"Tsurune"—It's the sound made by the bowstring when an arrow is released, and the sound that inspired Minato Narumiya to learn Kyuudo, a modern Japanese martial art focusing on archery. However, an incident during his last middle school tournament caused him to quit the sport.
But soon, many factors conspire to make Minato take up the bow once again: the start of a new Kyuudo club in his high school, a chance encounter with a mysterious archer, and the support of his childhood friends, Seiya Takehaya and Ryouhei Yamanouchi. Together with his childhood friends and his new teammates, Kaito Onogi and Nanao Kisaragi, Minato rekindles his love for Kyuudo and works with his team toward their aim of winning the prefectural tournament.
Close your eyes and picture a moment in your life that really affected you. It could be anything like made you into the person you are today. As humans, we are bound to change in some ways or another throughout our lives. Especially in our teenage years, we can be easily influenced by others and events around us. I can safely say that without a shadow of a doubt, we have all experienced change in our lives some way or another. It’s called growing up.
Like most sports shows, competitors experiment with themselves to be the best they can be. Tsurune lives as an example
of a rare form of sport not seen too often these days in the anime medium. In fact, what exactly is Tsurune? The term itself refers to the sound of a bowstring made when an arrow is fired. As you should expect, that relates to archery when a bow fires an arrow. Adapted by studio Kyoto Animation, Tsurune feels like an anime that could raise a bar. In 2018, there were several sports shows that made a noticeable presence so where does Tsurune really hit the mark?
To be fair, understanding Tsurune as a sports show isn’t difficult despite not being a very popular sport. Be honest, when was the last time you’ve watched a competition in real life or TV about archery? The only time I remember is during the Olympics on an international scale. As a competitive sport, it deals with individuals and teams trying to shoot their arrows to land the center of the target as close as possible. That’s the base of the rules and scoring applies to the performance of the archers. There’s time limit, signals to be followed, and styles that each archer adapts to perform their best. Even the equipment plays an important factor on the result. However, don't be too alarmed. Archery isn’t really hard to understand and this show is more of a character driven story.
If you’ve seen the promotional poster and trailers, then you’ll easily recognize how producers made the cast. Characters are built with a bishounen features to attract audiences and most of them look young and healthy for competition. Deep down though, characters faces inner problems that runs deep in the veins of their past. The most prominent example is Minato Narumiya, the main male protagonist and first year at Kazemai High School. Despite being an experienced archer, he lacks confidence in the present timeline due to a tragic event of the past. Remember what I said about how humans can be changed especially when we were young? Well, here you have it. Minato battles his personal demons throughout the show and we see how he feels detached from himself. The story explores his past regarding his relationship with parents and how events influenced his character. It’s a type of self-discovery where the main character has to accept his past and move on to build a better future for themselves.
Luckily for Minato, he has friends and supporters. His childhood friends Seiya and Ryohei brings him to join their school’s archery club. After encountering the mysterious Masaki in the forest one night, Minato became fascinated by archery again despite having forsaken his bow. Now obviously, the idea isn’t easy as it sounds. Being part of the archery club also means that Minato has to deal with his past. Despite this, he experiences change in his character thanks to the positive influence of Masaki. With the club, Minato’s emotional scar begins to heal. You’re probably wondering at this point if the show will maintain this sort of melodrama throughout the rest of the duration. Make no mistake that while this show can be quite moody, there are still much room for fun and entertainment. Because at the heart of the show, we have the archery club that is growing alongside Minato. The show offers competition, character relationship building, and even a training camp for the team to grow together. While the anime advertised itself as a cast with a male dominant cast, there are even girls joining too. This doesn’t change the general tone of the anime though as the story is still built around the main characters. The more I watched this anime, the more I felt compelled to understand them. Even after half the show, there are moments where I wonder how these characters became who they are in the present. So in a sense, this show has a feeling of mystery. After seeing a good deal of Minato’s past, I think people may feel sympathy for him. Or maybe not. Maybe you want him to be a man and deal with it like a mature adult. Either way, the show does a fairly consistent job at building Minato as a character.
In a sports competitive environment, there are rivals and a name like Shu Fujiwara is no pushover. As a prodigy, he and Kirisaki High School stands as a challenge that the Kazemai archery club must take on to prove themselves. Not only that, the club also faces the pressure of competing in the regional tournament. It all feels too real when we see the emotions and look on the characters’ faces. Then again, competition pushes everyone to be their best so it’s assumed that pressure is a common experience. The bottom line is, the competition itself feels like you’re there with them. Every second, every minute, every moment counts.
