Minato Narumiya has transferred to Kazemai High School, rather than take the "escalator" from Middle to High at his previous school Kirisaki, because of a traumatic experience with kyudo (Japanese archery) at Kirisaki; but his best friend Seiya Takehaya, who's also transferred to Kazemai, is trying to encourage him to give kyudo another try with Kazemai's own newly-revived kyudo club. Can Minato's old love of kyudo give him the strength to overcome his "target panic"? Maybe with the help of Masaki Takigawa, a young, handsome kyudo expert (and Shinto priest) who's been hired to coach Kazemai's club- even while trying to finally deal with issues from his own past.
I started watching this show hoping for something like You and Me- in other words, I wanted a show where our principal cast of five boys each received an episode or so showcasing their individual lives, working through their separate issues in this difficult period of growth and development, even as they were brought together by their love of kyudo (Japanese archery, which is considered a martial art in Japan, complete with the rituals, rules, and exacting forms you'd expect of a Japanese competitive sport/martial art.)
But that's not what Tsurune is, despite the fact that all of the five boys have been given distinctive quirks and character traits that could easily have been explored in depth through flashbacks or off-the-shooting-range scenes. (There are three girls in the club, but they don't seem to matter at all in the show; I'll get to them later.) Tsurune is, instead, centered firmly on its POV character, Minato, and the two other members of the club who are emotionally closest to Minato- Coach Masaki and BFF Seiya- so the other three members of our male cast are almost never dealt with by the show except in the context of the club meetings, and you'll find out very little about them other than things you can see at the meetings, practices, and competitions that are witnessed by Minato himself, or things which they tell Minato in person. (It's even worse for the ladies, but don't worry, I'm saving them for some special treatment later.)
I'll go ahead and mention the three guys who get short shrift in the show. First, there's Nanao Kisaragi, a cheerful, but very UN-macho kid, who's nevertheless got a devoted female following. (The show never lets one of his groupies explain WHY they're so enamored of him, which I was really wondering about myself.) Then there's Nanao's best friend- who's his apparent opposite in personality- named Kaito Onogi. Onogi is impatient (including with himself) and belligerent, someone angry with anyone who can't perform up to his own aspirations- again, including himself, but finding particular focus against Minato, because of Minato's seeming inability to hit the targets ("target panic") at first. I would also have liked to have had a little more information about the dynamics of the Nanao-Onogi relationship; but as I said, the details of that would fall outside the laser focus on Minato, so once again the show neglects to pursue an interesting angle that it went through the trouble to create in the first place. The final member of the Neglected Trio is Ryohei Yamanouchi, who's boisterous (he knew Minato and Seiya from childhood, which especially enhances his exuberance), but begins to feel inadequate as they move toward actual competitions. (Objectively, he IS one of the weaker archers in the group.)
But as noted, the focus of the show is Minato- Minato's hangup (his target panic), and a triangle involving Minato, Seiya, and their sensei Masaki. The intended eroticism of Minato's first encounter with Masaki is painfully obvious just from the way the scene is staged: Minato, in awe, beholds the older male in the moonlight, as Masaki, chest half-bared, in magnificent archer's form, prepares to loose the last of 10,000 arrows- and Minato's devotion to Masaki inspires jealousy in Seiya, Minato's gentle, soft-spoken friend who's nevertheless seriously possessive of Minato, enough so for Seiya to actually utter some harsh words at Masaki. On the other hand, Seiya is in turn on the receiving end of harsh words from Shu Fujiwara, a Kirisaki student who originally studied kyudo together with Minato, under a female master named Saionji. Shu chides Seiya for his obsession with Minato, saying (I'm paraphrasing here) that Seiya loves Minato rather than kyudo, and so will never go far in kyudo. Now, this is a little unfair to Seiya, just on the basis of what we've actually seen of Seiya's ability; he hits his targets more often than any of the other members of the Kazemai club- including MINATO, as long as Minato still has his target panic- but I would have appreciated a little more explicit information about what was going on in Seiya's head vis a vis Minato. Is this just something resembling maternal overprotectiveness? Is it driven by some other attraction or desire? Does even SEIYA have a clue why he feels the way he does? The triangle's definitely there, but the show's overly low-key approach frustrates the viewer who's trying to understand the motivations of even its key players. (It's similarly reticent about certain elements of Masaki's backstory, which will be brought up late in the show.)
And the girls? Only one of our three females shows much traction when we get into the serious competition, and even she... well. The ultimate fate of the girls? I think it's time for one of Grampa's annoying stories of his own youth. Back when I was studying educational psychology I had a professor who'd put together a slide show on sex-role stereotyping in beginning readers (the Dick-and-Jane type of books.) I thought the professor could have gone on the road with her presentation- it was hilarious, but backed up with plenty of shameful examples. One theme she mentioned was that boys were shown as active, and girls as passive- the girls were often shown just watching the boys doing interesting things. And so it is in Tsurune, where the girls wind up in the stands, and their only role is to ask questions like (direct quote here): "Do you think the boys can win?"
One other random observation: the boys' main tournament opponents turn out to be from Minato and Seiya's old school, Kirisaki. There seems to have been a studied effort in the story to make that school look villainous, from making its kyudo program much larger than Kazemai's (for a David vs. Goliath challenge), to introducing some characters (the Sugawara twins) that deliberately try to pick fights with our Kazemai heroes, to introducing some corrupt Kirisaki upperclassmen who are pressuring their underclassmen to "throw" their shots so that the upperclassmen will be the archers in the final rounds. And I believe I noticed that the Kirisaki archers favor black uniforms...
The Recs this time include the show I wanted this to be like, and two reader suggestions.
At the end of 13 episodes of this, I just didn't feel like 13 episodes' worth of notable events had happened; the show ignores so many opportunities for character enrichment, while what was left is presented in a sluggish, and often emotionally repressed manner; I wanted to know what was REALLY in these kids' hearts (and CERTAINLY in the girls' hearts, who are the REALLY neglected souls here; they're basically used as no more than window dressing.) But only some voices get much attention, and even their utterances were often too oblique and/or opaque to keep my interest. I had to go back and rewatch most of the show to try to put the story together, ALWAYS a bad sign. So much promise in theme and characters- but it just kept missing the target. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Mature situations. There's one tragic death, which occurs offscreen. No fanservice- or, to be precise, no FEMALES are used for fanservice purposes. (This might be a good place to note that the girls' kyudo uniforms have an interesting difference from the boys', and you'll immediately understand why.) We'll say PG rating.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Tsurune © 2018 Kotoko Ayano/Kyoto Animation/Tsurune Committee
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