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Tsurune S2 – Episode 6

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m eager to stop by the kyudo range, and see how the boys of Tsurune are coming along. After an embarrassing performance at their recent competition, our team has been forced to reassess not just their approach to kyudo, but also their self-image and personal ambitions more generally. Of course, this is nothing new for Tsurune; kyudo has long served as a metaphor for the bumpy adolescent process of finding your young adult self, whether that involves rising above the past like Minato, or reaffirming what you’ve always valued like Nanao and Kaito.

Those two spent the last episode battling it out in search of a new normal, having grown beyond the childhood roles each served in the other’s life. What they found was perhaps not surprising; as it turns out, their friendship was built on more than just offering each other protection, as their years together had sculpted each of them into an essential part of the other’s life. You can’t follow a simple equation to deduce the value of a personal bond – time spent together will inherently change us, and any bond we’ve cultivated will possess inherent, lasting meaning. As such, the question of who was “following” the other ultimately proved irrelevant; they’ve always valued each other’s presence, and having their hobbies be dictated by each other’s interests proved not a sign of deference or codependence, but of how much each was enriched by the other.

So yeah, Nanao and Kaito seem to have figured their shit out, meaning I’m guessing it’s time for Kyouhei and Minato to grasp towards a new relationship with kyudo of their own. Let’s get to it!

Episode 6

Oh shit, we actually open on the girls practicing! Are they finally going to get a dedicated episode?

“The reason we shoot as a unit of five is so we can aid and support one another.” It’s an interesting concept in the context of kyudo, where the technical execution of the shot is ultimately up to you alone. It feels like removing physical collaboration from the equation sort of purifies the sport’s concept of teamwork – “working as a team” is here all about rhythm and psychology, about behaving in such a way as to make your teammates perform at their most confident. Excellent, compatible physical skills could elsewhere make up for a lack of psychological unity; here, a unified mindset (or at least a set of distinct yet compatible approaches, like our new rivals) is essential

“I thought ikiai was just a term for breathing at the draw.” And like with “tsurune” itself, the results are as ephemeral as they are beautiful. This show has consistently defined kyudo as a sport defined by tiny adjustments that reap benefits only an expert could appreciate

In that, it’s as much an aesthetic flex of a topic for animated drama as Euphonium, with its absurd array of detailed musical instruments, or Free!, with its preposterously animated flowing water. Merely conveying the impact of a greater understanding of kyudo requires inventive and gracefully executed animation. Even when they’re producing shows in familiar genres or narrative forms, Kyoto Animation never do anything the easy way

Apparently the girls are actually doing great. Very funny contrast in the boys all sweating over their psychological hangups while Masa’s just like “yeah, keep doing that, you’ve got it” to the girls in the background

“We’re competing in the local public tournament next week.” “It’s for teams of three!” Hell yeah, time for them to shine

Minato declares his intent to come cheer from his kyudo cage

Such a delight to return to KyoAni’s background art. These establishing shots convey a vivid sense of a cool early morning, with the sunlight reflecting brilliantly off the blues and greens of this forest-sheltered town

Noa is apparently from a fancy family, as her home decor and maid attest. Her sparse room evokes elegance and simplicity, with the only significant personal embellishments being the strings of beads hanging from the window

In contrast, Yuna lives in a conventional modern home, and wakes up with none of Noa’s practiced grace

And Rika’s already out on a pre-tournament run. Love her hedgehog profile picture she uses for social media

All their profile pictures are appropriate, actually. Yuna has a goofy scribble of her own face, echoing her very direct and unabashed personality, while Noa’s picture is an elegant painting of flowers echoing her own refined upbringing. Rika’s is actually the most unusual – she’s their dignified leader, but she also likes cute things

Minato reminisces on how he once tricked Seiya into competing in this local tournament by claiming they’d just be practicing on the city ranges

