Episode 5

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Tsukigakirei ?

Tsukigakirei stuck to its guns this week, offering twenty charming minutes of brief glances, awkward sighs, and tentative romance. Akane and Kotarou are actually dating now, but as it turns out, that's only the beginning of their troubles. Having successfully confirmed that they want to try going out, they're presented with the difficult question of figuring out what couples actually do.

Honing in on Akane and Kotarou's early, insecure days as a couple let Tsukigakirei continuously demonstrate its distinctive strengths. The sequence of each of them literally googling “what do couples do” was a perfect example. First off, it allowed Tsukigakirei to emphasize how technology impacts our personal relationships, something that has consistently lent the show a sense of modern realism that many dramas lack. Secondly, the sequence embodied the show's overall focus on tiny personal moments. Isolating and underlining the awkwardness of these everyday moments ultimately leads to a greater sense of these characters experiencing life as it is truly lived, allowing the audience in turn to connect to them that much more closely.

Finally, the sequence tied Akane and Kotarou together emotionally by emphasizing how even though both of them are insecure about how to act, they at least share that insecurity. On top of all that, the premise of this episode placed it in a dramatic space that anime too often neglects - following characters who aren't just pining for each other, but who are actively dating. Romance dramas often seem to see the moment of confession as the moment drama ends, but the trials of active couples are just as interesting as those of couples-in-waiting. There is great and tragically under-explored conflict to be found in the concerns of actual couples.

This episode also felt like a clear visual step up from last episode's mistakes. The show's frustrating CG characters still made an appearance, but they were less prominent than during the school trip, and their ugliness was counterbalanced by this episode's lovely color work and backgrounds. Contrasting color schemes lent a clear, distinct tone to both Akane and Kotarou's personal lives - while Akane's time with her track team was livened by bright greens and blues, both Kotarou's festival duties and writing woes were complemented by faded browns and yellows. The overall effect offered a mirror of the episode's narrative conceit, emphasizing both the emotional concerns they share and the unique life concerns that keep them apart.

The episode's storyboards were just as smart as its color sense. Early shots were often framed to visually separate Akane and Kotarou, letting props like the walls of their classroom or the maze of the school library present them as artificially separated. At the conclusion, this visual conflict was resolved through the setting of Kotarou's local bookstore, where sloping bookshelves finally led the pair together. Their long-awaited date was given a sense of visual rightness and resolution, amplifying the sense of intimacy.

There was plenty else to enjoy in this generally excellent episode. I liked how both of this show's “rivals,” Hira and Chinatsu, were consistently presented as reasonable, likable people with a variety of their own problems. I loved seeing Kotarou reprise his dorky text-message victory rituals, now adding some windmill kicks and situps to his usual boxing routine. And I was charmed all through that final scene, watching each of them tentatively figure out just how to make conversation with their crush. All in all, this was a strong episode of what's turning out to be a quietly terrific character drama. I hope things turn out okay for these adorable kids.

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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