Looking Up At The Half Moon
While in the hospital recovering from hepatitis, Yuichi Ezaki is encouraged by nurse Akiko Tanizaki to go visit a girl named Rika Akiba in the hospital's East Wing (where it keeps its most difficult cases.) Despite the hard time Rika initially gives Yuichi, he quickly falls in love with her, though to get her he must prove his sincerity to her as well as overcome the machinations of a meddling doctor, defuse the resistance of Rika's mom, and ultimately face what is by far the most difficult challenge, the realities of her medical condition itself.
The trappings of this teenage drama of tragedy, and maybe a little triumph, include four principal characters; several minor characters (mostly classmates of Yuichi); and two pieces of literature, all of which I'll get to in a bit.
Our main character is Yuichi. I never quite understood why he fell for Rika so quickly- when we get to her, you'll wonder why too- but he's nevertheless stalwart in doing whatever he needs to do to win her, which entails at least a couple of major feats of derring-do and quite a bit of breaking the rules (but Yuichi never really has much trouble doing the latter anyway.)
The person he most infuriates by the rule-breaking is red-haired Nurse Akiko. I'm introducing her before Rika because, quite frankly, I like her a lot more than Rika. This may seem a little strange since, when we first meet Akiko, she's beating up Yuichi with a shoe (it's not really that bad, though, it's just a slipper) for sneaking out of the hospital AGAIN. Yuichi in fact has about as much respect for hospital rules as Captain Kirk used to have for the Prime Directive, so one can understand Akiko's frustration (if not her methods), because she really DOES care about her charges, and the rules are mainly there to keep the hospital's fragile inmates from getting worse, and sure enough, Yuichi DOES get worse after some of his unauthorized forays.
Not all of his forays are his fault, however, and this is a good place to introduce Rika. I'd first like to state that Rika's character design is the most generic female character design I've ever seen; she looks like the composite of a hundred anime girls. She shares the disagreeable personality of many other anime heroines too, maybe even worse than many. When Yuichi first meets her, she uses catching him in a white lie as an excuse to make him her personal gofer. When she finds him with porno mags (which he didn't even BUY, they were a legacy from a deceased patient), she LOCKS HIM ON THE HOSPITAL'S ROOF-TWICE-IN WINTER WEATHER. He notes that he could have died, and indeed if she had any consideration for the guy, you'd think she'd realize this would not be good for someone in his weakened state (and indeed it was not.) Setting one's pride or sense of decorum above another's health and safety hardly seems a good practice toward even a friend, much less toward someone you consider companion material. She does mellow out with time (and with a lot more self-sacrifice by Yuichi), but at first she hardly seems worth the trouble.
The fourth major character is Rika's attending physician and surgeon, Dr. Goro Natusume. He's an utter jerk who's intent on sabotaging Rika's relationship with Yuichi, and at one point (when his inhibitions are lowered) he makes his antipathy for Yuichi plain, but even then he really doesn't articulate exactly what bugs him about Yuichi and Rika. Yuichi naturally thinks it's jealousy- that maybe Natsume takes the doctor-patient relationship a bit too far- and Rika, sensitive gal she is, encourages Yuichi's presumption. But there are some other reasons for Natsume's behavior toward Yuichi- reasons awfully convenient to the plot, but they do allow us to (finally) see Natsume as not quite a pure villain.
Then there's the thing with the books. Rika is obsessed with Kenji Miyazawa's Night on the Galactic Railroad, especially in relation to Yuichi, apparently seeing herself as the book's dear-but-doomed-friend Campanella opposite Yuichi as the book's poor-but-hardworking hero Giovanni. (Carlos did the THEM review of the anime version of the story.) The problem is that Campanella in the book is a loyal defender of Giovanni, while Rika seems to have a rather marked tendency to throw Yuichi under buses (figuratively, but if there had been a LITERAL bus in the story, it wouldn't have surprised me to see it), while expecting Yuichi to nevertheless defend HER, of course. Yes, I know Rika's self-centered personality is supposed to be a product of her social isolation, but knowing this didn't make it easier for me to warm to her.
The other book Rika encourages Yuichi to read is Roger Martin du Gard's Les Thibaults. From the Wiki synopsis I gather this is a multivolume French saga, but from the plot synopsis there the only thing that seemed relevant to Half Moon was a somewhat shocking occurrence similar to what happens in Episode Five of our series- possibly the only really startling turn of events in the whole show. And it least it gives the good Doctor yet another opportunity to spot parallels between...well, I probably shouldn't say.
Most of the remaining cast is accounted for by Yuichi's classmates, including the usual childhood-friend-who-also-has-feelings-for-him named Miyuki; a typical "pervy" character named Yamanishi; and finally Tsukasa, a kindly soul who literally provides Yuichi with the strength needed to accomplish his more ambitious (=reckless) plans.
The opening song has a folk-rock-ish feel kinda in the style of a Sheryl Crow or maybe the Indigo Girls; it's quite good. The show also does effectively use Yuichi's evening and nightly trips to embellish its general mood of twilight melancholy. And the mood sometimes fits the show quite well. I thought there were three directions they could have gone with all this:
#1: They could have had Rika cured outright. The problem here is that they've given her a real disease, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, which has no cure; surgery can normally do no better than give the patient a few more years, if the surgery doesn't kill her immediately. Still, we could have a breakthrough occur during the show, or maybe just Magical Realism (big since Birdman, I believe), and to be honest it really wouldn't have been any more unrealistic than some of the stuff Yuichi actually does to please Rika.
#2: Rika could actually die. At all times the girl has one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel. (Curiously, strenuous activity here seems no more likely to bring on one of her attacks than inactivity, but maybe that's a genuine feature of the disease. I have no idea.) This is certainly a plausible outcome, especially if Rika consented to the risky surgery, and Yuichi would still have Miyuki as backup (OK, crass, but writers really DO treat their characters this way), so I could have easily seen this ending.
#3: Yuichi could have pledged his undying love to Rika, even if Rika could not for long manage the "undying" part herself. Call this the "Exuberant Youthful Love Can Overcome Any Obstacle" idea. To which I'm afraid I'd have to cynically quote, in rejoinder, from Elrond in The Lord of the Rings: "But let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."
So how does it end? I'm not saying. But the ending was, in any event, less of an issue with me than Rika; I STILL wish she'd been given a more sympathetic personality (or at least a less completely irrational one) than we see in the first several episodes. I would also have preferred that Yuichi "Giovanni" Ezaki had been made a little less stalwart, and had been given a little more of a sense of humor; it would have given his character balance. It's not really a bad show overall, but it's weaker fare than most Right Stuf releases. (I'd STILL like to see more of Nurse Akiko, though.)
I don't think I've ever let my first impressions of a character dominate my overall view of a show quite this much. Maybe there's something wrong with ME, too. Three Stars. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: A young man gets seduced by a considerably older woman; it might be your pet fantasy, but it gets to the point where it's obviously inappropriate for young kids. Yuichi does seem to get beaten up by health professionals a lot, doesn't he? Debilitating disease, possible death, and infidelity are here as well. Dr. Natsume's description of Rika's insides might have the squeamish running for the doors. Older teens and up.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with subtitles only.
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Looking Up At The Half Moon © 2006 ASCII Media Works/Pony Canyon
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