This is review number three hundred and ninety eight. This anime is part of the Spring 2017 lineup, and it’s called Tsuki ga Kirei or “The Moon is Beautiful” or “As the moon, so beautiful”. It’s a twelve episode anime about life. It’s just straight up about life, and it’s beautiful. This review is long, so let’s read on.
The anime follows the growing romance between two students in their third year of middle school. Young love is exciting, complicated and also really sweet as the two characters show us just how special it truly is.
Taking the Pants Off
This anime is so boring, and now I have to do a review of it. The problem is that it’s a really good show, and I actually don’t have much negative to say about it. It was such a slow shlock of a show though, and I honestly can’t believe this anime worked. I hate this show, because I couldn’t marathon this sh*t even if I tried, but I realized this gawd damn show is actually genre defining. Slice of Life is a weird thing to pin down in anime. If you type “best SoL anime”, you’ll mostly get KyoAni shows and comedy shows with a slow pacing. This isn’t Slice of Life though, because the genre is a lot more brutal. It’s literally a look at someone’s life, and I know there are anime that moves at a real precise pace. This anime makes me think, and I really hate thinking when I can just berate a show. I’m almost 400 deep, so I don’t have time to analyze sh*t. Anyways, when I think of Slice of Life I mostly want shows that really capture life, and not just the good happy parts with fireworks in the background. I’m talking about shows that you can feel the clock ticking. There’s introspection on a character’s life but it’s restrained to the point that it’s unexciting, because Slice of Life is glamorous on how it perfectly captures life without the happy montages and with time being a constant element.
I’ve honestly seen anime like this, slow and so boring but intriguing in every scene it presents, but they’re actually not pure Slice of Life shows. My go-to SoL has always been Zettai Kareshi, with its insanely slow pace that you can even feel the humid environment as the character walks through it, but it’s actually SoL/SciFi-Fantasy. I know pure SoL exists though, but I just can’t remember the exact show. When I googled “Slice of Life”, the wiki entry actually had a separate section for manga and anime’s interpretation. It’s not the same SoL as the ones in films. This brought me back to my ideal example of Slice of Life, and it was this art house French movie called “Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”. It’s an unglamorous look at the daily routine of a housewife and every scene drags out, but you soon realize the beauty in her life. It’s literally a slice of her life. I know I’ve seen pure SoL before, but as of this moment Tsuki ga Kirei is the genre defining anime I can categorize in it. I think it’s the only one I can think of, and I actually want someone to dispute this. This idea alone though really makes this anime special.
This anime isn’t revolutionary in any sense though, and it isn’t really that special as well. The more you dissect the show, the more you realize how much negative aspect it has. Here’s the annoying this about this not-so-special anime though, it’s a really good original anime. I’ve drowned myself in so many Original Screenplay anime that I think half of what I’ve reviewed so far are horrid original shows. These anime that aren’t adapted from anything has a tendency to always suck. They’re always so gimmicky, the story is directionless, the characters are one dimensional and it doesn’t have a satisfying pay off. These are normal traits of an original anime that I’ve come to expect when I review these things. In fact, I always rant in my O. Screenplay reviews as you slowly witness me ever so close to quitting this one thousand journey of mine. Tsuki ga Kirei actually possesses these traits as well. The story is directionless, there is forced tension, characters aren’t properly presented and its entirety is founded on one gimmicky idea. The more you think about the show, the more you realize original anime hasn’t really evolved much. For some reason though, these negative traits of O.Screenplay anime actually works in this show. The characters are beautifully flawed, the conflict is realistically presented, the romance is grounded and restrained as if time actually exists in the show, and the lack of direction actually mimics life. Life is pretty directionless, and this idea actually works in this anime. I don’t understand it myself, but the show somehow embraced the negative aspect of most original anime and made the whole thing work. I’ve never seen an original show like this come and just completely catch me off guard. I honestly don’t like this show, but I also can’t help but applaud it. It’s a beautiful look at how to do a proper Slice of Life, and it’s one of the best O. Screenplay out there. I mean, what else is there besides Code Geass? This anime shares the same space as Code Geass, and I think one crucial element made it work: the show is just simple.
