Full Moon Wo Shagashite
Episodes: 52 episodes
Notes: The twist that occurs at the end of the series is up front in the manga.
12-year-old Koyama Mitsuki has dreams of becoming a singer but finds out that she has throat cancer. She is visited by two shinigami (soul reapers) and learns she has just a year to live. With their help, she is determined to fulfill her dream of becoming a popular singer and finding her first love, Eichi.
Animation is crisp and bright and fluid. Character designs are in a typical cute shoujo style - the girls are beautiful with large liquid eyes and the men are nearly as pretty. For an anime about the music industry, the music is disappointingly mediocre. Although the opening and ending themes and the overall score are fine, the same songs are repeated over and over and over as part of Mitsuki's performances and they're not good enough to warrant such constant repetition. Voices are quite good and expressive.
The series starts out interesting enough with a sad premise. Mitsuki dreams of being a singer but has a tumor in her throat that prevents her from pursuing her dream. If she has an operation, she will likely lose her voice completely. If she doesn't she'll die. Somehow she is able to see the shinigami responsible for her case. They take pity on her and agree to help her pursue her dream of singing and via her singing to find the boy she loves, Eichi. The two shinigami are Meroko, who wears rabbit ears and transforms into a stuffed rabbit, and Takuto, who wears cat ears and transforms to a stuffed cat. They transform her into a 16 year old beauty in order to enter a singing contest. Despite the sad premise, the series is inspirational but overly cutesy and plays better toward a younger audience.
Although Meroko can be annoying, the rest of the supporting staff is likeable enough including Mitsuki's agent, her doctor, and even her cold strict grandmother and her ruthless rival. The strength of this series is the characters. They all get enough screen time and character development to be either likeable or at least sympathetic.
The first few episodes are quite interesting as Mitsuki wins an audition, gets a contract, etc. and becomes the pop idol "Full Moon" (Mitsuki also means moon). But soon the episodes become episodic and not terribly interesting except for the ones that deal with the hardships of the music industry. Those with her rival Madoka are especially good. Then the series gets interesting again toward the end. The last 13 episodes or so have a number of nice (if predictable) twists. Get out your hankies and tissue boxes! The ending to this series is very strong, touching, and feels complete (unlike many other anime series).
Rated G until the last 13 eps then becomes PG. Recommended for all ages but especially younger children and women rather than men. Watch the first episodes until you get bored, then skip to the last 13 episodes.