(Warning, the following article contains spoilers for Tsukigakirei. Read at your own responsibility)

Those who know my taste in anime know that in general I don’t like romance anime. The reasons for this vary. Many romance anime I find to be overly dramatic to an insane degree at best, or extremely unrealistic and immersion destroying at worst. This isn’t even touching upon the trademark stereotype of the genre in which the two main characters do that annoying as all hell, “Will they? Won’t they?” dance, which is one that is sadly very pervasive, made even worse by the fact that most romance anime tend to end their one and often only season long before any real progress is made in terms of the romance.

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As a result the list of romance anime I genuinely like is an extremely short one, probably the lowest one in terms of liked-to-watch ratio. So when a romance anime comes around that I actually do like, especially one that is predominately a romance series that isn’t being supported with things like great comedy or badass action scenes, it probably means that series is worth checking out, because it means it belongs to a very rare breed. I’m very happy to say that Tsukigakirei is one such romance anime.

Now, I’ll say straight away, the reason I love Tsukigakirei so much isn’t because it has an amazing story or anything of that such. It actually has a rather plain story if I am being honest. Rather the reason I love this show is because of its execution, particularly in regards to how realistic and “un-anime” it is.

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Our two romantic leads are third year middle school students Kotaro Azumi, who loves reading and writing books, and Akane Mizuno, who is a member of the track team. Neither of them know each other at first and only happen to meet thanks to being part of the equipment crew for the school’s sports festival and they begin chatting with each other on the LINE chat app. Slowly, but surely, they begin to grow closer to each other before Kotaro decides he’s not going to be part of your average romance anime and straight up asks Akane to go out with him at the end of the third episode.

Other romance anime, take notes

Now that’s how this should be done. Episode 3, boom, got the ball rolling. None of this wait to episode 12 for a god damn confession bullshit. What’s more amazing is that both Akane and Kotaro are shy and introverted as all hell, to the point where they both have difficulty talking in person while they are at school, and yet they’ve already made more progress than romance leads who can’t shut the hell up for the life of them.

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And really aside from a very nice third wheel in the form of Akane’s friend Chinatsu, who is starting to develop feelings for Kotaro herself, that’s really all there is in terms of big notable storyline points. Like I said earlier, Tsukigakirei isn’t a complicated series, not yet at least. Instead it is just a very sweet and adorkable romance series between two middle school students.

Oddly enough, it is probably because the show is about middle school kids falling in love that I am able to relate so much with it, because I remember, quite vividly at that, how romance was like back in middle school, and I’ll be damned if this show hasn’t nailed it, if not at least come very close to nailing it. The desire to see the person you are crushing on, yet being too shy or anxious to say anything and when you do say something it comes through only after stumbling on “Uh”s, “Um”s, and “Ah”s as it exits your mouth is something I am very well acquainted with.

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It isn’t just how much they’ve captured the essence of middle school romance that makes me love the show so much, however. Another big factor is the smaller details, particularly when it comes to character interaction and behaviors. Take for example Kotaro’s adorable as all hell quirk where he begins shadowboxing the pull string for his overhead light whenever he is feeling happy, especially after talking to Akane on LINE.

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival!

This is another thing I want to point out about the show, it doesn’t fully hold the viewer’s hand when it comes to developing the characters. Using Kotaro’s shadowboxing as an example again, between his love for doing said shadowboxing and the fact that he has a massive ass poster of Muhammad Ali on his wall, it becomes quite clear that Kotaro is a fan of boxing, something that the show has yet to just flat out state. It is great little pieces of show, don’t tell character development like this that is endearing me to Tsukigakirei, because it is one of the show’s strongest aspects.

Another thing I love about this show is its animation. Now granted the show’s reliance on CGI animation for most of its crowd shots is a bit of a downer because it is some of the worst CGI animation used this year, which is god damn saying something considering the year we’ve had with CGI in anime so far. But bad CGI crowd animation aside, this show excels visually. From the soft, almost dream-like color palette and shading the show employees to some of the best facial expression animation I’ve seen this year. Seriously, the characters in this show may not talk a whole lot with their mouths, by they say volumes with their faces. Hell, the show even has some pretty stellar subtle hand animation, like in the scenes where Akane is playing with her “Potato” stress plush.

That may not look like any potato I’ve ever seen, but damn it, I want one.

One last thing I really like about this show is it has yet to leave me hanging on a sour note at the end of the episodes, even the most recent episode which ended with the Chinatsu indirect confession. The reason for this is this show has some of the funniest post-credit stingers I’ve seen this side of Yowamushi Pedal, but unlike Yowapeda which only gives us one stinger, Tsukigakirei gives us multiple comedic little shorts and I’ve gotten a laugh out of practically all of them, leaving me happy when I exit an episode.

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So Tsukigakirei doesn’t flat out re-invent the wheel when it comes to romance anime, nor is it a perfect show as it does have a few flaws, some more glaring than others, but it is a rather relaxing and cute watch that genuinely makes me feel rather happy as I watch it. By being an original series it also shines a bright light on the flaws that many romance anime that are adaptations suffer from by completely circumventing many of the issues outright. At the same time the advantages it gains from being an original series form a double-edged sword because no one knows how the show is going to shake out, but until the show actually gives me a reason to be concerned, this will remain one of my favorites of the Spring season.

Tsukigakirei can be watched subbed on the Crunchyroll streaming service or dubbed on the FUNimation streaming service.