Tsurune Episode 14

More of the same but just a little different.

Well the boys are back in another episode of Tsurune. This one took me by surprise when it appeared out of the blue on the Crunchyroll line up, though I guess if I paid more attention to release announcements I’d have known it was coming. Still, an additional episode is fraught with potential to be trite, pandering, or just plain pointless and while there isn’t a lot of point here, one could arguably say that Tsurune has always been more about the journey than the destination.

Tsuruen Episode 14

One clear difference here is the sheer amount of focus on the rival team with the boys from both schools heavily interacting after an idol was supposed to be shot at Masaki’s temple. Still, where I originally groaned at the premise as I thought it would be a cheap excuse to have idols running around a show they have no real business being in, Tsurune once again proved that it knows how to stick with what it does best.

The outcome, the idol shooting at the temple, is more or less extraneous to the episode as the episode is about the interactions between the different boys from the two schools. Shu and Minato have both grown, but so have all the other characters, including the previously almost insufferable twins. The end result is a pleasant and calm viewing experience occasionally broken up by smaller comedic moments that have varying degrees of success. I did like the photo op of all the boys in servant shirts though.

Tsurune Episode 14 - Servant Shirts

As with most extra episodes, there’s not a lot of point if you haven’t watched the series. These interactions are only pleasurable if you have pre-existing knowledge of the group and where they’ve come from.

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I will say though that episode 14 is nowhere near as pretty as previous episode. The shooting isn’t accompanied by wind or leaves, the direction, while function, is fairly ordinary, and the sound track isn’t exactly doing much. While I really loved the aesthetics of the season, and while this works, it is just nowhere near the same level.

Okay, Masaki is still gorgeous.

Still, for those who watched and loved Tsurune this is an extra treat with an episode springing from nowhere to give us some more Kyudo fun.

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Karandi James
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Tsurune Series Review

Tsurune Episode 8 Minato

Overcoming challenges together; Tsurune takes on the emotional scars of its cast and shines.

There’s something just a little bit special about this latest sports anime from Kyoto Animation. The studio is known for being good at handling solid emotionally driven stories with the likes of Clannad on its line up and its also dipped its toes into boys doing sports before with the fan-service laden Free. That perhaps set the bar very high for Tsurune in some viewers’ minds and I do recall seeing a lot of first impressions that went along the lines of ‘as expected from Kyo-Ani’ or ‘nothing special compared to…’.

Tsurune Episode 2 Minato and Who

However, that seemed a little harsh given is something is done well it is done well even if another anime made by the same studio perhaps surpassed it or the studio has done something comparable before. While I’m not going to make the case that Tsurune is some sort of hidden master piece, I will put forward strongly that Tsurune is well worth the watch for those who like getting invested in emotionally driven stories with the back-drop of a sports tournament to keep the plot on track and to ensure that we have an ongoing sense of direction.

Tsurune Episode 1

Tsurune is beautiful. There’s no denying that fact and while I’m certain we could screen cap some less favourable moments, almost every scene is beautifully composed and the use of colour, light and movement are purposeful and interesting. The choice for the majority of Masaki’s scenes early on to be bathed in blue tones (a colour scheme we return to at the end) was very well done and played nicely into a narrative twist in the early episodes. The portrayal of wind and movement as the arrows flew was gorgeous and was taken to its extreme during the final where each shot set a flurry of sparkling leaves flying (okay, they may have taken some liberties with reality but it looks great). And each of the characters, yes the heavily male dominated cast, look fantastic.

The music and sound design also deserve a special mention as these are truly used to enhance each and every scene. While it might seem to some too calculated or artificial, I found it absolutely complemented the visuals and the narrative and particularly during competitions I found myself waiting for the sound of the arrow being released, the wind, and then the impact as the arrow either hit or missed its target. It was very affective and adding greatly to the overall enjoyment while watching.

On the surface we have a basic story of a character who used to be good at archery who quit after developing target panic (essentially couldn’t hold his draw and released the arrow too soon throwing off his aim). His friend who followed him to high school wants him to get back into the sport as does a childhood friend who has reunited with them. After some resistance, Minato does decide to get back into archery and works to overcome his target panic.

