Kagen no Tsuki (Last Quarter) by Ai Yazawa
– series complete
– serialised in Ribon Shoujo Monthly
– also made into movie in 2004 starring Chiaki Kuriyama
– not licensed
STORY: One day, while walking through the streets of Japan as a means of escaping the reality of her life, Mizuki Mochizuki comes across a handsome guitarist who sings her a song. Mizuki apparently reminds the guitarist, Adam Lang, from England, of his ex-girlfriend, who had died of an illness. He enchants her so much that she moves in with him, only to find him gone after a few days of bliss. As she crosses the street to her love during her sole opportunity to be reunited with him, a car speeds into her, and the next we see her, she has been returned to the mansion wherein she spent her days with Adam. But she has no memory of who or where she is. All she can recall is Adam’s name, that he was a guitarist, and the tune of the song he once sang her. Mizuki’s only hope to leave the enchanted mansion becomes Hotaru, a young girl who is somehow connected to Mizuki’s accident and thus is the only person able to see her, who, with her three school friends, must unravel Mizuki’s story in order to help her regain her memories. As they dig deeper and deeper, trying to piece together the mystery though none of the pieces seem to fit, they begin to realise that Mizuki’s story may not be hers at all….
One of Ai Yazawa’s earlier works, the story is extremely complex (There are about 2 more stories the kids have to figure out in order to figure out Mizuki’s.) and it’s easy to get lost in all the lines. Especially how Yazawa derails the story for a bit by sending the protagonists on a dead end chase. The story is mostly about perseverence, hope, believing in yourself, keeping faith in others, and of course, love – standard shoujo themes, all explored in this particular series rather deeply. Yazawa brings out the persistence of the children out excellently as well as the indignance of her dissatisfied teenagers. There’s an interesting contrast going on between the older characters and younger ones. Some of the most memorable moments lies purely in character interaction. Trim it all with magic and you’ve got something quite haunting, giving it almost a ghost story feel. In the end, Kagen no Tsuki is bittersweet, touching, and though everything does come to a final conclusion, some parts of the story still feel unresolved, like perhaps the whole story wasn’t completely thought out when she began.
Kagen no Tsuki is recommended for ages 13+. There is lots of angst and emotional issues as well as some mild sexual themes.
– Mizuki Mochizuki: a highschool student who hates her life enough that she’d rather take on someone else’s. She’s bossy, thickheaded, and a bit selfish. Her wish to be someone else is unknowingly granted, but it teaches her a painful life lesson that changes just about everything about her.
– Adam Lang: an English guitarist that is hiding some very dark and deep secrets as well as ulterior motives under his handsome smile. Gentle Adam seems to be the contrast to headstrong Mizuki, who falls in love with him, except that their selfishness and tendency to let their desires get in the way of everything else is the same.
– Hotaru – a young girl (elementary or early middle school) who is magically bound to Mizuki’s accident. Hotaru is emotionally weak, but quick to stand back on her feet. She can persuade people easily and embodies the determined shoujo girl characteristic. Hotaru has a lot of faith in her peers and Mizuki, and especially her ability to change things, which makes her one annoyingly endearing little kid.
– Sae: Hotaru’s best friend who is considerably less faithful in the events going on. She’s very loyal to Hotaru, though, and will always stand by her side and give her support even if she herself has doubts.
– Masaki: a charming, smart, and goodlooking classmate of Hotaru’s who is, incidentally enough, her crush. He’s a lot like Sae, disbelieving, but decides to help Hotaru’s quest out of good intentions. He’s a useful little bug, given that he’s quite rich so he has lots of resources at hand.
– Tetsu: a happy-go-lucky classmate of Hotaru and Sae’s. He’s constantly around Masaki and keeps a cheerful attitude despite the heavy events they uncover.
– Tomoki: Mizuki’s boyfriend who she cast off not long before running away with Adam. However, he remains true to her and though she may not be aware, is always there to support her.
ARTWORK: Yazawa’s artwork is unique enough that most people can identify her lines at a glance and here it is no exception. Her big eyes, scrawny and pencil thin people are just as big eyed and scrawny as they are today. And her boys are just as dreamy back then (She really does like the long haired and musically inclined type, ne?) as they are now. If there’s anything to complain about – and it’s hardly something to complain about, really – (other than her drawings’ strong desire to make me an anorexic because her people are all so beautiful) it’s that the drawings today are slightly more graceful. It’s a hard difference to notice, but in today’s artwork, she’s a tad more organized in her storytelling through the panels. Noticing this evolution, however, shows just how far along she’s come in developing her talent. I’ve always personally felt that her black and white artwork is better than her coloured artwork, and this stands true for this series as well. Her drawings set up such a magical atmosphere. She’s amazing at that, taking small symbols and turning them into dramatic vehicles, such as placing focus on a cigarette dropping to amplify the mood of a shocking event. It’s some really wonderful stuff.
PERSONAL THOUGHTS (highlight for spoilers): I’m not the biggest Ai Yazawa fan, though I know how beloved she is. For some reason, all her works feel like she’s trying too hard. I’ve just always felt some odd annoyance when I read them. But, I can’t deny their addictiveness, their stylishness, and how talented her storytelling is. Kagen no Tsuki is the first complete series I’ve read by her – in order – and I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than when I tried to get into her more well known stories Paradise Kiss and Nana. There’s a certain charm in it that sets it apart from her other works. Maybe it’s a beginner mangaka’s innocence just barely leaking through the panels. I kind of liked the moral hints she was dropping along the way, too.
However, I was a bit annoyed at how confusing this story was at first, especially when it turned out that Mizuki was really Adam’s ex-girlfriend in Mizuki’s body. It was sort of creepy as well, but set up a nice sort of hopelessness that, though you know will go away in the end, you don’t see often. I think my favorite part of this series was probably, though the determination of the kids’ was slightly touching, either Mizuki’s desparation at the gates of Heaven when she tries to reach Adam there, the same sadness she feels when she shows Hotaru that she can’t get out of the house, or Tomoki’s faithfulness in her while she’s in her coma. I think I’m becoming a sucker for spoiled main characters who get to face a lot of misfortune before their situation wraps up. (*evil laughter*) It’s not a bad series, at all. But for some odd reason, I just didn’t completely click with it. I seem to always feel this way after I read any Ai Yazawa series, really. Despite that, and because I know how beloved angsty and overdramatic shoujo mangas are, this still a recommended series. I know…I’m one cold heartless girl. Ohwell. Take that, drama.