Hospitals. That very word brings gruesome and depressing memories for some. A place some may think is the last destination before one crosses the River Styx or to the other world. Of course there are some shows which try to portray that hospitals aren’t such a gloomy and fearful place. For instance all those Hollywood drama series such as ER and Grey’s Anatomy to the more comical ones like Scrubs or House. But then again, these focus more on the personalities of the doctors and staff.
 
Hanbun No Tsuki Ga Noboru Sora too is a hospital setting anime. A short OVA only lasting 6 episodes and is based on a light novel of the same name. So even if one is hospitalized, would you expect to find friendship and ultimately love amidst all those gloomy setting? Well, you can’t let death and sickness prevent the magic of love from working, could you?
 
Our main protagonist Yuuichi Ezaki is a 17 year old high school student who has been hospitalized in his countryside hospital with some hepatitis disease but is on the road to recovery. During his stay at the hospital, he meets a girl his age named Rika Akiba who has been hospitalized ever since a very young age due to her weak heart valve. It’s more than just your average boy-meets-girl drama romance as we’ll see how the duo form a bond and hope as impending death comes knocking on Rika’s door…
 
Episode 1
Yuuichi tries to sneak back into the hospital after taking an illegal after hours walk but gets caught by his nurse Akiko Tanizaki. First thing viewers will notice is Akiko’s violence. How can she be a nurse if she abuses Yuuichi?! Furthermore, she smokes! Is it because she tries to drill into that poor kid’s head about the rules of this hospital with her tough love or is it she enjoys bullying the weak? Yeah, she even rubs his head with her slipper! Scary. Patient abuse! As Akiko continues to lecture Yuuichi, an old man, Tada, who is also a patient in this hospital, slips his hands across Akiko’s butt. Now if he’s 50 years younger, I’m sure she wouldn’t hesitate to beat him up. Probably if he is, he’d deserve it because Tada is a dirty old man. Yeah, sexual harassment.
 
One day Yuuichi spots a girl, Rika at the far end of the hospital wing and Akiko proceeds to tell him that she is the new transfer patient. Because being locked in hospital is boring (Akiko did try several methods to lock Yuuichi in his room to prevent unregulated late night sneaking outs), Yuuichi decides to go see this pretty girl but hasn’t got the guts to enter her room. On the rooftop, Akiko makes a deal with Yuuichi by saying that if he befriends Rika, she’ll remove the bench blocking his room. That guy will do anything for his freedom. Akiko also gives Yuuichi a book in which Rika is a big fan of so that he could give it to her.
 
So okay, he goes to her room, gives her the book, has a little chat. Well it’s not like they click right away. Yeah, he’s trying to fake that he knows a lot about the author and the book but he doesn’t. Experienced bookworm Rika can tell. Yuuichi then tries to break the ice by saying how his house is just behind the mountains of Mt Houdai which seems to catch her attention. Yuuichi apologizes for lying about knowing about the book and Rika forgives him on 1 condition. That condition is to borrow a certain book from the local library. However Yuuichi messes it up and brings back the wrong book and has to go borrow the right one before the library closes. Actually her condition is more like making Yuuichi her personal slave, erm, I mean attendant, doing anything she asks. Probably that girl gets a little kick out of it and that guy felt guilty for the little wrong bust up and decides to atone it more than he should.
 
One day, Rika has Yuuichi accompany her to the surgery room and she decides to play doctor by doing an open surgery on him! Even if it was a joke, holding a scalpel in hand like that is dangerous. Of course if Akiko finds out, they’re going to get another round of hard lecture, so they hid underneath the table when they heard her coming. Rika seems amused by it all. On the rooftop, she tells Yuuichi of her condition and that she needs a heart transplant. Her dad too had the same condition but died during surgery and that she would meet the same fate too. She goes on to mention how when she was smaller, her dad used to take her up Mt Houdai and she wants to go back there again. That night, Yuuichi learns from Akiko that Tada has passed away, and that Tada has left his entire playboy magazine collection to Yuuichi. Wow! There are heaps of them! He’s sure a perverted guy right till his death. Because of that, Yuuichi decides to sneak Rika out and bring her to Mt Houdai. Akiko as usual predicts his act and tries to stop him. Luckily, Yuuichi has an ally to stop Akiko. He is Tsukasa Sekoguchi, and a wrestling fan as he pins Akiko down in his Zebra Mask to let the duo escape. Why is he doing this? You know, Tada’s collection can be a handy bribe mechanism sometimes…
 
