Be warned that this series starts slow. And by slow, I mean I watched the first few episodes and set this title aside for two months. Then one day, I was visiting AnimeNfo and saw that it ranked Full Moon wo Sagashite as #1 in its top 100 rankings based on user ratings. Of course, the title at the #1 spot varies, but I swear on my computer I saw Full Moon wo Sagashite there ^_^ Anyway, the ranking got me intrigued. This title must be pretty special to get really good ratings.
When I found out that Tanemura Arina created this series, that's when I got off my butt and cleared the dust off my Full Moon wo Sagashite discs. The same mangaka created Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, another great mahou shoujo title. And boy, is there a lot of mahou involved in Full Moon wo Sagashite. It has 52 episodes, and the manga continued running after the anime ended. This is one of those series where the anime is very different from the manga. They really went off into two different directions, so it's worth checking out both ^_~
Not long after, when she was around 12 years old, Mitsuki was diagnosed with throat cancer. It prevented her from raising her voice too much, let alone sing too much. A very bishounen doctor, Wakaouji-sensei, looked after her and even made house calls because her grandmother wanted her to stay in the house as much as possible. One day, Mitsuki was sitting in her room, depressed because she passed the first stage of the new Seed Records artist audition but couldn't go to the second stage because first of all, her grandmother won't let her out of the house.
Suddenly, two strange people popped out of Mitsuki's wall. One is a guy with cat ears, and the other is a girl with bunny ears. Both of them have wings. Even weirder, they started talking like she's not there. When she finally got their attention, they freaked. Apparently, they weren't supposed to be seen.The two strange people introduced themselves as Takuto (the guy with the cat ears) and Meroko (the girl with the bunny ears), and they are a shinigami team called Negi Ramen. Shinigami means gods or angels of death, while negi ramen roughly translates to onion noodles ;) The hilarity of their team name outweighed the ominousness of their shinigami nature, and Mitsuki burst out laughing ^_^
When Mitsuki started playing with their weird ears (she stopped taking them seriously after the Negi Ramen thing), Takuto and Meroko explained they had to dress that way because they are on a pediatrics case :D That immediately sobered things up. Mitsuki realized that she only had a year to live. With renewed resolve, she dashed off to her audition, leaving Takuto and Meroko scrambling after her. She wanted to achieve her dreams of becoming a singer so her childhood sweetheart, Echi-kun, could find her again. Mitsuki met Echi-kun in the orphanage, but he was adopted and subsequently moved with his new parents to the U.S.
Takuto decided to help Mitsuki achieve her dreams of becoming a singer by transforming her into her 16-year-old self (auditions have age limits ^_^). Naturally, after the judges heard her sing, they immediately ended the auditions and selected her as their next star ^_^ It was the start of Mitsuki's double life as a dutiful granddaughter and a rising star. Their general strategy involved having Meroko stay at home as Mitsuki, as she can change her appearance. Takuto goes with Mitsuki and her manager, Ooshige-san. Later in the anime, Takuto and Mitsuki let Wakaouji-sensei and Ooshige-san on their secret. It was not long before Mitsuki has four people helping her achieve her dreams.
Full Moon wo Sagashite chronicled Mitsuki's rise to fame and how she dealt with various challenges along the way. Her professional obstacles involved doubts about her abilities and envious rivals who would sabotage her career at every possible opportunity. At home, Mitsuki's relationship with her grandmother became even more strained, especially as she learned more about her parents. And her 12-year-old health went on a decline as her cancer became worse. Through it all, Mitsuki never lost faith that she would meet Eichi-kun again, but that too took a dark turn after she crossed the Pacific in search of him.
The story is also about Takuto and Meroko. They were mostly in the background when the story started, but they soon became very important characters with their own issues. Meroko is so in love with Takuto that she had confessed to him about 57 times already ;) Takuto, however, has bigger problems. Soon he found himself falling in love with Mitsuki, and it bugged the hell out of him whenever she talks about Eichi-kunh ^_^ Even worse, memories of when he was alive was returning to him, which had serious implications.
The first episodes, which are about Mitsuki's start as a professional singer, moved at a pretty slow pace. But once you get into the double-digit episodes, the story will pull you in. The allure wasn't really about whether Mitsuki would become a successful singer--that was already a given. Rather, it was all about the mystery behind Eichi-kun and Takuto's growing attraction to Mitsuki. Sure, it's weird to think about a ghost falling in love with a 12-year-old, but it should be noted that Mitsuki turns into a 16-year-old. And other romantic series, such as Kodocha, has 12-year-old main characters too ^_~
The seiyuu for Mitsuki, Myco of the group Changin' My Life, is great. She's probably the greatest seiyuu I know. Her voice suited Mitsuki really well (low and slightly husky), and boy, can she sing. That's a relief, because watching Full Moon wo Sagashite means having to listen to Mitsuki sing three hundred times. She has two main songs in the anime, namely, "Myself" and "Eternal Snow," and both of them are wonderful in their own right. They became the first and second ending songs, respectively. The seiyuu for Takuto, Saitou Yasuo, is also great. He was a singer when he was alive, so he too can sing ^_~ The upbeat opening songs, "I Love U" and "Rock n' Roll Princess," were both by a group called The Scanty.
As expected from Tanemura Arina, the character art is great. Naturally, everybody looks adorable and have adorable expressions. The main characters always have adorable outfits ^_^ and the animation is splashed with a lot of bright colors. Tanemura's manga suffers from the problem of having everybody look alike (see Time Stranger Kyoko), but the anime corrected this with varying colors ^_~ Granted, however, Mitsuki in her 12-year-old form and Takuto look very different from Tanemura's previous characters ^_~
The characters themselves are also pretty good. They bear the Tanemura seal, which means the leading lady has lots of inner angst and the leading man is very protective and can be irreverent at times (especially in the manga). Mitsuki can be called a traditional shoujo story heroine, but given her circumstances, that's okay ^_~ She's just brimming with so much idealism and hope, it's kind of hard to hate her. Takuto and Meroko are great. It doesn't hurt that they can change into stuffed animals and human form and can be incredibly kawaii. The secondary characters, Wakaouji-sensei and Ooshige-san, are pretty solid too :D
Full Moon wo Sagashite is fairly episodic, with subplots spanning approximately one to three episodes. Major events cover more episodes. The pace is really good, except it slightly dragged in the beginning and was fairly quick in the end. Also, there are some inconsistencies that you would have to overlook in order to enjoy the rest of the episodes :P The build-up to the mystery behind Eichi-kun was especially good, but there were countless flashbacks along the way. And I think the anime people did a good job wrapping up the story ^_~ I would say that Full Moon wo Sagashite is a must-see, especially if you enjoy great music (it has to be great, slow, romantic music) and mahou shoujo series :) I can see why it would rank #1 out of a 100 anime titles ^_~