From its premise to its execution, the anime is just presented in a very simple manner. This show is incredibly restrained, and I really admire it for that. Most original anime go for broke. They feature the moon exploding, body swapping, thirty plus people on a bus going to a foggy town, and even a show about love because the couple has some ham fisted superpower the anime never bother to explain. Some Original Screenplay are so caught up in making a flashy entrance that they eventually crumble once they realized they didn’t really think far ahead, like coming up with an ending. Seriously, I’ve lost all hope on original shows long ago but here comes Tsuki ga Kirei paced like a manga with all the seriousness and beauty of a well-adapted show. It’s really blowing my mind.
Anyways, let’s talk about the premise. This show is about a boy and a girl in middle school falling in love. Yeah, that’s about it. The anime stretched out this simple premise into twelve episodes, and you should realize right now that this anime isn’t really a romance. Sure, there is a love story but it’s not really a big focus. In fact, the show doesn’t really focus on anything. For the most part, the anime is just a look at the lives of two people: a boy and a girl as they live their final year of middle school. It’s more Slice of Life than Romance, and it’s not a SoL/Romance though. A good SoL/Romance would be Hanasaku Iroha where the coming of age story involves a proper build up to the main character’s love life. Her relationship with a boy eventually becomes a highlight of the show. For Tsuki ga Kirei, there is no highlight. The pacing has no rising or falling action, and there is no climax as well. You can look for one if you want, but that’s actually the point. Slice of Life moves in such a normal pattern that one moment from it can look special, but the intention is never on highlighting any moment. No kiss is special, no date is the best one and no interaction serves as the big moment for the show. It’s just part of the character’s normal life, and the audience is invited to witness a slice of it.
The love itself is pretty ordinary, but I really love how grounded in reality it is. As I watch this show, I keep nodding at the behavior of the characters, because my students of the same age acts like them. The main characters are quiet and reserved, and they mostly do their talking through text. The moment their eyes light up when they see a text from the other person, I just can’t help but smile. The anime features how the two characters meet and how they become a couple, and it follows their love story in their last day of middle school. It’s one whole school year told in a very normalized pace. The only thing you can really focus on in this show is how the characters behave. When they talk in LINE, which I learned is an actual app (I am old), they mostly use emoji or whatever the hell those images are supposed to be. In real life though, they’re mostly reserved. They don’t make much eye contact, their conversation is stiff, and there is a noticeable distance between them. I love how realistic the entire thing is. A lot of love stories are glamorized, because the main purpose is to get the audience giddy for the pairing. In real life though, it’s not always the case. Especially for timid people like the main characters, their behavior is pretty spot on. I have two students exactly like them, but my students are actually married now out of wedlock. Yeah, anime shouldn’t be that accurate.
As the show progresses though, I love how the characters mostly learn to really love each other because they spend time together. They talk, and they make time for each other. They have their own lives to live, like the girl being in the track and field club and the boy writing his novel, but they would find time to see each other. Their talk is very minimal, but every spoken line is so wonderfully precise. I love how you can just relate to the characters, because most good love stories starts out slow and just gradually develops with time. I love how precise their behavior is as well, because they start out looking at the ground while they talk to each other but they eventually relaxes. The gap they had at the start eventually lessens until they eventually get more intimate with each other. Their first hug is so satisfying that I didn’t even get a screenshot of it. You should watch it for yourself. This is the beauty of the Slice of Life genre. Even in a normalized pacing, which is too gawd damn slow for anything interesting to really happen, the moments just have a much bigger impact on people. But like real life though, when you look back on these moments, they really aren’t that special to begin with. This is the wonderful part about this anime, because if you look back on the show (maybe to review it) no moment really stands out. No moment is a big highlight or a super special thing that the characters will treasure forever. No, it’s just a passing moment because time constantly moves forward. Is it bad that the anime lacks any real energy to deliver a memorable scene? Yeah, and that’s why life sucks as well. You can’t pause a moment, and most of them are really only special to you. It’s an obvious flaw, when you think about anime structures, but it doesn’t really seem that way the more you think about the show and its context. I really hate how this anime is making me think too much.
