What They Say:
Falling in love is a complicated matter, especially for third-year middle schoolers Kotarou Azumi and Akane Mizuno who live in totally different worlds. But when a school assignment pairs them together, their relationship has a chance to blossom-that is, if they can muster up the courage to talk! As if that wasn’t hard enough, navigating the intricacies of junior-high life won’t be any easier.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is pretty straightforward school material so there isn’t a lot to really stretch it that much. It has some nice placement here and there as needed with what it needs to do with some of the “action” elements but more so in how it works the sounds of living in the city, school, and other incidental beats. These come across well with how it accentuates the moments and brings to life all of these areas. Dialogue itself is fairly simple in a lot of ways but there’s a lot of muted conversations and hushed tones at times because of how they interact that come across very well. Everything is clean and smooth throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by studio Feel, the show has a very strong look to it as it goes for the realistic design with a lot of backgrounds adapted from photographs to give it a rich feeling. The color palette used works very well to blend it into the overall design and the character designs are distinctive with the outlines and the edges that gives it a great feeling. The colors range well with some very vibrant pieces that stand out but also some really nicely done pieces when it comes to hair color and some background elements. It’s a clean looking encode with no problems to be had with breakup or noise, making it a strong looking show for fans to sink their teeth into.
The packaging for this release brings us a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the four discs for both formats on hinges and the interior walls. The set comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork with a bit more color definition as it shows our two young lovers walking through the exterior hallway of the school. It’s a simple piece but I love the shadows and the way the two are looking at each other with this kind of awkwardness to it. The layout is simple and I like that the logo is done in a handwritten style with both the Japanese and English translation versions. The back cover goes for a fun look where the bulk of it has the premise and extras laid out as a text conversation. We get a few good shots from the show while the rest is done with the technical information for both formats. While no show related inserts are included we do get a great two-panel spread piece of artwork of the kids outside of school with some great colors.
The menu design for this release goes for a simple approach with a static image for both discs. This works in its favor because it’s done with some really nice artwork with the cast of characters against the familiar locations, like the school. The use of the blues and pinks with the sky and cherry blossoms is well done and it stands out in a really appealing way. There’s a lot of detail in all of it as well that gives it a striking look to set the tone. The navigation along the bottom is simple with a kind of “top of phone” element to it that feels like texting a bit as we get the basic selections for it. Submenus load quickly with easy scene access and language options while the pop-up menu sticks to the same design that’s just as easy to use.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that aired during the spring 2017 season, Tsukigakirei is a twelve episode anime series produced by studio Feel. The series works with the subheading of “as the moon, so beautiful” and is directed by Seiji Kishi based on the scripts by Yuko Kakihara. Original works always cat a bit more attention for me since they can, sometimes, break out of the usual narrative/adaptive structure from manga and light novel adaptations. This series does that pretty well and while it could have been handled with a couple less episodes with the same impact it does the TV design well to give us a complete show that delivers in the end – even if I would have preferred that the epilogue wasn’t just stills and that we had more time focusing on the “what happens after” aspect.
The show takes place in one of my least favorite periods with it being about junior high school students. The focus is on Kotari Azumi and Akane Mizuno, two kids that are going through their final year of junior high, as they engage in their first experience with romantic love. Azumi’s a pretty standard guy for the most part, a good student that’s a member of the literature club and he also does some of the traditional dance elements and works on the music for the local shrine, so a good part of his time is spent on that outside of school. Complementing that is Mizuno, she’s the self-conscious and shy type that really loves field and track but has a hard time really excelling at it because of that shyness. What’s adorable about these two is that while there’s a passing look during opening ceremonies toward each other, it’s when they’re out at dinner with their parents separately and they make eye contact there. Which then has parents getting all involved in silly ways as they introduce themselves to each other. But that kind of awkward and embarrassing stuff helps to open up the two to getting to know each other more.
Where there series goes from here is something that’s usually played badly elsewhere for comedic effect. The two are uncertain at all of this since it’s their first experience so they don’t tell their friends about it and keep it a secret from everyone. There’s a kind of very light aspect to the romance that unfolds as they spend time together and learn about each other, such as him secretly going to one of her track meets to watch her and he as he deals with not being able to get into the same high school as her even while trying his hardest – which creates complications at home about what he’s trying to do and how it’s beyond where he should try. The parents aren’t big players in the series but they have some good moments as they slide in and out of various scenes in order to enhance them and give it all a much more lived in experience.
At its core, however, is the slow build relationship between Azumi and Mizuno. I’ve seen this story many times before – and across all three school ages – and when it’s done well with a serious intent and an honest look it almost always works well. With a beautiful design to it for the animation, especially the characters, and the space and pacing to really give it time to grow, this works very well in getting us invested in their relationship and what they struggle with, from one of them moving away to just the challenge of graduating to separate schools. There’s a really fun awkwardness here that transcends nationally and culture to be sure but there are a lot of things that are very Japanese when you get down to it. This can make some aspects of it frustrating from a Western point of view because you want them to just talk, or even fight, to get some of these things out in the open. But watching the progress over the course of it, the challenges they face, and seeing how the struggle goes as poorly as it does toward the end resonates very well. As I said before, I do wish it had kind of wrapped up an episode early as I really would have loved to have had a kind of full-length montage and exploration of how the years go from there instead of just the stills. Being an original series means they could have taken more chances and I wish they would have.
While the story itself is one that’s familiar it’s also one that works really well in execution. The creative here put together a great looking show under Seiji Kishi’s direction, which is one of the few directors that I pay any real amount of attention to when it comes to the projects they choose to work on. The release here is a bit bare when you get down to it but everything is done right when it comes to the actual presentation with a great looking encode, a solid dub, and a good looking package. It’s a great little romance that’s kept to a realistic level of what to expect from junior high students and the kinds of things they deal with. It’s the kind of show that you know you’ll revisit.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.