Yuuichi rides his bike there as they trek up the mountain to see a breathtaking view of the little town. Rika then says how she is ready to die and wonders if her dad felt the same way like this. What the?! Yuuichi is shocked by her words but Rika soon breaks down as he hugs her. As they both talk about their dads like how Yuuichi’s dad was a useless bum and died of alcohol related issues, when Rika says the reason why he helped her because he sympathized with her condition as they are in the same boat as they both had no fathers, Yuuichi denies it. As he stood up, Yuuichi’s breathing became harder and he soon collapses. Rika seems to be in shock because of some inaudible words Yuuichi said while semi-unconscious.
 
Episode 2
Yuuichi is rushed back to hospital but thankfully his condition isn’t life-threatening although it would mean that he will be staying in hospital a little longer. He then has a dream whereby Tada told him never to give up on the one he loves or else he’ll end up regretting it for the rest of his life. Just like himself. So now we know why he read dirty mags, eh? Later when Rika visits Yuuichi in his bed, he can’t seem to remember the words he uttered to her that night. But it seems to make her blush. Was it "I love you"? Big possibility. The days go by as the duo continue to visit each other and one day Rika tells him how she isn’t sure how long more she has to live and thinks she’s a burden to him. However Yuuichi doesn’t care for all that so she tells him how she may undergo surgery to extend her life, though it may be risky.
 
One day, another of Yuuichi’s classmates, Tamotsu Yamanishi, visits Yuuichi in his bed and to his delight finds a heap of those porn mags Yuuichi inherited. As the duo browse through some pretty interesting pages, Rika comes in. Oh oh. Busted. Well, she doesn’t seem upset initially but that doesn’t mean everything is going to be smooth sailing from now. Yeah, because of that, when Yuuichi comes to explain it all, she doesn’t answer him. And when he tries to enter her room, she has placed booby-traps to keep that idiot out. She’s so pissed off. Then on the rooftop as Yuuichi patiently waits so that he could instantly apologize to her when she shows up, the moment he does so, he realizes he’s just got down apologizing on his knees to nobody. Was Rika there? Well she was. Oh no. She has locked the door to the rooftop! Wicked! Poor Yuuichi stays out in the cold till nightfall and if not for the passing security, he could’ve freeze to death. Due to that he has caught a little flu.
 
Yuuichi is being treated by a bearded doctor who has returned. The next day, that doctor is clean shaven and Yuuichi didn’t recognize him at first. He is Gorou Natsume and has just returned from a tough 2 months in the mountains to be posted here. We find out Natsume knows a lot about Rika because he has been her doctor ever since young. Yeah, he knows her nasty personality too. Natsume notices something about Yuuichi because since Rika has no friends, it was weird of her to personally tell him about her condition as she rarely talks to others. Later Akiko has a talk with Yuuichi, telling him how Rika is feeling down and that she has called for Rika to come to the rooftop so that Yuuichi could properly apologize to her. So Yuuichi waits and once again when he hears footsteps that might be of Rika’s, he immediately gets down and starts apologizing. However, it’s false alarm because it’s Natsume. He gives Yuuichi a playboy magazine. Well, I guess it’s normal for a kid like him to be engrossed. But while he’s doing so, Rika opens the door to see him… Damn. Busted once more. Locked out again. Maybe they should just shift his room up there, huh?
 
But as Rika walks away upset, we see Natsume at the stairways, laughing like as though he gets his kick from seeing poor Yuuichi being dumped. That guy is playing a prank on him?! Akiko then meets Natsume at the rooftop and doesn’t approve of what he has just done. Because he’s still kidding around, Akiko kicks his legs. He deserves it. Natsume then agrees to mend their relationship back. Later Yuuichi finally gets to meet Rika on the rooftop and apologizes. No interruptions this time. However, Yuuichi gets upset when he finds out the reason Rika forgave him was because Natsume told her to. She mentions how when he transferred to this hospital, she too transferred here, and cheekily says she would never ever forgive him if Natsume hadn’t told her to. Yuuichi’s anger causes them to get into another argument, in which Rika angrily threw her precious dad’s book at him. The book then falls off the roof and is left hanging precariously on the window ledge below.
 
