Episode 10

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Tsukigakirei ?

Well, this one had me grinning from ear to ear. After a long episode that saw Akane and Kotarou reach their lowest point, the final moments was an absolute joy, spinning relief and giddy happiness into a tiny but perfect anime moment. I've enjoyed this show consistently up until now, but I've never had a visceral reaction like that, where I can't help but ball my fists and grin over how charming these two are when they're enjoying time together. Thanks for giving me that one, Tsuki ga Kirei.

The episode leading up to that joyous reunion reflected all of Tsuki ga Kirei's reliable strengths, building satisfying drama out of a wide array of smart tiny choices. Akane and Kotarou's first meeting this week was a good example. With the threat of Akane's move hanging overhead, the scene placed them behind a chain link fence, emphasizing their new sense of distance. When Akane admitted she was applying to Koumei, a train passed in the distance, echoing the threat of their coming separation. In the context of this solemn nighttime discussion, Kotarou's “we'll be fine, even far apart” rang completely hollow.

Kotarou's attempts to act strong meant this episode was able to move quickly through a traditional set of romantic drama hoops. Instead of spending time trying to come to terms with the fact that Akane was moving, he simply pushed it aside, letting both that and his fears about his writing career stew while he prepared for the festival dance. At the festival itself, consistent shots of Kotarou in his fearsome mask acted as a perfect metaphor for his emotional state - exaggerated bravado on the surface, hidden anxieties beneath. The moment where his platform passed Akane became a distinctive emotional highlight, with Akane's ambiguous response and Kotarou's otherworldly presence emphasizing the fact that they were living in different worlds. Clear visual metaphor gave way to a scene that was intentionally rich in tonal ambiguity, perfectly evoking the tenuous, dreamlike nature of the moment.

After the parade's first run, both Akane and Kotarou were presented with more uncomfortable questions. I really appreciated how well Akane handled herself in her conversation with Hira. Using her snack wrapper as a stand-in for her stress plushy, it was clear she was deeply uncomfortable with the conversation, but she still asserted herself while emphasizing that she valued Hira's friendship. And on Kotarou's side, a reminder of his writing anxieties set him on edge even before he saw Akane with Hira, making his subsequent tantrum feel understandable despite also clearly being uncalled for.

After an episode of bottling up all his anxieties, Kotarou ultimately released his frustration in the worst way, taking it out on Akane without even telling her why he was mad. Their awkward date put Tsuki ga Kirei's consistently naturalistic scene-setting to a new and deeply uncomfortable purpose, articulating all the awkward sub-scenes of a date someone doesn't want to be on. Bad dates aren't just one single unfortunate moment - they're a series of doomed negotiations, leaving both parties feeling worse and worse as the evening continues.

Tsuki ga Kirei had to rush somewhat to get from that awful low to its uplifting final scene, but the payoff was good enough that I forgave the questionable lead-up. I also felt that Kotarou's apology was a bit too halfhearted relative to his prior behavior, but again, the two seemed so convincingly happy to make up that it's a minor complaint. This episode conveyed both the highs and lows of Akane and Kotarou's relationship with sensitivity and grace, firmly establishing this as a relationship worth fighting for.

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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