Tsurune Episode 8 - Minato

That story alone could have worked beautifully and yet while that is the frame for the story, Tsurune explores so much more. With five boys coming together (the group of three friends and another two characters), there are plenty of personal conflicts and emotions to deal with as they try to form a team and overcome their own short comings. Where Tsurune surprised me was how well in dealt with Seiya’s story as I had thought he was more of a support character but ultimately he had an incredible arc. The coach, Masaki, also had plenty of solid development and was portrayed as a real character rather than a token adult figure. Even the characters at the rival school began to be expanded upon toward the end and while their arcs seem cut off in the middle it created the feeling that this story and these characters were more real.

Tsurune Episode 11 Masaki

However, at only thirteen episodes and with so many characters not everyone can have their story told. Nanao, despite having some excellent supporting moments, is still largely a mystery as was Ryouhei, despite his childhood friend status. The three girls who were also in the club had a couple of excellent scenes but were largely ignored by the narrative getting to stand on the sides of scenes and really just got used by the plot when needed rather than being fleshed out in their own right. These are small complaints and without more episodes it would be difficult to address these issues, but given the excellent progress so many other characters made it just feels like a shame that others were almost benched.

Tsurune Episode 7

From a plot point of view this is about as standard as it comes as the team overcomes personal conflicts, struggles to qualify and then slowly comes together toward the end of the series. That doesn’t make it less satisfying to watch but if you are after something unpredictable or something that throws in a few unexpected twists and turns Tsurune probably won’t do it for you.

Tsurune focuses instead on maintaining its pace and tone. The focus remains on the characters and their growth. The competitions are the setting which allows that growth to happen and provides complications and set backs, but the story never forgets what its core is.

Tsurune Episode 2

While this isn’t the single most spectacular anime I’ve ever seen, it was an absolute delight to watch each week bringing a bit of calm bliss as I watched the next episode. I grew to care deeply for these characters and loved seeing them rise up and overcoming challenges. All and all, I would recommend giving it a go. While it may not work for you, and if slow pace isn’t your thing it probably won’t, there are certainly worse anime you could try than Tsurune.

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The Final Draw of The Match But Not The End

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 13 Review

If I was to have one complaint about this final episode of Tsurune, other than the fact that my weekly bliss and chill session has finished, it would be that this final episode seemed so incredibly dense with character moments. For something with such a languid pace and calm nature, there was so much to walk away from in this final episode and yet nothing felt rushed or forced but it makes processing the episode complicated.

Tsurune Episode 13 Minato and Shu draw the final arrow.

It isn’t just Minato or Shu who have their moment, we have the twins finally getting some development outside of being twerps as one of them begins to buckle under pressure and we with have a continuation of the Seiya and Shu conversation from earlier in the season where we see clearly the impact of Seiya’s growth. There’s the general team dynamic including how each of the boys deals with the pressure of the finals, and there’s the support from the girls. Tommy Sensei reflects on his role as their teacher and in making Minato shoot during the briefing to Masaki paralleling Masaki’s earlier worries that he’d made a mistake with Seiya. And lastly the anime comes back to Minato and Masaki and also returns us to the first scene where Minato first fell in love with archery and we see the Masaki was there during that scene as well connecting all the threads of this story beautifully.

That’s a lot going on in one episode. And to handle each of those characters and moments without feeling rushed or forced, and to give each moment the consideration it deserves, is a narrative feat well worth applauding even if the tone and subject matter isn’t to your taste. Everything in this anime has come together superbly in this final episode even though it felt like they’d reached that point last week when the team got their act together. For an anime that isn’t really about sensationalism in sports but rather quiet contemplation, they managed to up the ante with this final competition without compromising on tone, and again that was an impressive feat to behold.

Tsurune Episode 13 The Girls

Yet despite the sense that things have all come together what I don’t get a sense of is that these character journeys are at their end. For each of these boys their journey is ongoing but it doesn’t matter if we see that or not (though for the record I’d love a second season). What it means is that over thirteen episodes all of these characters became real to me and they feel like they have a life before and after this story and that again is something of an achievement.

Tsurune Episode 13 Minato lines up his shot.

I’ll do a full series review of this but if you didn’t give it a shot this Autumn season I’d strongly recommend it.

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DRAGON QUEST SMILE SLIME MONSTER PLUSH: BODKIN ARCHER
DRAGON QUEST SMILE SLIME MONSTER PLUSH: BODKIN ARCHER

Is It Time For the Team To Get It Together?

