Reviewby Carlo Santos, Jun 22nd 2006
DVD 1: I Want to Sing
Twelve-year-old Mitsuki Koyama dreams of becoming a singer, but a tumor in her throat and her grandmother's objections make it almost impossible for her. Mitsuki's desire becomes even stronger when she meets two shinigami (death spirits) and learns that she has only a year left to live. When Mitsuki sneaks out of the house to attend an audition, shinigami Takuto gives her a little push by turning her into a perfectly healthy sixteen-year-old—and is shocked when she actually makes the cut! If Mitsuki becomes a pop star, she'd have a chance of reaching out to her childhood love, Eichi, who moved away years ago. The road to stardom will be a difficult one for Mitsuki, but she's got a couple of magical friends on her side.
No matter what genre of music you're into, making it in the industry isn't easy, and those stakes are especially magnified in the world of mainstream pop. As Full Moon would have us believe, though, all it takes is being in the right place at the right time, with a heaping dose of magic to boot. Mitsuki's stroke of good fortune isn't just about fulfilling a dream of fame, however. The story is centered on something much more grand—a dream of love—and that is why it wins over so many hearts. But it doesn't start out perfectly: Mitsuki's constant sighs of longing and the plain visuals onscreen make this series something of a one-note tune as it unfolds.
In these first four episodes, we see how the story balances its themes of personal ambition and pure love. While Mitsuki's lucky audition may be the key event, the focus quickly shifts towards her relationship with long-distance boyfriend Eichi and the arrival of Takuto as the third leg of an unusual love triangle. (What hope is there for a girl whose best options are an absent childhood friend and a dead guy?) However, with Mitsuki constantly longing for Eichi in both words and flashbacks, even the most hopeless romantic might get tired of her relentless sentimentality. It's a positive, idealistic message, but one that could stand to be toned down.
Meanwhile, this stirring of the romantic pot pushes the music aspect aside, and by the end of Episode 4 Mitsuki hasn't even rehearsed a single note yet. Perhaps it's because she and the shinigami keep discussing how much she misses Eichi? Filler dialogue like this locks the show into a lethargic pace, where "talking about stuff" is the default option when they need to eat up some running time.
Despite this slow development, the story remains interesting thanks to a multi-layered, interconnected cast of characters. Different motivations and understandings create plenty of tension; when people meet, no one is ever quite on the same page. Mitsuki, Takuto and Meroko (the other shinigami) each have different outlooks on her singing career, and even side characters like Mitsuki's manager Mrs. Oshige and pediatrician Dr. Wakaoji have viewpoints of their own. This cross-wired setup works especially well in Episode 3 when Meroko goes on a comical transformation rampage trying to keep things straight between Oshige, Wakaoji, young Mitsuki and mature Mitsuki.
Bright colors and appealing character designs set up the show's mainstream shoujo style, with most of the artistic effort going into the three main characters. Takuto and Meroko's fanciful outfits carry over from manga to anime with all the frills and trimmings, while Mitsuki looks every part the ideal heroine, in both her twelve- and sixteen-year-old forms. Most of the adults in the cast are skimped on, however, looking like generic fill-in characters despite their specific roles in the story. Backgrounds also get a halfhearted treatment: the artistry is clean, but lacks any texture or visual interest. The animation is plain almost to the point of boredom, with unexciting angles and poses contributing to the show's ho-hum feeling. However, the level of detail in Mitsuki's transformations and the smooth opening sequence suggest that the budget must have gone somewhere.
Despite music being a major story element in the series, this first volume doesn't present a whole lot to listen to. Mitsuki's signature tune is yet to be revealed (but she's working on it), leaving us with only the energetic opener and syrupy ending for song material. The pop-infused background score is limited in its emotional range, relying on lighthearted melodies in most scenes, although the occasional piano ballad sneaks in when Mitsuki waxes lyrical about Eichi.
A straightforward performance by Katie Rowan as Mitsuki leads the English dub, which brims with energy but could use some improvement. Compared to the Japanese audio, the dub feels lacking in vocal variety, with male and female voices alike falling within a narrow range of pitch and expression. However, Leda Davies—who plays Meroko—demonstrates her versatility as the character transforms into other people and imitates their vocal characteristics. The songs in the series are left untouched and undubbed; even Mitsuki's little smattering of a cappella in Episode 1 is left to the original seiyuu myco. The dub script wanders considerably from the subtitled dialogue, but no meanings are altered; most of it is just figures of speech, mouthflap-matching, or echoing the same sentiments with different words. Take note of the disc's language settings, though: there are only two subtitle options, On or Off, with no middle ground for song lyrics and signs.
Full Moon is sure to enchant those who believe in a pure heart and the power of one's dreams. Everyone speaks openly about their emotions, strong as they are, and Mitsuki is idealistic almost to a fault—but then again, who isn't idealistic at the age of twelve? If the story could just get moving and not dwell so much on a long-lost love, then it could really fulfill its promise as a romantic drama with supernatural touches. Although not visually spectacular, it's cute enough for its intended audience, and these four episodes should be enough of a sampler to see if it's a series worth continuing. All you need is to believe in magic, and believe in love.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : C
+ A positive message of love and hope, accentuated by bright colors and characters.
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