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Tsurune: The Linking Shot
Episode 4

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Tsurune: The Linking Shot ?
Community score: 4.1

©2023 Kotoko Ayano, Kyoto Animation/Tsurune 2 Committee

Do you ever have a day where everything goes wrong? It's never just one thing, but a domino effect of one misfortune after another, leaving you feeling off-kilter and wondering, “How do I break out of this?” This week on Tsurune: The Linking Shot, protagonist Minato is in exactly this sort of funk. “Broken Tempo” turned out to be a very literal title, drawing our attention to how this week's narrative uses sound and space to throw characters and scenes off balance.

Last week, Coach Masa showed his stern side in what seemed to be an excessive punishment to Minato: exiling him, and only him, from the shooting range. Minato's disappointed, pensive mood is reflected in the gloomy sky backdrops that kick off the episode, threatening rainclouds. While everyone else is shooting arrows, he's carrying out his sentence to the side of the range, working on his form. As the episode progresses through multiple days of practice, it becomes clear that everybody else knows why Minato is the odd one out—but nobody wants to come out and say it. Even though Minato landed his shots at the tournament, his form was so different from usual (it's implied he borrowed elements of his rivals' forms instead) that the shift in rhythm shook his teammates. When Minato's familiar rhythm changed, the entire team was thrown off.

It takes nearly the entire episode for Minato to come to this same realization that his teammates have gently been shielding him from and which his coach wants him to discover on his own. But for viewers, there are subtle hints in the narrative's audio storytelling. There are multiple moments where the action is broken by ambient sound, compelling the listener to take a moment to allow the dialogue to sink in. Two of the most prominent examples are when Nanao and Kaito are waiting for the train (and again, when Nanao shoves Kaito out of the train car) and when Minato is vacuuming and literally disrupting his dad's routine. Minato already suspected that he had something to do with Kaito's poor performance at the tournament, but his dad's gentle plea for self-reflection really drives it home. In the end, Minato speaks about this issue to his coach, his dad, his best friend, and various teammates like Kaito and Yuuna… I might even be missing some. The point is that only a show with as unhurried a pace as Tsurune would bother developing this one minor point of improvement into an entire episode—and even after Minato realizes, Masa tells him that finding the solution will take years! (“Finding a form that's all your own… is a lifetime journey.”) Only Tsurune can escape this non-conclusion because the show has never been about getting from Point A to Point B. It's never been about whether the team wins or loses; it's been about letting us live in the zen-like world of kyudo for a little while. Even so, this was a particularly slow-moving episode, even by Tsurune's usual standards.

At the same time that Minato searches to find his footing, the B-plot brings us to Tsujimine High to show us how this season's rival team compares and contrasts with Kazamai. Directly after a shot of Kazamai's polished dojo floors, we cut to Nikaido and his teammates practicing with a beat-up target underneath a ripped umbrella. In Tsurune's typical low-key storytelling style, the team's casual banter makes their lack of resources starkly obvious: the team can't practice if it rains because they don't have a dojo. They need new equipment. They don't even have a coach. Nikaido reasons: “Don't you think this sorta freedom is better? Why add in someone to boss us around?” The next cut returns to Kazamai, where Masa is lecturing Minato. Later, when Nikaido is weeding the garden for Shigeyuki, whom the internet informs me is Nikaido's uncle, our new antagonist reiterates the same point about not wanting a coach—and this time the next cut is Minato, fresh with new insight, running to tell Masa the good news. In both instances, the narrative contrast is certainly not subtle, but it's effective. It also humanizes the team beyond a group of bad-boy cut-outs. Tsujimine's limited funds make their tournament success more impressive. Their lack of support demonstrates how this team has come out from nowhere and why it's plausible that Kazamai is just hearing about them for the first time in season two.

This was a slow episode even for Tsurune, with both Minato and Nikaido talking in circles as they each crystalized their thinking on a singular point (Minato's search to determine what was off about his shooting style and Nikaido's increasing resolve to make it in kyudo without a coach.) It's a little frustrating that, even after so little seemed to occur this week, the episode still ran into the credits without revealing an ending sequence. However, if you're watching Tsurune into its second season, you weren't expecting adrenaline-pumping action.


Tsurune: The Linking Shot is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

Lauren writes about model kits at Gunpla 101. She spends her days teaching her two small Newtypes to bring peace to the space colonies.

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