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Tsurune: The Linking Shot Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
With a first season and movie behind it, more Tsurune works to explore the dyanmics of this young vcast and their lives.

The journey continues as the past resurfaces and tensions rise.

What They Say:
Minato’s return to archery may have helped Kazemai High’s Kyudo Club win a prefectural tournament, but it’s a poor bowman who expects an arrow to fly the same flight every time. With the entry of a radical new team, one of whose members is Minato’s former upperclassman, the old rivalry between Kazemai and Kirisaki becomes a triangle with the upstart team from Tsujimine as serious contenders. And even as the men’s team struggles to adjust to the new paradigm, competition doubles again as the Kazemai women’s team of Rika, Yuna, and Noa prepares to enter their first tourney as well! Prepare to be aquiver as each new arrow makes its mark!

The Review:
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. No, wait, that’s the first season only. Sadly, the second season here did not get an English dub which is quite disappointing. 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 2023, 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 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. The details are 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 three leading members together in their outfits in the practice space that’s definitely appealing. While the first one was more a mix of indoor and outdoor material, this one is all indoors and you can practically smell the wood of it all. I just love the light that’s coming in and the general feel of it to create a mood that I’m sure those that were in clubs like this would click with instantly. 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.

© Kotoko Ayano · Kyoto animation / Tsurune Production Committee

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 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, which are always welcome and should always be included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Kotoko Ayano that Chinatsu Morimoto illustrated, Tsurune was part of the fall 2018 season that brought us a single-season run plus an OVA. That was then followed up by a feature film in the summer of 2022 and then this winter 2023 anime series. Amusingly, the film is being released on home video here after the TV series. The novels themselves began back in 2016 and have three out 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 I again found myself dazzled by the animation. 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.

I enjoyed the first season fairly well as a whole but I’ll admit that the characters didn’t grab me all that much and I was connecting more with the aesthetic and feel of it more than their journey. It’s a fairly familiar one and this season deals with that aspect of it some more, notably with Minato trying to progress further and deal with things while knowing that the events of the first season can’t be replicated. And that’s part of storytelling as well to give him and others more challenges without it becoming so overdone as to break belief. I think they do a well enough job of it here to make it work but it still feels similar to the first season for me. Which, again, is not a bad thing. Projects like this are going to connect with people in different ways and with so many stories like this in my list of shows I’ve watched, there are precious few that truly stand out. Most, however, are good and enjoyable and this one is just that. It’s simply that the visual design and setting is what appeals more to me.

© Kotoko Ayano · Kyoto animation / Tsurune Production Committee

When viewed in the larger context of how we’re following Minato’s journey, this is an important piece after the events and backstory of the first season that we got. Here, he’s starting to move forward again more fully, he’s got better relationships with everyone, and the show spends some decent time exploring each of their backstories and even giving some of the new characters a chance to be a bit more fleshed out than you might expect based on the first season. Bringing these things together and tying them to their sport – and this is still very much a sports show – is a familiar approach and it delivers well here. By moving past the initial stages of the project with Minato and his understandable grief, we’re now able to get more interesting stories of those characters. The familiar pieces are here, such as the sports tournament at school and the whole aspect of regionals and the like, but we see that now against the backdrop of their expanded stories. Even when you get events like Minato being pushed out of things for a while, the ties that bind them to the sport continue.

And, in a very welcome way we don’t always get with a sports project, we see how Minato’s ties to the sport are so strong that they’re becoming problematic. It’s not an overdone element in regards to his dedication to it, but you see how it’s fraying things not just for himself but also how he interacts with others and it damages the group element of it all within the club of the school. And in doing so, we get to see more of what his impact does to others and their participation in the sport in a way that felt a bit untethered in the first season. That had a bit of going through the motions feelings to it at times but here it feels all in and invested by the main cast. Minato is still the central focus but there’s a stronger ensemble feeling through it and Minato’s a different kind of catalyst for the season than he was in the first season. And that makes for some good character dynamics as they bounce off each other in different ways. It’s still all very much a KyoAni show in how relaxed and almost kind of precise, and there are emotional moments, but it has that kind of sensibility about it in that it’s trying to lean into a kind of nobility.

© Kotoko Ayano · Kyoto animation / Tsurune Production Committee

The sports elements of the show continue to be pretty slick as well and you know that it’s just part and parcel of what a KyoAni project is like. I absolutely love the way it plays out – and toward the end we even get what I think is close to half an episode of material where there’s no dialogue that just lets the whole thing play out. I remember how long it took me to come around to sports shows in general (from a very different age decades ago) but when you get a show like this and the production behind it, it’s just beautiful to watch. It’s what made the first season work as well as it did for me and it’s just as strong here, if not more so at times. The details and some of the absolutely stunning color quality of it just come through in a way that stands out. It’s easily something that you can enjoy even if the character stories don’t connect for you as much.

In Summary:
Tsurune in a general sense is a familiar sports anime focusing largely on a group of young men as they find out more about who they are individually and as a group. The series works through some familiar things as we’ve seen in most shows, with regionals and more school-specific things, but it’s pretty well-layered as it gets moving and engages the viewer well with the cast. I like seeing Minato’s progress as a whole here from how we met him in the first season and the expanded focus on the rest of the cast here as things are changing for all of them. Its biggest strength for me is still the animation and its quality but it feels like there’s more meat on the bones here this time around. It is disappointing that no dub was produced for this but for fans of the show with its original cast, it’s a pretty strong presentation here overal.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, 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: November 28th, 2023
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

© Kotoko Ayano · Kyoto animation / Tsurune Production Committee