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Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu Anime Cover

Score: 7.57/10

Synopsis

"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. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

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.

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