- Genre: Drama; Sports; School
- Studio: Kyoto Animation
“Tsurune” is the sound an arrow makes as it leaves the bow. We are told this in the first seconds of the show. I’m not entirely sure this is true or that Tsurune is a real word but if it is, it’s beautiful. The very idea that Japanese has a word for the sound of an arrow being released is so poetic. A fitting start to what is so far a very pretty anime.
Since the Angels of Death finale last week, I’ve been wondering what I would post on Sundays instead. I wasn’t entirely sure I would replace it with another set of episodic reviews. I have a complicated relationship with those. I figured that since Tsurune was only two episodes in, I would give them a watch and see if I could bear to review them for an entire season. Well….
I mentioned it already but Tsurune is a beautiful anime. I am a fan of Kyoto’s aesthetic in general and this latest offering does not disappoint in my opinion. I found myself staring at the screen, following blowing leaves or seeking out corners of the scenery. Not only is it just plain pretty but the setting itself is inviting and lovely. The rural suburb full of vegetation and sun drenched afternoons felt like a vacation in anime form.
Of course, this being a Kyoto show and all, it’s going to get compared to Free! Ok, maybe people aren’t that obvious…I was comparing it to Free! I like Free! well enough but it’s hardly my favourite anime and I still haven’t gotten around to watching the latest season. As such, I was a little apprehensive going in that Tsurune was going to be more of a dramatic cute boys show with an unobstructive sports background than the other way around.
It’s only two episodes in. It may very well become just that… But, this is what I got from the two first episodes:
We meet up with Minato just as he’s starting at a new high school. He already has a few friends though, who try to get him to join the Kyudo club (archery). He turns them down, excusing himself by saying that he has too much housework to do since his mother passed away. Although this is true, we soon find out that Minato was once a proficient archer but lost his touch a few years prior.
Already this is fairly unusual. Most sports anime I could think of, either featured a prodigy proving himself in the competitive venue of their chosen sport, or en enthusiastic beginner learning the ropes. Although, many Sports shows have dealt with the idea of seemingly losing one’s talent, it’s usually only in short side stories and much later in the run.
By starting off with a character that not only understands the sport, but also understands the disappointment and guilt of losing, you get to tell the narrative from a veterans viewpoint which is not something I’ve seen before. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of drama and emotions going around but it seemed fairly subdued so far.
The death of Minato’s mother is dealt with respect but isn’t dwelt on much. It’s an event that happened some time ago and the characters have now recovered. Minato’s own frustration at no longer being able to perform in a sport both he and his mother loved, is given a bit more weight but everyone reacts much more rationally than in other series of the genre.
We also got to meet most of the cast. I’m assuming all of the boys on the promo shot are going to be main characters. They all have subdued but individual personalities which I appreciated. One’s nicknamed Kacchan. He has red eyes and is kind of a jerk… I don,t know if that’s just a trope now! I must say, at the end of the first episode I had a better idea of who these boys were than at the end of the first season of a lot of sports anime (except for Haikyuu, that show knows how to characterize).
The second episode smoothly continued the mildly dramatic narrative. Still dealing with Minato’s trauma and his friends’ efforts to have him join the team. We also meet the mysterious Masaki, who the show tried to trick us into believing was a ghost in one of the few completely comedic scenes of the series.
We also got to know the kyudo club a bit more. There are a few girls who are members of the team as well and their characters have actual personalities which was impressive!
After a few shenanigans and a few tears, the episode does seem to have resolved itself with Minato choosing to take up the bow and arrow once again. Next week should mark his official joining of the kyudo club.
Like I said, I was afraid this would turn into a cute boy drama. In fact, the tone is clearly dramatic so far and I’m not sure how well they can manage to sustain that over the course of an entire season. What does give me hope for Tsurune is that kyudo is a genuinely interesting sport. Full of ritual and history. And so far, the show has given a great deal of attention to both. There are fanservice shots of the shooting range. I now know a lot of practical information on both the technique and equipment used. We even got a little history lesson.
You know that feeling you get when you listen to someone talk about something they love. It doesn’t matter what that thing is, their passion will carry you along. That’s always what I look for in a sports anime. I want to feel like the writer really loved the sport they are writing about. I didn’t get that with Free!. I am getting that with Tsurune.
In sum, Tsurune has the potential to fall into melodrama but so far it’s a pleasant school drama with an actual passion for kyudo. It’s also really beautiful! I look forward to episode 3, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
How about some more pretty pictures?