Review/discussion about: Tsuki ga Kirei
Dazai once said, “The weak fear happiness itself.”
That’s a pretty powerful statement, for it dares the reader to contemplate thrice. “Am I weak?” “Am I fearful?” “Am I happy?” To answer those introspections, I like to believe that most people strive for strength and confidence – which inevitably leads to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
For Tsuki ga Kirei, the characters ask themselves those same questions. And although there may not be either gold or rainbows, it instead replaces that wealth and those colors with something as equally rewarding and beautiful.
Tsuki ga Kirei follows a young boy named Kotarou and a young girl named Akane. He’s a writer, she’s a runner, and the two find themselves worried about their last year of middle school since the future remains unknown. When they find each other, however, they discover a whole new world that changes their lives for the better.
This world takes to heart what the heart does best: romance. Not the “dance around the subject” kind but instead the “holy moly they have an actual relationship” stuff. The audience gets the crushing. The confessing. The waiting. The committing. The handholding. The dating. The kissing. While somewhat simple, it’s almost impossible to complain about the progression presented between these two lovebirds since it more or less provides a full, worthwhile romantic tale from start to finish.
Indeed, such simplicity builds the anime’s foundation. Certain small moments may not mean much in the long term but have noticeable romantic implications in the short term. Kotarou punches his hanging light switch in victory. Akane makes him a hand-knitted scarf that he wears whenever he can. The two hang out together in private inside their school’s library. The events are neither loud nor mundane, striking a delicate balance between both sides that equates to something not only real but also relatable.
Not to say Tsuki ga Kirei doesn’t have simple events that affect the plot in major ways. Kotarou’s friends indirectly have his phone taken away, ultimately persuading Akane to respond with a “yes.” And she fails to invite him into the committee chat group back in episode one, giving them their first true interaction. No matter the approach, simple is effective, and simple is important.
Most importantly, the show uses its simplicity to capture the adolescence of their love. They are two characters who don’t know anything about anything; they’re just kids after all. As such, they stumble and experience and learn while this love wraps them up like a warm blanket. Their awkwardness when bumping into each other and their families while at a local diner. Worrying about that next text to send and staying up half the night waiting for a reply. Trepidation (with blushes) in how best to express their feelings through actions. This love is their very first – and it definitely shows.
With adolescence in mind, Kotarou and Akane share specific moments that define their relationship. He helps to place a Band-Aid on her sore toe during a shrine visit. She closes her eyes and tilts her head upwards in an expectant manner after a fun-filled date. They encourage the other in their respective endeavors. If simple is the key and adolescence is the lock, what lays beyond the open door are these personable scenes that elevate their love ever higher.
Love cannot always be hunky-dory, though. Akane and Kotarou fight with tougher feelings such as jealousy and sadness. Feelings caused not only by the concurrent love triangle (unclosed square really) but also the threat of separation from Akane’s move to a faraway city and the implications behind that distance.
Going through a range of emotions as they do is part of what life is about. Moreover, it is a realistic approach – which just so happens to be another of the anime’s definitive strengths.
Using simplicity once again, the anime includes a ton of narrative details that aim for realism and thus keep the show grounded in its portrayal. For instance, the plot doesn’t go anywhere unfair. Characters actually confront one another about what has transpired, and events like Kotarou not passing the exam despite his immense effort create natural outcomes.
Then there’s his cultural dance that he practices all throughout the season. It acts as a metaphor for the wild yet meticulous feelings he experiences.
Many minutiae also bolster Tsuki ga Kirei. A wonderful example occurs in episode one where Akane and her friends laugh at the silly “Workers ‘souper’ wanted” advertisement. Or how, in episode eight, she spritzes herself with perfume before sitting down with Kotarou for lunch to mask any unwanted smells after her practice.
When looking at everything together – the romance, the adolescence, the realism – the anime clearly champions (coincidentally enough) a simple yet profound idea: There is beauty in simplicity. Love doesn’t have to be romanticized. Emotions do not need to be complex. Life isn’t required to be fantastical. Rather it’s the simple smiles, the simple gestures, and the simple exchanges that form the beauty in people and the relationships they create.
Nowhere better does the audience see that sentiment in action than in Tsuki ga Kirei’s finale. Nothing short of fantastic, their simple set of actions contain incredible weight. Kotarou writes to Akane his feelings in earnest. She holds onto her favorite (and now matching) potato squeezie. And the two express their thoughts on what this love has meant for them. All of which leads to a happily-ever-after reel that perfectly caps off this story.
