Tsuki ga Kirei Review — Seiji Kishi’s Sakuga Slamdunk

Since I never finished my Let’s Watch, I thought I’d at least conclude my thoughts on Tsuki ga Kirei with a proper review.


Pre-Review Background

Did you guys know that in the fifteen years that animation studio Feel (also known as feel. with a period) has existed up to this time of writing, they’ve never produced an original anime before Tsuki ga Kirei? I was surprised to hear that as well, but one look at their resume shows that in addition to all of their anime being stuff that nobody ever acknowledges anymore with the obvious exception of the second season of Yahari, everything they’ve made…alright fine they made Yosuga no Sora as well you perverted fucks…but everything they’ve made has been an adaptation of a light novel or a visual novel, with Yahari 2 being the only thing they’ve done that actually looked nice to watch. As such, it’s small wonder they’re practically never brought up when discussing animation studios. And if that wasn’t enough to kill any possibility of hype for Tsuki ga Kirei, the numerous high-profile sequels and light novel adaptations, the premise being centered on young romance rather than something with more bombast (which people who actually acknowledge feel have expressed disappointment in themselves), and the director being Seiji Kishi pretty much guaranteed the show’s status as “cult favorite” before it even aired.

Original anime are always a bit of a gamble due to the majority of audiences being drawn to what’s familiar, but while it hasn’t exactly won much in the way of acclaim despite the numerous memes regarding how it’s a modern masterpiece, Re: Creators’ unique premise along with the Aldnoah team was the more enticing hook of the two high-profile original shows of Spring 2017. Tsuki ga Kirei had to rely on word of mouth and its currently strong scores on anime ranking sites to get people to watch it, not helped by how it’s a slow-paced show whose first episode is known for “nothing happening”. With all that said, I’m surprised by how high that acclaim ended up being as it neared its conclusion. Now it has a very vocal fanbase where anything short of pure gushing is a rare occurrence, and while it’ll most likely never be more than a cult show, I see more people watching it these days and regretting their decision to not start it sooner.

But at the end of the day, Tsuki ga Kirei’s current status in the fandom doesn’t matter to me, just like how I didn’t care who the staff and and such were behind the show on initial viewing. I decided to watch it because romance anime have been pretty good this year, I thought the premise had potential, and the first episode seemed promising in a Wandering Son-sort of way, so it wasn’t until two episodes in that I realized it was a Seiji Kishi show to begin with. Basically, all that matters to me is whether I liked the anime or not. Did I? Let’s find out.

General Plot

Tsuki ga Kirei is a slice-of-life romance series centered on two ninth graders named Kotaro Izumi and Akane Mizuno, who end up becoming classmates for their final year of middle school and eventually become a couple after a few chance encounters and LINE messages motivate the boy to confess to the girl. However, with the confession being made in Episode 3, what does the rest of the show have to offer? Well, it turns out that the captain of the track and field club named Takumi Hira has had a crush on Akane since first year, and Akane’s best friend named Chinatsu Nishio starts crushing on Kotaro after a few chance encounters of her own. Additionally, Akane is trying to do well in track whilst Kotaro strives to become a writer, and while this doesn’t seem like it’ll provide much of an obstacle to their romance at first, things get complicated when neither of them are able to succeed at achieving their chosen goals. Also, since they’re in middle-school, they also have to deal with hiding their relationship from their friends, dealing with their parents (yes, this anime actually has parents for both leads), and lots of other small drama that end up becoming larger than expected due to personal matters.

Despite these obstacles, Kotaro and Akane try their best to make their relationship work in cute ways that you’d need to actually see the show to really get. All I’m willing to spoil is that they look up dating tips on Yahoo. Yes, this is a romance show where online dating advice is used as a plot point, and not in a retarded way like those crappy dating manuals you saw all the time in Shuffle and School Days, which work about as well as my phone whenever I try to use Google Maps on it. Oh, you mean turn right at the next intersection that’s three feet away from the one I thought. Gotcha.

There’s not really much to say about the plot other than that. It’s just middle schoolers dealing with relationship issues in a semi-realistic/semi-mature manner whilst the audience wonders whether they’ll stay together in the end. And truthfully, that should be enough for most people as long as they’re not opposed to the romance genre.

Personal Dissection

As a romance show, Tsuki ga Kirei gets the basics down pat. We care about Kotaro and Akane as people because we can relate to the awkwardness of being young and in love. And even if we never went through that phase, we can at least understand what they’re going through, although some of us would rather leave that part of our life behind. And more importantly, we care about them being together because they have pretty good chemistry. It’s a little hard to actually describe said chemistry other than you have to see it to believe it, as they don’t share hobbies besides the usage of LINE and their personalities being similarly awkward, but chances are good you’ll see why they’re together, regardless of whether you think the relationship is cute or not.

And despite the cuteness, it’s the way that Tsuki ga Kirei grounds its logic into reality that sets it apart from just being a throwaway moe show. The characters do go through real problems both in regards to their relationship, as well as their future, to the point that you don’t know whether they’re stay together by the end. And while the show doesn’t really push either angle all that hard, it does do a good job of mixing the elements into a coherent narrative. I really felt for Kotaro when he was told he didn’t have a bright future in regards to being an author and how that tied into his relationship with Akane, especially near the end. Akane’s track stuff is not as good, because it sorta gets dropped around the 2/3 mark for a completely different dramatic direction regarding her grades. I won’t spoil where that ends up, but suffice to say I’m glad the show didn’t cheapen the journey in a way that would make Ken Akamatsu cry bullshit on.

