Story & Art by Kenjiro Hata
Translated by John Werry
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Evan Waldinger
Design by Jimmy Presler
Edited by Shaenon K. Garrity
Manga fans are used to long, drawn-out romances where the couples don’t get together until after a dozen volumes of dicking around, much less progress any further. Kenjiro Hata, meanwhile, has written a “love-at-first-sight” story where the relationship starts with a marriage proposal and the couple getting married in less than 100 pages! Fly Me to the Moon is a unique rom-com in that it side-steps the cliche rom-com scenarios of the courtship phase of the relationship like confessions, misunderstandings, and love rivals. Instead, it opts to find humor in the mundane preparations and procedures of getting married and living together. It refreshingly explores the awkwardness of two people getting used to living under the same roof and how they must adapt their lifestyle and habits to accommodate their cohabitation.
Fly Me’s premise succeeds in the charming simplicity of the protagonists and their relationship. Though there’s an element of fate to be sure, as protagonist Nasa sees his meeting with wife-to-be Tsukasa Tsukuyomi as a fleeting encounter with first love like in The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Refusing to let her slip away lest he never sees her again, he’s willing to do anything to be with her, accepting Tsukasa’s condition to get married first. There isn’t a deep, personal reason Nasa and Tsukasa fall in love. There doesn’t need to be. Sure, she saves his life, but Nasa primarily likes Tsukasa just because he likes her. He likes her cuteness, her personality, and being around her. It’s the same for Tsukasa. She basically likes Nasa because she likes him, probably for the same simple reasons. In a bonus panel between chapters, she comments that the thing she likes most about him is how much he likes her. Simple reasons, but sincere nonetheless.
Nasa and Tsukasa’s relationship is based on the geniality of two people who enjoy being around each other, and who just like each other. That’s it. That’s all the connection they have, and sometimes that’s all there needs to be for a relationship to work. Once they start living together, we see them gel really well. Better than most manga couples, in fact. They’re on the same wavelength to the point of reading each other’s minds and enjoy and doing activities with each other instantly. They’re just so giddy and excited to even be married, blushing whenever their partner calls each other by name or refers to themselves as their wife or husband. It’s refreshingly adorable to witness a relationship where the couple is always happy to be around each other, consistently making each other smile and blush at how cute and cool their partner is.
Most of the manga is really Nasa and Tsukasa figuring out how to live together, going through steps normally glossed over in a lot of stories. It’s not often you see multiple chapters of a manga going over how to fill out a marriage registration form and dropping it off at the ward office, with a two-page spread devoted to showing what a marriage registration form looks like. Despite the fantastical nature of their meet-cute, once Nasa and Tsukasa get together, the story becomes surprisingly, and adorably, grounded. Just the casualness of them asking the official at the ward office questions about registration rules and what they need, and getting a little houseplant as a present, is so sweetly normal. The issues the newlywed couple face are realistic scenarios like whether their apartment is big enough to accommodate two people, shopping for more bedding and resources, sleeping the same room with a rowdy sleeper, and cooking meals for one another. None of the scenarios are exaggerated in an over-the-top way, though their first night sleeping together has its moments. The main source of the humor lies in the awkwardness of navigating these situations for the first time, watching two dorks in love learn the ropes together. The sleeping together chapter, in particular, has some of the most hilariously relatable gags if you’ve ever shared a bedroom with someone, romantically or not. The down to earth chillness of the characters navigating these realistic, awkward situations is just really charming and sweet, especially since the characters are so enthusiastic and sincere throughout.
While Nasa and Tsukasa are adorable together, they’re quite interesting individually too. Nasa reminds me of Hata’s previous protagonist, the titular Hayate the Combat Butler, in his general good-natured optimism and devotion to his beloved. Amusingly, both Nasa and Hayate are burdened by the misdeeds of their parents, making them work extra hard and learn various skills to compensate, though at least in Nasa’s case he just has a goofy name and not an outrageous life debt. They also both humorously encounter their respective love interests after life-threatening accidents and become indebted to them because they save their life. Nasa’s drive to prove himself by getting into a good college, only to find himself directionless after achieving his goal and needing something to reinvigorate his passion, provides an interesting emotional grounding for his relationship with Tsukasa, making him excited about something in his life again.