The anime doesn’t just precisely feature how timid people behave, but they also nail group dynamics. There are a lot of group dynamics in this show that is just interesting on how precise it is. Let’s start with family dynamics, and there are two families in this show. For a household with two girls, Akane Mizuno’s family is incredible laidback. The mother and father are sweet with each other, and the whole family is never critical with each other. In the first episode, the family allowed Akane to dine in her jersey because they aren’t strict on rules. I love how vibrant their dining room is. Despite being in a small apartment, the family just looks really close knit. The same goes for Akane and her sister. Even though anime logic dictates that they’re super close to each other, these sisters aren’t. The age gap is immediately noticeable, and Akane’s sociable sister is clearly busy with her own life to be a supporting character to Akane’s own. Despite being in the same room as well, you can tell these siblings are close but not really too close with each other. I love how natural it is, and I’m sure most people can relate to the siblings as well. I can relate to Kotarou Azumi’s household though. This single child household is very interesting, because it’s a lot stricter than Akane’s family. Kotarou’s mother always nags him about his studies, and the father only intervenes when the situation gets to serious. Her constant nagging does have an effect on Kotarou though, and his detached attitude towards his parents is reasonable. I understand the mother though, because she does so much for her family. In most scenes, you just see her being the diligent housewife that she is. I love how the anime never really try to vilify her, because most mothers are just like her. They nag because they care, and her words only seem harsh mainly because you can relate to Kotarou yourself. Sometimes you want them off your back, but you also realize they’re always there for you.
The group dynamics of Akane, Kotarou, their friends and their classroom is pretty fascinating as well. Every group mostly stays by themselves, and that’s actually a normal thing. In most anime though, School life is highlighted with how the class comes together for the cultural festival and the sports festival. It’s about the joyous events the class experiences, but what about the normal school days? Well, the cool group gathers in one corner while the other groups have their own thing as well. This is apparent when Akane and Kotarou were invited to a theme park by one of Akane’s friend. Kotarou’s pink haired buddy went on his own, and he even acknowledges that he’s a third wheel in the group. Kotarou is never acknowledged by Akane’s female friends, and they even give him an uninterested response when he asked them where Akane is. Meanwhile, Akane’s friend is busy trying to pair her with one of her track and field club mate. In fact, the entire day was built around that. The rest of the group involves Akane’s friends and their boyfriends, but the boys stay in a separate group of their own as well. When the situation calls for them to gather, the small groups are together while the couples eventually wander off on their own. I love how precise the entire thing is. I have seen students peer pressured into becoming couples because one of their scheming friends would keep them lumped at all times. This is especially true about young kids who want their cool group to stay intact. Guided by what they know about love, they’ll now try to pair their friends up with cool or handsome people, because they think they know how love works. Oh my gawd, do you know how many kids these day skip school because they fall into depression because of a bad break up? This anime is incredibly on-point, and I really admire how they captured a real group dynamic. It’s not like anime where even strangers are together because they’re the supporting characters. In real life, it’s hard to make connections even if two people have the same friend, and this anime really gets it. This is just part of life, and it’s beautifully done.
As I said before, the story is directionless but a lot does happen. There is this thing about Akane and her personal time, there is a soft arc about Kotarou becoming a writer and there’s also one about a festival Kotarou practices for. The anime doesn’t have any exposition though, even for simple scenes like Kotarou practicing. We’ll just have a bunch of moments dedicated to him dancing, and we never know why. I was honestly confused as well, because I think they only mentioned the festival in a throwaway conversation. His journey as a writer is also weirdly presented, with no rising peaks or even just scenes of him writing mad thanks to inspiration. Nope, the pacing is so normal that it just happens. It is directionless storytelling at its absolute worst, to be honest. I’ve seen it done a lot in original anime, and I still remember how painful Mayoiga was thanks to having no direction. It amazingly works for this anime though, and I honestly think Glasslip was going for this approach as well. Glasslip relied on so many gimmicks though, so the beauty of life is never really highlighted. This is why Tsuki ga Kirei is so fascinating. It’s really restrained and grounded that even the most horrible form of storytelling looks amazingly presented as if fine-tuned and polished from the very beginning. They even restrained themselves in featuring a love triangle. It was actually a big square, but it started out as a triangle. It’s a classic romance formula, but the anime never really focuses on it. It’s not build up where the climax involves the characters pulling each other’s hair. No, the way the event turns out is really so realistic. Kids their age won’t talk about it, and they have no idea of how to say “no” or to accept rejection, so you watch them slowly grasp these new concepts. I’ve seen my students go through the same thing, and I have also seen hair pulling in real life. Seeing a bleeding scalp is traumatizing, but the anime never really injects drama in its story. Like everything else, it just passes as time moves forward.
