Full Moon o Sagashite
Shoujo – Drama, fantasy, romance, tragedy
7 Volumes (complete)
Mitsuki wants to be a singer, but a tumor in her throat makes this nearly impossible. When two grim reapers appear and reveal her upcoming death, Mitsuki decides to risk it all. As she receives some special help from her escorts of death, the connection between love and music and even the cycle of life and death envelop Mitsuki and all those around her…
A note: while the covers and many online stores use the full title Full Moon o Sagashite, Viz Media themselves list this series as Full Moon.
By most accounts, 12-year-old Mitsuki has a hard life:
- Her parents are deceased.
- She has a malignant growth in her throat, making talking loudly and singing difficult.
- Her grandmother is unsupportive of her interest in music.
- She has no real friends.
- She hasn’t been able to tell the boy she loves that she feels the same way.
It may not be the happiest life, but then two strangely-dressed emissaries of the underworld (shinigami) appear and reveal that her life will be ending in a year.
Although Mitsuki told her doctor just before meeting the rabbit-like Meroko and the cat-like Takuto that she’d like to try dying, she knows that this could be the last chance to fulfill her dreams of being a singer and reuniting with her first love, Eichi.
If you think Full Moon sounds depressing… it can be. Not only does Mitsuki now have a time limit, but the first volume of the series reveals that the grim reapers are former humans who have committed suicide. Eventually, we learn the circumstances of Takuto’s and Meroko’s deaths along with that of another reaper team. The manga also touches on other subjects like the dark side of the entertainment business. This is basically a teen sitcom where every episode is a very special episode.
Of course, the manga has its lighter side. Takuto, Meroko, and fellow shinigami Izumi can become adorable stuffed animals (and Jonathan is a ghost-like one with weird expressions), and lots of confessions of love are more comedic than romantic. Tanemura’s trademark humor involving anime/manga references and fangirling can be found all over the series. The series is full of melancholy, but it never drowns in despair thanks to the humor and, of course, the romance.
Ah, the romance… this is one series where it’s best not to think too hard about timelines and stuff. Right off the bat, Mitsuki recounts how she was confessed to by a 14-year-old boy… when she was 10. Four years is pretty significant at that age even if you consider Mitsuki more mature than average. Later, as we discover the pasts of the shinigami, it gets confusing — if not outright disturbing — when you realize how old they technically are. Even the side romances set in the human realm aren’t that awe-inspiring, but that is partly because of the real problem with this manga.
You see, an anime adaptation was launched quickly after the manga started serialization (by the fourth chapter I believe). This means that, much like Sailor Moon, the manga has to move fast to provide more material for the anime. For example, Fullmoon has a rival — later friendly rival — named Madoka. One day, we see Fullmoon chatting with another singer named Nachi, a work friend we had never met or heard about before. After brief interactions between Nachi and Madoka, a side story reveals they’ve started going out and had been for some time. Perhaps if the anime wasn’t running concurrently, Tanemura could have weaved all the steps of their relationship naturally into the manga.
Even without that, there is a lot going on in the story. Of course, Mitsuki’s approaching death and the puzzle of who is trying to prevent her death is on the mind of all the Shinigamiiz (the author’s name for the four main shinigami). Takuto, Meroko, and Izumi all have emotional scars from their pasts that color their interactions with the heroine. Mitsuki is searching for Eichi. She works as Fullmoon. Mitsuki’s grandmother hates music. I could go on and on. They all ultimately converge, but there’s also a bit of jack-of-all-trades, master of none approach to the story. Fullmoon doesn’t struggle too much with her debut, and while we do see her coming up with lyrics, we don’t see her learning dance routines or going on television interviews. Full Moon o Sagashite doesn’t have the time to dive deeply into all its plotlines. On the bright side, I can’t say that any of its volumes are slow — heck, even the panels themselves are jam-packed with monologues, dialogues, and asides.
