Rating: 4/5 – “Service, but Not Necessarily Fanservice”
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we dig into this review: Harukana Receive is about women’s beach volleyball, so readers can expect to see the predominantly female cast clad bikinis in most of the panels. The hot Okinawa summer sun doesn’t allow for petticoats or sweaters, after all, and if you’ve ever watched a match, beach volleyball doesn’t, either. Call it “necessary fanservice” if you want, and manga-ka Nyoijizai doesn’t shy away from it. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but if that’s all this series had going for it, there’d be little reason to recommend it.
And recommend it I do. The beauty of manga is that it can give just about anything – in this case beach volleyball – a dramatic gravitas that other storytelling genres simply can’t. The book goes through manga’s usual pains to deliver the informational goods, explaining how the game differs from indoor volleyball, the unexpected factors that can make each game unique, and how there’s no room for “aces” or hotshots, as each duo must function as a team to be truly effective.
It’s that last part that’s the real focus of the story. High school student Haruka moves to Okinawa to live with her aunt in their beachside home. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with the beach, and only a little longer to run into some beach volleyball players who are more than happy to show her the sport. Haruka’s cousin, Kanata, (Haru-Kana Receive…get it?) used to play, but some controversy caused her to give the sport up. The book becomes as much about the two cousins learning about each other and working together – building friendships along the way – as it is about the sport of volleyball. As they come up against different opponents, each with their own style of play and their own type of camaraderie, themes of family and friendship run alongside the spikes and serves.
The real trick, of course, will be to willfully not see Harukana Receive for everything it can’t help but appear to be. It’s easy – really easy – to dismiss this book off as cheesecake-y eye-candy; if you simply flip through the book in the store, you could be forgiven for doing so. Thing is, there’s a plot and character development to go along with all that fanservice, so anyone willing to look beyond all the skin and scantiness will find a surprisingly fun read.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow (email@example.com)
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