This anime is also loaded with themes, but it’ll really only matter if you look hard enough. Obviously, there is the theme of first love and how every moment spent with the person you love is euphoric. Time can stop when you enjoy it with someone you love. Without any emphasis on anything though, the themes can get pretty wild. There is one about unrequited love, and it’s done in a very subtle manner as well. Being too familiar with unrequited love myself, it really only needs one word to know how the character is feeling at that moment. There’s also a soft serving of a coming of age story here, but again nothing is ever emphasized. Let me just cover the bases here just to be sure, but again, themes doesn’t really matter except for the big one the show is trying to present. Anyways, there’s one about family and how much they mean to people, there’s one about taking chances and going for the big leap, there’s one about going through puberty, of course there’s one about social media connecting people and how lively dating can be with it, and there’s one about experiencing rejection of all kinds and being able to standup afterwards. All of these are under one big umbrella though, and it’s called life. It’s the theme of life, or something like that. I’ve already talked about it too much, so let’s move on to the characters.
The characters are extremely one dimensional. I mean that in the most excruciating way. They are bland and boring, but it does work for this anime. With the slow pace, every movement means something and every moment with these characters feel special. There’s nothing to really talk about with the characters. Akane carries around a stress ball and squeezes it in public, but that’s about it. I think she has a security blanket syndrome though, but that’s just me trying to sound smart with my psychology thing. With no story, the visuals are really the only thing that gives the characters any meaningful trait. With no exposition, it’s also the sole connection we have with them. Kotarou is just the quiet type that writes a novel, and Akane is a timid athlete. Yeah, that’s about it. Again, there’s only meaning in these characters if you care enough to look deep. I think they are meant to be bland so the audience can relate better with them. Who isn’t like Akane or Kotarou at some point in their life? I can tell you that I personally get excited like him when he gets a message from Akane. Since we are moving with the two main characters, the side characters do eventually become interesting in their own special way. Every single supporting character is so fascinating despite being one dimensional as well. Since nothing is really emphasized, the small quirks about the side characters eventually start to mean something as well. You’ll slowly pick up on it despite not really having anything to do with the show. For example, Kotarou has this grown up friend who runs a very small book shop. He likes vinyl though, so he’s like a single hipster running his own bookshop. The anime doesn’t really outright tell us this, but that’s what I eventually pick up. The same goes for Kotarou’s mother. She’s always seen with a cleaning tool or just cooking, so she comes off as a doting housewife whose only goal is to annoy her son. The characters are open for interpretation, and that’s usually a bad thing for most anime but it is actually a great aspect for this show. Every single negative somehow turns to a positive with this anime.
There are two characters that are my favorite, and I am always paying attention every time they appear on screen. I guess I like them because they feel more like “anime characters” than the realistic ones the show is trying to feature. Of course, real life does have colorful characters like these two though. The first one is Kotarou’s pink haired friend, Roman Yamashina. He is super energetic, and his pink hair just does a lot for me. I cannot watch more than three episodes of this show at a time, but I would press on if I see Roman in any scene even if it’s just a throw away gag. He has this cute little thing with their homeroom teacher, and I was actually a bit bummed nothing came of it. Despite being popular with the girls, we never really see Roman with any and that always puzzles me. See, the side characters has a way of drawing you in. He also seems to be unsettlingly happy even if he knows he’s a third wheel in a group. He cuts through the awkwardness, and he just goes through life with a smile. My gosh, he is such an enigma especially for a show grounded in reality. If you look up his voice actor, I think his part in the show is meant to be a big cameo or something. There’s little information I can search up about him though, but I think it’s a cute insert for this anime.
