Anime Taste Testing: Tsurune – Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu

I imagine that anyone familiar with Kyoto Animation’s style of work – particularly those titles released post-2011 and set primarily in or around high school – will know exactly what they’re getting into with Tsurune.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, although your mileage may vary depending on how many points you want to score for originality and how many for competence of execution. Tsurune hits all the familiar beats: the quiet, emotionally traumatized protagonist; the relentlessly chirpy best friend/side-kick who’s nowhere near as oblivious as he appears; the protagonist’s extraordinary talent that will eventually be given the chance to truly blossom once certain psychological hang-ups are finally dealt with, culminating in the story’s emotional climax. While none of these themes or storytelling devices are particularly fresh or innovative, particularly for Kyoto Animation, Tsurune handles it all very proficiently, and this first episode is both well-focused and tightly-paced. Needless to say, it also features the same high-quality visuals we’ve all long come to expect from this studio. They’re not quite on par with the top-tier lushness of, say, Hyouka or many of the water scenes in Free!, but nonetheless, if you’re here for the artwork then you shouldn’t be disappointed.

My only real… let’s say observation rather than complaint at this point about Tsurune is that, also true to KyoAni form, the series looks like it’s going to take itself with extreme seriousness at nearly all times. While early teenage me was all about finding the shows with the highest possible amount of angst and deep, deep introspection, I find as I get older than many titles lay it on a touch too thick, in the process causing me to label them as somewhat forced, contrived, or even self-important rather than especially profound. Granted, I think it’s a bit too soon to make that call about Tsurune, but the signs are definitely there. That being said, I will point out that I found it very refreshing to see an anime highlight the very real impact, both physical and mental, of the death of a parent on a child, without milking it out as some great mystery or shock. Treating the situation both genuinely yet matter-of-factly is a move that made the series a great deal more endearing to me than a sweepingly melodramatic reveal ever could have, and it certainly earned my respect in that that regard.

Personally, I still think of Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru as my sports anime of the season, but I’m still more than happy to stick with Tsurune for at least a couple more episodes, and quite possibly the whole season. At the very least, I’d say it’s worth a shot for anyone on the lookout for another weekly watch.

Question of the post: How do you think Tsurune stacks up against other recent Kyoto Animation productions? Which sports anime do you personally prefer this season, Tsurune or Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (or is there another, better sports anime currently airing)?

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15 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Tsurune – Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu

  1. I’m really excited about this episode and I find that I sometimes struggle also with how serious or introspective the characters get. To me the motivation for his seriousness matches well, the lose is something that really provides the background for his struggle.
    I think is is also going to be my favorite one of the season.

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  2. Tsurune, like most of Kyoani’s current titles, is based on a 2 volume light novel which Kyoani holds the intellectual rights to. I’m aware there’s a fantranslation of Vol 1 on Tumblr, although I don’t think that’ll interest you much.

    Btw, what’s your opinion of Kyoani’s inhouse policies of mostly adapting anime of IPs they own, as opposed to most anime studios who work on a contract basis adapting IPs other parties own? Granted Kyoani seems to be in more control of its destiny, although it does mean they might tend to work in a more restricted thematic field of dramatic SOLs as opposed to the many themes other studios take on per their commissions.

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    • Yes, I’m well aware. At this point, I’d actually be mildly surprised if KyoAni’s next project wasn’t based on a light novel title they hold the rights to.

      Personally speaking, while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with KyoAni constantly adapting such works, I do think it severely limits their creativity. As a business decision, it’s probably a very good one – it allows the studio to construct and maintain a very strong and immediately recognizable brand for themselves in terms of overall style, and KyoAni has enough dedicated fans that this can only benefit them. Since I’m a bit more ambivalent about the studio though, it’s no surprise it doesn’t work quite as well for someone like me.

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  3. I was hoping this would be more Euphonium than Free!!. It’s somewhere in the middle, but tends more towards Free!!. I’m not quit sure yet where the show will fall, plot-wise. I can already say that so far I neither like nor hate a single character, and all the types feel like KyoAni staples. I found the owl a tad silly, but then I also like Owls. When it comes to things like that, the show tends to balance out, so I can’t say quite yet whether I’ll get drawn in or whether I’ll have to fight little irritations all the way through.

