If I had to describe Tsuki ga Kirei in one word, it might be “subdued.” In some ways, it even lacks a driving force for the plot; there are no goals, no antagonists, simply the passage of time moving the story forward. Yet, to call it relaxed would be mildly understating the focus it gives to the day to day anxieties of its characters, episode to episode.
Take the first episode for example: the two main characters who ostensibly will be the romantic focus of the show meet for the first time, but it isn’t until nearly the end of the episode that the two actually introduce themselves to each other. Most of the time, they live in separate worlds, Azumi in his literature and Mizuno in her track club, only occasionally and one-sidedly observing each other. But it’s these wordless moments where they simply stop and look, often for 10-20 seconds at a time, that give the audience pause to think about what the characters are thinking.
When Azumi is at the bookstore and picks up a novel called “Schoolgirl,” we might imagine that he’s thinking about Mizuno. When Mizuno is watching Azumi and squeezing her potato sack, we can guess that she’s nervous about asking for his contact information. And when the two sit in silent, mutual awareness of each other at the family restaurant, we can feel their embarrassment at their own family being seen by the other, as teenagers tend to feel.
Tsuki ga Kirei uses these simple associations to keep its slow pace engaging, trusting the audience to make the connection between eye contact and social awkwardness, squeezing a potato sack and nervousness, and the beauty of the moon and a confession of love.