Tsuki ga kirei

Kotarō Azumi and Akane Mizuno are teenagers living in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, in the north-west corner of Greater Tokyo, where they are in their final year as middle-school students at Kawagoe Academy. Although friendly and well-liked, Kotarō is quiet and bookish and dreams of one day being a novelist; Akane, despite being outgoing and a star sprinter on the school track team, is subject to bouts of intense anxiety. When they are thrown together as part of a group of students charged with looking after the school’s sports equipment, they begin to develop an unlikely relationship via the online chat platform LINE. Gradually, they learn to trust one another through self-disclosures large and small – Akane revealing that she carries a small squeeze-toy with her to cope with her anxiety, while Kotarō shares his literary aspirations and the fact that he is a dancer at the local Shintō shrine – until they develop an intimate emotional bond. Eventually, they begin dating, but in secret; meanwhile, Akane’s friend Chinatsu reveals that she has feelings for Kotarō, while track club president Hira struggles with his own attraction to Akane. Eventually, Kotarō and Akane are “outed” as a couple, which brings much good-natured teasing from their friends, as well as the complexity of Chinatsu and Hira’s crushed hopes. But greater challenges lie ahead: Akane’s father is transferred to his employer’s head office on the opposite side of Tokyo, meaning she will have the opportunity to attend a private high school that has a competitive track club; while Kotarō must face the prospect that his literary ambitions will go unfulfilled, and that he will be left behind because his grades aren’t good enough to get him into the same school as Akane…

An original animation developed and produced by studio Feel, “Tsuki ga kirei” (trans. As the Moon, so Beautiful) first aired on Japanese television between April and June 2017. Animated in a deceptively simple style that nonetheless manages to richly convey the suburban context of the story, “Tsuki” eschews the melodramatics that are the usual stuff of teenage dramas in favour of a gently paced narrative underscored by a quietly humorous compassion for the confusions and anxieties of youth. Significant moments are explored as much through silence, gestures, and glances as they are through dialogue, while the interior monologues of the main characters are revealed through their online conversations. The heartbreak of unrequited love is also examined in an understated manner that adds emotional punch to the story without collapsing into histrionics. And while the very end of the series falls somewhat within the conventional parameters of romance narrative, nonetheless, “Tsuki” keeps front and centre the open-ended nature of relationships and the uncertainties of the future, forcing the audience to confront the reality that life may have other things in store for us, regardless of our best intentions or most carefully laid plans. At times almost languid in its pacing, “Tsuki ga kirei” is an intelligent, thoughtful exploration of emotional maturity, difficult choices, and navigating the complexity of human relationships that takes seriously the human reality of both its audience and its characters, making it a superior example of the coming-of-age tale that is central to modern anime.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.