I’m going to die from cute. With a huge grin on my face…
Let me just stipulate a couple of things up front:
- Yes, I know the animation was sketchy in this episode. Budget, schedule, whatever the reason.
- I don’t give even the smallest damn. I loved it to bits anyway, so that’s the last I’m going to talk about it.
- The omakes for this show are better than 95% of the anime airing this season. The last two lines of dialogue (from Kotarou’s parents) were the funniest thing I’ve heard in anime this year.
I can’t even begin to tell you how happy that 24 minutes of anime made feel – and I mean all of it, because it was fantastic from the cold open right up until the fade to black after the omakes. Hell, they even made the finest possible choice in insert songs – “Natsumstsuri”. This is the third time I’ve seen it used in anime (Watamote and ReLIFE both used it as a special ED) and I’ve loved every one of them. It was totally appropriate in context here, and it’s an amazing song to begin with.
So much strikes me after watching a narratively perfect episode like that, to the point where it’s hard to know where to begin. I mean, for me it really didn’t put a single foot wrong – and each success kept building on the last right through to the final scene (I’ll get there). Tsuki ga Kirei just keeps surprising me, to the point where it shouldn’t be surprising anymore. It pisses on anime romance convention with extreme prejudice – this show does what it wants whether it’s expected or not, and what it wants is almost always the right thing to do.
Let’s talk about cute. Kawaii can certainly be a problem in anime, especially in massive doses. But that problem arises when it’s manufactured, self-aware cuteness – which, let’s be honest, is very nearly all of it. Anime that’s trying to be cute to ingratiate itself to the (disc buying) audience isn’t cute at all. The reason Tsuki ga Kirei is so kawaii – and Kotarou and Akane are maybe the most adorable anime couple ever – is because they’re incredibly natural. This series doesn’t lurch forward in fits and starts – it flows effortlessly like a stream. It really feels like we’re eavesdropping on these kids’ lives, watching them slowly evolve as they discover love and coupledom.
Now let’s talk about drama. Who needs it? Not me – not when this is the alternative. There wasn’t a speck of conventional drama on this episode – it didn’t gnaw on the bones of Chinatsu’s failed coup d’état last week at all, in fact. It was just Kotarou and Akane, Akane and Kotarou – inching their way forward as they grow bolder towards each other. Dealing with the reality of being a known entity as a couple. Wrestling with the dilemma of names (as if adolescent romance isn’t hard enough, the whole issue of first names is a huge additional stress-creator in Japan). There was plenty of tension, but it flowed from the sheer level of emotional engagement with Akane and Kotarou.
I could rattle off all the individual moments that were so incredibly winning – Kotarou’s inability to stop smiling as he played the taiko, thinking about Akane. Akane sniffing herself and giving herself a (totally unnecessary, but she wasn’t to know that) spritz of body spray before meeting Kotarou in the library after practice. Roman proving himself the perfect wingman (and relationship coach) again. Kotarou’s reaction to Akane asking to go see him practice – and her asking in the first place. Akane’s rapt expression as she watched Kotarou dance. The Shrine priest giving Koutarou a 1000 Yen note and sending him off to take Akane to the matsuri at Hikawa Jinja (one of many beautiful spots in Kawagoe, a city you really should visit the next time you’re in Tokyo). Akane telling her friends she feels safe whenever Kotarou is with her.
And as for that festival sequence – wow. It kept topping itself, one great moment building on the next – I kept expecting an awkward moment, a stumble, but it never came. It was like being at the blackjack table and splitting cards, then doubling down, then doing it again and again, and finally the dealer busts. Akane in a yukata. Akane buys Kotarou a potato squeezie as a belated birthday gift. Kotarou (quiet but fierce) musters up the nerve to call Akane “Akane-chan”. The gallant placing of the band-aid. And then, the kiss – no silly interruptions this time, but a full-on kiss. Finally, almost too good to be true, the strains of “Natsumatsuri” begin on the piano, and we see that Akane and Kotarou have written the same wish on their wind chime romance tags.
The should probably just retire the first love genre at this point, I think. That’s not going to be topped.
Yeah, I know I’m gushing – but sometimes an episode and a series just deserve it. What an honest to goodness celebration of everything that’s beautiful and heartbreaking about first romance Tsuki ga Kirei is – so simple it should have been done long ago, and often, but almost never has been. And it shouldn’t be ignored that these omake are really smart and perceptive exclamation points and palate cleansers at the end of these episodes. That bit with Kotarou’s novels and “You really have a pretty good grasp of how women think” and “He really doesn’t understand how women think” – so brilliant on so many levels. A perfect end to a perfect episode.
Aoi to Kanekomake:
Okaa to Otoumake: