Have you heard of the 9th century Japanese legend of Kaguya-hime[1]?

You may be familiar with her name from Takahata Isao’s acclaimed Studio Ghibli film from 2013 which basically tells the story of a bamboo cutter who discovered a little baby girl in a bamboo plant. The baby was brought back home and both the bamboo cutter and his wife named her Nayotake no Kaguya-hime. Kaguya-hime then miraculously grew up in a very short time to become a beautiful woman, courted by five rich nobleman – so much so even the Emperor asked for her hand in marriage, all of whom were rejected. Later in the summer, Kaguya-hime realised that she was not of this Earth but an immortal being who came from the moon. The tale ends with Kaguya-hime having to leave her foster parents for the moon to join her people. Hearing this, the Emperor commanded his guards to prevent her return but to no avail. Kaguya-hime then gradually loses her memories of her mortal life on Earth as she ascended to the heavens.

I thought of Kaguya-hime when I saw トニカクカワイイ (Tonikaku Kawaii, rough transl. You are cute, essentially) or TONIKAWA: Fly Me To The Moon on Crunchyroll in the winter of last year. TONIKAWA is essentially a Crunchyroll Originals anime which I watched as I am subscribed to said streaming service, 12 episodes in all.

Fast forward to like 7 months later, I decided to collect the TONIKAWA manga.

Missing vol.3 as it is out of print EVERYwhere.

TONIKAWA is written by Hata Kenjirō. The Shōnen Sunday series is still ongoing and currently is down to 17 volumes in Japan, with the latest English translation on Viz reaching volume 6 currently. It’s essentially a slice-of-life rom com about a very young and newly-married couple, Nasa and Tsukasa. Yuzaki Nasa was a studious middle-schooler and first met Tsukasa on a wintery night when the full moon was up, so entranced by her cuteness that he got hit by a truck. As opposed to die to be reincarnated in another world, Tsukasa saved Nasa’s life shielding him from being totally run over. Both of them were pretty much injured from the incident[2], but despite his own injuries, Nasa asked her out and strangely, Tsukasa agreed but only if they are both married. Nasa then collapsed only to wake up in hospital and that evening was the last time he saw Tsukasa[3]. While recuperating, he studied hard to get into the prestigious high school of his dreams. However, Tsukasa was on his mind a lot and in the end, he dropped out of school and worked part time at a konbini[4].

Then one evening (interestingly, the full moon was also up), Tsukasa appeared in Nasa’s life once again knocking on his apartment door. Tsukasa surprised Nasa telling her that she is back as promised and they went to register their marriage, with Nasa in disbelief that this is happening. The story then pretty much tells of their daily married life, with Tsukasa being introduced to Nasa’s erstwhile schoolfriends, the Arisugawa sisters who live in a bath house with their mom. In turn, we are later introduced to Chitose, a young girl who sees Tsukasa as an older sister. There was not much of an explanation in the story at this time other than Chitose coming from a very wealthy family and Tsukasa used to live with them, until she decided to leave all of a sudden to marry Nasa.

There is more to TONIKAWA than meets the eye. One of the few things that do not add up is how Tsukasa managed to shield Nasa from a moving truck on the night they first met. The events that occur when the full moon was up – and interestingly, the OP/ED of the anime seemed to have the full moon as a recurring motif. Tsukasa appears to know a lot about history, and this is seen when Nasa and she went to visit Nara – and she seemed to be familiar with a lot of things in the city, including places within Nara that are no longer there. Another thing related to the moon, is that the mansion where Tsukasa used to live with Chitose’s family had a moon rock in an airtight glass display.

Within the manga are clues abound – all pointing to Tsukasa knowing a lot about events in the past. Hata’s artwork also includes Tsukasa in period costume, may it be in medieval Japan, or in 19th century Paris, at the beginning of a manga chapter. Nasa’s dad is an archaeologist, and during their visit to see Nasa’s parents in Nara, Tsukasa seemed to be at ease, skilfully demonstrating how a katana is unsheathed from its scabbard. And not forgetting the cover of volume 16.

Who is Tsukasa, really?

The story is not written in a manner where mysterious events keep occurring, but done in a matter-of-factly light way – pretty much about a young couple finding their way as they essentially got married without the usual preamble of dating and the like. Hata did write in one of the early volumes that he intended to reveal who Tsukasa really is but felt a reveal should be done much later. I do hope that Tsukasa isn’t Kaguya-hime (or anyone of the same ilk) – I’ll be devastated is she leaves Nasa for the moon!

It is an enjoyable read, with enough going on to be invested in the characters. The artwork in the manga while appearing relatively simple stroke-wise, is actually pretty detailed, especially when Kata would draw plans of the Yuzaki household or the Arisugawa bath house. The Crunchyroll anime in turn appears a tad plain in the same vein as the manga (the studio was Seven Arcs – not heard of them before but I read that they are ex-Studio Pierrot staff) but it did receive good scores on MAL (I gave the anime a 7, but the manga a more generous 8). Tsukasa is voiced by Kito Akari (famously known for voicing Kamado Nezuko, from Kimetsu no Yaiba) while Nasa is voiced by Enoki Junya (currently the voice for Mukai Naoya, from the harem anime, Kanojo mo Kanojo, which is out at the moment). Recently, an OVA for TONIKAWA was released, and Crunchyroll listed it as Episode 13 last month. I do hope season 2 to be released some time in 2022.

Highly recommended if you want to read/watch something lighthearted and I can’t wait to see where the story is going!

[1]Princess Kaguya.
[2]Although Tsukasa seemed not to be as injured as Nasa from her appearance.
[3]Nasa was actually comparing Tsukasa to Kaguya-hime as she appeared to fade away into the light of the moon when he began to lose consciousness.
[4]Convenience store.