The third wheels in the show are likable, but the situations around them tend to be a bit contrived. I find it kinda stupid that Chinatsu just happens to run into convenient situations with Kotaro so many times as soon as she starts taking an interest in him to the point that she spends more time with him than his girlfriend. If she planned it beforehand, I could probably buy it, but there was one scene when she coincidentally went to the library where Kotaro coincidentally was waiting to eat lunch with Akane, and guess who catches them in the act? At least when Akane’s sister gives her bad advice, she’s coming from a real place. It can be hard to stay friends with someone who likes the same person you do, and most couples formed in high school, let alone middle school, don’t survive for a very good reason.

In terms of the rest of the supporting cast, I don’t bother to watch the shorts revolving around them because I couldn’t give two shits about their lives outside the main story. And in the main story, they’re fine for the most part, although the only ones who really stand out are the parents for being harsh yet supporting, as well as Akane’s sister (Ayane) and sometimes Roman for being supportive on different sides. Yeah sorry fangirls, but I just don’t care about Roman’s love life. I care about when he’s helping someone’s love life, but his own doesn’t interest me.

Tsuki ga Kirei is a show known for its deliberate slowness, but even by those standards, it has pacing problems up the wazoo. I know a lot of people don’t like how Your Name summarized the main couple’s relationship in a montage, but I counter with this argument “why would I want to see all the minute details and developments of the lead couple if I’m not the one actually in the relationship”? People argue that it makes you care about the characters more the longer you stay with them. I respond with how Disney movies have done the whole musical montage thing just fine for decades now, even if most of those are a bit outdated, and I cared more for Aladdin and Jasmine than pretty much any shoujo romance relationship ever. They reply back that western animation sucks and eastern animation rules. I say “fuck you”. We get into a slap fight that I obviously lose because they outnumber me a billion to one. And I totally lost the point of this argument, haven’t I?

What I’m trying to get at is an entire episode dedicated to Kotaro and Akane finally kissing is not fun to watch. While it’s nice to see the show focus on the mundane reality in order to give weight to the romance, sometimes it runs into that overly long horror film problem of building too much atmosphere for its own good, with the first two episodes in particular being stand-out examples of this. And sometimes the angst can go on a little long for a payoff that’s a little short, like a later episode where Kotaro’s angst during a festival date with Akane boils for over half the runtime, only to be resolved in like two minutes. Maybe if the payoffs were better, this wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but Tsuki ga Kirei’s goals are only ambitious if your standards for romance were set really low by Light Novel Adaptation #694 Million.

The animation is generally good, but it does make use of very distracting CG for most of its backgrounds. And when I say backgrounds, I’m including unnamed extra characters walking around. There are a lot of CG people that clash badly with the very clearly 2-D protagonists to the point that it looks like they’re the only humans on an alien planet. Now this gets toned down in later episodes, but believe me when I say you will be wondering whether the machines have invaded throughout the majority of the show, and while it looks good for feel, 2017 has had so many high-quality romance anime as of late in terms of production values and narrative vision that Tsuki ga Kirei looks like a knock-off by comparison. I personally have no complaints about the music though. The opening song is popular among fans for a reason, and the ending theme is sweet as well. I like how the visuals in the opening are just scenery until the halfway point.

I think what draws people to this show the most though is where the narrative ends up going. And while the ending is very well-deserved, the journey could have been better (which is true for every piece of fiction, but I mean that Tsuki ga Kirei’s journey on its own was awkward). I really could have used some stronger philosophy regarding what it means to truly be young and in love, especially during the frustrating parts. What separates good frustration from bad frustration is what it’s used for, and since Tsuki ga Kirei doesn’t have much narrative ambition beyond portraying what the youth go through without really delving into why other than they’re kids, that means the only goal of a frustrating element is ultimately to draw out the length of the show. And that gets real annoying real fast.

Conclusion

While I certainly don’t think it’s the best romance anime of this year and certainly not of all-time, Tsuki ga Kirei is a solidly constructed entry into the genre thanks to great visual storytelling and well-rounded characters that deserved the ending they ended up getting, which I won’t spoil, but chances are the Internet has already ruined you at this point. It’s definitely one of the best straightforward romance stories I’ve seen in a long time, mostly because of how hard it can be to make that interesting to anyone who’s not actually participating in said romance.

I’d easily recommend this to anyone looking for something heart-melting without dipping into saccharine territory, and while my feelings on feel and Seiji Kishi haven’t changed, that’s mostly because I don’t have much of an opinion on them anymore other than they’ve made lots of crap in their life. They’ll probably continue to make more in the future, but making one good show in of itself is something that few people in anime can even claim, so just for now, let’s congratulate them for successfully winning the hearts of a romance-starved crowd after making us suffer through Da Capo II and Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace.

Additional Quips

  • If anything else, this show is further proof that paying attention to anime staff in order to determine what to watch is pure bullshit.
  • Actually, I don’t know many people besides me who sat through Da Capo II. Sitting through Da Capo 1 was painful enough.

4 responses to “Tsuki ga Kirei Review — Seiji Kishi’s Sakuga Slamdunk

  1. Not sure what it says about me that the famed “nothing happened” first episode is probably my favourite of the entire series, but there you go.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the show overall – I thought it was wonderful (I liked it more than you did). The awkwardness of it all…it just felt so very genuine to me.

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