Full Moon wo Sagashite might very well be one of the best shoujo series to carry a heavy theme within it in such a bittersweet and lighthearted way - merging drama, romance, some comedy and a predominant musical thematic. There are few series that handle the overall presentation as well as Full Moon does, but the downside is that this may not be a series for everyone, as it's a series that goes well over 20 episodes and may strike some as repetitive with some of the same musical themes used throughout, character utterance (Mitsuki's "Echi-kun" might find itself old after some time) and its episodic progression until it hits heavy with some of the revelations, and one important twist that comes about midway through the series - which honestly, I didn't see coming.
Yet, even with the anime series over the years that I've seen, I still have a fondness for Full Moon with respect to the story and characters presented, and I'll admit it, it's a nicely presented guilty pleasure. The story revolves around 12-year old Misuki, a girl diagnosed with throat cancer, and with a tumor that not only makes it painful to talk, the only treatment available would mean for her to lose her voice...and lose her greatest passion, singing. To make matters more complicated, her strict grandmother forbids Misuki to sing, not only in her concern for Misuki's health, but as those who watch the series progressively note, she holds a bitterness towards music for a personal pain.
To take the story further, two shinigami or death gods, Takuto and Meroko, give Mitsuki a revelation, one in which Misuki passionately wishes to become a singer before that revelation comes to pass-and in turn, Takuto grants Mitsuki the ability to transform into a 15 year old singing sensation: Full Moon. Full Moon undergoes many trials and tribulations in the realm of singing, from becoming a start to hiding her identity and, off and on, Mitsuki dealing with the pain of her cancer among other trials that befall her. While I'm apt to say that it does follow episodic progressions, it's never unbefitting for its intended audience, and actually quite cute.
In retrospect, I appreciated Full Moon while, if you watch many shoujo series and have seen some like Fancy Lala or even the elder series Magical Girl Creamy Mami and Magical Emi (all of which I have seen, at least in part, to date), you may be tempted to write this off as your standard "transfomer idol" series. Yet, Full Moon gives enough substantiated weight in its characterization that makes you, at the very least, care for the characters, and root for some of the romantic relationships that come to pass. I wouldn't call Full Moon one of the best series I've seen in retrospect, but there are times when it's not only very funny (Takuto and Meroko's exchanges are often hilarious) but also quite sad and sweet-and it deserves a place in the shoujo classic realm. The ending to Full Moon was probably one of a few series where I actually felt like I could shed tears in the end. It does tend to be overly, and quite sugary, sentimental in points, but I wouldn't say it takes away from the story overall.
The intended audience for Full Moon are those who are more into the shoujo romance/drama and some situational comedy. Those who want action/adventure, it's safe to say you're in the wrong boat for watching this series. A downside to Full Moon is that I disliked points are which some of the themes are recycled, and it might not come across well to all because its idolized J-Pop, but it's one of the series that put Myco/Changing My Life on the map. Suffice to say, in my own opinion, I actually did enjoy the musical atmosphere of the series alongside the story.
The animation for Full Moon pales in comparison to some animation standards, but I actually give it higher because it adapts the manga counterpart rather well in character and setting design. Unfortunately, visually it only conducts itself as average compared to contemporary series, and shows its age quite distinctly. Those who typically watch shoujo series probably wouldn't give it much notice though, as its intention is to be very "cute" and it does succeed in doing so.
The musical atmosphere of Full Moon is, indubitibly, a strong one, and if you consider other series as of late where music is a central focus (the darker, shounen central BECK, the josei, mature oriented NANA, and even other series like Chance Pop Central or Lemon Angel Project), Full Moon manages to suit it well. Yet, it's a give and take. The first opening theme "I <3 U" by the Scanty, is a fun theme that it's hard not to find it as cute and catchy, I enjoyed it more than the second OP "Rock and Roll Princess", but I'd give the second theme credit for going well with the sequence and the instrumentation. The endings are considerably stronger and more idol J-Pop. Of the endings, my favorites were "Myself" and "New Future", but one might notice that the quality of the songs may not necessarily differ in overall stylistic. Luckily, there are a few insert themes that give a bit more diversity, such as the Route L version of "Eternal Snow", and actually excels as my favorite over the original.