Similarly, Tsukasa resembles Nagi from Hayate in her nerdiness and aloofness. Though, Tsukasa also has a mysterious air to her that will probably be expanded on in the future. There’s certainly a lot of imagery in the book that pairs her with the moon, not to mention she’s literally named after the Japanese god of the moon, so the Princess Kaguya connection may be more than just a metaphor. While Tsukasa’s a bit of an enigma, her confidence and enthusiastic embrace of married life play off Nasa’s awkwardness amusingly and endearingly, especially when she’s teasing him. The moments where she’s, in turn, taken aback by his blunt affections for her and loses her smug composure when embarrassed are also adorable. While there’s still a lot we don’t know about her, her affable personality makes her very likable, and a good partner and foil for Nasa.
Kenjiro Hata’s art is cute. It just is. I wouldn’t call his style moe, but he uses a very super-deformed approach featuring simple faces that draw attention to his characters’ large eyes. I’d say the biggest factor of the characters’ cuteness, comes from their facial expressions and frequent blushing. Hata really plays around with his characters’ eye shapes in ways that play up their SD characteristics, either leaving them as large pupil-less white eyes or having the pupils just be small dots. This is most notable with Nasa, whose default eyes are more detailed. Tsukasa’s eyes, interestingly, are already sparsely detailed with just a small dot for a pupil, which helps characterize her as cool and mysterious or adorable and goofy depending on the context of the scene. Other notable design features include how Hata’s characters’ thick, sharp bangs always droop over their eyes and are quite floofy, adding to the soft aesthetic of their designs. While the protagonists’ normal fashion is pretty simple wear, Hata does flex his fashion chops on the cover pages, which feature Tsukasa in more intricately patterned kimonos and frilly dresses, and in one case a cowgirl outfit!
Hata can draw stunning imagery too, of course, like his illustrations of the moon peeking out of the clouds as snow falls from the sky in the first few panels of the book. Really, anytime Hata illustrates the moon in the sky it looks blindingly beautiful. It’s remarkable since technically he’s not really “drawing” the moon most of the time; he accomplishes the effect just through the contrast of having a large white circle surrounded by the intricately rendered gray hues of the sky and clouds. The same is true for the snow – they’re just white circles, but placing them against the background gives them an illuminated effect that just looks gorgeous. While most of the book ends up being set in Nasa’s apartment, which is pretty sparse on detail, the moments where Hata really gets illustrative with his backgrounds really stand out, enhancing the character art accompanying them. Honestly, it’s less that Hata’s backgrounds are particularly detailed and more so he really knows how to use screentone, shadows, and different hues of gray to create a sense of realism to his world that contrasts well with his more simply drawn characters. Though it helps that he has a solid sense of building construction, as evident in his detailed notes of the exterior and interior of Nasa’s apartment. This is no surprise, since Hata’s a veteran artist without dozens of volumes of experience under his belt on how to make a manga look cute and pretty with a couple of great drawings and a few good techniques.
Fly Me to the Moon is a really engaging, fun rom-com that refreshingly chooses to humorize more uncommon situations than your typical manga love story. Like it’s central couple’s married life, it’s only just getting started, but this first volume still tells a compelling love-at-first-sight story along with the tribulations of the first night of a newly married couple. Hata’s comic timing, art, and commitment to showing off the minutiae of his characters’ daily lives in ways uniquely formatted for manga make it more than worth checking out ahead of the anime’s release later this fall. Yeah, you could say I’m pretty over the moon for this series. If getting married is an “all-you-can-hold buffet” of physical intimacy, then reading this manga is an all-you-can-read buffet of cuteness!