Man, this show is going to be the death of me yet.
After a week bereft of romance, Tsuki ga Kirei thankfully returns from its hiatus (recap, hiatus, same difference). And boy, was it ever missed. Not only is there nothing on the schedule like it, there’s hardly ever been anything on the schedule like it – not in recent years anyway. Really good romances are unicorns in anime to begin with, but ones about middle schoolers are basically non-existent. I don’t know why the medium finds them so hard to do well – and for that matter, I don’t know why it doesn’t even make the effort more often than it does.
Needless to say (if you watched the episode), Tsuki ga Kirei didn’t miss a beat. In fact it jumped back in with a powerhouse of an ep, and it was one hell of a tense ride (pun intended). I found myself highly stressed through most of it, especially the A-part, in a way you can only be when you’re fully invested in the characters. That, I think, is the difference between an anime which leads with characters and one which leads with plot – that level of emotional commitment that means you feel everything the characters are going through.
Let me say, first off – sympathy for Chinatsu: zero. I’ve been pretty soft on her character so far – maybe I was trying too hard to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I really thought she was basically resigned to her best friend and her crush being in a relationship, and just wanted to be rejected outright and have no regrets. That’s a tough situation to be in, but what she did in this week’s episode really crossed the line for me. Several lines, in fact.
Let’s start off with this one: you really don’t go after the person your friend is dating. Don’t get this bogged down in bros before hoes “guy code” bullshit – it’s not about males and females here, because it applies to both. You just don’t do it – and it’s one thing to be open about it (as Chinatsu more or less had been before this week), but quite another to actively scheme to try and break the couple up. And make no mistake, that’s what Chinatsu was doing here – flaunting her self-imagined closeness with Kotarou in an attempt to sour Akane on him, and trying to pair off Akane with another boy right under Kotarou’s nose.
That leads us to the other big line Chinatsu crossed, which was exploiting Hira to make her plan work. And that’s what this whole Dome City trip was about – it was originally a foursome in Chinatsu’s mind, and it was only Roman (we’ll get to him in a minute) who foiled her plan. She put Hira in a terrible position, made him look like the bad guy, and he really wasn’t – because he had no idea Akane and Kotarou were dating. It’s one thing to actively try to steal your best friend’s partner – it just compounds the offense when you make someone else an unwitting accomplice.
If Chinatsu was pretty much the definition of a bad friend here (which to me basically means no friend at all), Roman was the model of a good one. He was, to borrow an overused term, a perfect wingman. His seemingly innocent act of inviting himself along on Chinatsu’s trip wasn’t innocent at all, because he clearly saw through what she was up to and the danger it presented to Kotarou and Akane. And once at the park, he did everything he could to disrupt the scheme, perhaps most importantly outing the two of them as a couple when they were too shy to do so themselves.
The whole sequence at the park was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Chinatsu’s strategy was working well in the sense that she managed to get Akane and Hira paired off (starting with the roller-coaster), and herself and Kotarou, too. That was tough to watch – perhaps “frustrating” would be the best word. It’s hard when you’re looking from a distance and you know the truth, especially when kids like these are young and fragile enough to be taken in by this kind of skullduggery. It all came to a head when Kotarou (having made sure that Roman was OK after his bout of heatstroke) took off to look for Akane, and found her walking side by side (though thankfully not hand in hand) with Hira.
That, for me, was really the key moment of the entire story so far. It would have been easy for Kotarou to say nothing – to watch in seething silence as Akane and Hira (neither of whom was really doing anything wrong, though Akane surely realized Hira was interested in her) walked away. In some series he would have. But he didn’t – Kotarou once again showed that for all that he’s mild-mannered and a little shy, he has the heart of a lion. And boy, did he symbolically roar – he strode right up to Hira and told him flat out that he and Akane were dating. He didn’t come right out and say “Back the hell off!”, but he may as well have.
What happened after that was pretty wonderful (apart from arguably the most terrifying junk food billboard ever), as Kotarou and Akane, finally unhitched from the anchor of Chinatsu’s ill intentions, had their first real date. It even led to their first kiss (sort of – but I’m going to count it) and a promise to return, just the two of them. The only fly in the ointment was Chinatsu’s final text to Akane, which ended the episode on a rather sour note – seriously, after all that, is she still not going to give up? It may be time for Akane to take matters into her own hands – I know that’s not her style, but Kotarou has done so a couple times already and it may be her turn, because the only way this ends may be for Akane to cut the cord with Chinatsu flat out. Or, at the very least, tell her that she’s going to unless Chinatsu backs off with extreme prejudice.
On a final note, let me once again say that I hope you guys are watching the omakes, because they really are a significant part of the series. Yes they’re funny, but they’re also very insightful and refreshingly honest – how often do we see mainstream anime that openly acknowledge that 9th-graders are hooking up (and predictably, totally unprepared for the emotional consequences)? They are, don’t kid yourself – in Japan and in the West, too – but it’s a pretty rare thing to see such a taboo addressed so openly.