The sports section on any anime streaming platform is filled to the brim with the same plotline: an average freshman year student lives life ordinarily, is academically average, has ordinary friends, and then BOOM! After breathing ordinary 10 minutes into the plot, suddenly the character is talented in sports, beats top players, and lives their life in glory.
However, the anime “Tsurune” is different. Adapted from “Tsurune: Kazemai High School's Kyudo Club,” a light novel series written by Kotoko Ayano, “Tsurune” centers around a 15-year-old boy named Minato Narumiya, who is a well known Kyudo archer when the story begins. Kyudo is a Japanese martial art of archery, and translates to “the way of the bow.” Learning through his younger years with a close friend and his mentor, who is well-respected in the Kyudo community, the target has been set high for Minato. However, at Minato’s last tournament in middle school, an incident happens that pushes him to quit archery altogether and develop target panic, a condition in which an archer becomes so anxious, they can no longer shoot well.
At the start of high school, he reconciles with childhood friend Ryohei Yamanouchi, who nags at him to join the school’s reopened Kyudo club. However, it is not until Minato sees a peculiar man that he feels inspired to pick up his archer’s bow once again.
What’s the difference between “Tsurune” and any cult favorite anime? Minato, who starts off as a high achiever, suddenly crashes, and the show follows his character development as he tries to regain the skills he lost. While many sports anime follow a story in which the main character has an eye for a sport, and polishes that talent until they become the very best, “Tsurune” does the opposite. I’ve come to appreciate the character development in “Tsurune.”
The visuals of “Tsurune” are what initially piqued my interest. Every shot of an arrow had intricate detail, and it was gentle and pleasing to the eye. Animated by Kyoto Animation, who also animated cult favorites such as “Violet Evergarden” and “Sound! Euphonium,” “Tsurune” has a serene animation style and portrays Kyudo archery as it is: a competition between one and the target, rather than one against another.
“Tsurune” simultaneously explores the light heartedness of high school life and the worries of an adolescent teen struggling with insecurity. I’ll assure you, the series’ 13 episodes are something that you’ll definitely want to add to your watch list, and—while Kyoto Animation hasn’t yet released the bowstring on a season 2—I hope that they’ll let the arrow fly soon.
Directed by Takuya Yamamuru, voiced by Yuto Uemura, Aoi Ichickawa, Ryota Suzuki, Shogo Yano,Kaito Ishikawa, and Shitaro Asanuma. Available to stream on VRV, Crunchyroll, and others.