Tsukigakirei – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tsuki ga Kirei

 

Similar: Orange

My Love Story

Kids on the Slope

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Romance

Length: 12 Episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Nice music.

Negatives:

  • No chemistry.
  • Artificial drama with little conflict.
  • The shyness is tiring.
  • CG crowds and horrendous shading.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Tsukigakirei’s unique selling point is its ‘plain’ romance free of the usual anime romance trappings. It doesn’t wish to overdramatize a relationship that isn’t the centre of the universe, as anime often does, nor does it desire melodrama to manipulate the audience’s hearts. This is a commendable idea. Sadly, in its effort to be different from the rest, it forgot to replace the elements it took out with anything compelling.

In their final year of middle school, Kotaro and Akane strike up a reserved friendship. Both wish for more than friendship, but mutual shyness holds them back and keeps their intimate conversations to text messages. If they are to progress in their relationship, they will need to get off the phones and talk IRL.

Shyness is the defining and only characteristic of this couple, which becomes tiring within a few episodes, particularly from the girl. Whenever someone asks her anything related to boys or relationships, it’s her staring at her feet going, “Um, er, ooo,” and other effort sounds we are meant to find endearing. Crippling shyness is a real condition, obviously, but not as depicted here. If she did suffer from crippling shyness, it would affect her in all areas of life. Here, however, she’s only shy when it’s convenient to have a scene go nowhere from her utter inaction and incompetence. The guy certainly doesn’t help. This shyness means they do nothing for 80% of the series and thus have no real connection, making one wonder where the attraction lies.

Kotaro and Akane have no chemistry to speak of. Again, teen attraction without chemistry is a real ‘affliction’, but not as depicted here. They wouldn’t swear undying love and do everything to stay together in the coming high school years with nothing more than hormones on which to plant their relationship. Considering they go for each other at the exclusion of all other confessions, you would imagine that something draws them together more than he’s a boy and she’s a girl. Why couldn’t the story have these two shy kids open up to each other first and then in turn develop deeper feelings? Instead, they have an immediate attraction and all they need is the courage to confess to solve everything. They develop neither as characters nor as a couple.

Because they don’t do much of anything, the story has to force artificial drama to justify a 12-episode runtime (several episodes don’t even have a purpose, such as the first, which you can skip). In one episode, a teacher confiscates Kotaro’s phone while he’s organising to meet with Akane during an excursion. His friends rope him into something the next day (of course he doesn’t tell them he’s busy), causing him to run late, but he can’t inform her without his phone. He ends up using the phone from a friend of hers. Does he explain what happened? No, that would be inconvenient. She gets all moody, accuses him of being too close to her friend (what?) and then gets over it just in time for the episode to end. I despise drama created by a lack of basic communication between characters. When the series has no actual drama to work with, it can’t pass an opportunity to force this nonsense on us, now can it? By the way, this cliché appears in most mediocre anime romances.

The side characters are forgettable and pointless, save two that have a modicum of use. One is a boy with the purpose of confessing to Akane – rejected – and one is a girl to confess to Kotaro – rejected – both of which resolve with no conflict. What’s the point? Tsukigakirei is so afraid of conflict that the confessors tell their competition of these plans and still nothing comes of it.

It’s great that you wanted to be something different, Tsukigakirei, but you don’t deserve applause for intent alone, not when you deliver a shallow relationship with no chemistry or reason to care. To those who love Tsukigakirei for being different, I suggest expanding your romance library beyond anime, where this type of story is not only common but also vastly superior. This anime has its sweet moments and I certainly wouldn’t call it terrible, yet I don’t recommend it either. I still seek a good plain anime romance. It has been a while.

Art – Low

Cheap. The tone gradients look auto filled. It’s meant to emulate watercolours, but just looks cheap. Regular use of CG crowds is hideous.

Sound – Medium

The acting is good and the music pleasant to match the romantic style.

