Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Dec 19th 2011
Full Moon o Sagashite
Episodes 40-52 Streaming
Mitsuki and her entourage are deep in America now, on their way to see Mitsuki's orphaned beau Eichi. Rather than a Hollywood finish, though, the reunion is just the beginning, the starting bell for a new, and difficult, chapter in Mitsuki, Takuto and Meroko's lives.
There's nothing like finishing well. Sure, Full Moon's finale is full of wildly improbable coincidences and tween melodrama of the ripest sort, but it's also full of big twists, big emotions, and big satisfaction. It may not be great anime, not by a long stretch, but it's the rare ending that can make you weep even as you roll your eyes.
Aside from the occasional multi-episode crisis, Full Moon has been a highly episodic show, and while the trip to America had given it a slightly more urgent structure, for the first of these episodes it seems it might stay that way to the end. The episode is a tiny throwaway of a thing about Mitsuki having Eichi's precious pendant stolen by thieves who prey on unwary tourists. Like most of Full Moon's episodes it is fun and slight and seeded with a kernel of real emotion. It isn't to be underestimated: the series built its sweetly optimistic world and large cast of loveable stereotypes on just such episodes. Still, it's a relief when a late exchange between Mitsuki and Takuto lets you know that things are set to change.
Long-dormant emotions—namely Takuto's feelings for Mitsuki—come to the surface in that exchange, and it's very much a harbinger of things to come. In the next twelve episodes the series deals, in a highly emotional fashion, with all of the hairy problems that it spent the last forty episodes dodging. Takuto's relationship with Mitsuki and, by extension, lovelorn Meroko, is definitely one of them. So is Mitsuki's search for Eichi, and her thorny relationship with her grandmother. Takuto's past also gets a fair shake, as does that of Mitsuki's parents, and of course there's the little matter of Mitsuki's impending death to contend with.
With that much to resolve, the surprise isn't that it took a few contrivances—mainly Takuto's real identity—to bring everything together, but that it took so few. The series' finale is a surprisingly well-written thing, moving with confidence and a sort of chain-reaction inevitability from one emotional crisis to another. There are revelations here that make sense of events going all the way back to the series' beginning: Eichi's lack of communication, Takuto's inexplicable advocacy of Mitsuki's singing career. It builds cannily on what came before, exploiting the warm stability built up over a year's worth of repetitive one-off adventures by violating it suddenly and irrevocably. When Mitsuki's reunion with Eichi upends her world, it upends the series as well, and us along with it. When she and the others go through the grinder, the pang we feel has the full force of all fifty episodes behind it.
Mitsuki is of course the center of all this, and she carries it well. She's always been a sympathetic little thing. When her usual spunk finally and fatally fails her, it hurts, and when she inevitably rises above, we rise with her. She does run into some trouble, however, when things start to get explicitly romantic. She's only twelve after all, and her two potential partners are both in their late teens, a rather creepy situation no matter how swooningly romantic the series makes it. At those times one has to be thankful for Meroko. Whatever Mitsuki's romantic entanglements lack in direct involvement, they make up for in their impact on Meroko. Formerly a comedic device, she's a revelation as the ardent suitor who finds Zen-like calm and strength in her pursuit of others' happiness. Her scenes with Takuto towards the end are positively heartbreaking, and it is for her that we cheer in the series' final moments.
Not that the rest of the cast is to be outdone. Mitsuki's grandmother steals everyone's thunder when she bares her heart, long hidden behind fear and iron discipline, to save Mitsuki from a lethal funk. Oshige gets the set's best scene when she pours out her frustration, all of her despair and sadness at being unable to help a girl that she has grown to love, to an understanding Wakaoji. Even Izumi takes time off from being the finale's agent provocateur to reveal a little bit of why he's such a stinker. In fact, no matter who your favorite character is, chances are somewhere in these episodes they'll leave you either smiling or misting up.
Neither continuous finale nor long-awaited revelations nor concentrated emotional attacks nor evolving characters can spur the series to greater artistic heights however. To the end its art remains colorful and memorably frilly, but also beset by generic backgrounds, interchangeable faces, and inconsistent rendering. The animation is plain terrible: wooden and desperately reliant on stills. As often as not, characters move as if they're cardboard cutouts being dragged through the scenery or, just as commonly, as if they're caught in a looped video. Which in many cases, they are. Most affected are the concert scenes, which are elaborate but have none of the energy or wonder of the real thing, as captured in series like Beck and K-ON!.
On the plus side, there is the music, which has expanded beyond one or two songs to include an entire oeuvre of sappy, electronics-heavy pop. It won't be to everyone's tastes, but it's good enough that you can kind of buy Full Moon's popularity. And the way the songs bleed into the closing sequences is a nice touch. Toshiyuki Kato and his collaborators also pull off a few surprisingly atmospheric sequences (atmosphere being one of the few things that doesn't require competent animation), especially during Mitsuki's otherworldly scenes with Loki-like Izumi.
It's sometimes easy to forget the simple pleasure of watching a series end. Not just finish up its run, but really end. You know, the thing that happens when you gather up your various plot threads, braid them together and then tie them off, leaving no convenient back doors through which to sneak a sequel. That's part of what makes Full Moon's conclusion so satisfying, even more so because it not only ends, but ends on a high note. It's a children's show to the last, as its simple characters and starry-eyed premise will attest, but a children's show with more punch, ultimately, than a great many adult ones.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : D+
Art : B
Music : B
+ A continuous, successfully emotional conclusion to an episodic and often fluffy series; big revelations, big changes, and a genuine ending; Meroko gets her due.
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