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 12 Review

Tsurune as a sports anime has remained a bit of an oddity. Sure the boys do spend a lot of time drawing their bows and practising but realistically whether they win or lose in this tournament has been made utterly irrelevant by their character journeys and their own desire for self-improvement. Seo, as the only female character getting any kind of time with archery, says herself after getting knocked out that she’s satisfied that the result reflects her current level of ability and leaves it at that.

Last week the episode left us with the bomb-shell that Masaki had been in a car accident and after a tense week of waiting and hand wringing to find out if he was okay, the start of this episode leaves us with a big, we don’t know. It’s a realistic answer but it means that stomach squirmy feeling that we’ve had all week while waiting to find out what has happened continues and it colours every sequence of the tournament until the end when they finally tip their hand (note to every other anime ever, this is how you use an emotional cliff-hanger).

Tsurune Episode 12 - Seiya is best boy

That makes the reasonably mundane events of this episode all take on a certain urgency and whether it is Minato’s initial plunge into self-blame immediately cut off by Seiya (who after his own brief bout of self-pity a few episodes ago has come back even stronger as best boy). But it is the girls, whose names I don’t even remember because they’ve had so little to do in this series and so little development, that actually really step up to the plate when the boys are all staring at their phones and panicking. It is a fantastic scene and one that was definitely needed. It also really makes me wish the female characters got to be more than emotional support or commentators more often in this series even though I know the focus is the male team.

Tsurune Episode 12
You rock even though I cannot remember what your name is.

Kaito then tries to rally them and reminds them to use what Masaki has taught them in the tournament. This gets them motivated but they still struggle through the early rounds. Ultimately it is an insight by Minato that turns it all around but as usual his poor communication skills almost blow the team apart (fortunately he holds his ground and makes himself heard).

Tsurune Episode 12 - Kaito

The final round of shooting this episode is a sight to behold and it is one of those moments in anime where you can cry an cheer simultaneously with the episode ending out on the team and audience finally finding out what is up with Masaki before the episode ends. With one episode left to go, I’m just kind of hoping this gets a follow up series though all things considered I don’t know that it will. I do know that I’ve loved following this anime this season and I love this team.

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TSURUNE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
TSURUNE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

You Have One Shot: Seize The Moment

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 11 Review

Did you know, adulting is hard. I think most of us who are trying it already know that, but it is something seldom explored in anime in a realistic way and even less often explored in a high school based sports drama. Adult characters occasionally offer guidance or criticism or are simply faceless beings, but seldom get explored as characters. Tsurune has defied this trend all along, but episode 11 takes it another step as we get closer to Masaki.

Tsurune Episode 11 Minato and Seiya

While I won’t say that it is a flawless episode, there’s a heavy reliance on coincidence to keep events rolling, the fact that in the preparation for a tournament rather than seeing the boys practising and falling out or some other contrived drama the story instead chooses to focus on the coach and the weight he’s been carrying, is a pretty solid choice. It feels quite refreshing compared to so many other sport anime that would have the characters doing last minute cramming and perhaps some sort of block to overcome right before the tournament. Here the boys are ready to go with their usual training regime and they even ask their coach to trust in them. It is lovely to see.

Tsurune Episode 11

However, we are going through a few contrivances. Minato overhearing Tommy-Sensei discussing Masaki’s motivations at the dojo in the first place is pretty coincidental. I love how anytime a character overhears a conversation it is always some incredibly emotionally important topic and never a discussion about what the characters are eating for dinner. They follow this up with Minato visiting his former coach at the same time that Masaki visits her because she knew his grandfather. That’s definitely pushing coincidence.

Tsurune Episode 11 Masaki

Despite that, it is hard to dislike how the episode plays out as everything happens as it needs to and the same beautiful attention to colour and detail fills every scene. From the opening shots where we see Masaki trying to shoot (and can we see more of this please), to the sunset when Seiya and Minato are talking, the episode is gorgeous and does everything it needs to do.

Tsurune Episode 11 Seiya

Admittedly, the climax kind of made me want to roll my eyes because it does seem like contrived drama for the sake of it, but I trust Tsurune enough that I’ll hope it deals with this next emotional blow with the same deft handling it has taken on all of its other trials.

