Last week, we took a look at a relaxed slice of life isekai called By the Grace of the Gods that is one of my favorite anime of the past few years. After watching that anime, alongside How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, I was fascinated to see if Crunchyroll had any other anime in a similar vein to those two that I might be interested in watching.
Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy, an anime from July 2021 that seemed to slip under my radar, was what got recommended to me. And the result was rather interesting in how my outlook on this anime turned out.
Initially, I didn't really have plans to further discuss this anime, only really using it as some minor popcorn relaxation. But then I saw that it had a second season planned down the line and that I could discuss it immediately after By the Grace of the Gods to give greater context on what an isekai can do right and wrong.
To that end, let's take a look at a strangely generic isekai anime and see if it has anything that can truly propel it beyond its seemingly mundane appearance.
- Directed by Shinji Ishihira
- Produced by C2C
- Number of Episodes: 12 (as of August 16, 2022)
- Available on Crunchyroll (Sub & Dub)
Makoto Misumi is living a normal life in Japan when he suddenly learns that his parents made a deal with the goddess of another world that would allow them to come to Earth in exchange for Makoto being made a hero by the goddess and returned to the Goddess' World when he became an adult. However when the time comes for Makoto to go to the goddess, he is rejected for being too "ugly" and banished to the wild edges of the world, where all the monsters and rejected creatures of the world are placed, and left to fend for himself.
Before he is banished, Makoto is granted a blessing by his world's moon god, Tsukimichi, who takes pity on the young man and gives him immense magical capabilities and the quest of living a good and comfortable life. Now with immense magic and no heroic responsibilities, Makoto will make his way in the Goddess' World on his own terms, and in so doing come into conflict with the beauty obsessed deities "perfect" world.
So my general outlook on Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy is that the series is...alright. Above average animation, a soundtrack that exists solely to compliment the visuals but adds no distinctive identity in and of itself, characters that are largely rote and play into the usual isekai fare, and a story that is largely a subversion of your standard isekai formula of hero sent to a fantasy world by a god to defeat the demon king storyline that has almost become old hat.
The main character of Makoto Misumi is your prototypical isekai protagonist. He's friendly but a little insecure. He handles his powers and abilities well and has a very strong aversion to the goddess of the world he was sent to, for admittedly very good reasons. He is, like many isekai protagonists, the least interesting element of his own show.
His companions are all rather rote, relying on some of the same standard beautiful anime girl with strong magic powers falling in love with the boring protagonist standards, though they do add in some elements that seem heavily inspired by Konosuba in terms of his party members causing more problems then they solve.
That being said, I do find their interactions to be fun and fit with the overall lighthearted vibe. Tomoe is kind of funny in her obsession with samurai stories and trying to live them out without realizing the wider context involved, and Mio is a strange upset to the dynamic that quickly finds her place and comedy within the wider setting. Then, in what I do actually think is a shock, we have Shiki, who is a male lich that is revived as a beautiful looking man (which having a male member of Makoto's party is honestly so unexpected in these usual isekai fares that I had to mention it) that is obsessed with travelling to Makoto's world, becoming what is known as a Grant. We've often seen isekai characters want to return home, but I don't think I've ever seen side characters who make it their primary goal to travel to another world.
Actually, earlier I touched upon the lighthearted tone that the series generally keeps to, relying heavily on comedy or comedic resolutions to harrowing situations. In fact, the anime actually goes out of its way to lighten up the conditions of one character named Toa, who in the manga is forced into prostitution to pay off her adventuring debts but in the anime is instead subjected to "magical experimentation". This tone is a bit shocking since the setup is perfect for an Arifureta, kill the evil god and return home plot (and given how season one ends, that may still happen) but the series actually kind of ignores the goddess after her introduction except to complain about how terrible and vapidly arbitrary she is.
However, the lighthearted tone does come to an abrupt end once the hyumen (what native-born humans are called, to distinguish them from Earth's "ugly" humans, like Makoto) adventurers end up robbing Makoto's settlement and viciously killing several children. After that, the episode takes a sudden and tremendously cold turn as Makoto mercilessly kills the leader of the thieves before moving back onto discussing logistics and the means to protect the city. Its rather jarring and yet feels like it also strangely fit with the direction of the show.
