What makes a good, healthy relationship? Common interests. Financial stability. Spending time together. Trust in your partner. Emotional support. Affirming affection.
These are things that we know work, because that’s how couples normally would have kindled their relationships. But these are pieces of advice given by those who have had plenty of experience with relationships, romantic or otherwise. But for the young, it can be difficult to understand how these work, frankly because they’ve never tried. Or at least… I’ve never tried.
I adore this anime original, regardless of how overly sappy it is. But as you have probably guessed by the header of this post, I don’t have one opinion on this series; I have two. If you would like to read my first opinion that’s more performative and less analytical, click here. Choose to believe whichever one you like better, but I think there’s value in both of them.
Okay, enough tooting my own horn, let’s break it down!
Tsuki ga Kirei (As the Moon, so Beautiful) is about young love, as a group of middle school friends begin to explore their own, unique romances. With just one more year before going their separate ways for high school, emotions run strongly with each of them, but they also have their own ways of expressing that love.
Most of these instances are comedic in nature, seeing how they are young and inexperienced when it comes to love. But despite this foolery, we know that they are trying.
One thing that Tsuki ga Kirei does right is capture the emotions of young love realistically. And when it comes to conflicts that arise, the anime doesn’t flinch!
Romance can get very confusing, so it’s no wonder you might get boys who don’t have a clue about what a girl thinks, or girls who playfully mislead boys into thinking that they’re interested. And if you think what I just said put a box around all boys and girls at that age, the reverse is also true for the characters in this anime!
I think what’s important to understand about these comical instances of love is that romance is fragile, confusing, and most of them fall apart because communications fail the moment assumptions are being made! But again, how else would they know what works and doesn’t for them, unless they give it a shot?
But all of these silly romances are only the side act to the central romance of the series: the tender love between Kotarō Azumi and Akane Mizuno.
Given that the series has a light-hearted tone that ultimately has a happy ending (uhm… SPOILERS), one might assume that Kotarō and Akane are the epitome of stupidly innocent love, that every other romance in the history of romance knows this would be too idealistic, but I don’t think so. Like all the other examples, Kotarō and Akane’s relationship is very fragile, naive, and with other added problems in the way, could have easily broken with the smallest misunderstanding. In fact, I’d argue that their relationship is the most fragile out of every pairing that comes out of this show, but what do I know, right?
What Kotarō and Akane lack, at least at the noticeable level, is confidence. They don’t know what to say to each other.
Kotarō is an aspiring novelist who works part time at a library, and helps the local shrine out as a dancer for upcoming festivals. He’s so incredibly shy and introspective, that boys and girls alike are surprised that Akane likes him in the first place. Kotarō eventually learns how to use this ability in his favor, but its greatest weakness is that he won’t get noticed very easily.
Akane is a track athlete who easily gets along with others, but she’s also unsure of what’s the right thing to do. She certainly likes Kotarō, but whenever other friends get in their way, she grows more self-conscious and embarrassed to be around him.
Most of Kotarō and Akane’s interactions happen affectionately when they are by themselves, but when everyone else comes into focus, their relationship falters between jealousy, worry, and overall fear that those fragile instances of love they have for each other will suddenly break.
As much as I hate to admit it, I do identify more with Takumi Hira than our principal protagonist Kotarō. Given his popularity as captain of the track team, it’s easy to assume that he and Akane are an item. They certainly spend a lot of time together, without Kotarō around. But with his coolness comes awkwardness as well, because he’s unaware of how Akane feels or thinks.
Takumi eventually confesses to Akane, but also knows that he’s going to get rejected. For me, this particular moment had hurt to watch, as it panned out almost exactly as I would have done, confusedly and awkwardly. It hurts to realize that someone you love only sees you as a friend. But to make matters worse, Kotarō gets angry at Akane for just talking to Takumi!
It may not be for the same reasons, but I can understand Akane’s feelings from a simple misunderstanding, where nothing was going to go her way, no matter what she does.
Tsuki ga Kirei takes a hard look at the small things that turn out to be big problems for young, inexperienced couples, and they don’t hold back!
It becomes more apparent that Akane worries more about when they fall apart, and Kotarō doesn’t have a clue how to assure her that things will be okay. And frankly, it’s because they don’t have that experience to know what to do.
So how do these young middle school lovers finally make up? The answer might have surprised you. I now present to you two ending moments that resolve the conflicts between my two opinions of this series.
Tsuki ga Kirei is a story about young love, but it is also a story about friendship. And none of these friendships are tested more than for the third wheel, Chinatsu Nishio.
Chinatsu certainly values Akane’s friendship, but she also likes Kotarō. She is the reliable best friend that does everything to support them, but she is also an obstacle that could potentially ruin everything. Akane knows this because she’s aware of how much time she spends with Kotarō, and Chinatsu has made it clear on many occasions that she is hopelessly in love with him. Unfortunately for them both, Kotarō doesn’t have a clue about any of this, and thus, all three of their relationships are posited in a fragile state of anxiety.
It’s seems that Chinatsu can forgive and forget so easily, but I can’t help but wonder how scared she is just to express her true feelings. Eventually she does get the closure that she had expected, and you’d think that would be the end of it. But if I had to be honest, Chinatsu’s fragility hit me the most when she sent Akane this text.
The hardest thing about confessing my love to someone isn’t the fear that they would say “no.” My biggest fear is that I would lose a friend because I said it. This is the risk that Chinatsu has to take by confessing to Kotarō, knowing that he’s going to turn her down for Akane, and that’s no easy task. But she does so anyway, showing that she really is the strongest character in Tsuki ga Kirei.
It’s heartbreaking to see that Chinatsu doesn’t get her way in this love triangle, but I think we can still learn something from her experience. Chinatsu tried, even if she knew the answer. Even if her friendship with Kotarō or Akane would collapse. Even if things would turn out awkward, just like they did for Takumi. And finally, Chinatsu gave Kotarō a reason to say exactly the right words for Akane to hear, over an unpublished manuscript of a novel he was working on, no less. The courage to take that risk and just say them!
Tsuki ga Kirei made me realize how scared I was of a real relationship. Sure, I think that physical contact can still be kind of awkward, unless it comes from someone that I trust, I guess. And I think that all those other concerns that I mentioned at the top of this review are valid when it comes to maintaining a relationship, despite the fact that I just don’t know how they work. But if I wasn’t willing to try and just say those words, I would never know the joy that comes with falling in love with another person. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.
I haven’t confessed to someone I like in such a long time, seeing how the last time I did ended horribly (not to go into explicit detail, but I didn’t get the happy ending where we could still be friends). And to be honest, I’m still quasi hesitant to do so because of that prior experience. But a story like Tsuki ga Kirei reminded me that my experience, that one, naive experience that could easily validate the cynical/satirical views of love that we all seem to like a whole lot more… doesn’t have to be that way. And it doesn’t have to end in a scenario full of blind, stupid love either. It certainly didn’t end that way for anyone here.
As you gaze upon the moon’s reflection from here on earth, it is easy to see the distortions and blemishes that reveal its imperfections. But as you gaze upon the moon in the heavens, and see those imperfections for what they really are, only then can you understand true beauty.
Or something like that. Ah well. It was worth a shot, trying to figure it out.
So if you are looking for a romance anime that doesn’t flinch at all the emotions attached to young love, check out Tsuki ga Kirei!
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