Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy : Season 1
Might contain spoilers.
A good beginning; a superb middle that I would gladly have gone on watching forever; and a casually brutal, repulsive ending that undoes everything that came before, apparently in keeping with the source material, which I hear eventually takes it much further.
Now, I thoroughly enjoyed all of it up to a certain point. The central concept of a seemingly ordinary man being thrust into a universe where the very goddess who needs him rejects him, only to find he’s a nearly godlike being there, offers a nice variation on the isekai genre. It’s pleasant and comfortable without delusions of grandeur: Makoto accidentally accumulates incredibly strong familiars, rescues an apparent clone of the girl he was pining after in his own world, creates an entire realm for his followers to live peacefully within, and the only real danger is that he might accidentally reveal the true extent of his power.
His reactions to their absurdity enable the show to wield familiar tropes with gusto. The inability
of the realm to cope with his insertion never fails to amuse. Mio and Tomoe’s squabbling over who is
dearer to him is reasonably funny. I gleefully noted the allusions to other shows, like the episode
title ‘The Melancholy of Handsome Middle-Aged Men’, Tomoe dressing like either Ichigo
Kurosaki or Kenshin Himura, and a brief spoof of Dragonball Z. And then there are the little
things here and there that had me in splits, like
the 32-second pervert.
Unfortunately, the other shoe drops in episode 11 (‘Goodbye’). The goddess wants Makoto not just gone but dead. A woman he’s never met before chops off his fingers. Oh yes, and a disproportionately grieving Makoto murders an inexperienced adventurer in cold blood. I can’t put it any better than James Beckett on Anime News Network, who also remarks upon the immediate return to normalcy that follows:
It's obvious why this doesn't work, right? When it comes to Tomoe's fragment, I wasn't even aware that she was a thing that even could die, and I'm not sure why Tomoe can't just poof out another one. It's as if the only reason that the cutesy kid version of an already existing character was created in the first place was just so she could die horribly, which is incredibly lame writing, no matter how you slice it. As for the orc guy, well, he seemed nice, I guess, though I couldn't tell you his name for the life of me, which says how much of an impact he was having on the story to begin with.
The point is, for Makoto's transformation into a cold-blooded murderer to work even a little bit, the audience has to feel the rage and pain that Makoto is feeling. That's the most basic Revenge Story 101 shit imaginable. In John Wick, John lost his puppy; In Mad Max, Max lost his wife and kid; in Paddington 2, Paddington was unjustly imprisoned after being framed for stealing a pop-up book by Hugh Jackman. In every one of those stories, the audience is acutely aware of why the villains deserve to die, and they cannot wait to see the heroes wreak their bloody and/or marmalade-stained justice. Here, though? Tsukimichi is just having Makoto go through the Sad Revenge Boy motions without any of them.
Also, it's just really fucking weird how, after brutally dismembering a woman and then coldly watching her bleed dry like a stuck pig, Tsukimichi doesn't even let a couple of minutes pass before returning to business as usual. Tomoe and Mio make a bunch of goofy faces and yell a lot about their romantic rivalry, Makoto is understandably confused about how he was able to use Tomoe's memory reading power, and we get some pointless exposition about Master/Servant powers before the episode starts to tease the next story arc. I get that anime is a lot more comfortable with balancing disparate moods and all that, but if Tsukimichi isn't even going to pretend that Makoto's harrowing descent into darkness matters at all, then what the hell was the preceding fifteen minutes even doing?
His actions here and in the finale, where he unwittingly drops a metaphorical atom bomb on the battlefield of a war I didn’t realize was significant, are simply too permanent, cruel, and irreversible to ignore.
I thought at first that I’d be able to overlook them with some effort and keep watching, but after learning that the source material inexorably deteriorates into something unrecognizably cynical and repellent, I had to stop. I don’t want to have my heart broken by a repetition of the gradual descent into overwhelming darkness of Invincible .
I also can’t ignore one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve had the misfortune of encountering in a long time: Tomoe and Mio trying to force Makoto to have sex with them, to his horror, while stripping as much as possible within the confines of the show’s format.