Episode 3
Yuuichi sneaks out to Tsukasa’s home to play some video games but he soon requests his help in retrieving Rika’s book. So the plan is Zebra Mask will use his brute strength to hold the string which Yuuichi is tied to so that he’ll lower him and get the book. Seems pretty reckless and dangerous don’t you think? Better hurry because a storm is coming. To add to the little tension, as Yuuichi is within gripping distance of the book, the wind blows the book off but luckily Yuuichi manages to grab it. Phew. Yuuichi returns the book at Rika’s side while she’s sleeping. Yuuichi then has a weird dream about himself winning a race while Tsukasa and Tada cheers him on before Rika forgives and makes up with him.
 
Back in reality, Rika calls Yuuichi to her room and gives him some tasty oranges as gratitude for returning her book. Later Yuuichi is seen burning his entire inherited collection at the incinerator. Natsume happen to notice what he is doing and says how he must have done something good because it’s rare for Rika to forgive someone. So Yuuichi decides to start reading books that Rika recommends. Well their relationship seems to be back on track and getting along fine as they both read lines from the books they read, which in a way are related to their lives. Meanwhile, we see Natsume being advised by a nurse not to smoke (another one. Ironic for a person who saves lives doing something which threatens his own) but he gives an excuse that it’s a chocolate shaped cigarette. Lame. Natsume is visited by Rika’s mother and from her weeping reaction, you can tell that Rika’s future is sort of bleak. Bad news.
 
That night as Yuuichi once again tries to sneak out, he finds Natsume in a drunken state (oh dear. Not another undesirable trait). On the rooftop, the duo had a chat and the way Natsume said things seem to indicate that he’s jealous of Yuuichi and Rika’s relationship. Not only that. Natsume starts beating up Yuuichi! Holy sh*t! He’s taking it out on poor defenceless Yuuichi! He’s pissed about Yuuichi’s optimism because with Rika’s condition, he thinks all that hope crap won’t cure anything. After finishing his lecture in tears, Natsume leaves. Yuuichi picks himself up as he reads a book of Rika’s. As Natsume sits idly in his chair thinking back when he told Rika’s mom about the low success rate of the surgery, it started to hit Yuuichi as he continues reading the lines from the book whereby the character drowns and that there is no hope, he recalls the conversation he had with Rika using those lines and realizes how similar it is to Rika’s case. Yuuichi starts to cry and break down.
 
Episode 4
It’s a bright sunny day as Natsume approaches Yuuichi to apologize for last night even though he doesn’t remember much of it. As Natsume leaves, he tells Yuuichi to cherish Rika as much as he can while letting loose a scream of frustration. Back in Yuuichi’s room, he’s waiting for Rika to show up and when she does, he playfully throws an orange at her but she isn’t amused so he starts apologizing. She then notices the bruises on his face so he makes an excuse saying how he was beaten up by some gangsters. Rika then requests him to take a picture. Since he doesn’t have a camera, he thinks of sneaking out to his home to get it. Of course, he’s being caught by Akiko but since he’s pleading to her, I guess she has no choice but to help him out once.
 
In addition to Akiko’s crude attitude, this confirms what she’s really like. Yeah, she likes fast cars and her car is one. Buckle up Yuuichi because it’s going to be a hell ride to your house. Speed demon on the loose! Uh huh. She’s got the nerve to challenge some punks in some street racing while on their way and beats them flat. Yuuichi nearly had a heart attack and he’s already a hospital patient, you know. Anyway they manage to reach his home safely in one piece. As Yuuichi takes out a camera hidden in a box in his closet, Akiko is having the time of her life as she goes through the embarrassing photo album of young Yuuichi. On the way back to the hospital, Akiko picks up a friend of hers, Misako Yosano.
 
