Original Run: October 22, 2018 - January 21, 2019 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Drama, Sports Based on the Series Created By: Kotoko Ayano and Chinatsu Morimoto
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu. Reader discretion is advised.***
Kyudo is the Japanese martial art of archery. When he was in junior high school, Minato Narumiya (voiced by Yuto Uemura) was considered one of the event’s most promising rising stars. That all changed after a particularly devastating competition.
Having now entered Kazemi High School, Minato appears to have lost his passion for the bow. Thus, he has no interest when his school restarts its kyudo program. However, certain factors make it impossible for Minato to stay away.
For one, try as he might, Minato cannot bring himself to give up the sport he loves dearly. He may not have fully gotten over what has been holding him down, but he no longer intends to let his fears stop him.
The journey back to where he once was at is daunting. Along the way, though, Minato will come to learn a side of kyudo he never would have imagined.
I suppose I have to come right out and say it:
A sports anime really needs to be unique to truly blow me away.
By “sports anime,” I’m referring to what I will describe as contemporary-sports stories; i.e., present-day plots centered around real-world games. For instance, although Megalo Box – one of the best series of 2018 – was technically a sports anime, its sci-fi elements and futuristic location put it in a slightly different category than say the Free trilogy.
Also, I don’t dislike contemporary-sports anime. On the contrary, I have found these types of stories to be the most consistent quality-wise. This is a very formulaic genre, but it is a formula that works.
Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu (Tsurune) utterly reinforced that point. This was not a bad show by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately, it was a show I have seen time and time again.
On pure execution, there wasn’t anything that dragged this series down. If you decide to give Tsurune a chance, you can take comfort in knowing you’re not walking into a disaster. Your main concern is the amount of interest you have towards kyudo (Japanese archery).
Personally, kyudo was the element I found to be the most fun part of Tsurune. I enjoy archery – the form that is typically seen in events like the Olympics – and have ever since I was young. Kyudo, by extension, has been something I have wanted to try for a while. If nothing else, this series placed the sport in a positive light.
It should also be noted that while I may use the term “sport” generally, kyudo is a martial art, and Tsurune was great at portraying it as such.
Along with the pressures associated with any sport – nerves, the stress of competition, and continual betterment – kyudo (as it was portrayed in this series) requires a specific form of stoic discipline. A kyudo match lacks the kind of vocal enthusiasm one would experience at a baseball game.
However, the full tension of wanting to win, or least, the fear of failure felt by any athlete from any sport was present in Tsurune. Specifically, the final match of the series was exceedingly gripping (I was honestly astonished by how much I was into it). This show did an outstanding job at preparation.
The bulk of the Tsurune story focused on the Kazemi High School Kyudo Club’s training sessions; actual competition was mostly secondary. What this did was build up the characters so that when they did enter a match, you had a solid sense of what each of them was struggling with. It was clear where the weak spots were and how they could potentially ruin everything.
The problem is: “Well done” isn’t the same as “something different.” But we will get to that.
I am happy to say, there was at least one aspect to Tsurune which thoroughly impressed me. Behind any good team, there is usually a skilled coach guiding them. For Kazemi High, they had Masaki Takigawa (voiced by Shintaro Asanuma).
Masaki’s storyline was easily the most interesting element to Tsurune because he helped convey an essential message; a message I am finding grows truer every single day.
Think back to when you were a kid. Didn’t all – or, at least, most – of the “grown-ups” around you appear to have the entire adult-ing thing down? Picture a nineteen-year-old cousin, and boy, didn’t they seem all kinds of mature?
If you haven’t reached nineteen yourself yet, allow me to let you in on a little secret: Complete maturity, full-fledged adulthood, it’s a myth. It doesn’t exist. The people you may see as “adults,” they don’t have a grasp on everything that is going on. The only thing they have in their favor is a bit more experience, which hopefully allows them to make fewer, less costly mistakes. And they got their experience by making mistakes.
As I grow older, characters like Masaki resonate with me more because they show people never stop learning. To the Kazemi Kyudo Club, Masaki guided them through the very problems he not only faced but was still facing.
I said it takes something unique for a sports anime to blow me away. Although I may have not been knocked off my feet, Masaki Takigawa held my attention through some of this show’s more paint-by-numbers moments.
I want to begin this section with:
Tsurune looked beautiful.
Odyssey? Are you saying that was a negative?
Absolutely not. With no hint of sarcasm, this show was gorgeous. After all, this was from Kyoto Animation (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Hibiki Euphonium, and Violet Evergarden). So, in this case, breathtaking animation was pretty much the standard, and that will never be a bad thing.
To tell you the truth, Tsurune’s visuals reminded me of another Kyoto Animation series, the previously mentioned Free trilogy. The two shows weren’t one-to-one the same, but there was a resemblance. However, I doubt I would have noticed the similarities if it weren’t for one tiny detail.
I absolutely hated the beginning of Tsurune because it was Free with archery. Now, I like Free (minus the third installment), but upon seeing it here in this series, it set off a vicious rabbit-hole you wouldn’t believe.
Nearly the entire first half of Tsurune was cookie-cutter BS. Every single sports anime trope, setup, backstory, and character was in this show, and I dare you to prove me wrong. The two things which made this blatant rehashing bearable was the sport of choice and Masaki Takigawa. So, if you’ve seen your fair share of this genre and don’t have the slightest interest in shooting arrows, then you’re going to run into a massive wall.
Nowhere was this more apparent than with the characters. Let’s go down the line, shall we?
- Minato Narumiya had a traumatic experience during a competition and thus didn’t want to continue with kyudo in high school.
- Seiya Takehaya (voiced by Aoi Ichikawa) was Minato’s best friend who was living vicariously through Minato’s success.
- Ryohei Yamanouchi (voiced by Ryota Suzuki) was the kyudo newbie who wanted everyone to get along.
- Kaito Onogi (voiced by Kaito Ishikawa) was the unnecessarily bitter hard-ass who treated the sport like a religion.
- Nanao Kisaragi (voiced by Shogo Yano) was the only person who could counter Kaito’s rough persona.
I’ll admit, not all these characters can be found in the main cast of Free. But if I name two other sports anime, you’ll find every Tsurune equivalent. In fact, I’ll do one better. Including Free 3, look at Hanebado and Ryuo no Oshigoto – ALL SHOWS FROM 2018 – and you will come across everyone from Tsurune more than once.
This series didn’t find something akin to its own voice until the midway point. Again, had it not been for Masaki and kyudo itself, I seriously doubt I could have stomached this story.
That’s the rub, isn’t it? If we were to look at Tsurune in a vacuum, it would and should be considered a slightly above average series. Therefore, it is a real shame it is part of one of the most stagnate genres out there.
If you were to tell me you liked this show, you’re not wrong. If you were to tell me everything it did right, I wouldn’t disagree with you. If you were to claim it did precisely what it set out to do, you would hear no argument from me.
BUT, if you were to say Tsurune was a complete, one-of-a-kind experience, I might start laughing in your face.
I feel I need to make myself as clear as possible:
This show wasn’t bad. It was more than fine. There were things to this series which were enjoyable.
All I’m saying is it never deviated from the formula. This was a sports anime that was as by-the-book as you can get. If you like these types of stories, then you are going to have zero problems with this show. But if you are looking for something special, you won’t find it here.
I will stand by this series’ strong competence. Therefore, I am going to recommend Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu. However, if you’ve seen any other contemporary-sports anime, then odds are you’ve already seen this show.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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