Story – Low

Two shy high school kids fall in love and struggle to communicate. A serious lack of chemistry and motion in this relationship gives little reason to care for a tepid high school romance.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Unless you are desperate for ‘plain’ romance and are unwilling to look beyond anime, Tsukigakirei is a waste of time.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

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10 thoughts on “Tsukigakirei – Anime Review”

  1. I really struggled with this anime. So many people loved it that it was one I went back to after it was done airing and forced myself through it. However, as much as I like that some people see it as a more realistic romance, I really didn’t like the main characters and that phone nonsense really annoyed. Also, the shining white strips on every character’s face is kind of distracting. I could see why people more into slow romance or teen drama might like it, but for me it was a definite miss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have seen the phone communication work well – see Your Name, for example – but they didn’t have any fun or tension with it here.

      Those white stripes are just bad highlights. I am astonished no one thought to change it after seeing the test footage. It looks like flash animation made by a kid in high school.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Man, we had a good thing going, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to unfollow you for not agreeing with me 100%.

    I like this review because it definitely details what about this anime is lacking in regards to the more technical qualities of romance and character interaction and what-not. What I felt (key word) was good about this anime was that it’s relatable. Highly subjective term, absolutely, but that’s what makes this a highly subjective anime. One of those that just work for some people and not for others. I will state that the ending is pretty anticlimactic, though. Great work with this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting you should mention the ending, because I believe it is the weakest part of the story in its quest to be a ‘realistic’ romance. If Tsukigakirei truly wanted to be realistic, it would have had the couple break up at the end, as they go to different high schools. Imagine the conflict of having to realise that this is a part of growing up, that they must let go. That ending would have gone a long way to redeeming this series for me.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Yeah, I totally agree. I’ve seen my friends get into into similar relationships in middle school/high school as well. And the awkwardness and the tendency to attempt to expand the relationship through phone messaging was very prominent (which the anime captured really well). At that time it really frustrated me. But Tsukigakirei showed me that I was missing something with my observations.
      These first time romances were never likely to blossom, however, the people who experienced it came away more wise and understanding of themselves and love.
      Though this was not really shown explicitly, it showed the journey our protagonists took to that effect quite well (The characters may have been flawed and frustrating but they never felt shallow). And that’s why I would’ve been much more satisfied with the ending staying bittersweet as they both parted.
      All in all, I should say I’m not well versed with all the romance anime out there, but I did truly feel that this show offered something different and good successfully. It might indeed be more subjective than I thought.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not sure I agree with your review. I thought that this was one of the best romance anime that is out there and was pretty much excellent in every way. To be honest, I really hate the typical anime romance with melodrama, idiocy, and far fetched/contrived plots. If I were to describe this show I would say it’s very grounded. I could believe every interaction and decision the characters made.

    All romance anime have an aspect of lack of proper communication in order to simulate drama (what’s so interesting about 2 characters who like each other and then just start dating with no complications), but I felt that in this show, it was understandable. The kids are young and uncomfortable and reserved about a first relationship rather than the lack of communication being a plot device to make outrageous events occur, such as Toradora or Kids on the Slope. It just never felt unrealistic.

    Another reason I liked the show is that they displayed how two people’s relationships can passively affect those around them with vested interest in each of the characters. The side characters who liked the main girl and boy were both believably involved without being obnoxious and their reaction to being rejected was very real and made you actually empathize with them.

    Also, to speak about your points about how you felt as if they didn’t have any chemistry, I think there’s a disconnect between what you expected and what you received. This show is a really quiet show that tries to portray a middle school relationship. I was in a middle school relationship very similar to this one and if someone made a tv show about it, they would probably say we had very little chemistry. People that age are awkward, so their comfort around each other is just not going to be very high.

    I will say though that I was disappointed with the ending. I wish they had broken up. It would’ve been a way to demonstrate that life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to and that you have to get used to painful goodbyes.

