I give one of the first manga I ever read...a 92/100!
Ah, Full Moon wo Sagashite, one of the many manga of my childhood. I discovered this manga when I was young. It was around the time when volumes 5-7 hadn't been released yet, and while I finished the entire manga, I had only seen a few episodes of the anime and never got to finish that. I really ought to. But I don't think I ever attached to the manga despite liking it. I had the first DVD once but sold it recently, knowing that the dub would never be finished. I had put the manga in a box and hadn't touched it in years. Only very recently did I get back into it. I liked it when I was a kid, but...reading it now, I'm utterly convinced that it's a heck of a lot better now than it was when I first read it, and was extremely surprised by how bold and daring it is, which made me fall back in love with it!
The story is about a young girl named Mitsuki Koyama, who's been through a lot. Both her parents died in a car accident when she was a baby, she was raised in an orphanage for ten years before being adopted by her strict, traditionalist grandmother, who doesn't approve of her dream to become a singer, has never been to school, and worse than that, she has a tumor in her throat that'll not only jeopardize her vocal cords, but kill her. One day, a duo of quirky shinigami come right through her wall to try and take her life, but she uses the opportunity to ask them to make her fulfill her dream. They give her a pill that not only turns her into a teenaged version of herself, but heals her body so she can sing without hurting. Mitsuki manages to get scouted and learns the ups and downs of the music industry. But the quirky shinigami have their own baggage, and Mitsuki might end up unknowingly jeopardizing their lives.
Considering its a shoujo manga, everything is redonkulously sparkly, with the characters having big, shining eyes, chibi faces every once in a while, love triangles, etc. However, one aspect of the manga's art surprised me as a kid, and continues to surprise me now: the meticulous attention to detail on just about everything, from the folds in people's clothing, to their hair, to the environment, everything is just absolutely loaded with almost life-like detail that we just don't see anymore in today's era of anime. The faces are very much expressive, the emotions are raw, no character is wearing the same outfit all the time, etc. Plus, I'm no expert on the music industry, but for the most part, the depiction of someone in the singing business is for the most part very accurate. Mitsuki has to deal with fans, both good and bad, rivals who don't always have the best of intentions, commercials, deadlines, money problems, etc. Fancy Lala did something similar, though I think both Fancy Lala and the Full Moon manga depict the singing industry rather well. They both depict the singing business in a pragmatic light, as in while the music industry has good points, there's also a lot of bad to come with it, but that's normal. Everything has its pros and cons.
At first, the characters come off very stereotypical. Mitsuki is the shoujo character who wants to do stuff, Takuto is a brash, reckless, audacious boy, Meroko is the annoying and indecisive love interest, etc. You'd think they'd be nothing but black and white characters with only one character trait with predictable development. Nope! Tanemura isn't stupid, and she develops her characters very well. Everyone's quirks, personalities, and good/bad qualities are all connected to things that happened in their lives, and helped shape them into what they are now, even after death, and let me tell you, it is glorious. When I was a kid, I didn't really connect with the characters, nor did I really understand the gravity of the things that happened to them. Now, I completely get it, and it hit me right in the gut, and it made me keep reading, just to see them succeed! Even the characters whom you think are going to be completely evil for no reason have valid, even tragic reasons for their behavior, though none of it excuses what they do, and the manga KNOWS it. They're very complex, and the kind of people whom you want to have succeed.
However, as fangirly as I am about this manga, even I have to admit that it is not without its faults. Some of them are pretty small and not worth mentioning, but there is one that seriously bugs the heck out of me, and its rather spoilery: if Mitsuki spent most of her life in an orphanage, and two of her grandparents are the only living family members she had, how come, after ten whole years, they never claimed her? There is no explanation given for this. Did they just not know her whereabouts? Did they not know Hazuki even had a child? Did neither grandparent want her? Did her parents not have identification or contact info on them when they died? These explanations would have been plausible had they been there, but this is never explained, and after Mitsuki spends ten years in an orphanage, her grandmother just pops up out of nowhere and reclaims her. It just feels so jarring to me knowing that Mitsuki had living relatives yet still spent most of her life in an orphanage. Also, how come Mitsuki spent a whole year with a tumor yet she never took any kind of medicine for it? I mean, there had to be SOME kind of medicine for sarcoma, right?! Also, I found that the characters' thoughts come off as WAAAAAY too purple prose-y. There is sooooo much purple prose in the narrative, and although its deep and meaningful, I got tired of it after volume three. I like mystical imagery and all, but I think Tanemura relied too much on ridiculous purple prose when conveying the characters' thoughts. Also...what twelve year old even thinks in purple prose like that?! None.
Even so, despite its glaring flaws, I still hold this manga in high regard. Why? Because it's bold and doesn't give a durn. It knows what it wants, it'll do anything to get there, it isn't afraid to go dark in order to tell its story. Seriously, this is a shoujo manga for young girls, yet it contains so many adult themes, such as suicide, illicit affairs, cancer, loss, existential crises, and even rape (it's not explicit, but still blatant enough to warrant a 13 and up rating). But none of them hold the story back. In fact, they make the story so much richer, and seeing the characters struggle makes you want to root for them and see them overcome their trauma and make peace with both themselves, the people around them, and the demons that torment them...and it is GLORIOUS. I recently got a lot of flack from an abusive fandom because I dared to write a scene of implied rape in a fan fic (it was MUCH more tame than what Full Moon showed), and they all attacked me for it, claiming I'm a bad person who doesn't care about myself, that I need to warn for this stuff (Isn't the T rating enough?!), that I don't care about my readers, that I absolutely have to write my story in the show's spirit, that it's not appropriate to write here, that I shouldn't write that stuff on their beloved kids' show (Really? I've seen fan fics for Pokemon and Powerpuff Girls get away with much worse, yet you think my example is worth calling me selfish and sentient trash over? You guys are drama queens), that I should stop writing, blah blah blah. For a long while I was convinced they were right...until I read this manga again. It helped me out of my writing crisis and got me the answer that I needed. Also, I don't see anyone complaining about Tanemura writing an implied rape scene in this manga! If she can do it, then why can't I?!
Sorry about that. Anyway, if you're looking for a gripping, rich story about life, death, moving past your mistakes, and moving on, then Full Moon is the story for you.