Anime Reviews: Full Moon wo Sagashite
Though it sometimes loses focus and strays into soap opera territory, Full Moon makes up for its flaws with top-tier pop music and a genuinely touching story.
Title: Full Moon wo Sagashite a.k.a. Searching for a Full Moon a.k.a. Full Moon
Production: Studio DEEN
Series Length: 52 episodes
Air Dates: 4/6/2002 to 3/29/2003
Age Rating: 7+ (dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: Mitsuki Kouyama is an average 12-year-old girl who dreams of being a singer, despite being diagnosed with throat cancer. She had made a promise with her childhood friend, Eichi, before they separated that they would fulfill their dreams, but Mitsuki's condition halts her progress. To add insult to injury, Mitsuki suddenly is able to see Takuto and Meroko, the shinigami who have been assigned to watch over her until her death to guide her soul to the afterlife. The shinigami then tell Mitsuki that she only has a year left to live; however, because they're sympathetic to her plight and her dream, they use their power to give Mitsuki an alternate form--the form of a 16-year-old version of herself, free of throat cancer. Now, with the last year of her life remaining, Mitsuki is free to pursue her dream as pop idol "Full Moon" to the best of her ability before she succumbs and dies.
The Good: Great pop music; compelling story backed by powerful drama
The Bad: Tedious filler episodes early on; some tacky melodrama; some tunes are used too much
The Ugly: Underneath its veneer of comedy, the premise is supremely depressing
And here we have yet another anime that I've been aware of long before I've seen it. I'm not sure why I ignored it for so long since I've heard about it 8 years ago, actually. I liked the music, I found the concept interesting, I liked the art design...but I didn't check it out! Well, just under two years ago, I finally fulfilled my destiny and sat down to watch Full Moon wo Sagashite. So, now that I've seen it, would I recommend it? Let's find out~
Firstly, as this is a show where music is a large part of the story, it should follow that the music itself be good. And it is! Both openers, "I Love You" and "Rock & Roll Princess" by The Scanty, are fun, catchy, and upbeat tunes that many will find (or have found) to be impossible to skip. I include myself in that statement.
Same goes for the ending themes, all of which are by pop group Changin' My Life, they come in greater numbers but with equal success. "New Future" is an uplifting pop masterpiece that is both inspiring and triumphant, "Myself" is a bit more melancholy but carries a spirit of determination along with memorable pop hooks, "Eternal Snow" brings its namesake to mind with delicate melodies and powerful emotion, and "Love Chronicle," while sadly the weakest of the bunch, still has some poignant lyrics and appealing vocal lines. And if hearing those ending themes only at the end of the series wasn't enough for you (which is completely normal), they also double as songs Alternate!Mitsuki sings in her blossoming pop career!
And speaking of which, Full Moon's story of a young girl pursuing her dream in her last year alive is emotional and poignant, even right from the get-go. For those familiar with shoujo anime (and have somehow not already seen this series), there are many tropes and ideas you'll recognize from other shows, but don't let that deter you. There are some truly surprising twists and powerful emotional scenes late in the series, and even if you can guess what happens, it will still hit home. And while that's all fine and good, Full Moon's also got a lot of humorous scenes and episodes. It's also helpful that the comedic material is still well-written, maintaining a consistently high quality all throughout.
Of course, quality comedy and drama is one thing, but does the story itself work? The short answer is "yes." We follow Mitsuki as she learns how to maintain her double life without arousing suspicion (and it's done cleverly), we see how she gets her start as a pop singer and how she acquires a manager and a producer (and it's done cleverly), and we even get a glimpse of her school and home life as she covers all her tracks while learning about Takuto and Meroko's shinigami world/rules/society. It sounds like it should be a lot to take in, but with 52 episodes at their disposal, Studio DEEN manages to squeeze it all in consistently and intelligently.
You see, 52 episodes was just a bit too much, because they had to fill a bit of time in the first half with some sub-par filler episodes. While none of these episodes are outright bad like the filler from Nadia, they still stick out like a sore thumb. Mostly they're just stock ideas like "Mitsuki has a gig at an orphanage, but the kids don't get along! Will the power of song unite them?" or "Mitsuki's taking the day off due to Meroko pouting! How will her manager cope with this wacky turn of events?" It just makes you want to skip to the next episode.
Another blemish on this series is the melodrama that occasionally arises during more dramatic moments. It's an extremely fine line between drama and melodrama, as they say, and Full Moon finds itself on the wrong side every now and then. You'll roll your eyes and groan, but do rest assured that it'll go away soon enough and things will get better.
One final gripe: Some of those awesome songs by Changin' My Life I mentioned earlier are used way too much in the show itself. I understand that pop songs sometimes take a long time to fade into the background before you launch a new one, but 20 episodes of "Eternal Snow" stretches it just a little bit. Not only would I have liked to hear more songs just to keep the soundtrack fresh, I would've just liked to hear more songs anyway. Because they're good. Dammit.
It's a bumpy ride on the Full Moon train, but in the end, I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's a fan of good, quality shoujo anime. Sure, it has some dull filler here and there, and you'll roll your eyes during a few really hammy scenes, but the music is excellent, the story is a treat, and the characters are engrossing and extremely memorable. You'd be doing yourself a disservice by passing this series up just because it's not perfect.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10. It's not the most consistent anime around, but Full Moon wo Sagashite is a touching anime about pursuing one's dreams and coping with life's many hurdles that deserves a spot in every shoujo anime fan's collection.