What They Say:
Becoming a great archer requires more than just a steady hand and a good eye. It takes focus; the ability to find exactly the right moment to release the bowstring and send your arrow streaking to its target. As a child, Minato Narumiya became entranced with kyudo, the Japanese art of archery, but after years of study, he suddenly quit after an incident during a middle school tournament.
Now, his high school’s Kyudo Club has approached him, and between the encouragement of the coach and several classmates he used to practice with, Minato is reluctantly convinced to pick up the bow again. But is the timing right? Is Minato really ready for competition, or is he destined to miss the bullseye again? It’s time to take aim and meet the challenge of becoming the best!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track alongside the English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is very much a dialogue-driven piece with a few very small moments here and there where it goes a bit bigger but not by much. That leaves the mix in a simpler place as it doesn’t have much to work with as even things like placement and moving characters across the screen isn’t all that much here as a lot of what we get is sitting around talking. Some of the more creative pieces get a little extra attention such as the recordings and the like, but it’s fairly straightforward material that doesn’t stand out all that much in general. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes and OVA on this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and the rest on the second. Animated by Kyoto Animation, the show has many of the trademark appealing design elements that the studio is known for when it comes to school-based material. The show reminds me of Hyouka in a way with its more earthy tone to the color design combined with it focusing on the archery club and the color palette that was chosen for that. The animation isn’t something that works really busy sequences but that allows most of the movement to look very good with some fluid motions that come across beautifully here, particularly anytime a bow is pulled out to be used. Detail is strong, the character designs come through wonderfully, and the overall work just hits a certain sweet spot thanks to how well it’s put together in the encoding.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case where the front cover has a good image of the five main club members together in their outfits as along the edge of the platform. With that bit of interior there and the beauty of the outdoors with the cherry blossom tree and all the greenery, it’s a very naturalistic looking piece that really sets the tone well for the visual design. The logo is something that just doesn’t work for me as it doesn’t fit/blend well with what’s here but it’s kept small enough so as to not be a problem. The back cover carries over the color design in a good way that’s just as natural as it holds the summary of the premise and we also get some shots from the show on both sides. The rest is filled with the usual breakdown of the extras and an accurate technical grid that we always appreciated. There’s no insert with this release nor do we get a reversible cover.
The menu design for this has a really good look as there’s a brighter level to it that’s appealing as it uses wood colors, brown, and white to strong effect. The left side features the navigation which also uses blue as a highlight color as it breaks down episodes by number and title. Tying into the wood flooring is a nice touch. The right side has a separate frame that has within it a nice piece of artwork of the main cast and the logo itself, though the logo gets a little lost in it. With the larger background going for a loose minimalist approach to the bullseye and white space / green space, it all comes together pretty well. Everything is pretty simple but easy to use here with clean and functional navigation that works well both as a pop-up menu during playback and as the top level menu for getting around.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a couple of the Japanese promotional videos.
Based on the light novel series by Kotoko Ayano that was illustrated by Chinatsu Morimoto, Tsurune was part of the fall 2018 season that brought us a single-season run plus an OVA. The novels themselves began back in 2016 and have two our so far with the first one winning the Kyoto competition that brought it to publication. The series is one that both in its promotion prior to release and in watching it that I again found myself dazzled by the animation of it. Though not every Kyoto Animation property will work for me in terms of story, I know I can thoroughly enjoy each of them for what they bring to the screen visually regardless of who is directing or involved in the design side. There’s just something extra magical that clicks for me and I love the details and flow of it all and that’s very true here.
The premise for Tsurune really doesn’t stray far and that’s not a surprise. What it does it does incredibly well but it’s reminiscent of Hyouka for me in that it’s technically strong but it lacks that emotional element to really push it over the edge. While it’s an ensemble work, the main character that’s focused on is Minato, a high school student who has quit archery after things went bad during middle school with his club. He’s trying to live his life without it even though the tug of it is still there and his friends and others in this high school want him to come in with it because he did have talent. Minato’s got his main best friend herein Seiya but he’s also drawn into the whole archery realm once again thanks to the coach, Masaki. And while the bonds of friendship are what drives most series, making Seiya a key player, the reality is that this is a series about the teacher/student bond. Which at least feels a little fresh.
There are a bunch of other characters in the show as the club has a few more members that are of note and there are what feels like a couple of obligatory girls as well, one of which is a mild potential romantic interest that’s toyed with. But the reality is that the focus is on the coach/student side, which has some heightened feelings there that are done in a way to allow the viewer to take further in their mind, and the balance with Seiya in the mix. Minato’s main problem that we see early on is his target panic that happens when he’s on deck to let loose. That’s something that really eats at him and it’s a big hurdle for Masaki to help him overcome. But Masaki knows that there’s real talent to be had here if he can unlock it. Minato’s not the type that you can run hard to break through it all but you also can’t just let him meander through things without challenging him either.
What this means, in the end, is that we get a lot of familiar working things out and trying to figure out the right approach. All while working regular club stuff as well, such as training camp, weeding the place, standard practice, and so forth. It’s fun enough to watch the core group engage in all of this – and to have an older character in Masaki that provides a different dynamic than a fellow classmate/club member peer – that even going through the motions is enjoyable. And, as usual, we don’t get a lot of time with adults here so it’s the young men being on their own, shopping and cooking at times, etc. And yes, there’s tournament material that becomes more front and center as the series progresses. But for most of it, it’s the usual standard male bonding material with most of the cast that’s broken up by the more personal and interesting material with the coach. And, admittedly, part of that is simply because Masaki is a bit older and has a distinctive look to him that it’s a welcome contrast to the kids themselves.
Tsurune is a fairly average Kyoto Animation project in terms of story. I can see why the novel won and why it was selected for the animation treatment. It’s right up their alley in exploring something a little different and in an area that they can animate beautifully. It’s definitely more of a show about the guys than I expected as the girls are kept to a kind of minimum throughout. But the club members are engaging to watch when together and I like seeing what Minato’s struggle was throughout and his work to overcome it alongside his relationship with Masaki. This is the kind of good back and forth teaching and learning dynamic with a club as the focus using something that has a rich history and deep meaning. It’s honored well both in the story and the characters but also through the animation. Those who spent part of their high school life in such clubs will likely find that love of it presented in the story here and really connect with it. It’s very well-executed and its core story is strong, but it lacks that larger emotional heart it needs to really bring it together as a whole.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 28th, 2020
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.