by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu ?
It's tournament time! This week on Tsurune, the newly-formed Kazemai team is put to their first real test when they attend a regional tournament. The high-pressure environment influences everyone's emotions, leading to conflicts of both the internal and interpersonal sort. The clean lines and clear rituals of kyudo direct the visuals this week, while a sparse but evocative piano soundtrack gives this story of teen angst some weight. However, an over-reliance on two one-dimensional villains cheapens a story that's otherwise told in shades of gray.
Everyone deals with their tournament jitters in a different way. Onogi can't relax, Ryohei offers a 500-yen donation to the powers that be ($5 is hardly a splurge in my opinion), and Minato thinks about the past. It's apparent that Shu has had a pivotal role in Minato's kyudo career, from its very beginning to its near-end. Though the titular “Reunion” of the title is brief, it casts a shadow over the entire episode. In the car, Seiya's mom remarks that the commute is missing something without “the really handsome one” who used to come with them to tournaments. It's not long before Shu himself makes an appearance, waiting until Seiya is looking the other way to place his hand on Minato's lower belly, right on his scar. He asks about his injury in a whisper nobody else on Minato's team seems to hear. We can think about this as BL bait—any opportunity for cute boys to touch—but moving beyond that, the gesture feels almost sinister. Why does Shu's concern for Minato have to be voiced so privately? Is he partly responsible for it? Continuing off his characterization from the last episode, Shu is an unreadable character beneath a seemingly perfect veneer. Now he's acting downright suspicious. Shu is a welcome addition to the show, throwing a wrench into a cast of by-the-book personality types.
Beyond Minato's personal concerns, everyone else on the team is also feeling out of their comfort zones. Masa's speech defines the first day of the event: “A tournament has its own unique atmosphere, and it's best to assume said atmosphere will overwhelm you. If that happens, don't resist.” Onogi didn't need much provocation from the Kirisaki team twins to completely psyche himself out. Meanwhile, those same twins take potshots at Shiragiku while she's already having a terrible day dealing with a fever and tournament nerves. I get that “mean twins” must be somebody's favorite character type and that's why they're here, but it also irks me that everyone on the Kirisaki team is just treating them like “mass-produced model” nuisances who can't be changed, rather than making them face any consequences. It doesn't get more one-dimensional than villains who see everyone as fair game for insults just for fun. They have no defined motive in the first place, so I doubt they're capable of change.
As usual, the high point of Tsurune is its visual style. It's great to see archery from every angle, even the viewpoint of the target, in order to convey the quiet precision of the sport. I kept rewatching the archery scenes to glimpse the subtle beauty of the bow turn after a perfect shot. While this episode didn't successfully land every emotional beat, it looked great trying.
Tsurune is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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