    I do recognize a lot of flaws within the storytelling aspect. There did seem to be a general pointlessness to a lot of episodes, but it was a slice of life with no real end goal ever explored, I think that’s just the point of the show. Ultimately, I can look past these flaws because I just really liked it. I could see how someone who wasn’t as drawn into it would end up really not liking it because of the flaws, but that just wasn’t me. Oh well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. (Appreciate such a well thought out counter criticism. I’ll endeavour to address all of your points.)

      You are correct a story does need conflict for interesting drama in a romance. However, Tsukigakirei’s failure is in consistency with what causes this conflict. As I talk of in the review, their shyness is conveniently crippling when the story needs drama, and yet absent in other areas. If they truly were this shy, it would cause far more drama. I suspect that the writers intentionally “forgot” the shyness when needed, as the extra drama would have been too heavy, too psychological for such a light-hearted series. The alternative would have been to make them a little less shy.

      You are correct again that the supporting cast’s reactions to rejection is realistic. It is refreshing to see character that don’t take rejection as the end of the world. However, once more, Tsukigakirei falters with the supporting cast’s interactions with their competition in love. It isn’t realistic for one friend to tell another that she likes the same guy and not have any conflict arise (this would have been a good place for natural conflict, incidentally). It would have been perfect if the friends had quarrelled, grown jealous, etc., only to realise that it doesn’t matter in the end and friendship is worth more than this pettiness. Tsukigakirei is so close to being great for me.

      Yes, someone looking from the outside on your young life would have seen little chemistry. But if we did make a series of your middle school life, it would be from your perspective, where there is chemistry, as it is from this couple’s perspective in Tsukigakirei. We should have seen an almost “secret” romance between these two behind the scene, away from their friends’ eyes. The text messages were ideal for this. They needed to go further. The anime film Your Name nail this aspect.

      I certainly agree with you on the ending. In a comment above yours, I mentioned that if Tsukigakirei did want to be truly grounded, it should have ended with them breaking up. That one change would have greatly changed my opinion of the series.

      All said, I also find that anime romances’ greatest annoyance is the excessive melodrama. I have a review coming soon for A Lull in the Sea, which is an anime that exemplifies this problem.

      Also, don’t let me change how you feel about Tsukigakirei. It’s not my intention. Everyone has different preferences and you have to be true to what you enjoy. There is nothing more miserable in entertainment than pretending to have a false opinion on an art piece.

      Thanks for reading my work.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What do you mean by the shyness is tiring, it literally reflects Japanese society! I have enjoyed all of your reviews until now but I have to call this one bullsh*t. I have also written a review for this anime. I would love to see how you would combat this.

    As the moon, so beautiful follows the romantic relationship between Kotaro Azumi and Akane Mizuno, two junior high classmates. You won’t see world-shattering events or much in the way of melodrama. The plot centers squarely on everyday life, teenage conflicts with parents, stress of school and extracurriculars, and two young souls trying to find their way around romance. The story struck me as realistic and grounded. For once, the male protagonist isn’t a hothead or total dunce. He makes mistakes and often simply doesn’t know what to do. Likewise, Akane isn’t overly sweet or combative. She, too, misreads Kotaro and makes mistakes.

    I only found myself mentally calling Kotaro an idiot once throughout the 12 episodes, which is quite a feat for an anime such as this. Most of the time, male protagonists frustrate me with their foolish and superficially dense behavior. You don’t see such here. The fumbles Kotaro and Akane make are realistic and, even better, they realize they screw up and work to fix it. The story is filled with awkward, endearing moments of silence between them as they just don’t know what to say. But at the same time, the silence is never cold. It reverberates with the developing feelings they have for each other. They simply lack the vocabulary. Their feelings lack an overt sexuality too. They simply like each other for who they are. While some may view the innocence as unrealistic, I found it refreshing. Sexuality is overemphasized. Love can exist without s*x. While s*x may reinforce such feelings, we often confuse its hormonal drive as love.

