Haruka Ozora has always been paranoid about her height until she moves to Okinawa to live with her cousin, Kanata Higa, and her grandmother and joins Kanata’s beach volleyball team. Kanata teams up with Haruka to take on her rival, Narume, who she has a complex history with. When they enter the team in the local Junior Tournament, they realize they’ll have to face off against each other to win. Will their friendships be able to survive the tough competition of volleyball?
Based on a seinen sports manga by Nyoijizai, Harukana Receive was a show I initially didn’t think much of going in but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it by the end. I went in expecting it to be just a silly fanservice sports show and while it was that to some degree, it ended up having a lot more emotional heart to it than I expected. The show found the right balance between having some silly light-hearted moments but also being dramatic enough to be engaging without it being too overly melodramatic either. I enjoyed how the show split up the girls into pairs and explored the girls’ pasts and what their dreams in volleyball are. I really liked the dynamic between the twin girls, Emily and Claire, and seeing how they go from being mentors to the younger girls in the volleyball club to respecting each other as equal rivals. It was fun seeing Haruka learning the ropes of how to play volleyball and seeing Kana slowly open up to her and their bond becoming closer. Even the rival girls on other teams are all pretty fleshed out and you can see how they grow over the course of the show such as how Ai and Mai start off as rivals determined to defeat Haruka and Kana at all cost, to cheering them on as they become friends.
That’s one aspect I especially enjoyed about Harukana Receive was the show never let the competitiveness of the sport get away of forming friendships and delving too far into melodrama. Even when Haruka and Kana have to face off against Emily and Claire, they still remain friends through it all. At the same time, there’s enough substance to the writing that they show how difficult it is when you’re going up against close friends. I also appreciated how they didn’t just focus on the losing side’s determination to improve and get better at their sport, but they also showed how difficult it can be for the winners in a situation like that when you’re pitted against a friend you’ve become closer to. The best sports anime are the shows that find a perfect balance between focusing on both the character drama and the sport itself, and I think Harukana Recieve does a good job of finding that balance. I really enjoyed there was a lot of emphasis placed on the strategy of volleyball and how fast you have to plan your next move and think ahead of how you move against the other side.
There was of course some fanservice and yuri teasing going on between the girls but it always felt pretty light and never went over-board and it always felt like they were careful not to let the fanservice clash with more serious moments. It was just the right amount that you would expect from a sports anime like this. The animation was always well done and fluid with cute character designs. The music was very energetic and catchy and had a unique style to it. It’s interesting that they hired a Swedish pianist, Rasmus Faber, who normally composes for the dance music scene, as the music composer for the series, as opposed to a more standard anime composer. Faber first became popular in Japan after releasing a compilation album of his music in the mid 2000s. He has since composed the theme songs for the anime series Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne and The Asterisk War. He even composed a song for the famous anime composer, Yoko Kanno of Cowboy Bebop fame on an album by Anison singer, Megumi Nakajima. The Harukana Receive anime was adapted by Studio C2C and directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, who previously directed the Berserk Golden Age Arc films, and was also an animation director on classic anime such as Gunbuster and Giant Robo.
If I had any real disappointment with the show, it was that it didn’t have a real conclusion to the story. Most 12 episode anime usually find a good stopping point to end the series at even if they never adapt anymore of the manga. Harukana Receive just kind of ends in the middle of the story without any solution to the main conflict. I don’t know how popular the anime was if it would get a sequel. So for now, the story is left incomplete an it kind of brings the show down a bit for me for a series I otherwise really enjoyed that I hope we would get to see a continuation of one day. Though the manga is at least as of now available in English by Seven Seas. If you don’t mind that the anme’s plot is left unfinished, Harukana Receive isn’t a revolutionary show that will completely change your mind about sports anime, but it is a lot of fun to watch and if you enjoy the genre, you’ll have a good time. I give it a four out of five star rating. Harukana Receive is currently licensed by Funimation and is available for streaming on Crunchyroll, VRV, and FunimationNow.