Let’s be honest – I think we all knew this was gonna happen sooner or later.
I think it’s probably not a bad thing that Tsuki ga Kirei stepped off the gas a bit after last week’s episode, which was one of my favorite anime romance eps of all time. It was a rare thing, because it was incredibly intense through sheer positive emotion and endearing charm – rarely have I felt so much affection for a main couple in a romance series before. It’s a very different sort of intensity than that which you usually see in good romance anime (namely, conflict-driven) and, I would argue, harder to pull off. I think getting that level of engagement every week would end up being really exhausting.
The trade off for that powerful emotional connection, though, is just how much the ending is going to impact the way I view this series. Endings are always crucial of course, not least in romance shows. But that may be even more true with Tsuki ga Kirei than most, because while I want a realistic and realistically bittersweet ending (this is adolescent drama, after all), at this point I want an ending where Kotarou and Akane are together even more. I won’t say it’ll ruin the experience for me if I don’t get it, or that it’d be unforgivable – but it would be a pretty big blow.
As naturalistic as this series is, it was inevitable that the relationship was going to come under threat – a more serious threat than Chinatsu and Hira. Indeed, I was thrilled that it didn’t overplay its hand there – those two (especially Chinatsu) were obstacles, but not inflated ones for the sake of added drama. Indeed, the threat this time is much more ominous – Akanae’s father has announced that he may be transferred, which would force the family to move to Chiba. And when you’re in middle school, that might as well be Australia.
Once more and more than ever, Tsuki ga Kirei calls Byousoku 5 Centimeter to mind. When you’re a kid, you’re helpless to the whims of the adults who control your life. I love Akane’s parents, don’t get me wrong (how cute was that lunch?), and it’s certainly not Otou-san’s fault if he’s transferred. But Akane being in love is, in the end, inconsequential to them. Your 14-year problems don’t add up to much in the eyes of your parents, even good ones like the Mizunos. And while Chiba is only 90 minutes or so by train, to a kid that’s a continent away – and almost 1000 Yen each way a fortune. Such a move would be a virtual death sentence for this romance, like it or not.
Against this backdrop Akane is preparing for her final track meet, and Kotarou for the matsuri. She and Kotarou engage in arguably (well, I won’t argue against it) the most adorable text messaging conversation in anime history. It’s not easy to make something like a LINE conversation compelling viewing, but Kishi and Kakihara pull it off – it’s so natural and authentic it’s hard not to be wrapped up in it. Akane doesn’t want Kotarou to come – too embarrassing – so he promises not to, urging her to “Ganabre!” as he cheers her on from afar.
I love the fact that Kotarou went to the track meet anyway, and even more that he did so in secret. He’s in love and wanted to see Akane run, but he didn’t want to be responsible for messing with her head. And she aces it, putting up a personal best time of :13.70 (a number which should be quite familiar if you watch the OP closely). Meanwhile Kotarou is quietly wrestling with his own future, dealing with the pressure from his mother and indecision over what kind of writer he wants to be. And as strong as that lunch was, it’s Kotarou’s dad who has the hero parent moment in this episode. His brief visit to his son’s room was a beautiful thing – no outward displays of emotion here (these are boys, and this is Japan), but a clear message – I’m proud of you whatever you do, and I want you to do what you love (no matter what your mother says). What a quietly fantastic piece of parenting that is.
Akane finally does drop the bomb on Kotarou in the final moments of the episode – by text, true, but Tsuki ga Kirei doesn’t drag things out (thank goodness). And of course, Kotarou is stunned, as anyone would be. And this is now a big test for this series – how does it handle this inherently dramatic development? It’s aced every exam so far, succeeding again and again (including with the buildup of this potential crisis) with restraint and narrative dexterity. And I’m encouraged that this happened with three episodes left, not one or two – there’s plenty of time to resolve this before the finale. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little uneasy about this turn of events, but that nervousness is a direct result of just how well Tsuki ga Kirei has set the stage – and it’s certainly earned my trust.