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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Karandi James

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.

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.