Arguably speaking, such a finale is almost too saccharine. After all, how many couples that begin in middle school actually stay together through both high school and college to the point that they have a child together over ten years later while juggling (for a time) the long-distance aspect to their relationship? The answer is “hardly any.”
Even so, after watching this story about two kids growing up, living life, and sharing a young, heartfelt love, they more than deserve such a wonderful ending. The story here is sincere. Thoughtful. And, well, simply beautiful.
ART & ANIMATION
Much of the art within Tsuki ga Kirei remains visually pleasing throughout its run.
Most of that pleasantry comes from the intentional softness that complements the even softer content therein. White outlines surround parts of the characters’ designs to give them a gentle appearance. Multiple background shots of the local town invite relaxation through familiarity. Lighting leans towards a happy mood, befitting the anime’s stance.
These traits also tie back to the anime’s more fundamental ideas. Akane, Kotarou, and the rest of the cast (save for maybe Roman’s pink highlights) maintain simple designs that, while perhaps too plain, follow the tone and lighthearted nature of the show. The backgrounds are quite pretty, but, most importantly, they do not shy away from realism, going so far as to look like digital pictures plopped behind the moving characters. As for the lighting, an emphasis on sunsets evokes that welcomed romance.
Speaking strictly of animation, it never necessarily wows. Kotarou’s cultural-and-festival dance is very fluid but only because it gets reused multiple times throughout the season. Otherwise, what’s shown is more or less passable – and that’s fine. The show doesn’t go for incredible choreography or deft technical ability. Instead, it toils over changing expressions and interpersonal actions to present the anime as caring rather than overbearing.
Cinematography, while nothing grand, can flourish when it so chooses, like when a scene in episode five cuts from Akane to Kotarou as they sigh in mirrored directions. For everything else, the only major gripe (and it is major) is the CG use. To put it bluntly, it’s very weak, arguably the weakest aspect of the entire show. The civilians that populate the area seem more like animatronics than people (relative to the artistry), coming off as entirely too out-of-place and way too jarring to ignore outright.
Much like the story, Akane and Kotarou’s development does not constitute anything complex. However, the gradual, noticeable shift in their thoughts and feelings presents a strong change in their characters nonetheless.
These two middle schoolers have more in common than they originally realize. Akane plays with her pink potato squeezie to calm her nerves whenever a situation becomes even remotely tense. Kotarou lacks the self-esteem he needs to put himself out there. And the two are both reserved and quiet in their day-to-day activities. To put it differently, Tsuki ga Kirei primes them both for purposeful growth over the course of this tale.
Part of their growth comes from a maturing of the adolescence they experience. Kotarou, a boy going through puberty, peers at a magazine with attractive women on the cover and picks up a book to learn a little bit more about the opposite sex in general. Akane, a girl who will be leaving her friends behind quite soon, has an emotional aside with them as they cry and console each other for the fun they have had these past few years.
Part of their growth comes from failing within their respective hobbies. Kotarou finally catches a break when it comes to his writing ventures, but the people on the other end want him to stick with a less-than-ideal format. Akane runs like the best of them, but even she becomes distracted, performing poorly at a crucial meet that hurts her prospects.
Part of their growth comes from the influencing by people nearby. Kotarou’s father supports his choices, and, while his mother initially seems to dissuade her son, she simply wants what is best for him like any other mother would. Akane’s big sister is someone that she can confide in, and her parents likewise love their daughter from afar.
This growth through maturity, failure, and influence not only persists across the entire season but also means a lot since it ties back to that sense of realism. Akane and Kotarou are two teens in a tough transitional period in their lives, so they do not need anything crazy to improve as characters. They only need these fundamental catalysts – and each other.
For, more than anything else in Tsuki ga Kirei, their mutual love gives them the motivation they need to succeed. A prominent example comes from their interactions alone. Compared to how they normally say very little out in public, they are so much more open when they are together in private. Longer conversations, mutual understanding. It doesn’t seem like much, but their willingness to simply express themselves to a larger degree indicates the positive nature of their love.