From the start, it’s no surprise the anime is produced with sheer amount of visual quality. Kyoto Animation is recognized for their high quality production so naturally, a show like Tsurune would get a similar treatment like Free. Now, I don’t want to compare the show but it’s easy to make comparisons with some of the character designs. Tsurune does have less man service as the visual performance lies in the photographic scenery of camera angles. It draws the audience to see how archery is treated in the anime medium and to be quite honest, I feel like the producers hit the mark. (that’s not a pun by the way). Similarly, the soundtrack plays on a serene tone from the start and shifts between melancholic and dramatic depending on circumstances. I’m not too familiar with the director but they got the point across to the viewers in the safest way possible.
Watching Tsurune reminds me how people can change but often times, it’s a difficult journey. For Minato, he had to realize the truth and accept it. There’s a lot to say about his overall growth process but definitely watch this how to really understand his character. To me, Tsurune made itself as a show that emphasized on human feelings and change. Maybe once you’ve experienced this anime, you can realize it too.
'Tsurune' is the sound caused by (bow)string upon its release.
Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu follows bunch of bow-wielding school boys during their daily life / archery club activities because this is a show by KyoAni and they only make one show every 10 years that isn't related to school clubs.
This time we meet several students whose names are pretty much irrelevant, but they are basically downgraded version of KyoAni's other "cute boys do sports activities within club" series called 'Free' only this time around they don't have much character to show. One of them is smart and wears classes because he is smart. Another can sometimes
sound angry but really isn't. His character literally has nothing else going on. The real mc is a person whose entire life seems to center around this one sports, but personally I can't really say it felt genuine. For example, some melodrama has been inserted in his life, but it really doesn't seem to exist for him: only for the viewers. As for the countless insecurity-filled monologues he silently has inside his own head as some sort of "psychological battle against one's own self" or "I can't hear my tsurune and therefore I must panick and depress" seemed rather dull and not even very fitting to a show of this sort. Yet they were the driving motion for his entire story.
The last 2 archery bros are incredibly fake. The first one is some sort of "friendly giant" because he is sooo nice and tall. The last character is the exact same as him except shorter, has messy hair and instead of being super friendly he is just super positive about anything and everything that ever happens. Overall the cast was bit too much; like a cake made of nothing but sugar. There are also bunch of side characters who have more important role in the series than the main ones (especially during the first half of the show), but they will be as relevant to this review as they were to the series. I.e. I won't bother talking about them. They mainly offer filler-feel and not much more. Practically all the characters despite their age, gender or role are made to appear with some type of child-like innocence to a point that it becomes pushy. As a whole, the cast was hardly worth of caring about and surely did not carry the show or its weak story.
To continue with the story, it is somehow weaker than the cast. Go from this point to another point, the driving motion being success at shooting those arrows because apparently it can help with the mc's character development among other things such as not make the series feel so pointless. Even tho it still does. The sports side has practically nothing to offer. The slice of life silliness follows the same pushy nature, but at least some of the interactions between main and side cast were pretty fun at times. The light drama is bound to seem like copy-paste to those who have seen more than 3 KyoAni shows. Basically anyone could have given birth to this storyline. That's pretty much it.
The production has KyoAni written all over it from art and animation department. However, money is being saved whenever possible as the series contains tons of still, barely animated sequences which hold almost no movement whatsoever. I also have to point out that the character design is seriously poor. There were times when opponent archery team members were present and I could only tell them apart thanks to their different colored clothing. Some of the boys look so similar to each others it's just ridiculous and also cheap. On the other hand, I really liked the overly tomboyish character design for teenage girls. Unfortunately the girls don't otherwise have any meaningful roles in the series, but I hope to see more of that in the future from KyoAni~ The voice acting is in every way the same as well. The music stands out, occasionally because sad piano is too try-hard and other times because the more energizing OST's play so well during the sports and SOL moments. Still, even the good pieces started to get pretty old towards the end since there are so few songs in the OST that they end up repeating the same ones over and over and over.
Enjoyment-wise, it is safe to say this is the least popular KyoAni show to this date. It sounds uninteresting, it has no wild mainstream appeal to offer and most of all, it is so incredibly spirit-less shell it's hard to hold any strong feelings ('perspective', if you will) towards it either way. Perhaps there is a niche audience who is really into this sort of "light"/"lighthearted" slice of life of boyzz and can get great deal solely out of its atmosphere alone, but I didn't find anything to truly hang onto.