Then the show begins building up to the usual resolution story and hinting at potential plot points for Season 2, like the University that Makoto wants to visit to learn more about the world and how to further his monster sanctuary city, before completely pulling the wool over our eyes and having Makoto be discovered by the Goddess and thrust in front of a warrior for the demon forces and having his fingers cut-off and forced to battle them. Once again, a sudden and unexpected shift that comes out right at the end that feels almost completely separate from the rest of what they were building up to. The anime even has to go out of its way to do full background details on the villains to explain what their deal with Makoto actually is.
It leads to a fun fight and a really flashy finale that I will admit has been built up and logic'd out by the protagonist well-enough based on the rules of the world that I actually found myself strangely satisfied by the fight, for all that it came out of left field.
All in all, Tsukimichi would be an utterly bland run-of-the-mill story that I would likely have difficulty even reviewing because of how ordinary it actually is (and I will ultimately end up scoring this series as slightly above average no matter what I say after this point), were it not for a few narrative and worldbuilding design choices and focuses that I actually wanted to go further into.
First of all, Tsukimichi does a very good job of making you sympathize with Makoto's situation, even if the animation style and direction actually make it quite difficult to understand how Makoto is so "ugly", since he looks about the same as any other character that I didn't initially understand what was happening in he was being run out of hyumen towns for being a monster. Despite this, Makoto never aims for revenge which would've led to what I feel is a more Arifureta-style story (though perhaps after the fight at the end of season one, season two may have more confrontations and direct antagonism with the Goddess), but instead sticks to his slice-of-life and city-building routes.
It is in this city-building that I was first drawn to the anime, hoping for scenes similar to those found in A Realist Hero Rebuilds the Kingdom and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime to get my city management gamer fix. The show does touch upon it slightly with the "alternate dimension" city but doesn't quite go into the same level of detail, largely outlining trade deals and setting up outposts and security logistics. It's interesting but perhaps not as, I guess earned, as I would like.
Actually on the matter of trade deals, this anime does actually touch on something that I don't think I've ever seen another isekai actually cover. The very obvious language barrier. On Earth, you can travel less than 100 miles and come across people who speak so differently from you as to be unintelligible (even when they are speaking the same damn language). Imagine transporting yourself into an entirely separate universe. Some anime like In Another World with my Smartphone touch on reading and the written word, but Tsukimichi actually goes one step further and makes Makoto have to rely on translator spells to even talk to hyumens (monsters seem to talk to him just fine which perhaps better fits with showing the "bias" in the Goddess' worldview). It's a fascinating change and one I wish more anime actually dealt with.
Finally, the anime actually covers Makoto's magical growth in an interesting way. His power grows exponentially and essentially gives him an aura of danger that threatens just about every single being on the planet and makes them fear him, which actually is to is detriment. It becomes an aspect of the story that has to be dealt with, actually giving the character consequences for being stupidly strong. It's an interesting take, though I don't think the anime does quite as good of a job explaining the mechanics as it could.
I think that is ultimately the biggest issue with Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy, despite the presence of elements that I actually found refreshing to consider. It doesn't really explain very well the precise elements of the world in a way that I can distinguish or fully comprehend. And because I can't understand it, when the character then moves onto the next, apparently, logical leap, I end up lost and a little unsatisfied. I can usually understand the "solution" but the problem itself can oftentimes get lost in weird esoteric philosophy, especially when they begin talking about the mechanics of his magic and its increasing nature.
I think in conclusion, that Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy does manage to present some rather unique concepts and fascinating shifts to the formula, but its innability to fully explain the world coupled with an otherwise above average design and slice-of-life driven story that can't afford to always go all out (due either to limitations of tone or time), leaves the anime as an ultiamtely average work.
Still average is under no means terrible and Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy was apparently popular enough as to warrant a second season, which was announced and hinted during the final episode of Season One. So who knows, maybe season two will help to resolve some of my issues with the first season and propel the show to an even higher score in the future.
FINAL SCORE - 6/10
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