by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu ?
It's time for our first look at competitive kyudo this week on Tsurune. In “A Poor Fit,” the new coach Masa wastes no time in spicing things up. Add a growing rivalry between Onogi and Minato to the mix, and trouble has already started brewing. Like Free! before it, Tsurune pays little attention to whether characters win or lose unless it's relevant to conveying their emotions about the aftermath. This relationship-heavy episode draws a chart of checks and balances between the characters, with fresh conflict threatening to tip the scales at any moment.
Right now, Masa is one of the most important influences in Minato's life and one of his biggest cheerleaders toward recovery. This comes as a shock to Onogi, however. We learn that our Tsurune tsundere was so greedy for Masa's affections that he even refused to introduce the older archer to his friends. Onogi's characterization isn't anything new—we've seen this type of “prickly on the outside with a gooey cat-loving center” personality before. But it's an appealing set of tropes that serves as a handy shortcut for interpreting character relationships. He's certainly easier to read than Minato, who now attacks his target panic with a straightforward earnestness that feels somewhat fake. I agreed with Onogi when he called it “playing the good guy,” because even though Minato's the more original character, he's harder to read.
There's so much we don't know about Minato; we haven't even touched on his abdominal scar since the first episode. It's hard to tell which of his emotions are sincere. Right now we're endeared to Minato mainly because he keeps unintentionally riling up Onogi. When Masa invited an enthusiastic Onogi to show up to the training camp early without adding that he'd also invited Onogi's biggest rival for Masa's attentions, I knew how Onogi might respond to such a perceived slight. I was disappointed when nothing happened after all. Onogi was too shocked by his encounter with Masa's older brother to look hurt or upset or surprised by Minato's presence, which felt like a disappointing lack of payoff. Between the episode's two events—the mock tournament and the beginning of the training camp—the show was at its most engaging when depicting Minato and Onogi's conflict over Masa. We don't even know if either of them hit the target in the tournament! The show cares more about setting up groundwork for when they'll finally start to get along than the details of kyudo matches.
Maybe there wasn't time this week to include Onogi's reaction. This episode was packed full of exposition about the ritual nature of kyudo events. From the titles for each archer's position on the team down to which foot they step with first to enter the firing range, there's an enormous amount of ceremony that comes with traditional Japanese archery. Already, this show has been an excellent crash course in kyudo without feeling too didactic or dumbed down. From basic firing instructions to the way archers wear and adjust their bow, arrow, and clothing before they shoot, all the way to more difficult topics like the mental havoc of target panic, it neatly covers topics for beginners without losing anyone.
Tsurune is probably better if you marathon it than if you wait week to week. Onogi's character arc has been steadily ramping up, and it feels like a letdown to pause right before he inevitably blows up at Minato for real. This is a show about archery, but more than that, it's about people's feelings. The characters are what keeps it afloat.
Tsurune is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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