The voice acting actually was what made me grade it down a little more than what I wanted to. Mitsuki's Japanese voice sounds considerably more mature than a normal 12 year old girl, but she does get into the heart of her character, and her performance is never forced. Takuto and Meroko's VAs, as well as the supporting cast are well suited for their roles. I did see only a portion of the English dubbed counterpart, and while I didn't feel the dub was up to the quality of the original, one VA I'd like to note is Mitsuki's (Katie Rowan), she does a decent job, but at the same time, I think the English VA work doesn't quite get into the emotional range as the original. To give due credit, however, the quality of the English version has improved tremendously with subsequent installments in the series.
Characterization in this series was quite good and made Full Moon more of an enjoyable watch for me. I did end up falling in love with the characters and they had enough development and stance where you could feel for their situations and see the chemistry among them. Mitsuki is a sweet character, and despite some points where she might be oversaturated in emotion, she's a sweetheart. She's relatable and well-developed over the course of the series, as are Takuto and Meroko, whom are more than simply side characters, but are actually given equal weight to Mitsuki for their roles and relationships. I was particulary impressed with the weight that Takuto's character received in his backstory, and he comes to have more of a sentimental role in the series with his relationship to Mitsuki, sharing both a musical past and despite his exterior, really cares for her. Meroko might seem annoying at first with her attitude and reluctance to help Mitsuki, but you gradually warm up to her as the series progresses.
The side characters are enjoyable to watch in their own relations with the main three, and in retrospect, there were only one of the characters whom I found mildly annoying, but luckily he had only a short arc in which to develop him. Although I can't say Full Moon does the best job at character development, they are given enough weight to fuel the atmosphere of the series.
All in all, I loved Full Moon as a collective series, despite its overall cons. it's a series that was well worth the watch and certainly among my favorite shoujo classics in its own regard.
Every once in a while, after I finish watching an anime, something extraordinary occurs; I'll sit back, and blankly stare off into space. The anime will have affected me so deeply that I remain completely dumbstruck even after the credits have finished. Full Moon wo Sagashite is one of the few animes to have instigated this phenomenon; after I finished watching it, all I could do was gape at my empty computer screen.
What started out as merely a guilty pleasure soon became something I genuinely cared about. After about episode 10, I loved everything about the anime, from the girly character designs to the terrible JPop. Though I downloaded the anime expecting forgettable shoujo, what I received was far better. Full Moon wo Sagashite is a gloriously beautiful mixture of love, comedy, and melodrama. It hooks you from the start and doesn't let go until all 52 episodes are done.
It doesn't matter if you hate shoujo. It doesn't matter if you hate long animes. It doesn't matter if you hate JPop. It doesn't matter if you hate love stories. It doesn't matter if you hate tragedies. No matter how jaded you think you are, you need to see this.
At first glance, Full Moon wo Sagashite's story shows great potential. Two shinigami tell an adolescent girl with throat cancer that she has a mere year left to live. Such a dark premise seems in complete contrast to the fluffy drivel that shoujo series usually spew out by the boat-load. Perhaps this can rise above the insubstantial and generic mass? Tch. Fat chance. Full Moon’s initial intrigue quickly gives way to a festering pile of nothing whose only redeeming quality is its diligence at sabotaging everything that could have been remotely good.
It isn't even the awful storytelling that ruins Full Moon, but rather its absurdly augmented length. The first forty episodes could easily be condensed down to five (or less!) without sacrificing anything of significance. An episode or two of filler in a long series is sufferable, but forty is anything but. Worse, the filler is completely bereft of comedy, thought-provoking anecdotes, or ANYTHING to disguise the fact that it's wasting your time. The only things going on are Mitsuki's embarrassingly easy rise to the top of the entertainment industry, and the “wacky” hijinks caused by everyone being too stupid to function, the tone of which is an infuriatingly far cry from the utter desolation the first couple of episodes teases us with. If that weren't bad enough, bizarre coincidences and inconsistencies pepper the story. The shinigami Takuto and Meroko can phase through walls, yet sometimes they get severely delayed because of a locked door or another physical barrier. They also spend an insufferable amount of time trying to not be noticed by humans while in their (visible) stuffed animal form, despite the fact that mortals cannot see their typical form.
