Hey all, and welcome back to Why It Works. With the season now well underway, I’ve turned out to have a somewhat unexpected favorite - Tsuredure Children. I generally just kinda skip past a season’s shorts, Tsuredure Children’s uniquely endearing portrait of young romance has me absolutely charmed. Each thirteen minute episode goes through four separate skits, with each one focusing on a particular pair of possible lovers, or revisiting some of the previous stars. The show is essentially just one adorable near-confession scene after another, and why that works is, well, I mean, it’s the name of my column.
At a glance, Tsuredure Children’s “let’s just construct a string of confession scenes” focus seems brilliant. When we think of great romance stories we’ve loved, we often think of the big moments - the chase after a crying lover, the dramatic confession scene, the final kiss. Of course, romance narratives aren’t actually that simple. The peaks might be the moments that are seared into our mind, but in truth, it’s all of the developmental moments leading up to those peaks that makes them feel so powerful and consequential. Moments of quiet conversations between friends don’t seem as memorable at the time, but they’re what make ideas of characters transform into people in our mind, people we actually care about. We’ve learned to care about these characters, and believe in their feelings, and thus what is monumental to them is monumental to us.
Tsuredure Children flies entirely in the face of this conventional storytelling wisdom. It instead presents a series of straight confession scenes, the “candy filling” part of a romance, all in a row. Candy filling is great, but a diet of pure candy is as incompatible with us in a narrative sense as it is in a dietary one. Romances generally require a balanced diet of character-building, rapport development, and conflict, but Tsuredure Children just jumps straight to the fuzzy-wuzzy stuff. How does it do it?
First off, and likely Tsuredure Children’s greatest strength, is that it has an incredible ear for character voice. Pretty much no character in Tsuredure Children could be mistaken for any other character - in spite of us already running through a dozen separate skits, every character has been afforded a unique personality, temperament, and tone. Some of these characters stand out through their minimalism - for example, the final act of the first episode takes place almost entirely within heroine Koto’s head, and thus her exuberant mix of humor, anxiety, and fondness for her club senpai pretty much overwhelms his presence entirely.
Other skits balance the relative voices of their characters in different ways. Both the second and third skits of the first episode cut most internal monologue entirely, and instead let the push and pull of character personalities both keep things funny and establish clear portraits of unique people. Some of these characters are utterly unique to themselves, like the second skit’s class rep Yuki, who matches her genuine affection for classmate Jun Furuya with an irrepressible snark that keeps them apart. Others lean on but twist archetypes, like the third arc’s Ryouko, who counterbalances her punk persona with both vulnerability and a relatable perplexion at the actions of her suitor.
That confident reliance on archetype extends to its overall narrative construction. Tsuredure Children is able to jump between skits while keeping the audience on board precisely because it relies on a variety of scenarios the audience actually has some context for. The girl who teases the boy she likes because she can’t honestly confess, the long-admired class senior, the perpetual, snowballing misunderstanding - all of these are classic scenarios, ones the audience can immediately parse even within the smallest of timeframes. Relying on these scenarios isn’t a weakness of the series - the success of storytelling comes down far more to execution than novelty, and by marrying these narratives to such inherently likable characters, the show compresses full episodes of character development into clean, charming slices.
Finally, it certainly helps that Tsuredure Children is just really, really funny. While the show’s character work demonstrates obvious love of its cast, the overall concept of “a million tumbling confession scenes” reflects the show’s greater sense of humor regarding these confessions. None of these confessions are the end of the world - they’re just what kids do, and there’s an inherent humor in that. The show’s fond but slightly mocking perspective is strongly bolstered by its moment-to-moment gags, which rely on sharp comedic timing, great faces, and the same ear for true-to-life dialogue that invigorates its characters.
And in the end, the idea that Tsuredure Children “abandons narrative” isn’t even really true. Even a single scene can be a narrative, if you invest characters with needs and give the audience a reason to care. A dozen variations on “how can I express how I really feel” might seem gratuitous, but every episode of Tsuredure Children has me clamoring for more. Three cheers for these fuzzy-wuzzy kids.