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Tsurune – Kazemai Koko Kyudo-Bu – (Anime) Original Soundtrack
Tsurune - Kazemai Koko Kyudo-Bu - (Anime) Original Soundtrack

Emotions Run High This Week And Are Handled Beautifully

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 10 Review

It isn’t just Seiya who is having to deal with his emotions this week. We see the ripple of Seiya’s absence as well as his words to Masaki go through all the members of the team and each one has to deal with it as well as their own issues. Of course Tsurune is up to the challenge of dealing with this much drama and doing it with style. While this might be the most emotionally charged episode yet, it still feels genuine and that is reinforced through so many small moments that are instantly relatable to viewers.

Tsurune Episode 10 Masaki and Tomi-Sensei

As someone in my 30’s, Masaki’s moment was probably the one that hit home the most. He regrets what he said to Seiya, he remembers how it felt to have a similar question asked of him, but he doesn’t know how to fix the situation. He feels let down because somehow when you are a kid you kind of feel like adults have it together and have the answer and then you become an adult and realise just how much you just pretend to have it together because it is expected you will. This moment between Masaki and Tomi-Sensei when they sit and drink together after the students have left is a quiet moment but all the more powerful because of how true it rang.

Tsurune Episode 10 Onogi and Minato

And that moment wasn’t the only one. This episode has Onogi talking to Minato about Seiya and while he frames his concern as self interest (he’s worried about the impact on the team in the upcoming competition), it is clear that Onogi is looking out for his team-mates. The conversation between Minato and Onogi is fantastic because Minato becomes clearly aware that he’s dropped the ball with Seiya and then spends the rest of the episode thinking of how to fix things.

Tsurune Episode 10 Seiya

And even then, it isn’t some grand gesture that ultimately works. A return to childish form of writing a message on the chocolate box gets Seiya out of the house, though heavily prompted by the dog (and does Kuma get an award for most valuable player this week). Still, it is Minato’s absolute honesty, using Seiya’s own words, and just being there for him that eventually gets things back on track.

I loved the ending when Masaki apologises to Seiya and Seiya tells Masaki again that he hates him, only the tone of the scene is so different from just one episode ago where the same words were said. It is amazing how different the two scenes feel even though Seiya’s dialogue is identical and that shows just how much impact the events of this episode have had on Seiya.

Tsurune Episode 10 Shu

Of course, I do need to mention the shrine visit where the two teams encounter one another. While the twins and Onogi seem determined to have some kind of rivalry going for whatever reason, the rest of the team members seem content just to get on with things. There’s some interesting dynamics between individual characters and Shu remains and enigmatic but interesting part of both Seiya’s and Minato’s pasts.

Very much looking forward to more of this.

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Shots Fired: Seiya’s Being Jealous And Lashing Out

Tsurune Episode Reviews

Tsurune Episode 9 Review

Tsurune continues to be consistently good at building up the individual drama for characters. This week the anime turns its attention firmly to Seiya, Minato’s childhood friend. Last week Shu taunted Seiya a little bit and apparently his words have shaken up the usually calm and stoic character as his shots are now all over the place.

Tsurune Episode 9 Seiya

However, there’s more than archery on Seiya’s mind as he deals with Minato’s sudden resurgence of personality and energy. This episode is one long and slow breakdown of Seiya’s character and the walls he’s built around himself and by the time we get the confrontation between Seiya and Masaki, beautifully understated as usual, it is clear that Seiya is either mourning the distance that has opened up between Minato and himself, or he’s upset that he wasn’t the one who was able to help Minato get back into archery in the end. Both are pretty understandable and given Seiya is only a teenager, his inability to deal with this kind of emotion makes perfect sense.

Tsurune Episode 9 Seiya at the range

When you throw in that the episode weaves in some of Minato’s story showing him getting a medical check up in the present and a little bit of the accident, what you end up with is a fairly affective episode, provided you don’t mind feeling like ending on a little bit of a downer because we kind of leave things at an extreme low point.

Tsurune Episode 9 Team

Another nicely done episode and one that was pretty to watch as we’ve come to expect. The Okonomiyaki cooking scene was great fun and the inclusion of the girls here was good, though as normal they get a few lines and then end up on the periphery. Still, even though the focus is Seiya the rest of the team are not neglected and we continue to move steadily toward the next hurdle for the boys.

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