It’s also interesting that Tanemura says bluntly in the author’s notes that Mitsuki and the Shinigamiiz (the name for Takuto, Meroko, Jonathan, and Jonathan’s human-dog partner Izumi) aren’t friends. Instead, I imagine she was going for a savior aspect. Takuto, Meroko, and Izumi end up all believing Mitsuki is their happy place, and others also see her as a pure soul. However, Mitsuki also needs a savior as she struggles between choosing life or accepting death. In this way, I think Full Moon o Sagashite is far better than other manga in which the heroine is a cute, cheerful girl who accepts all. The summary may seem like the theme of the manga is life and death, but to me, the bigger takeaway is the reminder that everyone needs somebody, but you should also be honest with that somebody.
I do seem to be knocking Full Moon o Sagashite a lot, but I love the characters and the overall storyline. I mean, look at the cute forms of Takuto and Meroko above! They’re adorable. Plus there’s a smart pig who loves his master even if he’s not treated well. It’s just the actual execution of the manga is not Tanemura’s best. Phantom Thief Jeanne had a smaller cast (and less baggage) to concentrate on. Later works like Sakura Hime and The Gentleman’s Alliance Cross had a few more volumes to give the manga room to breathe and explore all its subplots. Even little things like Mitsuki suddenly seemingly able to shout irritate me since it feels like her sarcoma just pops up whenever it’s convenient rather than it being a huge issue. I’m sure the final chapter will disappoint a lot of readers either because it gives one character a sad ending or that the happy part of the ending is not explained well at all.
As for the art, this is a classic example of Tanemura’s style. Mitsuki and Fullmoon do look different enough (especially since Fullmoon dyed her hair blonde) that they wouldn’t be easily recognized. I’ve already mentioned the huggable-ness of the Shinigamiiz, but otherwise, a lot of the characters look similar to other Tanemura characters. One thing I never understood was how Mitsuki’s hair looks so thin when she wears her hair down, but it looks so think and rather long to make her bouncy curls. As I mentioned, the manga is rather busy, but it’s not too hard to figure out who is talking despite all the inner thoughts.
No honorifics are used. While the sound effects are replaced with English text, the Japanese titles on the splash pages are left intact. English text is added as essentially subtitles on these pages. Mitsuki’s stage name is フルムーン in Japanese, stylized as “Fullmoon” in English, which is what is shown on her necklace one time later in the series. (Of course, we all know about Japan and English spacing, but whatevs.) Madoka’s pet is “Gutchan”, who, to be clear, is not named after the stomach. It’s the common っちゃん way of nicknaming people in Japanese, so you often see this written with the t like here or with a double c as in Secchan from Negima! The shinigami are left as shinigami, and a lot of the cultural references have footnotes. There’s a mini-glossary at the final volume of the characters and stuff, but the order will make absolutely no sense to English readers since we have things like “The Boss” listed with the Fs in English. The song lyrics in the end are translated.
What I really dislike though is the font. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s in the family of fonts like Augie, Mistral, and Bradley Hand — fonts that look more like fake handwriting script. The manga isn’t unreadable by any means, but I strain my eyes more than I should to read. I’m guessing it was chosen to reflect the relatively serious nature of the story over more common manga fonts like Digital Strip and Wild Words, but I wish they would have used something more reader-friendly.
Ultimately, I like the parts but not so much the whole. If you’ve never read it, you might be curious enough to see why, in the years before Tanemura’s works headed west, there were a lot of heated debates as to whether Jeanne or Full Moon was her best work. While Full Moon o Sagashite feels like it should be the most bittersweet of her series, I think her later series had more drama. Perhaps Mitsuki’s age was a factor, and the fact that this had a TV series running at the same time might have also helped Tanemura gloss over some aspects. Unfortunately, it’s too much glossing.
Viz Media released some of the anime before dropping it. They have also published most of Tanemura’s works including a Full Moon artbook.