, but because of Emily's vocal dislike of it in the scenes before. It's an interesting trick, and it works to keep the book from feeling excessively exploitative.
The story's trajectory is a fairly basic one for a sports series: Haruka learns she likes the sport, she begins to learn to play the sport, she discovers she has talent, and she begins seriously training with a specific rival in mind. The action isn't nearly as tense as Haikyu!! or other sports series available in English, something likely due to the fact that it's published in the same magazine as titles like Laid-Back Camp and the deceptively low-key School-Live!. If you can get past the artistic issues, this is a “good enough” title, but not quite up to simply “good.”
Overall : C
Story : C+
Art : C-
+ Good characterization for Haruka and Kanata, interesting way to handle fanservice
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