Granted, the final arc manages to escape the brain-melting cycle of filler. The plot evolves (I would usually use the word 'devolves' in this situation, but here it is an improvement) into a mawkishly mediocre shoujo melodrama. By this time, though, exhaustion from slogging through endless amounts of fluff has settled in, and only audience members lacking crucial mental facilities will be able to muster excitement for the finale. The grimace-inducing pedophilic relationship that develops will wake everyone else from their torpor.
To compound it’s inadequacies, Full Moon delivers barely serviceable animation. Gaudy bright colors coat characters and settings alike, and character designs range from forgettable to contemptible. However, it isn't the (deplorably low) production values that makes the series unpleasant to look at- it's the complete lack of ambition. It doesn't care that it's ugly, and it certainly doesn't attempt to do anything other than look completely generic.
The soundscape fares no better. One would expect a show about idols to have good music (or at the very least a wide variety), but Full Moon disappoints in both regards. Until the very last episode she has only two songs in her repertoire. Just two songs repeating ad naseum for fifty-two episodes making the prospect of watching the series on mute more and more appealing.
If this series was banking on it’s characters to make up for a vapid plot and deplorable animation, there was a grave miscalculation. Full Moon’s is a cast of paper dolls, whose only character traits center around how idiotic everyone is. Logic dictates that everyone should have died in some tragic incident long before the events of the show, due to rampant incompetence. Unfortunately for the audience, this is not the case.
Given everything that these characters go through, it is a marvel how one-dimensional and soulless they are. Twelve year old Mitsuki armed with cancer and the knowledge of her imminent death? A mere bumbling idiot. Mitsuki’s guardian shinigami Meroko who has already died? Just as bumbling, if not more so. The only character with a shred of likability or any redeemable qualities is pop rival Madoka, who plays an antagonistic role, albeit a useless one.
I’ve heard the manga version of Full Moon wo Sagashite far outclasses this adaption, so if you're still convinced this trainwreck could be superb, you may have better luck looking there. I however have given up hope for this franchise and refuse to touch a manga with such a high likelihood of being abhorrent.
As it stands, I can only recommend this series if:
ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Most people reading my reviews would think that I hate anime and that I review just to trash them no matter how good they may be. Which is not true as I occasionally make positive reviews too… like this one.
What is going here? Why is an adult brute like myself giving a good score to an anime that is aimed at little girls while burying a ton of more male-oriented works? I clearly said many times I prefer action and gore over cute girls and fuzzy animals. I also made it very clear how I hate studio DEEN. Am I following Tite Kubo’s legacy and I am trolling you or something? Am I obsessed with series about underaged girls? Or perhaps I see that this series from an objective point of view is damn good?
Ok, here is why. All those amongst you who have watched many anime (and by many, I mean more that 500 and not just the mainstream crap on tv) you will have noticed that most of them have great ideas and interesting premises that at first appear to be elaborating and interesting. Yet along the way they usually get ruined because of bad directing, pathetic plot twists, cheaper animation and loss of focus. So now imagine that this series happens to be doing the exact opposite. It begins with a ridiculously naive premise, yet along the way it builds around it to create a story that is actually very dark and deep at times. So unlike most series, it makes you begin watching it with low expectations yet along the way it manages to become a lot more than it appeared to be at first.
Then it’s the actual pacing of the story which is good from first to last episode as far as I am concerned. There are no actual fillers or useless episodes in this anime, and being 50 episodes long it’s a real feat. So it is laughable when other series with more episodes have far less effective duration and even claim that “The first 60 episodes are shit, but then it becomes great” (aka Hitman Reborn or Gintama or whatever).
Then it’s the actual story, which begins semi-childish and semi-dramatic, yet manages to change, evolve, mature its cast and still maintain that same cozy feeling to the end without becoming Bleach shit. How many anime do you know that can do that? Half of them don’t even have an overall plot yet still manage to lose the feeling, while most others who do have a plot usually mutate to Shiipuuden garbage. Another feat for it.
Then it’s the cast that although naive at first, along the way it becomes likable for other reasons than its cute looks. I can even say most of them are memorable without being original. Yet another feat.
