As much as Akane and Kotarou love each other, I think I’ve come to love this series almost equally.
We’re down to the home stretch now with Tsuki ga Kirei, that’s for sure, and it seems bound and determined to make us suffer right up to the very end. Great romance anime are always painful in a “hurts so good” sort of way, but “Kirei” for quite different reasons than most. It isn’t theatrical relationship drama, love triangles and duplicitous wingmen and cheating scandals here. No, this show simply makes you feel so deeply – root so hard for the main couple – that every drop of suspense is agony, and every adorable moment heartbreaking.
To say that there a lot of questions heading into the finale next week is an understatement, but the main one operationally is very simple – will Kotarou pass the Koumei High School entrance exam? Akane already has, but that should come as no surprise – she’s much the better student in this couple (which is in itself a bit of a genre twist, since she’s the athlete and Kotarou-kun the writer). I’m already screaming out the “Ganbare!” (internally anyway – there are neighbors to think of) to him, but it’s going to take more than that for Kotarou so make the cut. And so far, I’m not feeling great about what the tea leaves are saying.
Actually, the bulk of this superb penultimate episode isn’t focused so much on the exam but the buildup to it, and not so much (at least fully) on Kotarou and Akane’s relationship but that between he and his mother. The irony here is that she’s thrilled at how he’s buckled down and started studying, but things go all huggermugger when he drops the bomb about why. Kotarou, being 14 and a boy, obviously isn’t always going to show the best judgment – and telling his mom during their parent-teacher meeting was a strikingly poor choice. She reacts exactly how you’d expect – especially when Kotarou’s teacher drops the bomb that a girl from his class is also applying to the same far-off school.
Mom is a mom, and she knows two and two equal four. And things get rather ugly, because she reacts the way she pretty much always has in this story – she berates Kotarou and dismisses his opinions as silly. In fact he tells her to “Urusai!”, which is such a faux pas for a Japanese child that even chill Dad is shocked. It’s hard, but you have to try and put yourself in Mom’s place here – raising a teenager is hard, especially one that isn’t especially communicative. And it’s quite natural for a parent to assume a boy wanting to travel 90 minutes each way to high school to be with a girl is a terrible decision – what percentage of 9th-grade couples actually stay together in the long-term? Even Akane’s Onee-chan takes what’s a sensible adult position here, admonishing Akane that it’s a huge responsibility for her to have a boy follow her all the way to Chiba when they’ll almost surely break up.
This is what Tsuki ga Kirei does – it sweats the small stuff. It gets the details just right and lets the experience evolve naturally. The fact is, Kotarou is very serious about this – more than he has been about anything in his life. And even his skeptical mother comes to see that eventually. So much so that when his homeroom teacher calls her for another meeting to tell her Kotarou shouldn’t apply to Koumei because of his grades, she pushes back – she tells the teacher that he’s working so hard, he should be given a chance to succeed.
This stuff between Kotarou and his mom really is great – it’s such a poignant reminder of how parents live and die with their kids, even if they don’t see eye to eye. Hs father – quietly astute as ever – makes sure Kotarou is aware of what happened in school. And while very little is said during the midnight exchange when he comes down for a snack to find that his mother is still up, preparing onigiri for him, very little need be said (and that’s a theme for Tsuki ga Kirei – Kotarou is one of the most non-linguistic verbal communicators in anime). Kotarou knows how she feels, and has a sense of how much she worries for him. It’s a beautiful moment, one of many that Tsuki ga Kirei has offered up over the past three months.
None of this is to say there isn’t wonderful stuff on the romance front here, because there certainly is. We rather rush through Christmas by anime standards (another cliche shattered) but Akane does knit Kotarou a scarf, and he does agonize over what to buy for her (eventually it’s a handkerchief). As always, these two are beyond adorable together as they stroll through the streets of Kawagoe, paying another visit to Hikawa Jinja (I think I can guess what Kotarou was praying for) and sharing another chaste kiss. It would be almost impossible for me to be rooting any harder for these two than I am right now – and that’s going to make the wait for next week’s episode (and maybe the episode itself) pretty agonizing.
I’m not going to go so far as to predict what’s going to happen on that damned exam, but if I had money to bet it would be on Kotarou not passing (and it’s money I’d be happy to lose). It feels as if all the signs are there – I’m not sure having him pass and follow Akane to Koumei would be the most realistic ending, and the hints in the literary episode titles (and the ED chat sessions) point that way too. If Kotarou-kun fails, these two could still stay together – but it’d be a huge hill to climb. Having them split up outright would be a huge blow, obviously, but even the long-distance relationship would be bittersweet at best. Watching Kotarou gather himself, seeing his parents so proud as they see him off in the pre-dawn gloom (his father having written all of his train connections down), how can you possibly not be pulling for him? Ah, to Hell with it – “Ganbare, Kotarou!!!” Screw the neighbors…