Episode 8 – Tsurune: The Linking Shot

©2023 Kotoko Ayano, Kyoto Animation/Tsurune 2 Committee

In the most poetic definition of the word, a trajectory can refer to an object’s past and future. It’s a fine metaphor for the episode that bears that name: “Trajectory” is a portrait of change, showcasing the cast of Tsurune: The Linking Shot at a central point between two significant tournaments. This week’s joint practice session between Kazamai and Kirisaki kyudo clubs dredges up memories of their season-long rivalry—and raises questions about their upcoming head-to-head at Nationals. Against this backdrop, reflections past and present of this season’s new challenger, Eisuke Nikaido, loom large. Slowly but surely, this low-stakes episode propels the characters toward an exciting future by putting all the pieces in place.

Back at the beginning of the season, Ryohei was aghast at Minato’s casual suggestion that he borrow some arrows from Shu. It’s a massive contrast from this week’s affable greeting when Ryohei shocks both clubs by referring to the Kirisaki golden boy as “Shu-kun.” This is the first indication the episode gives us that things have shifted significantly between Kazamai and Kirisaki—and this is only the beginning. At one time, Kirisaki seemed untouchable to the archers of Kazamai. Now there’s evidence of give-and-take: the girls of Kirisaki came out to watch Noa, Rika, and Yuna participate in the public tournament and became big fans. The Kirisaki team and its advisors are all keen to see Masa perform a ceremonial first shot. And the twins, who were last season’s least redeemable antagonists, have matured and mellowed with time. Kazamai might not be as fancy a school as Kirisaki (how cool is it that the school has its own café?), but it can now consider its kyudo team to be on a similar level.

This episode encourages viewers to compare where the characters are now to where they were last season. But this episode’s visual and audio storytelling covers an even longer timespan. Kirisaki club members are intrigued by Kazamai’s habit of recording themselves on smartphones to check their forms. This decision to use cutting-edge technology to improve the ancient art of kyudo makes for an impressive contrast—especially with traditional string instruments commanding the background music. This pointed comparison of tradition and technology raises awareness of Tsurune‘s animation itself, which uses some obvious 3D effects, like the ripples in the floorboards later in the episode, that still gel with its zen vibe.

While last season’s characters mingle, the narrative brings up the specter of Nikaido, a worthy rival with which all the archers are familiar. Minato reflects on a time he chanced on Nikaido shooting shaman style. The chat that followed was obtuse even for Minato, who doesn’t realize that his unceremonious revelation of his kyudo teacher’s name shocks and perhaps even infuriates Nikaido. I don’t remember exactly what it is, but Nikaido’s uncle and Minato’s teacher have a history of bad blood. With a chilling false smile, Nikaido asks if Minato’s teacher was a 7-dan and part of an ace trio… to which Minato says he doesn’t really know, pissing off Nikaido even more! This scene is bookended with a depiction of Nikaido in the present, convincing a teacher with a fishing hobby to fund a kyudo training camp conveniently near a beach. It’s a crafty moment in which Nikaido has his wits about him and uses his honed observational skills to think of his feet. We get the impression that Nikado is a survivor. He doesn’t have much but uses everything he has to the max. Only, what is going on with Fuwa? His repeated implications that Nikaido always lies suggest the boy has a secret.

Things get interesting when the episode wraps up with a practice match between Kirisaki and Kazamai. Minato and his teammates have worked hard on their ikiai, but the CGI of discordant ripples on the floorboards implies they still have a ways to go. The visual direction is focused less on whether or not the archers meet their targets and more on the rhythm of those shots; indeed, the ripples are a visual depiction of what their tsurunes might look like. It’s a neat experimental choice, but it minimizes the barely present tension, considering this is just a friendly competition. The temperature stays lowered for the rest of the episode as Kazamai gets a humorous glimpse of Kirisaki student life (I loved the dorms, especially the angry twins stashing their plushies) and the teams fraternize at an afterparty. You used to be able to cut the barely-concealed antagonism between Seiya and Shu with a knife; that’s no longer the case. All in all, it was a compelling world-building episode. It was low on tension, and the scenes with Nikaido provided more questions than answers, but all of the elements worked together to express one cohesive idea.


Tsurune: The Linking Shot is currently streaming on

Lauren writes about model kits at Gunpla 101. She spends her days teaching her two small Newtypes to bring peace to the space colonies.

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