Roman is great, but Chinatsu Nishio is probably the stand out of this show. She is Akane’s friend, and she plays a bigger role down the line. I both love and hate this character, but it just proves how interesting she really is. She comes off aggressive, which is unfair to the other characters, and she always schemes up plans to get a leg up. I hate how much this character affected me throughout this show, but I also really want to hug her. This character is just so compelling to watch. Her smile and energetic attitude makes me want to put my guard up when she’s around, but I also can’t help but smile at how hard she tries. I know people like her, and I’ve had students like her. I’ve seen them make the exact same face as Chinatsu, and the best thing I can really do is pick the right words to say to them. I think I cheered more for her though than the two main characters, and that’s how much of a scene stealer she is even though she did try to steal something else. In real life though, most boys like Kotarou is clay putty to the hands of Chinatsu and I’m both glad and sad it didn’t really develop in the way I was expecting it to.
This anime is presented by Studio Feel, and they also gave us Yosuga no Sora. Hey, I get to mention that anime in all my reviews now. I mentioned that incest anime though, because that was an almost revolutionary anime for Studio Feel. It was one of those trend setters that could’ve taken us into a weird turn if Yosuga no Sora was successful. Thankfully it didn’t catch momentum and the incest killed it. It feels good though that Feel finally got something right. This anime feels revolutionary as well, and while I don’t really want to see more slow paced romances, I think the door is open for more pure Slice of Life anime to be unleashed into this world. Actually, this is a novelty and I think it’ll run its course, but I would sure love to see other studios try to make a better Slice of Life than this one. This studio has come a long way since doing DC Da Capo, and I hope they surprise me some more, in a non-incest way, moving forward. This anime is presented by Seiji Kishi, and that’s a big shock actually. Seiji is known for his video game like cut scenes that looks stylish and epic, and I never thought he had enough restraints to present a slow burn anime like this. He is incredibly talented to give us a fast paced action packed anime like Arpeggio of the Blue Steel, and then suddenly come out with something like Tsuki ga Kirei. His visuals carried this anime, so we should just encase him in glass at this point to keep him alive forever. His directorial list is so diverse that I just wish he would direct every anime I watch, and damn it, he made a really good original anime. I seriously want his talents right now.
Sight and Sound
Character design isn’t anything special. They mostly remind me of the characters of Wandering Son because of the color palette used in the show. It is pretty good for displaying the visuals of the show, but it doesn’t really standout on its own. I think Akane’s potato sack ball had more design that the characters, and that’s actually a good thing. Since nothing has direct emphasis, then the pace of the show is never bothered. We see the characters more as realistic people than 2D figures with voice actors. I think that’s why Roman is such a standout, since the pink hair kinda draws attention to himself. The design will really only matter when you start to connect with the side characters. During the end of some episodes, there are some small scenes involving the side characters. This fooled me into thinking this was a manga adaptation by the way, but these scenes make the side characters interesting. It makes you want to care for the characters, and the design only has meaning then. Akane and Kotarou are incredibly bland though, and I think it’s on purpose. Akane has no defining mark on her, and she isn’t really pretty on a design standard. Is that too mean? I guess she comes off as extremely plain, like a pile of white rice. Her sister’s design is fine though, but Akane comes off as bland to me. I think it’s a personal thing though, since she is the main character. Kotarou comes off the same way as well, and I think it’s really just me. It wouldn’t really kill them to put a hairpin on Akane’s hair or something though, just to make her standout. But that’s just me.
Akane is interesting in the way the animation portrayed her. In the first episode, she is timid all the way. She doesn’t even move much when she found a group to be with. She’s always looking on the ground, and she’s always squeezing her potato ball. I don’t know what that thing is, but the visuals always display a normal pace. Anyways, this is Akane when she’s happy:
Look at her. Her guard is down, and you can see the real Akane just out in the open. It is amazing how precise it is, and the animation really made the show special. It has a lot of slow scenes, but the visuals make up for it in an interesting way. The emphasis is there, on the behavior of the characters, and this makes up for the pacing. When the characters are LINE-ing each other, the relaxed Akane would come out once more:
The same goes for Kotarou. The animation gives him all the personality, like when he gets really excited when Akane replies. He would always happily use his light switch as a punching bag. The animation gets more precise when two characters share the same scene. I love how their behavior is insanely detailed, but the director also put great effort into emphasizing their distance to each other. The gap is as much of a character as the two people making them, and Seiji really has a way of making it very special.