The next day, Yuuichi seems to notice Rika is a little happy and snickering but declines to tell him what it is. He then takes out his camera (the one where you have to put in those negative films. Ah, those days…) and starts snapping several shots on Rika. Rika then notices several kids in their school uniforms and mentions how she has never been to school before. Thus Yuuichi requests from his childhood friend Miyuki Mizutani to bring him a pair of school girl uniform. It seems she already knows who Rika is because Yamanishi had been bragging how Yuuichi was so happy that he got a girlfriend. Haha. So the next day, Rika puts on the school uniform as Yuuichi pushes her on her wheelchair to school. Only thing is, they’re being escorted by Miyuki, Tsukasa and Yamanishi. Can they just enter school like that? Heck, don’t mind the minor details. In school, the gang are being spotted by the disciplinary teacher and had to run for their lives. Yuuichi trips and tells the rest of them to go ahead. Zebra Mask then appears to wrestle him. It was pretty lame of him trying to change his voice into a girly squeaky one so that the teacher wouldn’t recognize him.
 
Miyuki and Rika has gotten away and Rika says that she intend to go see that teacher because she thinks this isn’t Yuuichi’s fault and doesn’t want him to get blamed. As the duo move along, Rika tells Miyuki of her condition and Miyuki tells more about Yuuichi’s past like how he’s quite attached to his dad. Then Rika requests to enter a nearby empty classroom. Miyuki asks if she’s afraid to die and Rika’s reply was initially she wasn’t but now she feels a little so as she quoted some lines from the books she has read. The guys then found them and are glad they’re okay. As for the disciplinary teacher, he’s been knocked out after Zebra Mask did some super submission move on him.
 
Back at the hospital, Akiko punishes Yuuichi for bringing Rika out, which caused a little commotion at the hospital. Yeah, she thinks Yuuichi has eloped with her. Say, that wasn’t such a bad idea, now is it? Rika too feels that she’s responsible as she joins Yuuichi in his punishment. An elderly patient then takes a photo of them at their request. Later on the rooftop, Rika gives Yuuichi another book to read but tells him not read it until she tells him to. Rika then wanted to tell Yuuichi something but before she could speak a word, she suddenly collapses, leaving Yuuichi in shock.
 
Episode 5
Rika is being rushed into the emergency room and though her relapse was a little more serious, at least she is safe for now. Although Rika is to have no visitors while she recuperates in her room, Akiko allows Yuuichi to have a quick visit. It’s against the hospital rules and Akiko is sticking her neck out for it, so he’d better make good use of this 1 minute. Meanwhile Natsume is having a flashback of his own as he looks at his lighter with a crescent moon and cat silhouette etched on it. He remembers how his late wife Sayoko had the same condition. She collapsed while talking to him on the phone and had undergone some surgery. However, she died from it.
 
That night, Yuuichi again sneaks out from hospital but Misako spots him and picks him up back to her apartment. At the same time, Akiko and Natsume are having an argument and could’ve turned ugly if not for a colleague nurse of theirs who showed up. She then informs how she may have mistakenly spot Yuuichi being picked up by a female driver in a foreign car. Akiko suspects something amiss. Back at Misako’s place, as she tells Yuuichi how she was doing a modelling job in Tokyo but returned to care for her sick dad, but it seems she was just seducing him. Yeah, another lonely soul. Yeow! She’s so hot, stripping herself down to her undies! I’m not sure if Yuuichi is mesmerized and ‘paralyzed’ by her super sexiness because she’s on top of him caressing him or rather he’s got too much on his mind, confused and thinking about Rika to know what’s really going on. I think I’ll stick with the former. Which guy could resist such tasty opportunity. Oops. Sorry. However before things could get any hotter, Akiko is ringing the doorbell like crazy. Why oh why didn’t just Yuuichi ignore the doorbell and continue this blissful experience as Misako suggested? Once he opens the door, he gets beaten up by Akiko (Natsume’s there too). He prefers familiar pain to uncharted pleasure? But Akiko too gives Misako a punch in her face. While Akiko furiously drives Yuuichi back with Natsume, Misako is seen laughing-cum-crying like a mad woman, sitting alone in her room. Natsume remembers he too has an affair while he was married.
 
