Image source: tsukigakirei_tv on Twitter

If you are lucky enough to pick up the BluRay or DVD release of Tsukigakirei, you will be met with a really cool extra: a special 15 minute episode. While the main series was always very dramatic and full of angsty moments from the 15 year old major and minor characters, the series always ended each episode in two or three shorts that outlined the hilarious nature of teenagers. The perfect way to reconnect with these characters is by reminding yourself why you loved them in the first place.

[This article contains minor spoilers for the special episode included in the Tsukigakirei BluRay/DVD release.]

Tsukigakirei Is the Best Representation of Japanese School Life I Have Seen in Anime

For those that haven’t seen Tsukigakirei yet, I’ve talked about how it is the most accurate anime I have ever seen to what it’s like to exist inside a Japanese junior high school. And I should know, having been both a student and a teacher in this system for about a decade. Tsukigakirei is primarily the story of third year junior high school (grade nine) students Mizuno Akane and Azumi Kotarou. The romance between Akane and Kotarou is the main focus of the series, but other students, especially couples, and the Akane and Kotarou’s music music and homeroom teacher become prominently featured. 

Image source: tsukigakirei_tv on Twitter

The BluRay and DVD boxed sets of the complete series come with an extra episode that follows the structure of the vignettes at the end of every episode. These vignettes were used during the series to help introduce the friends, classmates, and homeroom teacher of the main couple. At only about thirty seconds to a minute each, they are almost always comedic. A few are repeats of character traits in different times, places, or situations that set up a recurring gag. The 15 minute episode is made up of many of these spanning the timeline of the entire series and adds to our knowledge of these secondary characters. 

Truthfully, you probably don’t need to have seen the series at all the understand the humor of many of the gags. A few do require previous understanding of the secondary characters and their unique situations—and they often rely specifically on earlier vignettes. However, the majority of the new episode can be enjoyed if your only frame of reference is “teenagers” or “junior high school students,” with perhaps a bit more meaning if you specifically have experience with Japanese junior high school students. Yet the best thing about the new episode really is more time with hilarious secondary characters you’ve likely already grown to love.

Image source: tsukigakirei_tv on Twitter

If you have a favorite side couple or side character, you’ll no doubt enjoy the extra time you have with them. Akane and Kotarou’s story may be over, but it’s nice to get a fresh take from a difference perspective. My favorite side couple is Miu and Inaba. I am greatly amused by the constant confusion as to if they are or are not a couple. This has come up in earlier vignettes, with some mild background play in the main series, but there are many more direct opportunities we have to see this dysfunctional relationship at work in the special episode.

Miu insists on treating Inaba as a boyfriend whenever she is jealous, but refuses to do so whenever he wants to clarify his feelings. In one of the new vignettes, Miu finds Inaba being chatted up by other girls, so she slips onto his arm and loudly announces they’re going home together. During a Valentine’s Day vignette also included in the new episode, Miu tells Inaba he gets no chocolate because he’s more than a friend (so no “obligation chocolate”) but less than a boyfriend (so no “love chocolate” either). Inaba’s reaction is understandably annoyed and perplexed. And therefore hilarious. 

Another character I really enjoy seeing more of is Sakura. I find Sakura’s daydreams and fantasies to be both absurdist and yet very much in line with reality. In the special episode, Sakura convinces herself that the reason she gets no chocolate on Valentine’s Day is because secretly all the boys are actually fighting over her.

Many of her vignettes also approach the issue of teenage sexuality with both frankness and comedy, but without crossing the line into obscenity. Her vignettes in the special episode are no exception—like a tarot card game that keeps accurately describing her social anxieties, and which she keeps dismissing as a flaw in the deck. We know that her readings are correct (and she’s probably subconsciously drawing the cards in the first place), but she refuses to accept that the readings are accurate. She also has very strange ideas about the teachers which the special episode also spends some time on. No matter Sakura’s beliefs, she’s almost always laughably wrong. 

Image source: tsukigakirei_tv on Twitter

I think the character I relate to the most is Ryouko, the homeroom teacher. Homeroom teachers play a very strong role in the lives of Japanese students, and the line can get much blurrier than perhaps they are in other countries. Her vignettes always focus on how difficult she finds it to create boundaries between herself and her homeroom students, and the vignettes in the special are no exception.

In the special, we learn that despite being thought of by coworkers as a great teacher (because she is so beloved), she considers herself a failure because of her inability to keep herself from being drawn into the drama of her students. She loves and cares for her students very much, as they care for her, but she’s always afraid (with hilarious results) that her closeness with her students is inappropriate. This is especially given the fact that she specifically has a complex set of feelings around one of her male students specifically, Roman. In her Valentine’s Day vignette (included in the same group of vignettes as Miu and Inaba’s and Sakura’s Valentine’s Day vignettes), Ryouko finds herself unwillingly exuberant when he gives her Valentine’s Day chocolate, and even more unwillingly upset when it turns out to be “obligation chocolate.”

If you want a series which is an actual accurate reflection of the goofiness, heartbreak, warmth, and inclusion of the Japanese junior high school experience, I urge you to watch the series and pick up the boxed set for the extra episode. It’s worth it for the extra time you get to spend with the side characters. 

Tsukigakirei can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll and with English dialogue on FUNimation.

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