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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Final Thoughts: Tsukihime Lunar Legend

Above: I Can't Believe My 900-Year-Old Vampire
Girlfriend Can Be This Cute!!
Tsukihime Lunar Legend/真月譚 月姫: Shiki Tohno sustained a life threatening injury as a child, and due to that incident he was sent away from the Tohno household and was given to a relative to be raised. Years later, when Shiki is in high school, the head of the Tohno household—his father—dies, and he is ordered to move back in by his sister Akiha, who is the new head of the household. However, Shiki holds a huge secret. Ever since that injury, he has been seeing lines on objects, and only with a special pair of glasses is he able to stop seeing them. (Source: ANN)
Spoilers for the entire Tsukihime anime. No manga or visual novel spoilers.
I called Tsukihime's anime adaptation a Type-Moon primer, which still holds true, but after finishing all twelve episodes, it's clear that the title is also a primer for the original visual novel it is based on. I have so many questions about the obscure points of Tsukihime that I'm yearning to play the VN or at least read the manga, which must go further in depth with its ten volumes than a 12-part series ever could.

Tsukihime starts off as a straightforward supernatural/horror anime but throws so many kinks into the works with every episode that by the end, it's no surprise that even what we've taken for granted in the story is a lie or half-truth. That includes the Tohno lineage and Shiki's own identity, something I would have never cast into doubt until Shiki stumbled across the cage in the basement and the blood-red writing on the stone walls.
Like Type-Moon's later work, Fate/Stay Night, the Tsukihime story is obsessed with destiny and familial duty. It is Ciel's destiny to forever hunt down Roa and kill him before slipping back into the rebirth cycle. It is Akiha's duty to keep the Tohno bloodline alive and her maids' duties to keep her strong blood under control. It is Arcueid's fate to awaken long enough to carry out her latest job before falling asleep, never allowing time to become an actual member of society or form a bond with a human being. Almost every main character is beholden to some calling or duty that is beyond their control, strung up by the invisible hands of fate and caught in a cycle of life and death.
Yeah, I wouldn't heavily advertise "ex-Roa" either, Ciel.
Although, after finishing Tsukihime, it seems like the only person not 100% bonded to a higher duty or destiny is Shiki. From being a part of the Tohno family to receiving his own powers, it all seems like he stumbled into what makes him special. It's surviving a brutal slaughter of his family that leads him to the Tohnos and becoming adopted. It's being a Tohno that led to his injury and his inheritance of his line sight.
His living led to him becoming a bearer of the Mystic Eyes—it's not his blood, it wasn't a mission or a calling, it's all because the original Shiki got pissed and attacked him. Compared to the stories of Akiha and Arcueid, his origins seem underwhelming. However, once he realizes that his Mystic Eyes are useful and that his power can and should be controlled to do good, he becomes a force in his own right. Shiki's narrative says "screw destiny, you make yourself the hero you've always needed, even if it means tackling the same fears you've had since childhood".
In which being a knife-wielding death eyed broody teenager with a
vampire girlfriend becomes exhausting.
Actually, it's kind of hilarious in a terrible way that the first person Shiki uses his Mystic Eyes/knife skills on is Arcueid, who cannot die, and ends up becoming his lover. Like, in the big never-ending book of weird ways to meet your significant other, killing them, becoming their servant and then eventually making love to their reformed body really tops all.
By series' end, questions about Shiki's abilities and Arcueid's life have been answered, as well as the main mysteries of the Tohno bloodline and Ciel's story, but a lot of the answers seem flat. The bit with Arcueid as a princess and Roa as her murderer—okay, but why? Why did it happen? How did Arcueid become the White Princess? How did Roa come into contact with her if he is a Dead Apostle? Why didn't we go further in depth with Ciel—being an ex-incarnation of Roa is kind of a big deal! Same with Akiha's non-human blood!
"I'm a monster!" Akiha, your hair changes color and you drink
blood. You're the tamest person on the show.
That's the problem with the Tsukihime anime. As an introduction to the visual novel, which apparently goes more into depth with the Tohno household and Shiki's powers, it makes the viewer curious but maybe not enough to pursuit more information. It also doesn't help that neither Manga Gamer or JAST carry an English language translation of the visual novel (and a cursory glance at torrent sites reveal not many VN pirates have it online either).
As a stand-alone series, Tsukihime is not bad. It starts with simple goals – solving the town's rash of murders, exploring the identity of Arcueid and the abilities of Shiki – and ends up handily solving them while delving into some additional mysteries, such as Ciel and the Tohno family and Roa. But in the context of the greater Tsukihime/Type-Moon canon, it's more Spark Notes than proper adaptation. Luckily, it's only twelve episodes so the time investment required is short lived.
Killing off Arcueid at the end to fuel Shiki's manpain and push him to use his abilities, though? And then having her ghost/spirit/whatever see Shiki off? I could have done without it. I'm hoping this is an anime-exclusive twist. Don't tell me if I'm wrong!
Now go and watch the new Fate/Stay Night anime and tell me how much Saber is in it.