Tsurune – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore October 27, 20180 Comments

What’s it about? Minato has loved archery since he was a small child, but now that he’s starting high school, he wants nothing to do with it. He and his best friend, Seiya, don’t intend to join any clubs, but when they run into their elementary school friend Ryohei, he and a teacher pressure them into joining the newly revived kyudo (Japanese archery) club. But Minato didn’t quit because he stopped loving archery—his reason runs much deeper than that.

Hey, KyoAni fans! Are you ready for more pretty people with shiny hair looking downcast while working through their past traumas? Because Tsurune is here and it is just about joyless.

Three young boys running through the forest and laughing takes up most of the frame. In the foreground are three similar-looking people, now teen boys, wearing school uniforms. Subtitles read "I put on thirty centimeters since I transferred!"
The only time we see Minato smile

Most of the first episode of Tsurune follows the exact plot beats of the first episode of Free. Stop me if you’ve heard this story before:

  1. Two close friends in high school have no intention of joining a club until
  2. An energetic friend who they haven’t seen in years approaches them and
  3. Pressures them into reviving a defunct athletic club but
  4. The main character has stopped doing the sport for Reasons

It’s just Free. However, unlike my beloved swim boys, there is little joy or energy to be found in Tsurune. Minato has little personality to speak of or traits other than “forlorn” and Seiya isn’t much more interesting. Ryohei is just Nagisa but taller. The best character is easily Seiya’s giant Bernese Mountain Dog, a breed I’m especially fond of.

A close-up of a large dog standing between two people. Subtitles read "I was hoping to bump into you at school and surprise you"
Pictured: A very good boy

It’s unclear what exactly happened to Minato to make him quit archery; he says he has to take care of the house since his mom died as an excuse not to join the club, but he also as has a scar on his belly that no doubt will turn out significant. He also suffers from target panic, a real condition that affects archers and causes them to release their arrow too early.

It sets up a predictable course for the series to follow, as Minato must get past his trauma. But how? Will he get by with a little help from his friends? Will he try with a little help from his friends? (At least we know he probably won’t get high with a little help with his friends, since just possessing weed carries stiff penalties in Japan.)

Or perhaps it will be with a little help from a particular beautiful archer with a pet snowy owl. Oh, yes. Tsurune was barely holding my attention until he showed up. I don’t know who he is, but he’s gorgeous and I’m shallow, so he drew me back in enough that I’m on board for at least another episode. (Listen, I may be a shallow fujoshi, but at least I’m honest about it.)

A young man wearing a robe that shows off his chest, with snowy owl on one arm. They stand before a moonlit night sky.

But Tsurune isn’t just about attractive aviculturists. Did you know that kyudo is not gender-segregated? That means a co-ed club! There are two types of female prospective members in this episode: fangirls who just want to fawn over Nanao, who is handsome and charismatic; and three girls who just want to fire pointy projectiles at targets.

This presents a wonderful opportunity: a truly co-ed sports anime. Girls and boys competing alongside one another on equal footing, developing a sense of camaraderie that has nothing to do with gendered behavior.

Two teen girls and a teen boy stand together, weather Japanese archery uniforms. Subtitles read "Whoa, kyudo girls are pretty hot."

Considering the girls get very little screentime and are in roughly zero promotional materials, I don’t think that will be the case here. And that sucks! Who are they? What role will they play, if any? Will they have a point beyond lip service to all genders being able to participate?

That’s what I’d like to see out of Tsurune, but I doubt that’s what I’ll get. What I’ll get will be adolescent boys with shiny hair being being sad and trying their best. But hey, pet owl.

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