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)?