Harukana Receive – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Oozora Haruka is a high school second-year who’s just moved to Okinawa. Haruka is generally cheerful and optimistic, but there’s one thing she feels insecure about: she’s taller than most other girls. Higa Kanata, her cousin of the same age who meets her at the airport, also has one hang-up: she had to quit her beloved beach volleyball in the past because she was too short. Through some twist of fate, these mismatched cousins find themselves paired up as a beach volleyball team. How will this duo play together in a sport where the presence of one’s teammate is more important than anything?! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Harukana Receive was notable early on this Summer season for its ability to keep its fanservice in check when framing Haruka and the other girls. Frequently in anime women are to be ogled, and fan service can be found around near every corner. While that works in certain series, particularly those aimed at an exclusively male demographic, or others that pander to it for the comedy, it can be an overly pervasive element that hinders anime’s greater ability to appeal to a wider audience. Harukana Receive kept itself constrained, and managed to produce a first episode filled with butts and breasts, but never lingered its gaze on them, merely leaving the girls figures as an understandable component to an anime focused on beach volleyball. But as the series continues it becomes near schizophrenic in its framing, sometimes juggling between its more restrained persona, and giving the audience a bountiful shot of butt or breast that’s clearly there for no other reason than fanservice.
Linny: It is such a shame that a show that started out so chaste now can’t seem to go an episode without scenes such as the one in the image below. It feels misleading, and also disappointing, that a show that could have been applauded for remaining chaste despite featuring a sport filled with girls in swimsuits just caved into the lowest entertainment form of fan service. And while it isn’t as low and perverted as it could be, its still likely to irk certain viewers with its many scenes of girls ogling each others bodies or commenting on their breasts and butts.
Tom: While it’s a bit disappointing that Harukana Receive couldn’t remain consistent in its approach to the framing of the female form, the show holds up in other regards. Our lead, Haruka, remains a catalyst character. She’s a lively, bubbly, spirited girl that brings out the best in others. While she herself undergoes little actual character growth, outside of improving her ability to play beach volleyball, she helps to transform characters around her, like her cousin Kanata. Kanata, a short girl suffering from a past volleyball loss, provides the backbone of the series’ emotional journey for the first few episodes, before we switch focus in a Haikyu!! like manner to girls of an opposing team, one-off rivals, learning what drives them and their personal stakes when competing for top spot in a local volleyball tournament. Thankfully compared to Hanebado!, the other female-centric sports anime this season, Harukana Receive rarely gets melodramatic, keeping the tone near even, and only dipping into melodrama a tad when emotions run high. There’s a couple places where it perhaps approaches the sheer emotional melodrama that unbalances Hanebado! episode to episode, but overall the series does a much better job of keeping things more uniform and light-hearted. Even the supporting girls like the Blonde-duo, Emily and Claire Thomas, who act as mentors to Haruka, are far more jovial characters, helping to craft a more positive dynamic and tone.
Linny: Harukana Receive avoids the trope of a supernatural genius protagonist, showing that any skilled player in the story is skilled thanks to hard work and practice layered onto whatever natural talent they might have. In fact, Haruka is shown to still be struggling six episodes in. While she does pick up a few techniques, it’s again a result of her practicing the game repeatedly rather than instinctively picking up on something in a flash. Most episodes feature a scene or two showing the late night work that goes into merely memorizing the various possible plays. This gives the series a rare angle of self improvement and determination, as opposed to a lot of sports series that often have leads who are born perfect at the sport, with natural talent that helps them excel with minimum practice.
Tom: Once we actually get to the field and start to play some honest to god Volleyball, Episode 5 is the first real match, the series’ tension does ramp up. But don’t go in expecting Haikyuu! levels of tension. Even when things get tough and our heroes are against the wall it rarely feels heart-pounding. Instead Harukana solidifies itself more so as a Slice of Life than a sports anime, far more concerned with the interpersonal relationships, and emotional stakes of the game than seeing our characters get into intense back and forth rallies. The series’ main match up takes a whole two episodes, but even then the focus is really on the players, their teamwork, and what stakes on riding on the game, rather than the field of play. It’s not to say that’s wrong, or that more intense sports anime, like Haikyuu!, School Days, etc. don’t include character work, but strategy seems a far and away second focus to the girls and their passion.
Linny: Like most sports anime, Harukana Receive relies on its characters to regularly deliver information that a layman viewer might not catch on about the sport and what’s happening onscreen in a match. This means characters will sometimes repeat basic concepts that whoever they’re talking to is very likely to already know, damaging immersion. It’s a minor quibble, one could even call a necessary one but if you’re extremely averse to it, you might notice it happening ever so often.
Tom: Overall Harukana Receive isn’t going to be a great watch for sports fans. While it contains many of the elements that made something like Haikyuu! a crazy, break out, hit, it doesn’t do nearly as good a job at balancing its two halfs: Emotional Core and Intense Action. Harukana is more lopsided in that regard, and also far more interested on pronouncing itself as a more laidback series where you appreciate the cute girls, their banter, and emotional struggles. But if you’re looking for a Sports show that doesn’t get near as intense, remains overall easy going, and don’t mind the series dipping into male gaze territory now and again, then Harukana Receive is a strong watch for the Summer.
Linny: Simply put, Harukana Receive is a sports show for those who enjoy cute girls doing cute things mixed with some sports/personal drama. It avoids getting too dramatic and prefers to inject more cute and fluff every time it gets close to emotional overload. Depending on the viewer, the show takes advantage of the fact that the sport depicted involves girls in swimwear, for better or worse. It’s by no means an amazing series, but its mix of girls in swimsuit, playful interactions and some heartfelt plot lines should jive well with a certain crowd.