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Adorable By Moonlight

The latest anime to fall off the end of my procrastination is MoonPhase (a.k.a Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase), which is basically a cute comedy with some romance centered on an adorable little pure-blood vampire named Hazuki.  However, despite enjoying it enough to give it a 9 out of 11, I am afraid there is not a whole lot to say about it.

Hazuki is a vampire princess, 14-years-old, walled away from the world for evil-knows-what reasons.  (There is something about overpowering her innocent personality with an implanted evil personality, known as Luna.)  Since Hazuki has been in isolation since she was very young, she does not have much in the way of manners, but she is understandably very lonely beneath that cute but bratty exterior of hers.  Being a vampire, she sucks blood once a full moon. What can I say? Japan loves their lolitas, and a vampire status is as effective an obfuscating excuse for that as any.

Kouhei Morioka is a 21-year-old photographer who can only get commissions working for a paranormal magazine because even his most innocuous photos tend to accidentally capture paranormal things.  Despite that, he is frustrated to be unable to see or combat spirits in the way the rest of his remarkable family can.

While on journalistic assignment to snap a creepy "abandoned" castle in Germany, Kouhei is surprised to find Hazuki there.  After a bit of smalltalk, Hazuki bites his neck, binding Kouhei as her blood slave in an attempt to use him to escape her confines.   To her surprise, she discovers that he is completely immune to her supernatural powers of persuasion!  However, despite being annoyed at Hazuki trying to order him around, Kouhei takes pity on her and helps her to escape in a dramatic supernatural conflict with the guardian of the castle.

Returning to Japan, Hauzki ends up adopted by Kouhei's family, which turns out to be a lineage of powerful Shinto priests.  Like most Shinto priests in anime, Kouhei's family is capable of manifesting spiritual power to combat evil.  That's good, because a central fixture of most of the conflicts in this anime is that vampire aristocracy keeps trying to recapture Hazuki.  Throughout the anime, Hazuki is slowly reformed by the kindness of Kouhei and the wisdom of his family.

Though comedy, action, and drama take the front seats in MoonPhase, a certain romance blossoms between Hazuki and Kouhei, but Kouhei is decent enough of a guy not to come on to a 14-year-old.  It is more like Hazuki comes to have a crush on Kouhei because he has done so much for her, and Kouhei becomes fiercely protective of Hazuki because she becomes very dear to him and he does not want her vampire relatives to resign her to a fate of being a dangerous parasite.  Their affection mostly manifests as quarreling, although once a full moon Hazuki needs to "kiss" him, and Kouhei comes to like her enough to graciously accommodate this.
The animation studio, SHAFT, is known for some oddball, creative openings, and MoonPhase's is one of the best examples of such.
Note the overwhelming underscoring of how cute Hazuki is, despite her mostly being a brat or in peril on the show.

Overall, MoonPhase is a well-put-together anime with a solid flow from beginning to end, likable characters, and exciting supernatural conflicts; comedy (often fourth-wall breaking) abounds while Hazuki acts adorable and Kouhei's family stands up against various horrors that come for her.  I also enjoy its relative innocence; Moonphase does not brutalize its viewers with panty shots or other examples of gratuitous ecchi.  I do not think anyone would feel they wasted their time giving it a watch.

So why not a "masterpiece" rating; if nothing is wrong with MoonPhase, why settle for "very good?"
  • All that forth wall breaking undermines its seriousness somewhat.  Regular cutaways on scenes (especially the Kouhei's house) reveal it is taking place on a stage.  A running gag is metal pans and such falling on the characters head, usually completely out of nowhere.  That's a good gag, but if the anime is not going to take itself seriously, why should I?   As a rule, I only rate better than "very good" for shows that have increased levels of emotional involvement.
  • I wanted to watch a romantic comedy, but what Hazuki and Kouhei have going on in the anime is not much of a romance.   Not that I necessarily want to watch a 21-year-old macking on a 14-year-old, but there is a massive block on reciprocating their affections, and they do not quite have enough time to get over it in the course of the anime.  Again, this puts a cap of my emotional investment.
  • The anime ends too abruptly.  They spend about 8 episodes winding up this tremendous plot line about how Kouhei is training himself to have the skills to protect Hazuki, which gets even more interesting when it backfires because it reveals to him how monstrous Hazuki's spiritual nature is.  Suddenly, Kouhei goes from gibbering in terror from seeing Hazuki to kicking butt and rescuing Hazuki.  That lasts a span of about 5 minutes, then he immediately re-seals his power, defeating the purpose of the past 8 episodes!  After that, the anime is essentially over: there's two more episodes, but they're basically just goofy catharsis.  It does not end this way in the original manga, instead Kouhei leaves his power unsealed and continues to try to get better at dealing with their side effects.  The anime revision let all the air out of the story for the sake of wrapping up the season in one easily-syndicated package, and I think it deserved better than that.
Yet, despite these things that hold it back, MoonPhase is far from a bad anime.   I like the characters, I like the comedy, I like the supernatural plot, and it is even well-executed in what little romance there is.  This would be a decent addition to anyone's collection.  The manga concluded with 16 volumes in 2008, 3 years after the anime aired, so there is a reasonable continuation of the story available for fans.

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