Tsurune is the sound of a bowstring after the release of an arrow. To an archer, there is no joy like producing a beautiful tsurune, and that alluring reverberation can capture one’s heart and soul. Even if they use the same bow and arrow, an archer can never produce the exact same sound. It really is once in a lifetime. Each shot is a meeting and farewell you will never again experience. To Minato Narumiya, each tsurune always represented a meeting. First year high school boys as fresh and youthful as the new leaves of spring are about to embark on an eternal path of
the Japanese art of archery, Kyudo. This will lead these boys to irreplaceable experiences of a lifetime and camaraderie. Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu is a real character-driven story, about people meeting at the right to time that helps each other to overcome their internal demons and bidding them farewell.
While Tsurune focuses more on its character dynamics, it definitely does the sports justice. Kyudo is very rooted in martial arts, customs, patience, and fortitude. Kyoto Animation is the perfect match to animate such an elegant sport and a series that thrives on slow burn character development and arcs we find in introspective stories. Anyone familiar with KyoAni’s style of work will know exactly what they’re getting into. This is not necessarily a bad thing, although your mileage may vary depending on how many points you want to score for originality and how many for the competence of execution. Minato—as opposed to the standard youthful, ambitious, and intensely driven male protagonist—is quiet, calm, and anxious. Suffering from target panic, he possesses no special or amazing trait that separates him from the rest of his teammates. On the contrary, he's the weakest, and the show spends a great deal of time looking at his development as he struggles to catch up and overcome his own personal issues.
Target panic is the nervousness that overtakes an archer when they're about to shoot. Instead of shooting confidently, archers lose their composure at the last moment. An unfortunate event from the past resulted in Minato developing this psychological condition affecting his ability to hit his targets. Ever since, he has seemingly given up on Kyudo until he had a fateful encounter with his soon-to-be new coach in Masaki Takigawa, a man who has gone through Target Panic himself, someone whom Minato can really relate to. The catalyst for Minato to getting back into his old passion and joining his friends at the Kazemai high school’s archery club was the beautiful tsurune from Masaki’s shooting. Teaming up with close friend and club president in Seiya Takehaya; the friendly Ryouhei Yamanouchi; the chirpy Nanao Kisaragi and the fiery Kaito Onogi, the team of five work towards the goal of aiming to win the prefectural tournament.
Even though each of these characters plays a part in helping Minato, as well as each other in conquering their demons and making up most of the funny dialogue, in a lot of moments, they aren’t very likable characters. Seiya rubs me the wrong way, Kaito is a pill, Nanao is way too much Merha for me and I just want to give Ryouhei a Valium. They seem more of a template more than an actual person—someone filling a role. This is a problem in a lot of KyoAni series and a lot of Light Novel adaptations. This results in a lot of ‘trying-too-hard’ and forced melodramatic moments that feel very unnecessary, and additional cliché bombs along the way. But in saying that, it's not insufferable as Minato as a protagonist is very relatable, his issues are real and I do genuinely care about his struggles with target panic—that’s a good base to build on, which makes the faults of the show a lot more tolerable. Then Masaki, Tomio Morioka (club advisor) and Shuu Fujiwara (former team member of Minato’s and friend) help ease those flaws.
Shuu is the freshman ace of Kirisaki High and he was both Minato’s great rival and comrade in middle school. While Minato has crashed and burned, Shuu has continued to be a shooting star—unlike Minato, he stayed in the Kirisaki system and builded his Kyudo legend on a powerhouse club. There is an interesting dynamic here, Minato is an unusually realistic protagonist—he is calm but can’t hide the anxiety roiling inside him. And Shuu is a nice balance between well-earned confidence and seeming decency—he clearly has no misapprehensions about how good he is, but he generally maintains a sporting air and he seems genuinely concerned with Minato’s welfare and that creates a healthy sense of competition. Although I don’t particularly find Seiya to be likable, his struggles are definitely understandable. Without spoiling, his dynamic with Minato is a really good one which comes later into the series which really gives you a great insight to how Minato developed his Target panic, why he lost confidence in himself and why he is the way he is. Tsurune has a female cast who participate in the Kazemai Kyudo club but aren’t given much screen time, could be a missed opportunity.
KyoAni has the reputation of having high quality when it comes to the visual department. You can always expect and rely on them on producing some of the medium’s best art and animation. But it goes without saying, you can also expect and rely on them to produce similar beats. What I mean is that within their works, there isn’t much distinction as they all seem to look alike. While some will argue that is their signature style, there isn’t much originality put into them. Character designs are very KyoAni, they do look good but a personal gripe I had was the big foreheads. The background art is scenery porn, very lush, vibrant and colourful, almost coming to life. The fluidity of the animation is exceptional, especially when it comes to the kyudo scenes. The way each character moves in handling their bow and arrow, pulling back on that string, the tension and shakiness of their muscles in holding their form before shooting and lastly, the way the arrows moves in the air and nails the target is gorgeous.
