Tsurune: The Linking Shot
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Tsurune: The Linking Shot ?
Community score: 4.5
If you've ever had a best friend, it may have felt like that relationship is automatic. However, even the closest relationships require effort: reassessment and communication between two continually growing and changing people. That's the central theme of “Push and Pull,” a moving and masterfully directed episode about a critical shift between lifelong friends Kaito and Nanao. While earlier episodes of Tsurune: The Linking Shot have expanded the world of Kazamai Kyudo Club with new characters and new conflicts, this episode looks inward, taking the established relationship between two familiar characters and fleshing it out.
It's quiet—too quiet. The first half of the episode makes scarce use of the soundtrack to build unease, and it succeeds to great effect. Everyone feels the sudden distance between Kaito and Nanao. It's interesting to see their mannerisms revert to how they were at the beginning of the first season of Tsurune. They're showing their discomfort in subtle ways, with Kaito's increased prickliness and Nanao's old “Merha!” greeting (if you forgot, like I did, Nanao is interested in foreign languages). The tension is tight as a bowstring when well-meaning Ryohei asks if something is up and is alarmed (to say the least!) when Kaito nearly punches Nanao in the face. Next, it's time for Minato and Seiya to go in for the pincer attack, with Minato approaching Nanao and Seiya confronting Kaito. Ryohei meant well, but Minato and Seiya know what it's like to be lifelong friends who have become stronger on the other side of a conflict. What it comes down to: both have changed as people, but they're stuck in the same dynamic as when they were little kids running a race. Back then, they both felt like they needed to be the strong one, protecting the other in their own way. Now they've realized that they don't need each other in the same way, and they're both unsure what that means for their friendship. From a directorial standpoint, this tension is shown through a series of quick cuts, from Kaito's near-punch to Nanao's eyes daring him to follow through to the judgmental blink of a cat's eye.
The second half of the episode is all about discovery. The narrative takes a relationship we all took for granted—including its participants—and deepens it with new information. Nanao finally learned more about his cousin's troubled middle school days. This happened almost against his will: it seemed that right when he had resolved not to approach the two kyudo participants on the train, they approached him instead. We've heard that Kaito had a reputation for violence back then, but this episode showed us where that came from. We also learned why Nanao got into kyudo in the first place. It took Minato's sincere perspective to tell Nanao that no matter why he started kyudo, Minato could see Nanao's love for the sport in his every move on the range, in every archer's callous of his palm. As the tension begins to break, the musical score increases in earnest. As usual, I want to have this soundtrack to chill to. Even when the story's content is tense, the music is hypnotically calming.
Finally, it all comes down to a sunset duel—and the sunset itself is a major player in this drama. It's like all the swirling emotions of the episode suddenly come out in the open with this newly bold color palette. Kaito and Nanao choose a particularly tense showdown: sudden death. Quick cuts guide the action: the progression of the duel is shown through the almost stop-motion movement of Kaito and Nanao's score-keeping pencils across the paper. Each cut is punctuated by either Kaito or Nanao's distinctive Tsurune. The visuals are rapid-fire, showing each archer as he hits or misses, releasing his anger along with his arrows. Finally, the tension snaps quite literally along with Nanao's bowstring, and their anger dissipates into laughter. This duel is bookended with another effective visual metaphor: the entire mosquito coil shown at the beginning of the duel has burned out by the end. It's a beautifully executed scene in a particularly effective episode where the visuals, music, and narrative all come together.
At this point, I'm wondering if there even IS an ending animation sequence or just music because the episode has gone into the credits five times now! Everything that occurs post-credits is just a sweet slice-of-life reward for making it through all that tension, mainly a closing dinner scene of Kaito and Nanao with Kaito's mom and sisters that is all the better when reflected against a similar scene from the beginning of the episode, in which they were both absent. I also loved seeing Kaito and Minato's teammates all watching them from the bushes. Like Seiya said, this conflict affected everyone on the team to the point that it affected their performance. I loved how this episode treaded what felt like familiar ground and discovered new depths to its characters. I often write about how pretty and chill this show is, but there's much more to it. The surprising complexity of what I initially thought would be a simple narrative about a fight reminded me that in Tsurune, still waters run deep.
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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