by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu ?
In many ways, Tsurune is a coming-of-age story about its high-school age cast. But “The Pain of Empty Release” shows that their twenty-something kyudo coach still has some growing up to do too. Though he appears to be a put-together adult that the team relies on, Masa still feels like his grandfather's failure of a student. This episode is an attempt for Masa to obtain the closure that Minato never had the opportunity to get. On the eve of tragedy, carefully choreographed scenes capture small moments with the beauty of a still life painting.
“When all of you were in elementary school, what did you think of the kids in middle school?” Seiya's question paints how maturity is a matter of perspective. When the group was in elementary school, even awkward middle school kids seemed cool and well-adjusted. Now, Seiya observes, Masa looks the same way to their high school selves even as he continues to grow as a person. While Seiya is growing more comfortable with the team, even flying his freak flag with heaps of spicy shichimi on his noodles, Masa is having trouble moving on from their earlier interaction. When Masa unintentionally questioned Seiya's commitment to kyudo, he wondered if he was turning into his own judgmental grandfather. Even though Seiya has forgotten about it, the internal comparison is tearing Masa apart.
Minato first becomes aware of Masa's inner conflict when he overhears a conversation between his coach and Tommy-sensei. This is a beautiful, quiet scene with each character occupying his own separate physical space—Masa on the field, Tommy in his office, and Minato right behind the door—which seems to hint at each of their differing stages in life as well. Minato and Masa's physical presences reconnect at Saionji's home, as Saionji was Minato's teacher and a contemporary of Masa's grandfather. The comparison between Masa and Minato returns when Saionji remarks that Minato's early talent reminded her of when she first saw Masa shoot. Perhaps it's this similarity that compels Masa to open up to Minato later, almost like they are friends instead of coach and student. At the beginning of the series, Minato saw Masa as an almost otherworldly figure, or perhaps even a ghost. Now Minato is so overwhelmed by the realization that Masa is a fellow human being with problems that he confesses the whole thing to the rest of the team, leading to Seiya's observation about maturity. Tsurune's message about how the adult characters are stumbling through life alongside the show's teens is a remarkably relatable and unusual facet for a sports anime.
Minato has learned a lot from Masa about overcoming target panic, from one sufferer to another. But in this episode, for the first time, Masa learns something from Minato too. Minato never got the chance to surprise his mom with his secret archery talent, so Minato urges Masa to go visit his grandfather's confidant and obtain closure for his past before it's too late—even though that means Masa won't be around during the pivotal practice days right before the tournament. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, but the shopkeeper's specific phrasing (“Guys, try to stay calm okay?”) implies that it's not as bad as it sounds. This episode's focus on Masa was in retrospect a major flag for an impending life-altering event, but it was a nicely written and beautifully animated flag.
Tsurune is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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