Haruka and Kanata simply have to score a single point against their opponents to win. Sounds easy enough, right?
— According to a flashback, Kanata quit the sport because she kept freezing up during a match. We’ll find out later that the server tends to always pick on the weaker player. Since the girl never hit her growth spurt — and maybe she never will — she was always being targeted by the opposing team. She felt like a burden on Narumi and developed a complex over receiving. I dunno, I guess this is drama, but it feels a little weak to me. Completely freezing up simply because you feel as though your’e dragging your team down makes sense logically, but it’s just not very compelling.
— Anyways, this show knows which side of the bread is buttered. In other words, tease the audience with yuri-flavored interactions (flavored like those terrible La Croix drinks, sadly). You may not like volleyball, but maybe you’ll like cute anime girls possibly hooking up with each other. But c’mon, as if that would ever happen.
— The problem with all this fanservice is that it makes the show feel less complete than, say, Hanebado! I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two sports anime since they both focus on heroines and are airing in the same season. Right now, badminton is sitting pretty. It has a more compelling story, better animation, and stronger characters. More importantly, Harukana Receive doesn’t need all this fanservice, because it’s beach volleyball. The girls are already in skimpy outfits! What more do we need to flaunt!
— But the show’s not going to stop, so we’ll just have to deal with it.
— No matter how much Haruka alters her bikini, I still think she should just buy a different outfit. I dunno, don’t you think her top is a little too small for something like beach volleyball? All that running and jumping… something’s bound to fall out of place.
— Slow and steady wins the race…
— Obligatory screenshot of anime food.
— In Hanebado!, the characters are already pretty knowledgeable about the game. On the other hand, Haruka has to learn how to play beach volleyball from the ground up. This isn’t really a criticism, per se. It’s just a matter of preference. Even though I’ve never played beach volleyball — and barely any volleyball — I still prefer not having to watch a character start with the basics. It’s just not as interesting to me. Your mileage may vary.
— Plus, the show’s humor tends to fall flat.
— Another screenshot of anime food. This time, we have some tasty-looking pork belly.
— Sounds like a motto for life.
— After dinner, we get another flashback about Kanata’s failures. Same deal, though. The girl froze up. The girl is short. This isn’t a very multilayered story.
— Haruka goes for an early morning jog the next day, and she runs into Ayasa. The pink-haired girl starts trashing Kanata, saying how Haruka will never get anywhere in beach volleyball if she sticks with someone so short. I mean, isn’t this a little premature? Our heroine has yet to play an official match. Hell, she’s still learning how to play the damn game! Cool your jets, Ayasa.
— But y’know, Haruka is our precious Genki Girl, so she’s as positive as can be. Her enthusiasm wins everyone over, especially the eavesdropping Kanata.
— Last but not least, Ayasa is acting like a jealous lover. She’s buried the lede: she doesn’t want Kanata to get her groove back, because the short girl is apparently Narumi’s ex. Ex as in ex-partner, I think, but I’m sure all the yuri fans out there are breathing heavily. But Ayasa is possessive with Narumi, so who knows? Considering how this is a one-cour series, however, I don’t think she has much to worry about. I doubt we have time for much partner-swapping. Haruka’s probably going to stick with Kanata from start to finish.
— Look how happy they were back then. They were so happy, they practically looked the same.
— So the day of the match finally arrives, and I’m happy that the anime doesn’t initially rely too much on slo-mo to convey the action. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long.
— Haruka and Kanata keep losing, because of course they would. One girl’s a complete newbie and the other one is out of practice (and has a mental complex). That’s why they only need to score a single point to win.
— The two girls try to pull off a cut shot, but the opposing duo reads right through it. Apparently, a cut shot is a ball hit at an extreme angle — almost parallel to the net, actually. Hm, the more you know. Honesty, I know nothing about volleyball. Nothing. The fact that Haruka could attempt the move is apparently impressive.
— So in the end, Haruka pulls out her trump card: Kanata. By having the short girl receive the ball instead, this will surprise the hell out of her ex partner. Kanata is literally trembling as she waits for the serve, but she manages to steel her nerves in the end because her partner insists over and over that she believes in her. She even says to herself that she’s been waiting all this time for someone like Haruka to show up. The implication here is that Narumi lost faith in Kanata at some point. She stopped believing in her partner, so her partner’s confidence just crumbled. Maybe Narumi never verbalized her frustration with Kanata, but her body language must have conveyed the same message nonetheless. Hm.
— It is at this point that the show decides to drag out the action once more with slo-mos. I mean, there’s a time and place for it. It certainly heightens the drama by drawing it out. But at the same time, I really don’t need to see grains of sand drift slowly through the air.
— And Haruka is right about this tactic surprising the hell out of their opponents; it is now Narumi’s turn to freeze and do nothing. Yeesh.
— Haruka then goes and stuns Ayasa some more with a dump shot. So again, I don’t know what a dump shot is; I had to go and look it up. I guess Haruka was supposed to set the ball for Narumi, but they never practiced that. As a result, she just decided to dump the ball herself, which Ayasa didn’t expect at all. And of course, Narumi is still frozen in shock so she’s useless at the moment.
— Yay, we scored a point! A single point!
— After the match, instead of being happy that her former partner has gotten over her issues, Narumi storms off with hurt feelings. Ayasa ends up having to comfort her, which might just be what she wanted anyways. Nevertheless, Narumi’s making this about her when she should just be happy for her former partner. But they’re still kids, I guess. And kids are immature.
— Elsewhere, Haruka suggests that Narumi wasn’t necessarily aiming for her. Rather, she was just avoiding Kanata. Eh, I dunno about that.
— The episode then cuts to these two girls right before it comes to an end. I guess we have some new challengers. All girls in this show, huh. Not a single guy in sight. Oh well.