    Direction-wise… well, let me say it like this: the tsurune-soundeffect should break the silence, not compete with dramatic orchestral score. I feel the show is over-directed and too busy. There are staple shots like watering eyes to show emotion… Neither sound nor vision impresses. It’s technically adequate, but doesn’t draw me in.

    The compound effect is… melodrama, and for me that clashes with what I want from an archery anime. But adjusting expectations, it’s not that bad. For example, the first epiosde made a better impression than the first episode of Violet Evergarden.

    All that said, my track-record with KyoAni in-house productions isn’t too good. The only one I kind-of, sort-of liked is Tamako Market. Undiluted KyoAni brand sensibility doesn’t seem to be my taste.

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    • Confession: I didn’t like Sound Euphonium. Like, at all. I could handle Free!’s melodrama because I it was largely self-aware melodrama that even edged towards parody at times. Euphonium, on the other hand, felt irritatingly dramatic to me and constantly rubbed me the wrong way. That being said, I do agree with you that Tsurune stands somewhere in between those two, and also that it’s a bit over-directed and over-produced, at least as far as the first episode is concerned. It could well calm down a bit as the series progresses though, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for that.

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      • Euphonium is my favourite thing KyoAni has done post Hyouka, but it’s definitely a melodrama full of teenage angst. I’m not entirely sure why some of these work for me and others don’t. If I compare it to Tsurune, I could come up with the theory that it’s subject matter. Melodrama sort of fits into a show about an orchestra, because orchestras usually tend to be about pomp. Archery on the other hand (as I see it) is an exercise in calming yourself; as such a melodramatic approach feels like a distraction. That theory sounds a little too neat, though, a rationalisation more than something really plausible. I think there’s something in it, but I’m not sure what.

        Maybe it’s as simple as me really liking Kumiko and her passive-agressive snark. Sometimes a single starting point can help you fashion a frame through with the picture looks good.

        (Aside: I was going to say I’d like to see Production IG taking on an archery anime, thinking that the moods of Kimi ni Todoke and Usagi Drop would totally fit what I’d have in mind, and then I remembered that Run with the Wind is Production IG – and it’s my favourite of the season. So it goes.)

        When it comes to Free!!, I don’t actually have anything against it; there’s just something in post-Hyouka KyoAni that doesn’t sit well with me. The moment I dropped season 1? The cliffhanger when they went swimming in the sea. The cliff-hanger wasn’t the reason; it was the drop that made the barrel overflow. There are things I liked about Free!!, but there was also this constant irritation that wasn’t easy to pin down to any single element. I don’t know. I fast-forwarded through the next episode to see if I was missing something and never looked back.

        I have little hope that the show will calm down; the show’s sentimentality feels very consistent with the corporate image. What I hope is that I can get used to it, and that there’s going to be enough points of interest to give me something to focus on. The biggest problem I have that I’m not feeling the archery, which would have been my main draw.

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        • Hyouka is definitely the KyoAni series that I both like and respect the most, no doubt about it. I don’t think the studio has ever produced a title that can compare with it as far as I’m concerned.

          I don’t think Tsurune’s overall sentimentality will calm down once the series gets properly started, but I do think the over-production part of the show might. It makes sense to me that any given series would want to pull out all the visual and stylistic shots in a first episode to prove what they can do, but in so doing go a bit overboard with everything. So by ‘calm down a bit’, I was mostly referring to that specific aspect of the title, as opposed to the story itself or its general mood.

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    • Yes, I think conventional isn’t a bad word for it. As I didn’t care at all for Sound Euphonium though, which frankly I found a very irritating show, I don’t mind if Tsurune distances itself from that.

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  4. I really enjoyed this first episode and I was kind of looking forward to this one (I wasn’t actually planning on watching Run With The Wind but it ended up being pretty compelling). Given I don’t normally watch sports based anime at all (with very few in my watch list) the fact that I now have two this season on my list and both seem like they will be pretty solid is a bit surprising so I’ll see how I feel about them at the end of the season.

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