Speechless isn’t my natural state by any stretch, but that episode just about puts me there.
We’re epically spoiled in the age of streaming, you know? I remember back in the days of Cross Game, when you were never sure when the fansubs would come out, and you had to look at comments (hopefully in spoiler tags at least) from people watching the raws, and suffer. Sometimes it was a day, sometimes two. Now we’re used to virtually insta-streaming, so when this week’s Tsuki ga Kirei stream was delayed it broke one little corner of the internet, and it leaves me desperately short on time to cover a truly monumental episode. I have work tomorrow and with Friday and Saturday being the plough horses of the anime week this season (as usual lately) rolling this show over a day just isn’t on the table.
I’ll do the best I can in the time I have, and it’s a good thing this ep was so flawlessly executed because I could just about skip this post altogether and the universe would be no poorer. If you’re a fan of romance anime and you’re not watching Tsuki ga Kirei, shame on you, because great – really great – romance series (like Cross Game) are golden unicorns. And this show is one, no doubt about it. Tsuki ga Kirei may not be in a class by itself as a romance anime, but it sure as hell doesn’t take long to call the roll.
This show just gets it, dammit. I would have to think many creators understand first love in the sense that they must have experienced it at some point, but almost none of them have ever expressed the essence of it so naturally as Tsuki ga Kirei does. It doesn’t shy away from drama, because drama is part and parcel of the experience. But what it does do is take anime romance formula and say “I fart in your general direction.” The act of watching this show comes as close as realistically possible to making one feel like they’re living it – to the point where it’s uncomfortable how intense the memories can be. But then, those memories were even more uncomfortable when they were just feelings, so us old-timers can certainly suck it up and get through it.
Let’s talk about the episode for just a bit, because as articulate as it was, I’m sure there are going to be varying reactions to some of it. For starters, Akane is moving- she’s not fighting it, because it simply isn’t realistic. Kotarou tries to be strong – he tells her “we’ll be fine” as a Shinkai-like train passage occurs, but this is eating him up inside. His solution is to try and get into Koumei himself – which is sort of the ultimate mixed blessing for his tiger mom, because he’s at least buckling down in his studies now. He doesn’t tell his parents yet – and even with Akane, he couches it half as a joke. But this is a serious boy, and he’s already proved that many times over.
The matter of the moment is the Kawagoe Matsuri, and it’s another opportunity for Tsuki ga Kirei to show that even if the animation is inconsistent (it was much better this week), the backgrounds are universally gorgeous. Kotarou does indeed look foxy in his costume on the float, and Akane is suitably wowed – she’s seeing her little man in an entirely different light here (even her track buddies say he looks cool). But it’s the track team that’s going to bring us to the edgier moments of the episode, and the ones that beg for a bit of interpretation.
Was it their plan all along to throw the game of Jan-Ken-Pon, pairing Akane and Hira off? I honestly don’t know, though I do know that it would be a shitty thing to do if true. Akane, Hira and Kotarou all have their share of responsibility for the ugliness that follows – yet I don’t feel as if any of them are really to blame. Akane is too naive, yes – too willing to go off alone with Hira and too slow to realize why that hurts Kotarou so much. Hira really shouldn’t be confessing to another guy’s girlfriend, but to the extent possible I felt as if he was honest about it – he said his piece, and made his feelings known – and when she rejected him, he backed off. As compared to the way Chinatsu dealt with her feelings, I thought Hira was significantly more honorable.
Then we have Kotarou, who once again sees Akane and Hira together. He knows she rejected him, but he’s angry – and I don’t blame him for that. These are kids, and these are strong emotions they aren’t fully prepared to deal with yet. This is the second time Hira and Akane have left a group outing to be alone together, and that scares him. There’s a bit of a double standard here, since Chinatsu was openly angry when she found out Kotarou and Chinatsu were together in Kyoto (so he could use her phone) and he wasn’t allowed to push back – but romance is funny that way.
That moment when the two of them are lying in bed, wanting to text each other but not knowing what to say… Man, that’s elemental stuff. Kotarou crumbles under the weight of all of it – their first real fight, the news that Akane is moving – and that’s OK, sometimes you just have to stop fighting and let yourself embrace the despair for a while. But Kotarou does what he always does – he comes out fighting and follows the better angels of his nature. He quietly sets about trying to prepare himself for the Koumei entrance exam, and he apologizes to Akane for his petulance the night before. And then Akane is the bold one for once, not satisfied with claiming the first hug of the relationship but instigating its most enthusiastic kiss yet. As usual, cliche is out the window and the episode ends with resolution (in more ways than one) rather than obfuscation.
It’s not so easy to guess what the future holds at this point. I don’t doubt Kotarou’s resolve to get into Koumei (or to keep writing the stuff he wants to write) but trying to go to a high school two hours away from your parents is a huge uphill battle in a series this grounded in realism – the practical hurdles are immense. Still, his resolve that he and Akane stay together might be strong enough to stand the test of time either way. And in the end I’ve gone ahead and laid down over a thousand words about Tsuki ga Kirei again, despite my intentions to be brief – so much for my resolve…