Crescent Moon Marching
みかづきマーチ (Mikazuki March)
Seinen – Slice-of-life, sports
1 Volume (ongoing) of 6 Volumes (complete)
All Mizuki knows how to do is study, and when this fact crashes her in the face, she flees her home to visit with her aunt who runs a small-town cafe. Still, even there, Mizuki doesn’t know what to do to fill her days, unlike her aunt’s busy part-timer, Akira. But when Mizuki sees a performance by Akira and the rest of his school’s marching band crew, her world begins to change.
When you think of manga featuring music, what titles come to mind? Chances are the ones you think of are one of these three varieties: a pop/rock band with vocals (NANA, K-ON!), concert/orchestra instrument-playing individuals or groups (Sound! Euphonium, Your Lie in April), or singer/idol (Oshi no Ko, Full Moon o Sagashite). In the real world, there are more musical types or those who blend genres (mariachi bands, a capella groups), but rarely do authors cover them. Crescent Moon Marching centers around one of these less popular types: marching bands.
Marching bands may not seem that different from orchestras at first, especially if your only experience with them is a group walking together in a line with maybe a single person holding a flag. But large and advanced marching bands feature elaborate routines with the performers often creating shapes or letters/words with their positioning. Most marching bands have at least one color guard member, but some places may work with groups of dancers or cheerleaders and/or even employ some minor special effects. All of this while also having the song memorized. Someone being off-key — or worse, being in the wrong place — could ruin the whole performance.
Despite having no prior musical experience, Mizuki gets swept up in the world of marching bands. Her mother has put a lot of pressure on Mizuki to get into a good college, and between that and Mizuki’s introverted personality (which itself may have been a result from her mother’s negative comments), the protagonist has spent her life until now as a gloomy, lonely bookworm. (She may have had at least one friend at school, but it’s rather ambiguous whether they truly were.) After finishing her first year in high school in Tokyo, Mizuki decides to get away from it all by staying with her aunt for a while in the more quiet region of Akita. There, she meets Akira, a cafe employee her age who works other jobs in the small community as well. Mizuki ends up barging in on him playing the trumpet with his school’s marching band club, and the sound and the enthusiastic performers make her interested in marching bands.
So much so that Mizuki transfers to Akira’s school She also starts playing the trumpet like him. The captain of the club is welcoming (and was even welcoming when Mizuki just randomly started watching them), but others are a bit bewildered or even annoyed by her. The band is entering a prefecture-wide competition only a month after the start of school, and while none of the club’s new members have marching band experience, Mizuki lags behind the others due to her lack of musical experience and physical stamina. She is capable of memorizing the routine positions and fingering the trumpet, but actually applying that knowledge in the middle of practice is a whole other thing entirely.
So despite marching band not technically being a sport, the manga fits that genre. Mizuki doesn’t want to give up on performing, and Crescent Moon Marching does well in balancing her newfound enthusiasm, her lifelong negativity, and lack of experience. Mizuki may have some natural talent, but it’s barely noticeable at this point. Which you would expect after only a month. Meanwhile, Mizuki’s attempts at being cheerful don’t always go over well, and she can be “right” (where she needs to be) and still be “wrong” (not adjusting to match others’ mistakes). The first volume ends at the regional competition, and so far, it seems to be a perfect example of Mizuki’s idealism crashing against her reality.
As for other characters, everyone needs an relative like Mizuki’s aunt. (Especially a relative with a cute dog like the one she has.) Mizuki makes her first friend at her new school (perhaps ever?) in the form of Megumi the tuba player, but award-winning saxophone player Kanade is still rather aloof at this point. I also give credit to Crescent Moon Marching for actually involving Mizuki’s dad in the story instead of him just being the never-around parent or exactly like his wife.
Meanwhile, Akira has that typical main love interest standoffishness, like mentioning he expected someone prettier from Tokyo versus the plain Jane Mizuki but opening up more when music is involved. Personally, I think his character would have worked better if he was more of one way or the other, preferably more of a cheerful guy. He denies he and Mizuki are friends, but yet he is convinced to take her to school on his bike and offers some one-on-one trumpet practice after club. I don’t know if this manga will pair them off by the end, but if this was supposed to be the manga’s way of lightening things up at times, it misses the mark. And while introduced only briefly, it seems we get a slacker “how-did-this-person-get-a-job-here” teacher type as well. I much prefer the club’s captain (and conductor) as a character, as she is strict but also right and dedicated. The story indicates that she was a lot like Mizuki at one point, and I think that sort of dynamic works well as Mizuki also tries to step into the sun.
But otherwise, I wish the manga had been clearer about characters’ names, instruments, and positions. The marching band club has about 30 members according to one of the characters, and while of course not all of them are important, the story kind of just thrusts readers into Mizuki’s new world. Text boxes, for instance, would help indicate whose face you should be paying attention to and what exactly their role in the club is. They practice in small groups and in large groups, and as typical in these stories, the students take on more of a leadership/instructor role than any adult. Crescent Moon Marching does have an educational factor to it (instrument types, drill sheets), but I think some of this is mitigated by the fact the manga doesn’t slowly introduce the characters. So readers spend a lot of time trying to figure out who’s who and what the individual pieces are that go into creating a band. Like, the vice-captain shoots videos. That’s all I remember about him and his recordings.
The manga also has a busy atmosphere. As I mentioned above, Mizuki practices in different groups, from the whole band to just the trumpet section. So there are a lot of characters hanging around doing various things. Even on a monochrome page and with limited marching band experience, you can “hear” the background chatter and instrument tune-ups in each panel, especially when a panel can take up a full page or two. There’s a hustle-and-bustle and pure joy in the visuals that reminds me of Witch Hat Atelier. I also like how the manga doesn’t emphasize characters are cute or ugly. Mizuki thinks to herself Megumi is cute, but in general, the manga depicts everyone as being average — or rather, that like in the real world, a group is likely going to have a mix. The manga also incorporates plenty of moon symbolism, the opening blue-heavy color pages play both well into her name and the “feeling blue” expression. Light is very important in this manga both to represent the loud music and Mizuki stepping into the light, and the author does an amazing job on that front.
Honorifics are used. Western name order is used. One thing that may be missed is Mizuki’s name is made up of the kanji for “beauty” and “moon” (美月). The moon references can be found in several places, but the beauty aspect might also explain why that’s a bit of a touchy subject for her since Mizuki has been called gloomy by her own mother. Meanwhile, Akira’s family name has the kanji for stars.
Speaking of names, the cafe’s name is translated to Windmill, the direct translation of its Japanese name. The sign is changed in English (unlike sound effects, which are left alone), but I’m not exactly sure why the word “New” is added to the sign. The cafe part is in English originally (minus the accent mark), then something which looks English-y, then 風車. Aunt calls it “The Windmill”, so I don’t think the name is meant to be “The New Windmill”. Just a big confusing since the coffee cup icon is next to the word “New”, and my first thought was, “I HOPE it’s new coffee when you come!!”
I’ve also never known the flag wavers to be called the “colorguard”, but from my brief searching, it seems a lot of universities and such have it as one word versus “color guard” like I’ve always seen it as. Looks too much like “Cologuard” to me, which is very much something else. Otherwise, not much stood out to me.
Crescent Moon Marching speeds up a bit in its opening volume to get to the competition, but I wish it had described the marching band club and its members with a little more detail beforehand or provide more reader-friendly tips. However, I’m invested in Mizuki’s growth as a person and as a performer, and the marching band theme being keeps it unique as it incorporates elements of the sports and music genres.
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