“I guess it did work in getting me and Shu to start talking.” A reasonably graceful way to keep Shu as an active concern in the narrative. Tsurune is naturally trending towards one of the problems Free! faced as its seasons stacked up, with so many seasonal rivals that the narrative structure and character drama becomes an unwieldy mess. Even Eupho struggles with this to an extent, though its focus on graduation and specific generations of students keeps things somewhat more coherent

Apparently Minato’s mother also competed in this tournament. Only now, years after the fact, does Minato possess the trust in Seiya to admit to this

Even just in the girls’ responses to this vendor asking if they’re all prepped, KyoAni’s marvelous focus on characterization through acting is clear. Yuna is practically bouncing with energy, Nao smiles but blushes as well, and Rika gives a sturdy nod, echoing her generally forthright personality

“You’ll find some amazing people in the adult and senior brackets, too.” Kyudo is essentially a sort of meditation you can practice all your life

Ren arrives to serve as the girls’ official photographer

The background noise cuts and light saturation rises as we cut to the girls prepping their uniforms, the hazy stillness echoing the anticipatory tone of the moment

Their small interactions also reflect the dynamics of their relationship – Yuna’s energy giving Nao permission to act more excited and casual, Rika always guiding them forward

Minato is desperate to compete, but “if this is what it takes to make me and everyone else better, so be it”

Their final collection of pre-shot thoughts are presented without words, simply a collection of charged memory fragments. Nao crushed at her prefectural performance, crying while somehow distant from her own experience, staring out the window and longing for another chance. Yuna standing quiet outside Nao’s classroom, wishing she could make it better, fiddling anxiously with her skirt and then turning away. In this team’s hands, kyudo is the vehicle for articulating confidence, for realizing the purified intent of your mind

Lovely match cuts emphasize the bonds between them, with the pamphlet announcing this tournament being handed between them in flashbacks as each of them takes their shot in turn. The girls are already embodying the unity of intent that the boys’ team is seeking

Yuna is too excitable to stick to the same tempo, but Nao actually appreciates how that’s just like her. As we’ve already seen, Yuna’s individuality gives Nao permission to embrace her own flights of fancy – and as someone who’s been raised in a traditional household, Nao is perfectly adept at matching the tempo of whoever’s around her

They end up with ten out of twelve shots landing. And of course, it’s Yuna’s missed shot that prompts Nao to miss one, while Rika holds strong as the anchor

I feel like they’re intentionally doing some nods to K-On! in this episode’s storyboarding – first that cut of the girls’ skirts as they walk to school, and now this direct echo of K-On!’s legendary post-performance scene, with all the girls lounging against the backpack cubbies

The distance between Nao’s facade and actual instincts is clear in her exuberant telling of how confident she felt during the tournament

“You might think of it as a state of mind. Being able to intentionally will yourself into such a state is what I’d call true ikiai.” Yep. Being able to perform true unity, regardless of what immediate concerns are vexing you outside of the tournament, is the mark of a superior competitor

“His form was so beautiful, it would have been a waste for me to change anything about it.” Minato’s former teacher offers some key advice: don’t let either your own momentary uncertainty or the alluring beauty of another’s form prompt you to abandon what is best about your own technique

At their post-tournament celebration, Yuna has words of criticism both for the boys’ terrible mentality and how swiftly they emerged from their funk. If you’re going to have a fight, at least make a proper show of it!

And at last, Minato gets to return to the range, having crucially regained some confidence in the validity of his own form

And Done

Well that was a lovely side adventure! It’s a pleasure just spending time in Tsurune’s vividly realized world, and it was an unexpected delight to finally get an episode focused on our diligent team of young women. With Kyoto Animation’s preposterous team of animators and general prioritization of character acting, their distinctive personalities have always been clear, but never celebrated so directly, or furnished with so many reflections of how the three build on each other’s confidence. Rika’s iron strength acting as a platform for Yuna’s confidence, Yuna’s bombastic approach encouraging Nao to embrace her own desires, and Nao’s elegance serving as a guide for Rika – they are stronger as a unit for everything that makes them distinct, and a fine example for these unruly boys.

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

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