As they slowly inch out of their shells with those common yet all-important romantic milestones, they begin to take chances when they otherwise wouldn’t. Kotarou declares Akane as his girlfriend at the amusement park to Hira to prevent him from misunderstanding their relationship. He also works extremely hard to get into the same high school as her so that they won’t be apart. Similarly, Akane goes from being unsure as to what she likes about Kotarou to finding comfort in the care and safety his presence provides. She also goes out of her way to give meaningful gifts like a matching squeezie for his missed birthday to demonstrate her commitment to their relationship.
Altogether, Kotarou and Akane’s actions prove a rewarding sentiment: kind love changes people for the better. Despite the odds against them. Despite the obstacles around them. They overcome their self-esteem problems and anxiety issues because they were there for one another. Alongside their personal growth, their journey here has positively impacted them forevermore.
MUSIC & SOUND
One of the best parts of Tsuki ga Kirei is its ending track. Taking the same title as the anime itself, “Tsuki ga Kirei” is every bit as wonderful as the events that precede it. Simplicity and softness carry the piece along, providing the listener with gentle vocals, delicate piano keys, and strummed acoustic guitar strings. A moderate tempo and an emotional atmosphere invite even further appeal. If nothing else, when an ED manages to stick in the brain many months later (humming and whistling included), that must be a sign that it did at least something right.
The original soundtrack does not reach the same heights as the ED, but it follows a similar trend. Lots of piano and acoustic guitar playing set the mood with happiness and romance in mind. Other instruments, like violins and a harp, introduce an elegance to some of the music that makes it almost magical in its delivery, fitting the “magic” between Akane and Kotarou. Moreover, a couple of insert songs also appear now and again to add some flair to the proceedings when and where appropriate.
Voice acting does not have nearly as much flair, providing no noteworthy performances due mostly to the fact that a large quantity of said acting consists of little more than nervous responses. “Hmm…,” “Ahh…,” and the like. However, Shouya Chiba as Kotarou and Konomi Kohara as Akane still deserve some props if only because these roles are among their first main ones, translating their inexperience in the field to inexperience in love quite well.
As for the opening track, titled “Imakoko,” it goes for a slightly different approach, aiming for charged feelings instead. A faster pace. An electric guitar. A space-like background effect. Those familiar keys and strings remain, but these newer additions get at grander optimism that the audience is somewhat used to with this anime. Unfortunately, the second half of the piece is a bit cluttered in its sound, leaving it as the weakest part of the music overall.
Romance is the best genre around (to me anyway), and we can add this anime to the list of examples that proves why.
Akane and Kotarou barely raise their voices above a whisper, but the heartwarming emotions they convey both on their own and for each other get me so giddy and so smiley. A lot of my jubilation comes from their “equal” situations. They are the same in terms of personality, feelings, and drive, so a definitive wavelength arises from the lovely bond that they share. And it persists throughout the entire season; the romance angle never goes away.
And that ending. Man oh man that ending. Everything within the finale sequence made me so emotional that I actually started crying. First from sadness, then from bittersweetness, and finally from utmost happiness. It’s no doubt one of the best endings in anime that I have seen in a long while.
I also really liked the extra side stories at the end of each episode. Their jokey nature, the looks of disgust, the different pairings. They technically were unnecessary for the show, but I always got excited when I saw that the current episode still had a bit of running time left once the ending track concluded.
Even the anime’s title’s English translation suits my fancy: As the Moon, So Beautiful. Its poetic structure and metaphorical basis fit so well that no other phrase could take its place. The fact that it also describes the show in a meta sense makes it all that much more beloved.
Tsuki ga Kirei may seem unassuming at a glance, but its core offers a meaningful experience whose sincerity never falters. Thoughtful artistry and graceful music support the story’s themes and the characters’ progression while emotions erupt. As Dazai once said, “This I want to believe implicitly: Man was born for love and revolution.” The anime did not revolutionize this medium by any means, but it certainly demonstrated that love cannot be denied.
Story: Great, a touching romance tale that exemplifies the beauty in simplicity while channeling both adolescence and realism
Art & Animation: Good, a soft style, pretty background art, smaller animated moments, and some noticeable techniques alleviate the shortcomings that the CG usage generates
Characters: Great, maturity, failure, and influence allow Akane and Kotarou to grow as people, and the kind love they share likewise changes them for the better
Music & Sound: Good, a stellar ED, a romantic OST, and rookie VA work pull ahead of the charged OP
Enjoyment: Great, love is life, a fantastic ending, hilarious extras, and a two-thumbs-up title
Final Score: 9/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3