How’s that for an Uno Reverse? In every other episode of Tsurune: The Linking Shot, the female members of the kyudo club have avidly cheered on their male teammates. In episode six, “Taking Shape,” it’s Yuna, Noa, and Rika’s turn to take the spotlight. Although this is a one-off focal shift, there’s a depth to the girls’ story that alludes to a bond between them just as strong as the one between their male teammates and one that has been developing just out of frame this whole time. I loved how this episode gave us little glimpses of the girls’ personalities, their shared history, and their deepening bond as teammates that is every bit as emotional as their male teammates. That said, glimpses were all we got—their story was mostly a catalyst to move the plot back to the boys. After patiently sitting on the sidelines all this time, perhaps the ladies of Kazamai Kyudo Club deserved a little bit more than that.
In episode 4, there was a very brief scene of Yuna, Rika, and Noa reading a flyer about a public kyudo tournament that accepts teams of three. Two weeks later, the seed that scene planted has borne fruit. It’s the opposite of usual when the girls announce their plans to enter the tournament, and protagonist Minato excitedly offers to cheer them on. After the female teammates have done so much cheering on the sidelines, it’s gratifying to see the male teammates are just as enthusiastic about supporting them when it’s their time to shine. (I also loved the moment during their celebratory dinner when Nanao deferentially poured a drink for a still-preening Yuna. The boys are truly as supportive of the girls as vice versa!) Until this episode, I didn’t know how much I wanted to watch an episode starring the girls. They’ve always been side characters with less dimensionality than the leads. But this episode made it feel like the girls have been experiencing a teambuilding arc with just as much depth to it as the boys’, and it made me want to see more than we got.
This episode showed us for the first time how each of the girls lives. We learn that Noa is rich, that Yuna gets her gregarious personality from her mother, and that Rika is a disciplined morning jogger. We learn that they have a group chat just like the boys do. They each have a unique tsurune sound when they release their arrows during the tournament (once again, I have to hand it to the sound designers, who must have recorded hundreds of archery practices to capture all of these distinct tsurunes). In between lovingly-rendered sakuga of their performance, enhanced with a sakura petal effect, we learn that they’ve been developing as a team behind the scenes this entire time. As each girl releases her arrow, the direction pivots to a scene in the past that features the two other girls complimenting the third and remarking on what specific benefits she brings to their group of three. For brevity’s sake, these are pure slice-of-life moments without any juicy conflict. Our time with the girls is truly short. As beautifully animated as their tournament appearance may be, it’s mainly a vehicle to progress the main plot by allowing Minato to reflect on when he entered the tournament with Seiya and Shu, to have a meeting with his former teacher Saionji-sensei, and to wrap up his special training, so Masa will finally allow him to hold a bow and arrow again.
There isn’t a legal way to read the Tsurune light novels that this anime is based on in English, but episodes like this suggest a lot more narrative than there’s time or space for the anime to capture. Yuna, Noa, and Rika may not be the main characters, but this episode implied that their untold story is every bit as rich as the main storyline. It’s contrary of me to criticize this episode for featuring interesting side characters who leave me wanting more. But like multiple characters’ dialogue stressed during the public tournament, kyudo is an unusual sport in which people of different ages and genders can excel. It made me want to see at least one episode when that was the full focus.
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Lauren writes about model kits at Gunpla 101. She spends her days teaching her two small Newtypes to bring peace to the space colonies.