Episode 8

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu ?

You don't really know someone until you see how they behave under pressure, and the same goes for fictional characters. This week on Tsurune, all five main characters reached their boiling points and either gave in or overcame their discomfort in different ways. “Taking Aim” reminded us of every character's disparate reason for practicing kyudo and how that affects their reaction to being put in a high-pressure situation. Kyoto Animation's attention to detail in both animation and sound design doubled down on these small but significant differences.

Tommy-sensei wants the team to relax, but when a last-minute change puts them head-to-head against Kirisaki, any chance of relaxation goes out the window. Forces surrounding the tournament seem to be conspiring to put the boys on tilt. From the twins' quick firing strategy that's sure to rush any opponent to Ryohei's accidental fault brought on by a superstitious refusal to change out his bowstring, everyone seemed to have dealt a bad hand on day two of the tournament. But one thing they can count on is each other. Minato says he doesn't understand why Masa and Tommy made him the ochi, but it seemed clear to me from the start that it's so he can garner strength from the rest of the team in order to do his best. Now I think that's only half of the reasoning; when Minato's final shot is a perfect bullseye, it inspires the rest of the team to improve as well. It's subtle but clear how Shu and Minato both make perfect shots, but each tsurune sounds a little different, like each archer has his own trademark sound. “Listen to him,” Onogi thinks after listening to Minato's tsurune. “I need to stop being a poser.”

Most of the time, Onogi relies on Nanao to bolster his confidence—perhaps more than Onogi even realizes. It's amazing to watch Onogi attempt to insult Nanao, only for a fully composed Nanao to turn the insult around on him. Minato watches the exchange transfixed, and Nanao explains to him that this ribbing is what calms Onogi down. The relationship is mutual, as Nanao tells Minato that Onogi is his reason to shoot. Nanao has seemed a little shallow until this episode, between his fan club and his awkward “Merha” greeting and general focus on style over substance. His ability to relate to a prickly person like Onogi is his saving grace and the single most likable facet of his personality.

There's a parallel between Onogi and Nanao's relationship and Minato and Seiya's, but the latter is complicated by Shu. It's something of a triangular friendship where both Shu and Seiya feel affection for Minato, but they're hardly cordial with one another. Nanao says Onogi is his reason for practicing kyudo, but when Shu accuses Seiya of the same (regarding Minato), it doesn't feel like a compliment. There's nonstop tension in these interactions because I still don't trust either Shu or Seiya. Seiya's outburst in the second episode, when he blamed Minato for the team's middle school loss, still feels raw next to the poker face Seiya wears the rest of the time. Meanwhile, Shu is just as unreadable. His advances on Minato don't feel completely consensual, and his “take responsibility” comment feels possessive, like something from a love story. It's no wonder Shu and Seiya don't get along, but it's more difficult to decide which of them is really Minato's friend, and which is furthering his own agenda.

As usual, the magic of Tsurune is in the details, like each archer's specific shooting style with its own gesture and sound. While everyone does a lot of internal monologuing this week, their body language says so much more. The camera helpfully pans to their faces and hands so we can immediately tell when somebody's words don't match their feelings. This episode felt taut throughout, with only a few moments where we were allowed to relax (Minato's lovely shot and the team's ensuing triumph). Come for the character drama, but stay for the way it gets expressed through the visuals.

Rating: B

Tsurune is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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