Tsukimichi -Moonlit Fantasy-
Episode 11

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Tsukimichi -Moonlit Fantasy- ?

“Goodbye” is the kind of episode that is supposed to wow you. Jarring tonal shifts are nothing new in anime, and this episode is primarily focused on executing just such a shift, and the effect is obviously meant to be show-stopping. This week, our usually laid-back hero Makoto confronts true loss and tragedy for the first time in his new life as an isekai demigod, and in retaliation, he suddenly adopts a savage willingness to torture and murder that we've never seen before. Now, I've found that a show usually attempts this sort of trick in one of two cases: It is either supremely confident in its ability to sell a shocking and impactful twist that won't completely alienate its audience, or it is desperately trying to imitate one of its confident and shocking peers because it has mistakenly come to believe that “randomly turning main characters into bloodletting sociopaths” is the same thing as telling a dark and mature story.

I'll give you one guess as to what type of anime Tsukimichi is turning out to be.

What makes “Goodbye” all the more frustrating is that there is a version of this story that would probably work pretty well, and you can almost make out the shape of it beneath the mess of sloppy writing decisions that drag the whole episode down. Tsukimichi didn't have to take its story this seriously­—and I'm still not convinced that it was a good idea—but if it is going to commit, then the penultimate episode was its last chance to do so. After so many weeks of Makoto and his crew traipsing around the land as functionally unbeatable superhumans, it makes sense to put them in a losing scenario; otherwise, their adventures would risk losing any sense of stakes or consequences. Plus, we knew that the human adventurers that were held up in the demiplane had to factor into the story somehow, and I like the idea of showing how Makoto's kingdom is not an impregnable one.

The problem is that, no matter how solid a story's core concepts might be, everything boils down to execution. Tsukimichi simply never established the bare minimum of context or depth to make Makoto's turn into borderline villainy feel believable, and it definitely doesn't have the chops to successfully sandwich its ultra-violence in between the show's usual sitcom shenanigans. When Makoto discovers that those sketchy rival adventurers caused the explosion, and also Tomoe's near-fatal collapse that ended last week's episode, we also learn that a bunch of the alke characters that were barely introduced in earlier episodes were gravely injured. Worse yet, two of Makoto's allies were outright killed: Tomoe's child fragment, and that one orc guy.

It's obvious why this doesn't work, right? When it comes to Tomoe's fragment, I wasn't even aware that she was a thing that even could die, and I'm not sure why Tomoe can't just poof out another one. It's as if the only reason that the cutesy kid version of an already existing character was created in the first place was just so she could die horribly, which is incredibly lame writing, no matter how you slice it. As for the orc guy, well, he seemed nice, I guess, though I couldn't tell you his name for the life of me, which says how much of an impact he was having on the story to begin with.

The point is, for Makoto's transformation into a cold-blooded murderer to work even a little bit, the audience has to feel the rage and pain that Makoto is feeling. That's the most basic Revenge Story 101 shit imaginable. In John Wick, John lost his puppy; In Mad Max, Max lost his wife and kid; in Paddington 2, Paddington was unjustly imprisoned after being framed for stealing a pop-up book by Hugh Jackman. In every one of those stories, the audience is acutely aware of why the villains deserve to die, and they cannot wait to see the heroes wreak their bloody and/or marmalade-stained justice. Here, though? Tsukimichi is just having Makoto go through the Sad Revenge Boy motions without any of them.

Also, it's just really fucking weird how, after brutally dismembering a woman and then coldly watching her bleed dry like a stuck pig, Tsukimichi doesn't even let a couple of minutes pass before returning to business as usual. Tomoe and Mio make a bunch of goofy faces and yell a lot about their romantic rivalry, Makoto is understandably confused about how he was able to use Tomoe's memory reading power, and we get some pointless exposition about Master/Servant powers before the episode starts to tease the next story arc. I get that anime is a lot more comfortable with balancing disparate moods and all that, but if Tsukimichi isn't even going to pretend that Makoto's harrowing descent into darkness matters at all, then what the hell was the preceding fifteen minutes even doing?

The closest answer I can come up with is “Giving Makoto a flimsy excuse to attend some famous Academy, so he can learn more about the world, or whatever.” I'd have a lot of complaints to make about how Tsukimichi seems to have some serious misunderstandings about how concepts such as “setups” and “payoffs” work, but the whole Academy preamble doesn't matter, because the season finale is actually going to be about Makoto fighting a couple of over-powered and over-designed randos that we've never met before. Cool.

When I first finished “Goodbye”, I knew I didn't like it. Having sat on it for a while before sitting down to write this review, I realize that I kind of hate it. Watching it gave me the same cringey feeling that I experienced when, about a year ago, I found a bunch of my old high school notebooks, which were filled with the most embarrassing samples of grimdark, ultraviolent fanfiction that I could dream up back in the day. When I was thirteen, the idea of turning the likeable and friendly hero into a Badass Murder Guy was the coolest shit ever. These days, it's just embarrassing. Whatever Tsukimichi has in store for its final episode, I can only hope it is better than this.

Rating:

Tsukimichi -Moonlit Fantasy- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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