The next day, Yuuichi goes to talk with Natsume and finds him doing some stitching work as his finger practice for his surgery on Rika, who decides to live. Natsume then notices Yuuichi’s camera in which he has put the negative films in wrongly. Which means all those photo shots he took of Rika were naught. Later Miyuki comes by to give Yuuichi her school uniform for Rika. Yuuichi gives the uniform to Rika, delighting her as she asks for the photos that he has taken. However he tells her that he hasn’t developed them yet so she says she’ll see them after the surgery. Rika also gives Yuuichi her permission to read the book.
 
Rika’s operation starts as her mom and Yuuichi anxiously wait outside the operating room. As Yuuichi sat by the corner, Akiko comes to sit with him and apologizes for stealing a picture from his photo album while they were at his home. It was a picture of young Yuuichi clinging on to his dad’s leg. A picture which Rika found quite funny and amusing (the reason why Rika was happy and snickering in the previous episode) so she puts the photo on her leg as a lucky charm. After Akiko leaves, Yuuichi starts reading the book and realizes the last line "At the risk of my life, I will be yours" and that author’s name initial has been crossed out and written with R. He breaks into tears again. Once the surgery is over, Natsume emerges from the room as Yuuichi wants to know the outcome. From the way he said things, it looks pretty grim. Rika’s in a fragile state now as her body is too weak in the first place. A surgeon’s nightmare, it’s like trying to thread a tofu, just to quote him. He then says how this will probably be the worst ending for him. Gasp!
 
Episode 6
Well, apparently that cliff-hanger was just what Natsume would fear happen if she goes into another operation the next time. For now, Rika’s operation was a success and though in stable condition, she may not be so when the next operation comes around. Phew. Is he trying to scare that kid? When Yuuichi asks by what he meant by the worst ending, Natsume says he’ll soon find out. As Yuuichi walks away, he meets with Akiko who tells him that he has to do his best on his redo test as Rika too is doing her best. When Akiko mentions if he knows about it yet, Yuuichi is at a lost, so she just tells him to go back to his room instead. At the rooftop, Yuuichi once again asks Natsume what did he meant about the worst ending and this time his reply is that he will always be here. Furthermore, Natsume can’t go into details of how Rika’s operation went because since Yuuichi’s not her family member, Natsume has to strictly keep with the confidentiality issues.
 
Later Akiko confronts Natsume and chides him for not telling Yuuichi the truth and even threatens to expose his drinking ways or patient beating time which will eventually get him fired. But Natsume is unfazed and tells her to do what she wants. Akiko blows her top and wonders why he can’t think from their perspeective when he replies how the situation is different now as Rika’s mom has made a request. Later Natsume talks to Yuuichi about this saying how even though Rika’s condition is stable and will be observed from her room, Yuuichi is prohibited from going near the East Wing to see her because her mom is angry about him bringing a patient who could relapse at any moment out of the hospital. If he ever do so, Yuuichi will be forced out of hospital. Yuuichi has no choice but to agree. Later when Miyuki helps Yuuichi to study in his room and pesters him about details about Rika’s operation, he just tells her to shut up.
 
That night Akiko once again comes to talk to Natsume and the latter says how he had lied. He then proceeds to tell her a long boring story of his old friend. Actually he is just telling about himself and his late wife’s case. He’s relating how Rika’s case is pretty much similar to his late wife. Natsume is implying how he threw away all the things in life like his career and promotion just to be with a girl who just has a short time to live even if he honestly chose her. And that is what Natsume meant by the worst ending. Unknown to them, Yuuichi has eavesdropped on their conversation. Back in his room, Yuuichi feels devastated but soon has his eyes opened when he saw the recent book Rika gave him to read and is determined. That night, with the help of Miyuki, Yamanishi and Tsukasa, Yuuichi is going to do a dangerous mission impossible. I guess since he can’t enter through the door, he’s going to try the window. With a string tied to his waist, Yuuichi uses his momentum to try and swing himself to the East Wing’s ledge. He looks like a human pendulum. Unfortunately the screw on the wall loose and it could’ve been another deja vu if not for Zebra Mask (now we know why he wears a mask because he has a relative working here and it would be bad if she ever found out). Zebra Mask tells Yamanishi to reach for his handphone in his pocket to make an important call.
 
