Tsukigakirei
Episode 9

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Tsukigakirei ?

My apologies to Akane and Kotarou for apparently jinxing their relationship. After describing last week's episode as their reward for surviving all the struggles of youth, I suppose it was inevitable that this episode would introduce a potentially fatal obstacle to their relationship. Just when the two of them have finally gotten comfortable together, Akane's dad announces that he's being transferred to the head office. Akane may be moving to Chiba, and adolescent love and long-distance relationships really don't mix.

That potential threat cast a serious shadow over this episode, but the other individual scenes here were actually quite heartwarming. The episode opened with Kotarou inspecting that classic career choice sheet, or in this case, high school choice sheet. It actually tripped me up for a moment to be reminded that Tsuki ga Kirei's cast are all middle schoolers, considering they act more grounded and mature than many anime high schoolers. Realism of characterization isn't always a net good in fiction, but it's fundamental to Tsuki ga Kirei's appeal. Appreciating the subtle shifts in how these characters interact with each other is only possible because the show is so precise about articulating their language choices, physical presence, and relative comfort levels.

It was that precision of characterization that made the following scene so rewarding, where Akane and Kotarou enjoyed another date at the bookstore. It was clear in their easy conversation how far the two of them have come from their first halting exchanges and how comfortable they are in each other's company now. Even the animation of this scene was well above par, gracefully articulating their relaxed body language. Tsuki ga Kirei emphasizes the small things, and in time those small things have become their own dramatic payoff.

I also appreciated this episode's careful articulation of Akane and Kotarou's very different home lives. Though Akane's desires don't really seem to have much say in her family's actions, her home seems like a much warmer place than Kotarou's, since her parents treat both their daughters like equal members of the family group. Small details like her mother's adorable packed lunch emphasized the closeness of their whole family. In contrast, Kotarou's home seems dominated by his mother, whose forceful personality overwhelms his father when they're all together. Kotarou's mother obviously wants what's best for her son, but she can't see his own desires as anything more than adolescent fancies. The relative chilliness of his time at home was given a wonderful payoff at the end, when his father briefly stepped in to assure his son that he'd support him no matter what. Neither of these family situations were underlined as right or wrong - like so much of Tsuki ga Kirei, these conflicts were presented with detail and sympathy, but no judgment.

The rest of this episode was mostly focused on Akane's final track meet, where she got to make up for the previous meet's disastrous performance. The highlight was definitely the scene where Akane and Chinatsu reflected on their time together, eventually moving each other to fond tears. That scene pretty much covers this episode as a whole - great sequences of carefully articulated relationships, a charming mix of warm feelings and melancholy reflections. This episode was Tsuki ga Kirei at its best: endearing, understated, and achingly true.

Overall: A-

Tsukigakirei is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.


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