I have a problem with romance anime that can basically be boiled down to the fact that I’m a sucker for an emotional narrative. Against my own will, I often become so invested in the characters that I’ll force my way through any amount of melodrama to reach the emotional closure of the ending. Even the most transparent plot points keep me up at night, demanding I read the next chapter, to rip out my nagging uncertainty like a mental hangnail. It takes some truly bad story to allow me to completely divest myself of my emotional investment so I’ve become wary of starting high school heart jerkers that I’m not sure I’ll want to finish.
Last week, I finally picked up Tsukigakirei and I’m very glad I gave it a chance. It swaps out the stressful push-and-pull of cathartic highs and melodrama for a more stable emotional payoff. A slower, realistic romance that follows Kotaro and Akane’s journey navigating their own emotional pitfalls, rather than unlikely circumstances, to grow closer together. Set in middle school, the romantic leads are only vaguely aware of what it means to be in a relationship, muddling their way through the