[Review] Tsuki ga Kirei – episode 1

Akane Mizuno and Kotaro Azumi are two third-year middle school students who become classmates for the first time. Akane is a member of the school track team and Kotaro is the literary club president who loves books and wants to become a writer. The two seem an unlikely romantic pair, and the people and situations around them make that possibility even more difficult.

Source: Anime News Network

I like nothing more than a well-done romance, and while I tend to prefer things more plotty and less slice of life, one of my favourite films of all time is Whisper of the Heart. However, the romance in Whisper of the Heart succeeds because it establishes 1) a basis for attraction between the two leads, 2) a basis for conflict in their relationship, and 3) a character development arc for each of them as individuals. In its first episode Tsuki ga Kirei shows us the barest hint of attraction, some potential for character growth and no conflict. “Parents who acknowledge each other’s existence in a positive way” isn’t exactly the biggest roadblock out there for a middle school romance.

Akane clearly has some kind of social anxiety, needing to calm herself down with a stress toy even to walk into a classroom just knowing that her two close (only?) friends won’t be in there. There’s also a sense that she may be under-performing a little in her athletics club, now her only chance to see her friends, which could mean some reassessment of her own goals for high school and developing some ambitions for the future. Her journey to self-confidence before high school is a worthwhile story in its own right.

Kotaro’s potential arc is less obvious. He’s in the literature club, he plans to be a writer and he’s disciplined enough to head straight to the library after school and write. He is outgoing with his friends and reserved away from them, decent enough not to say anything when he misses a meeting because Akane didn’t tell him it was happening. Where will he go from here? If his only purpose is to spur Akane’s character growth without experiencing any of his own, that will be disappointing.

This episode and the closing credits establish that Akane and Kotaro will become a couple, so we can assume that they’ll learn enough about each other to find common ground soon and that any interference to their attraction will be obviously temporary. It would be refreshing to have them become a couple and then deal with the conflict, on the lines of My Love Story!! but less cartoony and dealing with middle school issues and politics. However, if it take 12 episodes of interested glances and LINE messages for these two to become a couple, then we’re probably looking at 10 episodes of false conflict and internal screams of “JUST HAVE AN HONEST CONVERSATION!”

That said, it’s absolutely not the case that a conclusion must be unpredictable for the journey to be rewarding, and if will-they-won’t-they is a narrative you tend to enjoy then Tsuki ga Kirei may be a solid choice. It’s pretty enough, with the kind of colouring style you see more in manga spreads than in anime, and the characters are an accurate representation of awkward 14-year-olds. The problem with something this simple is that it has to be executed at a high level to stand out, and it doesn’t do quite that just yet. But it’s not actively off-putting, and that’s a reasonable start to a story of romance between teenagers in anime.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.


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  • I really liked this one, if only because the art style reminds me of Wandering Son.

  • Martin Wisse

    I liked this first episode, because it was such an accurate depiction of what the very very early stages of maybe starting to like somebody looks like. You don’t often see that build-up of attraction in anime; usually one or both of the couple to be is already in love, just not in a relationship yet.

    If the rest of the series is as realistic as the first episode, this is a keeper for me.

  • Dawnstorm

    This is probably my favourite premier so far that doesn’t involve tanuki. I’m into it for mood rather than plot, and as long as they manage to keep up the general feel of the show, while mixing up the range of emotions I’m fine. I like the way these character act differently in front of different people. I’ve gravitated towards anime precisely because I think the medium is good with those slice-of-life moments, and also because they give me, more often than other media, stories that don’t have to be structured around conflict. It’s not so much that I enjoy will-they-won’t-they narratives; it’s that I’m fine with them if they get the mood right. It’s as good a pretext for story as any.

    In addition, I’m an aromantic, and I rarely care if people get together or not. I do sometimes root for people to get together, and I’m not sure what it is that triggers this. In the case of Tsuki ga Kirei, they’re still in the very early stages of interest, so for the moment I’m seing a coming-of-age story split in two, rather than a romance. I’m not convinced they’re good for each other, and I don’t think they’re bad for each other. At the moment, they just have to figure out how they feel about themselves feeling new feelings. They’re not at the age where I’d expect a lasting relationship anyway. I suspect the story will run on micro-tension that aren’t much to talk about looking back, but are quite confusing while suffered through. Judging by the joint family scene, instigated by the older sister, btw, who – I’m sure – was quite aware what she was doing, the show will be more an exploration of the social meanings of “puppy love” (not a perfect word, but the best I can think of) than an outcome-based plot. I’d probably prefer that, too.