Episode 12

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu ?

Talk about bad timing! This week on Tsurune, the team dealt with what turned out to be completely unnecessary concern over their coach just in time for a high-pressure tournament event. I have a lot of blame to cast on the adults in the show for creating such manufactured drama through poor communication, but I commend the show for creating a believable missed connection plot in the era of smartphones. This is an episode about triumph under pressure made real by the team's not-so-stellar track record. Minato's revelation and the team's resulting growth succeed because the story has shown how human and fallible they all are.

I can explain away Masa not having his cell phone because maybe it got wrecked in the accident. But I'm not sure why his brother Ren decided to contact the archery shopkeeper about Masa's car accident and not Tommy-sensei. Additionally, when the boys fail to find anything on their smartphones about the accident, that should be a big clue that nothing too serious has occurred. Whether I like it or not, Masa's predicament significantly raises the stakes for the team compared to their last tournament—how will this team, which has never been shown to be uncannily talented, make it to the finals now? Since we know this is the penultimate episode, there's no definite requirement for them to succeed to progress the plot. That's why it's more surprising than usual for a sports show when they do make it to the finals.

The “Five Arrows” of the title seem to refer not only to the five shots the team takes in tournament participation, but to the wielders of the arrows themselves. Much of the episode takes place within each of the boys' own heads, as they struggle to forget about Masa's car accident, then focus on remembering his every bit of advice, then finally, cathartically, channel their own ideal archer selves. Minato's realizations, both private and with his team, drive the drama in a more organic way than the car crash does. When Minato is scared and unmoored, the camera shakes and shows him from upside down to create a feeling of unease. His rare decision to speak up with the team (please Kaito, just let him talk before you start shouting) shows that even though he is dealing with more demons than anyone else, he remains everyone's moral center. When the team hits their stride, the variety of melodic twangs each bow makes helps to show the difference in everyone's shooting style audibly as well as visually. I've always liked that about Kyoto Animation—in Free! even if Haru and Rin are both swimming freestyle, their swimming animations are noticeably different. The same goes for archery styles here.

Through a combination of plot-driven drama and our prior knowledge of the team's middling success rate, this was the tensest episode of Tsurune so far. It made the episode feel about half as long as usual, but it also made it clear that the show doesn't need to use major events to make a mark. Even in such a heightened episode, it's the little moments that make it magic. For example, take how Masa's hospital head bandage echoes the green headbands his team wore in his absence. Between its late start and quiet visuals, Tsurune may fall under the radar for the Fall 2018 season. But here in its penultimate episode, it has established itself as a soft and often beautiful story about triumph over trauma and the personal growth that comes with it.

Rating: B+

Tsurune is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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