While Yuuichi’s life (in both sense) is hanging in the balance, he gets visions and encouragements from Tada, his dad and the recent conversation with Natsume about enduring the harsh realities of life. Yuuichi gets his confidence once more and herald the appearance of Zebra Mask the Second?! Well, he’s Tsukasa’s elder brother and after hearing his story, he decides to help him out. Yuuichi manages to get over to the ledge and tiptoe just outside Rika’s window. However Rika’s mom isn’t amused of what he is doing and tells him to go away even if Yuuichi still persists on seeing Rika. Rika then allows Yuuichi to come in. As the duo had a heart to heart talk, Yuuichi asks if he could be by her side even if he understands that her time is short and he has to throw everything away for her sake. Yuuichi says how they’ll always be together forever. I guess Rika’s mom has a change of heart after seeing his determination.
 
Meanwhile Natsume continues his story with Akiko. He’s saying how he gave up his promotion just to be with his wife and now he has nothing and that Yuuichi is facing a similar road. Though Natsume’s speech seems pessimistic and gloomy, Akiko scoffs him off by saying that before Yuuichi appeared, Rika has never smiled and now she is happy. In short, make the most out of the short time one has. She finally tells him, is it the happiness of oneself or the happiness of the one you love which is more important, before going out for a smoke. Yuuichi’s narration, "At the moment, a half silver moon is hanging up in the sky. Even though it’s not as bright as a full moon, the world has dissolved into the colour of light. But it still uses its own light to brighten the world". As the credits roll, we see how Natsume possibly had lied about Yuuichi putting the camera film in the wrong way, Rika’s mom apologizing to Yuuichi and Akiko smoking in her car. Finally as Yuuichi and Rika overlook the town on Mt Houdai, he tells her how he’ll definitely be with her, she says how this is the second time he said this to her. The first one was when they were last time here. After they both share a laughter, it’s followed by a kiss.
 
Looking up the sunny sky
What a happy ending to a seemingly gloomy setting and all. So you see, even in hospitals, ICUs and emergency wards, love can really blossom. Even though Rika’s future isn’t a bright one and all results have indicated she would ever live longer than expected, the most important thing here is to live your life to the fullest. I mean, her life is so short and she can’t spend her remaining time worrying about it, right? She found that in Yuuichi. Good that he’s willing to be by her side. It gives her a whole new meaning to the phrase "Till death do us part".
 
At the end of the series, we see Akiko not abusing Yuuichi anymore and acting like a real nurse. Perhaps she has seen how that kid has matured and decided to stop giving him a hard time. As for Natsume, being Rika’s doctor for nearly her entire life, I’m sure there’s some sort of attachment. But just like Akiko said, old buggers like them can only watch those young ones from afar. I feel some of the other characters didn’t have a major impact in this short series like Misako’s. After she got slapped by Akiko, what happened to her? Was her role just to provide a little fanservice to viewers? After all, it’s mainly between Yuuichi and Rika.
 
Mikako Takahashi’s voice fits Rika as she does make her character sound like an ailing one. Her other previous roles include Machi in Nagasarete Airantou and Rushuna in Grenedier. Other seiyuus include Kenichi Suzumura as Yuuichi (Sougo in Gintama, Junpei in Ichigo 100%), Hiroaki Hirata as Natsume (Sanji in One Piece, Xavi of DearS), and Yuki Kodaira as Akiko. The opening theme, Aoi Kofuko sounds like a country pop song as it reminded me of that ending theme of You’re Under Arrest 2, Blooming Days. The ending theme, Kioku No Kakera is a much slower ballad. Both themes are sung by Nobuko. I’m wondering about that final picture in the ending credits animation, whereby Yuuichi and Rika are in their wedding clothes with their buddies. Hopefully Rika will live long for that to be realized.
 
If you’re a fan of classic novels, I’m sure you can spot a few which Rika reads such as Night Of The Galactic Railroad and Les Thibault. But you know me, since I’m not a bookworm, I don’t really know them at all. Heck, I don’t even read manga. There is also a live drama adaptation of the series containing 13 episodes but I’m not so interested because I only watch animes ;p. So it only makes us realize and open our eyes with life-threatening situations or near-death experiences. Besides, we’re all just temporary tenants on this planet. Why do I sound so gloomy? Get out there, take a deep breath and feel the sun in your face!
 

Hanbun No Tsuki Ga Noboru Sora