The cinematography is top notch, the camera angles used helps you draw closer into these moments. It gives you the point of view of the archer as he or she sees the arrow leave their bow and then the camera focuses and follows it until it hits its mark. It puts emphasis into the special effects and sound effects, proficiently capturing all the sakuga moments in the frame. The soundtrack very much compliments these moments as well as the atmosphere of the show with nice melodies of piano keys and acoustic guitar strings. The OP "Naru" by Luck Life captures the essence of the show’s themes with symbolic visuals, great vocals, and lyrics. "Orange Iro" by ChouCho is a great choice for Tsurune’s ED.
In conclusion, Tsurune has its fair share of flaws but it's relatively a solid anime, despite having stock elements and not really breaking any new grounds, what’s to appreciate is that it never displays Minato's or any character’s insecurities as a weakness, but rather, just a natural part of life. We all have our own vulnerabilities, and we can use a hobby, like sports, to overcome them. The overall message of Tsurune is that there are always paths that lead you to overcome your demons and reaching greatness again, sometimes life happens to place people in front of you to give you that helping hand. Some of these demons have scared people into living a meaningless life. That’s because unless you face these suckers head on and overcome them, they’ll ultimately win. Their goal is to take away your happiness.
The characters of Tsurune is proof that these demons can be tamed and be the cause for certain individuals to achieve greatness. It’s often these demons that are the catalyst for something magical. You could say, in some cases, these demons are a blessing rather than a curse. Minato’s journey teaches you that determination requires you to be unwavering in your focus, being present in the moment, acknowledging your fears and taking key action. When you decide to step out of the darkness and forget about everything other than your vision for your life, fear will stop holding you back.
It’s a Kyoani anime that wasn’t a cultural phenomenon, probably because it aired two weeks late and had to share the year with both Violet Evergarden and Free!, but let me say I enjoyed Tsurune the most out of all the Kyoani anime I’ve watched.
Why? Because Tsurune felt real.
There is drama, and there is a lot of it, it feels hectic, nothing gets solved right away and more problems pile up, and some people may have a problem with this but I like this part of Tsurune. Life is hectic, Tsurune just follows the example.
Along with drama Tsurune also has a lot
of character to it, even though it does seem characters go into tropes, particularly Kaito, Nanoa, and Ryohei, at the same time they don’t. Kaito “Kaachan” Onogi, is a good example because even though he’s the angry one he does self reflect on himself, albeit it’s subtle. In all honesty, these three were in a bad position since the anime really focuses on Masaki, Minato, and Seiya, but those three made the anime worth watching. Seiya and Masaki especially, the struggles they deal with connects them together through Minato, this creates an interesting dynamic. The characters do seem shallow at first, but when you start noticing aspects about their character you truly start falling in love with the anime.
Tsurune also excels at atmosphere, every shot is Tsurune is dynamic and well-placed, especially in episode 10 and 12. The production is obviously top-notch, and this helps Tsurune in the sound and animation department, because every frame deserves to be placed in an art gallery and every track is full of emotion. Good examples of shots in Tsurune is episode 2, the blue moonlight mixes extraordinary well with the characters. Also, shots of them doing kyudo have dynamic camera angles, making hits feel all the more satisfying.
The themes in Tsurune aren’t anything new, but the way Tsurune portrays it is different. “Are adults actually mature?” or “do you love the sport?” are simplistic questions with a wide array of answers, and Tsurune can’t fully answer them either, but the dialogue used to address the questions had a certain charm to it.
The payoffs in Tsurune feel good, they take a while but when it happens, does it happen. Sometimes you might not even realise the answer, and you figure it out as the characters learn which I think is done well.
Some might call Tsurune tedious, character drama is everywhere, Kaachan is a bit of an arse and annoying, or whatnot, but I think those two things are fine. Kaachan did get on my nerves sometimes, but he did change subtly and the little things really shifted my opinion on him.
Overall, I’d say Tsurune is a charming show, as long as you like the characters that is, everything about the anime has a flow to it, no matter how hectic the problems get. I think it would be great if it got a second season, because Tsurune has much to expand on and I don’t think the Free! Treatment would hurt Tsurune.
Anyway time to buy the novel and overpriced merch ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