    I mentioned how As the moon, so beautiful feels realistic. In one scene, both use the Internet to research dating ideas. This realism extends toward a key element that Kotaro and Akane use to develop their relationship: a messenging app called LINE. Throughout the story, they use the app to keep in touch. They even comment in a scene how its easier to talk over the app than in person. This detail captures modern dating culture well. Many people are more comfortable texting and sending online messages than talking in person, particularly at the start of a relationship. It can help people who are naturally quiet and, perhaps, a little shy–as with Akane and Kotaro. It also allows people to stay in touch when schedules refuse to cooperate, which is another detail the anime shows. In fact, LINE becomes essential to the Akane’s and Kotaro’s relationship as their schedules force them apart. Through LINE, they support each other’s efforts and cheer each other on. Akane with track and field. Kotaro with writing.

    As the moon, so beautiful builds on the idea that people don’t need words to show their feelings. Akane and Kotaro act in little ways that cements their bond–little gifts, gestures, and even glances across the classroom. There is a great scene where Akane is running in an important event, but says she doesn’t want Kotaro to watch–even though she actually does. Kotaro picks up on this and goes to the event without her knowing (he messages his support over LINE) and then leaves before she could see him. Later Akane finds out he had done this, and it makes her happy. He had both supported her wishes of him not watching (which she says would fluster her) and her quiet desire for him to be there. Small actions like this shows an attentiveness to unspoken desires, which shows love. Granted, it’s easy to miss such things and expecting a partner to always realize what is unsaid can cause problems.

    Kotaro pursues traditional dance at a temple and takes part in traditional festivals. The festivals and temples play key roles in the course of the story–providing important moments such as Kotaro’s confession to Akane on temple grounds. In many school-related anime, Japanese culture is downplayed for the safer, and more accessible, secular school scene. Sure, there are Japanese elements even within this, but they are the typical mainstay of anime: culture festivals, kimono, and the like. As the moon jumps into the elements usually ignored or glossed over, but it doesn’t seek to make them exotic or anything. Like LINE, the cultural elements and festivals are just a part of everyday life.

    The normalcy of the story and the delicate handling of romance–the awkward silences, the online messages, the clashing schedules–sets As the moon apart from most other romantic anime I’ve seen. Too often, such stories use comedy and superficial cluelessness to create a blunt, stereotype-laced story. As the moon uses many of the same tropes, such as love triangles, but it handles them with subtlety and care. The English version of the title has a poetic feel, and the story throughout holds the same feeling like the title. It has a crisp beauty to it and avoids feeling saccharine. The soft animation matches its realistic, understated focus.

    Some viewers may grow frustrated with its quiet, realistic pace. For many episodes, apparently little happens. That is, unless you pay attention to the subtext. Behind the slow pace, much is going on: commentary about the role of the Internet in relationships, the effects of others’ opinions on relationships, and how love affects friendships. But all of the messages are subdued and remain a part of the environment the romance develops within. There aren’t any fighting or action scenes. There isn’t any fan-service or sexual comedy. The awkwardness and the silent scenes may prompt some viewers to yell at the screen. But for those who like character-focused stories, the stories of two people awkwardly learning about each other and stories based on realism. I highly recommend to check this one out.

    Like

    1. I intended to reply to you long ago, but it kept slipping my mind. I’ll give you a short reply now or it will pass again.

      First, the belief that Japanese people are shy or submissive is a negative stereotype they don’t appreciate. They are a reserved people, which isn’t the same thing.

      Everything you say about this couple being different from the norm by being shy, by having a different relationship that what you usually see in anime, and being realistic for kids their age is fine (I like the heavy texting), but the fact that it doesn’t evolve much from this point is tiring. It starts well. Stories need progression, however. And it is possible to do this without resorting to the usual sexual comedy or fan service.

      (There is no need to censor the word sex.)

      I do appreciate your perspective though.

      Like

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