Tsukigakirei – Mid Season Anime Review
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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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Tsukigakirei has been doing a great job of portraying the awkwardness and nuances of dating in your early teen years through not only its main protagonists, but a handful of other supporting and minor characters as well. It’s bound to feel familiar to a lot of viewers whether they’re at that same age or long past it and that’s what really adds to the charm of the show. However, this adhesion to the realities of adolescent dating also causes some issues, especially when you have two extremely shy protagonists who make the romance feel like it’s crawling at the speed of one step forward, two steps back.
Tom: Tsukigakirei is indeed slow as it’s primarily focused on the awkward budding relationship between Akane and Kotaro, two of the anime’s most socially awkward kids. As Linny said the realism here doesn’t produce the most fast paced drama. But part of the charm is the effort that’s been put into making these two characters feel honest and real. This is aided by an increasing injection of coming of age drama, namely the effort both put in towards trying to attain their dream goals. Kotaro seeks to be a writer and meets the harsh realty of art vs product. Akane struggles to balance feelings for Kotaro, friendship and maintain competitively out on the track. Despite the series’ innocent feel, it’s actually a pretty big downer as our characters meet with failure more often than not.
Linny: The show is definitely ‘cruel’ to its protagonists, making them both face hardships and failures in regards to their passions. Maybe the show is doing it so the audience will feel sympathy for them, and also so that the show can then end on a high note as we watch them finally succeed. Or worst case scenario, their passions are going to be used as yet another hurdle to their budding romance, though one might enjoy that as something that can plague real life relationships and adds to the realism.
Tom: The series greatest selling point is how authentic the awkward personas of both Kotaro and Akane feel. Not only does the animation sell their shy nature, but so much emotion and honesty comes through the voice acting (specifically speaking about the Japanese version, I have not gotten to hear the dub), only adding to the realism of one’s awkward middle school years. While there’s a plethora of additional characters, it’s hard to latch onto any of them as they appear so infrequently, or are relegated to the vignettes at the end of every episode.
Linny: Tsukigakirei may also be one of the few anime I have watched where both protagonists have both parents, alive and well, actively engaged and invested in their child’s life and future. While Akane’s parents seem maybe a little more laid back about their parenting and control over their daughters’ lives, they’re incredibly supportive. On the other hand, Kotarou’s parents are a bit of an opposing mix. While his dad seems to understand and encourage Kotaro’s ambitions to be a writer, his mother is dead set against it, prioritizing his studies above all else. It’s nice to have this presentation of parents that deviates from the usual anime cliche of outright missing or depicted as extremely quirky, while also keeping it realistic and relatable.
Tom: The only exception to the side characters lack of screen time is Chinatsu, a lively, adorable and fun girl who’s role in the series is primarily to spark additional drama as we reach the series midpoint.
Linny: For viewers who find themselves wishing our protagonists were more dynamic and aggressive, Chinatsu is definitely a breath of fresh air and might even end up being a show stealer with her chirpy and friendly personality. Of course, if you are a die hard Akane X Kotaro shipper, she might end up feeling like the devil. I must commend Tsukigakirei for introducing complications not only in dating but in bonds of friendship. Here we have teens already stumbling to figure out dating but now we’ve added an additional source of jealousy and drama. I am definitely interested in seeing how the show makes it play out as it could prove to be a helpful life lesson if executed well.
Tom: My only complaint with Tsukigakirei is an over use of CGI animation for the crowd scenes and long shots. The 3D models are stilted, obvious, and poor compared to the otherwise wonderful, water color palette animation that is so soft and easy on the eyes.
Linny: As someone who prefers faster paced shows with a passion, Tsukigakirei has been a roller coaster. Be aware that if you’re like me, the romance and relationship moves at a snail’s pace. Thankfully, there are plenty of more energetic side characters to latch on to and who help liven things up. While the episode may be serious, there’s always the after credit mini skits that will have you chuckling or cringing as you see ‘yourself’ in them. Overall though, Tsukigakirei deserves applause for portraying the ups and downs of life and love as a young teenager in such a realistic manner and is definitely a recommendation for anyone who wants to relive or connect with fictional characters going through their adolescent years.
Tom: Tsukigakirei is a wonderfully beautiful and honest look at young romance. It’s coming of age elements help to keep the show grounded as well, never interested in catapulting our heroes to the rare child stardom, but rather to remind us that youth is more so about failure, and learning from it, than achieving all our dreams right away. This messaging, and compounding failures both Akane and Kotaro face, makes me wonder if the series will offer up a sappy happy-ending where both Akane and Kotaro end up together even after their middle school life ends, or if we’ll see a more realistic conclusion: the two growing apart.