One thing I noticed about the animation though, and it annoyed from the start, is that the camera is always showing the character’s back. During some interesting scenes, wouldn’t it be better if we show the facial reaction of the characters? As the show progresses though, I realized the backs on the camera are on purpose. Since we are watching a slice of the character’s life, we are never meant to understand them. The audience is just spectators as we witness their school year go by. We were never meant to understand the characters on a deeper level, and this is more apparent when the monologues by Kotarou are just random lines reflecting what he feels or thinks at the moment. Every “why” the show brings up is never really answered, and it’s because it’s not meant to be answered. We don’t know these characters, and there is a gap between us and them as well. The fourth wall is farther than you expect, and only a genius direct would establish that. Seiji is just insanely talented to really deliver a pure Slice of Life.
This anime also featured great family dining scenes. This is the only aspect of Glasslip that I really enjoyed, and I’m super stoked to see it explored more deeply in this anime. You see, intimate settings like this really give each character so much personality. You don’t need dialogue for these scenes, because the warmth the scene gives off is just enough to establish anything that requires words. In Glasslip, the warm family vibe is a great potential that made the show tolerable. In Tsuki ga Kirei, the scenes have much more weight. It tells us a lot about the characters and their family dynamic. I really love how vibrant and well done the scene is. Anyways, it’s not all great positives for this show though. As I said, the anime is slow and some scenes are dragged to its death. Certain establishing shots, like views of the temple or the road the characters are walking in, are a bit overdone. During Kotarou’s practice sessions for the festival, nothing really meaningful happens and you can tell it’s just padding for the anime. It reminded me of how Aku no Hana overdid its establishing shots, and I actually thought we were dealing with the same director. I still remember how one panel in the manga is drawn out to seven shots of the same room eating up two or three minutes at a time. This anime had those slow scenes, but again the characters moving in it does lessen the boring progression. This is still part of their life, and it’s the unglamorous part kinda like a mother peeling potatoes and the camera doesn’t cut to anything else. I don’t know why I watched “Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”, but I’m glad I can use it for this review.
Oh, there are also weird transitions with people walking in the shot. The crowd moving in the scenes is done in CG though, and it’s actually a bit creepy because of how robotic they move. You can tell the director is experimenting a bit, and I’ll give him a bit of leeway. Still, the rounded robotic design is just a bit too much sometimes. He only uses these transitions one episode at a time though, so he is really just trying stuff out.
The anime’s OP is “Imakoko” by Nao Touyama. This is a very wonderful song, and the lyrics are as beautiful as Nao’s voice. It’s about being with the one you love, but it’s more about Akane and Kotarou falling in love. It has lines like “I can’t breathe around you” and “my heart pierces as of this moment”, and it just reminds you of the blossoming romance in the show. Nao gives some wonderful depth to the song, and I love the subtle piano arrangement interlaced throughout it. This song is also a great way to motivate you to see the show during the slow parts, and it helped me a lot. The OP sequence is really just various shots of nature, and the seasons displayed in the OP. In spring, the sakura blossoms are falling and it gradually changes as time passes, reminding us that time is an element of this story. It also has some shots of the festival Kotarou is practicing for, and it’s a live action video filtered or something. It’s a weird emphasis for a show that lacks emphasis.
The anime’s ED is “Tsuki ga Kirei” by Nao Touyama. This is as beautiful as the OP, and it’s also a very heartfelt love song about the main characters. The lyrics are pretty intimate as well, as it describes falling in love for the very first time. It’s poetic though, since most of the lyrics are about nature harking back to when the line “the moon is beautiful” as a way of confessing to someone. It’s as if Natsume Souseki himself is telling us we don’t need words to truly tell someone we love them. The ED sequence features our main character, but their backs are shown. As the nature show us time passing, the gap between the two characters closes indicating their slowly blossoming love. It’s actually a summary of the show, and this review, so you should check it out. It’s even more special with Nao’s voice singing about love.
8/10 “It’s nothing special, but it’s remarkable in how simplistic it presents love between two young people.”
I hate how slow and boring this anime is, but this is a very unique show. The way it restrains itself and constantly keeps everything grounded is admiring. For an Original Screenplay, something as delicate as this show is incredibly rare. For a Slice of Life anime, this show is just spot on and I mean it, its genre defining. It’s very simple, but the experience is truly one of a kind. The slow burn is rewarded handsomely, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy every precise moment of this anime. I highly recommend it.