First Look: Tsurune – Kazemai High School Archery Club

Alternative title(s): Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu
Light Novel Adaptation by Kyoto Animation
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Minato was once an accomplished archer, but following a certain incident in junior high school, he abandoned the sport, no longer able to perform to standard. Now a high school freshman, he reunites with old friends and against his initial wishes, is persuaded to join the school’s newly reestablished archery club.

Artemis’ verdict: Straight As An Arrow

If you’ve seen just any of KyoAni’s works post-2011 set in or around high school, you’ll probably know what you’re getting into with Tsurune. It hits all the familiar beats; the quiet, emotionally traumatized protagonist, the chirpy yet nowhere-near-as-oblivious-as-he-seems sidekick, a talent that will eventually blossom into something truly prodigious once certain psychological issues have been resolved. While I can’t really give Tsurune too many points for originality, it’s all executed very competently, with good focus, tight pacing, and of course the same high-quality visuals we’ve all long come to expect from KyoAni by this point. They’re not quite on par with the top-tier lushness of, say, Hyouka or many of the water scenes in Free!, but nonetheless if you’re here for the artwork, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

My only real… let’s say observation rather than complaint at this point is that Tsurune, also true to KyoAni form, looks like it’s going to take itself with extreme seriousness at nearly all times. While the younger me was all about the anime with the most possible angst and deep, deep introspection, I find as I get older than many titles lay it on a touch too thick, and in the process cause me to label them as somewhat forced, contrived, or even self-important rather than especially profound. Granted, I think it’s too soon to make that call about Tsurune, but the signs are definitely there and this may or may not be something that appeals to some viewers. I will say, however, that it’s refreshing for an anime to deal with the very real impact, both physical and mental, that the death of a parent can have (particularly on someone so young) without milking it out as some great mystery or shock. Treating this situation both genuinely yet matter-of-factly is a move that made the series a great deal more endearing to me than a sweepingly melodramatic reveal ever could have.

Personally, I still prefer Run with the Wind as my sports anime of the season over this, but I’m still happy enough to stick with Tsurune for at least a couple more episodes, and quite possibly for the entire season. At the very least, I’d say it’s worth a shot for anyone on the lookout for another weekly series. (Plus, you know, kyuudou’s a pretty cool sport.)

Iro’s verdict: The KyoAni Special

If you’re at all familiar with Kyoto Animation’s recent catalogue at this point, you probably know what to expect from this: a bunch of hot young people working through their emotional issues via some lavishly-animated shared activity. It’s their “thing” at this point, and they’re very good at it… if you’re into that sort of thing. Can’t say I much am, and Tsurune also has a cavalcade of cultural differences that kiiiinda drove me up a wall. When a good third of the episode is dedicated to how the main character is “wasting his potential” and “lacking pride as an archer” and getting both tricked and emotionally browbeaten into performing when he clearly doesn’t want to, I have immediately lost any sort of empathy for anyone involved. But hey, that’s just me; otherwise, Tsurune seems poised to be another high-quality KyoAni work, even if it’s a more pedestrian one.

Zigg’s verdict: Stay On Target

This is absolutely another one of those KyoAni shows. That is to say, it’s an absolutely beautiful, gently paced exploration of a difficult time in a young person’s life. It’s full of a wide range of very handsome characters, relatable emotions, strong dialogue and well portrayed domestic drama. It’s serious, thoughtful, arty and….just kind of boring honestly. It’s difficult because looking at Tsurune I’ve got immense respect for the clear time and skill that was put into this show. But it’s hard for me to get excited about it in any way, even with the kind of neat archery angle, and it’s tough to escape the nagging feeling that the studio is going through the motions. I’m sure there’s a fine story waiting to be told here, but it’s not for me at this point.

Jel’s verdict: Bowing Out

I don’t have too much to add here, just in the bigger picture I’m kind of disappointed Kyoto Animation productions have gotten this predictable, maybe even boring. There was a time when I was excited to see whatever KyoAni is doing because I knew at the very least it was going to be a spectacle. Now we get shows like say, Violet Evergarden, that are visually stunning but so cold and technically executed that it doesn’t make you feel anything. Tsurune is a really pretty show of course, but it’s very dry and too serious for it’s own good. About the only interesting thing that happens is meeting hot samurai dude at the end of the episode, but unless he’s an actual samurai and we traveled back in time I don’t think I’m interested enough to continue watching.

4 thoughts on “First Look: Tsurune – Kazemai High School Archery Club

  1. I used to consider myself a pretty big fan of Kyoto Animation. Works like Hyouka and Nichijou just seemed so far above what any other studio was producing that there was no other company that could compare. But recently, almost everything they do seems designed to minimize risk and maximize cash flow.

    As a result, they’ve smoothed out all of the rough edges and blanched away any of the bitterness that elevates really great art from the pedestrian.

    A lot of people like frappuccinos, and that’s fine. They’ve got those down. But for those of us who like our coffee black, I guess it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

    • I admit I was never a big fan of Kyoto Animation, even further back in the day – this despite me acknowledging that Hyouka is such a visual and narrative masterpiece of storytelling. You’re right that their creativity seem to have taken a real dive in recent times though – while their methods do generally result in distinctive, high-quality, competently delivered stories, those same stories also strike me as being quite empty of not only originality but also of real feeling and emotional impact.

  2. Was hoping for something in the vein of Euph. But Tsurune (so far) is mostly a standard ensemble cast sports show. But being Kyoani, it’s going to be a lushly produced standard ensemble cast sports show…

    Which means I’m not actually disappointed in the show… But yeah, so far Run is way out in the lead this season.

    • Yes, Euph definitely seems to be one of the more popular Kyoto Animation titles out there (although just personally speaking, it really wasn’t for me), so I think a lot of people were hoping for something like that. ‘Standard’ is a pretty good word for what we’re getting instead though, definitely.

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