- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora Review
Thanks to acejem and 0utf0xZer0 of Anime Suki for recommending this generously gentle gem of an anime to me. It feels and flows like a heartwarming real life story contained in Reader's Digest, and not just because of its shortness. Six episodes were enough to tell the simple yet multifaceted story which is Hantsuki (the title I'll use from here on in to refer to Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora, simply as an associated shorthand).
The story of this anime is simple in that its plot could be comprehensively summed up in two or three paragraphs, if that. The cast is small, with there being about ten key characters, and of those ten, the primary focus is almost always on the two people at the center of a romance fit for a beautifully blossoming ballad. After all, the romance of Yūichi Ezaki, and Rika Akiba, does indeed beautifully blossom through the course of this anime.
While the cast is small, and the focus is almost always on but two characters, there is an emotional and philosophical depth to this anime that goes well beyond a surface level understanding of it. The story is multifaceted in that it asks the viewer to reflect upon both the human condition, and human nature, and how best to respond to the former while staying true to the latter. And in asking the viewer to reflect upon them, it puts forward a variety of characters that all grapple with that question themselves. Little is known about most of these characters, but the way that they address these human issues is nicely interwoven with the overall thematic drive and plot development of this anime.
Questions are posed that asks the viewer to consider fate against human free will, and the prioritizing of one's personal success against the prioritizing of the happiness of your dearest loved one. These conflicts run through out this anime, usually below the surface, but sometimes expressed explicitly.
But all of this depth could very well be lost if not for the charmingly captivating courtship that serves to plunge the viewer into it. I liked the Ezaki and Akiba romance a fair bit, as it never felt contrived or forced. Akiba has some of the traits of the tsundere, but it is the classic tsundere. In other words, Akiba truly does soften over the course of the anime, and this is due to how Ezaki responds positively to her moments of anger with him. So as Akiba develops at a character level, so does her romance with Ezaki, with the two developments having a sort of synergy between them as they are both the cause and the effect of each other. This is what I've always liked about the classic tsundere.
Ezaki is a fairly standard anime male lead, but it works well here, as it contributes to the overall sense of realism which is prevalent through out the anime.
My mother is a nurse herself, and I can say from what I've learned through her, that this anime is a rather accurate reflection of how real life hospitals operate, and how medical staff will sometimes try to set up one patient with another in order to bring greater contentment to both given the often boring and restrictive confines of a hospital.
With that being said, having a hospital be the primary setting for a novel and anime setting is an uncommon choice. Hospitals appear fairly frequently in anime, but almost always as a secondary location, and usually for only a secondary character or two. It's a nice change of pace to see a hospital be the primary setting for a romance narrative.
While this anime admirably adheres to realism, these two characters are just enough out of the ordinary to be quite amusing:
In the first half of this anime, Akiko Tanizaki and Gorō Natsume are excellent sources of comedy for the anime. Akiko for her hilariously harsh treatment of Ezaki, and Goro for his... hilariously harsh treatment of Ezaki. ;) However, while both cause a lot of grief for Ezaki, they both eventually try to convey good life lessons to him.
Akiko tends to steal most of the scenes that she's in, as her presence never fails to leave a punchy impression, sometimes literally. This is especially true in the very first episode, where Akiko provides most of the sheer entertainment value, and amusement, there.
Goro starts off by simply being, well, a complete dick. That's not a term I use a lot, as I think that it's really overused on the net. People too often associate dickish behavior with selfish, harshly punitive, or unthoughtful behavior, when 'being a dick' is very different from those three in that its intent is different. The person 'being a dick' is getting amusement from intentionally sadistic behavior. And that's precisely what Goro does when he sets up Ezaki to get punished yet again by Akiba for Ezaki's reading of pornography.
Goro's dickish behavior causes some comically clever conflict between him and Akiko, and the scenes of them feuding with one another are some of the highlights of the anime.
Later on, though, these two characters take on more somber and serious moods, and aid a great deal in helping to convey the true philosophical and thematic depths of this anime.
These two characters certainly add a lot to Hantsuki, as it would be nowhere near as good without them.
Two other character that adds some welcomed spice to this anime are...
Maybe its the pro wrestling fan in me, but I really enjoyed how this anime made use of the two "Zebra Masks". The timing of the appearances of these magnificent masked marvels could not be better, and it always felt both funny and cool when they showed up. I always made wide open smiles when a Zebra Mask or two showed up in this anime. And the fact that the two Zebra Masks played such a pivotal role in ensuring that Ezaki managed to consummate his romance with Akiba was simply great, I felt.
I will say that this anime could sometimes feel just a bit too slow paced or subdued, and just as that was going on, sure enough, a Zebra Mask would show up to save the day! :D
One episode that sticks out in my mind a lot is the one where they all went to school. Here's a good collage of pics from that:
That episode had a lot going on, what with Zebra Mask fighting a new "villain", getting to see Akiba in a school girl uniform, getting to see Ezekai fantasize about her a bit, and simply getting to see all the teenagers get together. This episode also had a good cliffhanger ending.
However, this anime was not wanting for cliffhanger endings, especially when you consider how short it was. The ending to episode five, for example, had a considerable cliffhanger feel. It worked well with the pleasant plot twist that episode six had.
The OP for this anime is very well done for a honest and straightforward romance. But many of the clips in that OP left me thinking that the anime would probably end with Akiba dying tragically. Combine that with what Natsume said to Ezekai at the end of episode five, and I went into episode six fully expecting to hear about how the surgical procedure had been a failure. I expected a really melancholic and sad tearjerker of an ending.
Instead, the ending was much happier than that, which was a very pleasant surprise for me. The anime gets full marks for setting that happy plot twist up.
Another twist to Episode 6 is how it introduces Akiba's mother as the final obstacle that Ezekai has to overcome in order to enter into a lasting romance with Akiba. That twist was very unexpected by me as well, yet it makes perfect sense retroactively. It's a good example of a good plot twist. It also negates one of the aspects of this anime that I didn't like.
I didn't like how Ezekai constantly tried to run off from the hospital. In some cases, this was to help Akiba, but in other cases, it just seemed really foolish, selfish, and/or silly of him to me. It became really bad in the episode where Ezekai actually drives off with Akiko's female friend. While the scene between her and Ezekai was indeed pretty hot and well-developed, part of me wanted to simply slug the guy for taking these reckless irresponsible actions, particularly given his romance with Akiba. This was one case where I felt Akiko's abuse of Ezekai was perfectly justified. I did feel a bit sorry for Akiko's female friend though. That last punch must have really stung her, both physically and psychologically. ^_^;;
So, with all of that being said, I felt that there was some karmic justice at play when Ezekai's reckless activity had resulted in Akiba's mother not thinking that much of him, and wanting him to stay away from her daughter. It also set the stage for Ezekai's zeal and passion, helped along by the heroic Zebra Masks, to take drastic measures to seal the deal between him and Akiba.
All in all, this was an anime that I enjoyed a lot. There were a few little things I could nitpick, but most of them aren't really worth mentioning. On the whole, this was a splendidly done anime for such few episodes.
And its ending was one of the most satisfying anime endings that I've watched in some time. The scene that the following picture is taken from was a flawless scene, imo:
9/10 for a sweetly short satisfying romantic comedy.