If I am to be more analytical, the story is about a girl who has cancer and who wishes to become a singer than do an operation which will cost her voice but save her life. All of which are done just so she can show her love to the boy she likes that lives in America. I know it sounds far-fetched as heck and frankly speaking the manga version pulled it better with the “actual” reasons she wants to do it. But anyways, the premise, despite sounding silly, is grim and builds enough tension to keep watching. I mean, she only has 1 year of life, her voice is rather off, and she is still too young to be accepted as a pop model, so WTF? Here comes the “magic convenience” in the story, in the form of two cute death gods, who so happen to magically make her older and prettier, thus fulfilling her wish before she dies, which could result to her becoming a ghost if she doesn’t. Yes, it sounds silly, but just try to see between the lines. It’s a story about a dying girl who just wants to show her love. Isn’t that powerful enough? The magic part that makes the show appear like a Sailor Moon rip-off is not of actual importance. For the lead girl does not use it to beat demons and make people happy with it; she simply uses it as means to shine forth her true non-magic talent of singing.
Not only that, but the story is still grim enough as it involves the hardships of being a pop-idol, being treated bad because of jealousy, being controlled by her strict grandmother, being marked for the things her dead parents did. Heck, the death gods themselves don’t get away with it for cheating on the rules. When was the last time you saw the cute critter that gives the shoujo her magic wand being targeted for punishment by its own order?
What makes it even more awesome is how this show is animated by DEEN, by far the worst amongst all famous animation studios. Those asses never care about good stories and just throw in lolis with crappy visuals. In this case though they had an epiphany or something and managed to create something good for a change. So the anime is even more special for not only being made by this studio, but also for deconstructing a whole genre.
I could go on about various other details that make the story awesome but all that would count as spoilers so I will end here by saying “it is not a silly, passable, average, story that gets ruined along the way”. The actual story is of course simple and the progress in each episode is not much, yet the atmosphere is good enough to make you keep watching.
The actual cast is again not fully developed or exposed in the fullest and does end without proper catharsis for most. All I can say is that they still get ten times more exposure than most anime casts and that the manga version did a much better job at providing backdrop stories and fewer events. So on paper (lol) it is superior to the anime version.
The animation is nothing great yet manages to captivate you with its simplicity, being the cute characters or the whole pop idol fascination with clothes, promotion and song making. Voice acting is also good, with humorous high-pitched voices for most, yet still cruel for others who work as antagonists. The lead girl’s voice may be hard to accept at first, as she does sound weird with that cancer of hers. And while her songs are very good (performed by the same voice actor) the do lack in variety, repeat too often and may eventually tire you (two songs, twice heard per episode).
Now about the dying part, I have seen it before in other anime. There was also Mahoromatic and Saikano, which were about dying girls who just wanted to have a happy time until their demise. Both those shows ended in quite the WTF ways and felt very alien with the rest of the series. Once again, the ending of this anime is not unexpected, and it sure is not mindfucking weird. So again, Full Moon manages to excel even in its final impressions with a powerful and solid ending, another hard thing most anime seem to miss.
In conclusion, not all anime are bad at storytelling, even if they have a high amount of naivety in them. This anime is the living proof of it that most anime producers should take notes from instead of going for the brainless moeblob shit of the late 00’s.
That’s it from me; I did a positive review for a chance. Now excuse me as I return back to my usual self while looking angrily at all those mediocre anime I intend to criticize.
The manga version
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 2/2 (nice in overall)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 9/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 2/2 (quite good)
Complexity 2/2 (interesting developments)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 2/2 (cheesy but solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 10/10
Presence 2/2 (cute/tragic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (everyone has some)
Development 2/2 (they all develop significantly)
Catharsis 2/2 (overblown but solid)
VALUE SECTION: 7/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you like its style)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well made to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 3/3 (very well presented)
Characters 3/4 (they are great but a bit weak at some points)
This show was the first time I ever actually laughed, cried, got angry with, and sympathied with all at one. It took me on a roller coaster of emotions and actually had a really good end. It had a great balance of seriousness and comedy and great character development throughout the entire series while still keeping the magical girl aspect. It had some decent life lessons in there and great plot twists. Overall, I think this is a great anime to watch and it's worth the 17 hours of your time for sure. Make sure you watch it all the way through because the ending is the best I've ever seen. Even better than the ending of UFO Baby (aka Daa! Daa! Daa!)