Tsukigakirei – Anime Review
Synopsis: It’s the third year of middle school. Kotaro, a bookish boy aspiring to become a novelist, and Akane, a track girl who loves to run, meet in the same class together for the first time. They’re put in charge of the equipment for the sports festival, and slowly grow closer via LINE. How does Kotaro deal with his growing feelings for her? Meanwhile, Takumi has been in love with Akane since first year, and Akane’s friend, Chinatsu, becomes interested in Kotaro. A refreshing story of young love set in Kawagoe. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Tsukigakirei is an undeniably good portrayal of the awkwardness of first loves and relationships. Most viewers should either be reminded or connect regarding their own personal and similar experiences as they watch the relationship between Kotaro and Akane unfold onscreen. Furthermore, to a smaller degree, the show also deals with the complications of having a creative and youthful dream clashing with the more practical expectations of the world and more specifically parents. And while this story line doesn’t get as much of a resolution or follow through as the romance, it still features prominently throughout the show and highlights the important role a parent’s support plays in young ambition.
Tom: Tsukigakirei’s primary focus is on exploring young love and how its two leads Kotaro and Akane are impacted by their relationship. It’s through this focus that we explore their young, ambitious lives and the growing pains either suffers as a result of their first attempts at love. While the series remains largely wonderful and endearingly sweet, it’s also realistic in the portrayal of awkward teen romance. The pitfalls and mistakes either makes is all too familiar, and often cringe inducing for anyone who suffered similar. The only major flaw, in my mind, is the ending’s almost wish fulfillment nature. Without giving too much away it’s a far and away more optimistic ending than the truth might dictate. That said, the series manages to avoid a true blue sappy sweet ending by ensuring neither character walks away achieving everything they’d set out to do from their teenage years.
Linny: The biggest flaw of Tsukigakirei is definitely how hellbent it is on giving the audience a happy ending. Bad stuff happens every now and then but they’re easily and usually resolved within the episode itself. Even events that would have caused major fall outs between friends does not actually lead to such an outcome. But going back to what’s commendable about the show is how it features both sets of parents for our lead characters. Not only do both characters have parents with vivid personalities, they’re all featured regularly and shown to be clearly and actively invested and engaged in their children’s lives, which is so rare in anime and even slice of life stories. In fact, the show goes so far as to have one set of parents clash but handle the situation in a very realistic manner, rather than turn it into an over the top spectacle. This is in line with the show’s reserved tone but is still a nice addition to the story.
Tom: Another thing audiences best know going in is how slow Tsukigakirei can be. If you’re seeking romance with more drama, more tension, more angst this series fails on all regards. It has a slow build of troubles for our heroes, or plays the more troublesome aspects of their love and its obstacles with an honest subtlety that keeps the entire series low key. The beauty with which it depicts innocent love is aided by an impressive water color, soft art style that captures this perfectly and is only marred by awful CGI crowds used to flesh out more busy areas of its world.
Linny: If the summary didn’t already make it clear, both leads for Tsukigakirei are extremely passive and shy people so much so that certain viewers might find it hard or boring to watch their relationship and enthusiastically cheer them on. Also, going back to a previous paragraph where I mentioned a potential fall out between friends fizzing out, it refers to our heroine and one of her friends. And while one could explain that the heroine’s reluctance/refusal to get into an argument with her friend is in line with her shy nature, it’s still dismissed a little too easily that some viewers might take issue with it as well.
Tom: Outside of the flaws Linny mentioned, I actually feel both Kotaro and Akane are extremely relatable and perhaps frustratingly honest portrayals of teens. We watch them make stupid decisions and mistakes many of us are likely familiar with from our own failed attempts at our first romance. There’s a handful of additional characters, but none prominent enough to watch exclusively for. Tsukigakirei is about our two leads and while additional characters round out the cast and flesh out the world, they fail to exist as more than that necessary padding or take center stage for only the briefest of laughs in Tsukigakirei’s post credit vignettes.
Linny: If you prefer your teen love stories to have happy endings but also play out in a somewhat slow and restrained manner, Tsukigakirei is a perfect choice as it offers up a lot of believable teen angst and anxieties regarding the world of dating and general life as a teen. However, keep in mind that when we say slow, we mean it. It is very, very slow and its timid protagonists are going to frustrate anyone who prefers dynamic leads. All in all, Tsukigakirei feels like a show meant for a lazy, cozy marathon or anyone seeking to relive or connect with their teenage romance and day to day lives.
Tom: Tsukigakirei is an adorable little series, perhaps one of the most honest, realistic, and innocent portrayals of young love. It’s an absolute treasure for anyone looking for grounded romance that doesn’t play up the angsty drama, or sexual angles. It’s a surprise hold out for the season and, while not a perfect ending with its themes, presents a sincere and satisfying conclusion all the same.