Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Lunar Legend Tsukihime (Shingetsutan Tsukihime)

Genre: Action / Fantasy
General Audience
2003 Sukarabi Katsushi, J.C. Staff

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Tsumenki's Description:
Tohno Shiki returns to his ancestral home after a mysterious accident leaves him with the vaguest of memories. All he is certain of is that he can see ominous crimson lines running through objects and people everywhere, and when he cuts them with his knife, he brings their destruction. On the first afternoon after his return, he meets Arcueid Brunested on the street and kills her. After that, his life will never be the same.

(12 Episodes)

Saving the world and other useless things. >>> by Tsumenki (03.17.2004)
A boy with almost no memories of the past. A host of girls flocking to him, including (gasp!) his sister. But before you can shout “Kanon!” you’ll have to remind yourself that this is an entirely different kind of anime, filled with murder and revenge and vampires and other creatures that walk the night. Dark. Heavy. Mysterious. And did I say dark?

Shingetsutan’s art is consistently clean and polished. The characters move with an elegant grace, even during confrontations and action sequences. The visuals are gorgeous to look at, and they serve their part in strengthening the solemn mood that the storyline establishes.

The background music is impressive. The opening theme is a short yet striking piano piece that underscores the visuals it accompanies. For the most part, Shingetsutan does well with using music to highlight the mood. Unfortunately, there is a particular melody that gets played in important fight scenes that absolutely does nothing to heighten the tension. But that’s just a minor complaint, since I was only truly aware of it twice in twelve episodes.

What I like most about the series are the characters. Shiki’s past is intriguing, but viewers barely have time to hypothesize on what had happened to him when they are treated to Arcueid’s dramatic entrance into his life. Arcueid is the moon’s White Princess, a vampire who refuses to drink blood and is out to hunt the virtually indestructible Roa. It’s hard to talk about Shingetsutan’s plot without giving away too much of its mysteries, but suffice to say, it’s riveting enough. The story progresses at a steady pace, but I didn’t find it dragging because it kept revealing secrets with every turn. In the end, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but in essence, the story is able to tie up the ends of its most basic plotline.

At first glance, Shiki (voiced by Suzumura Kenichi) seems like your typical male anime character, kind and honest and clueless in all of his bespectacled glory. But upon closer scrutiny, we find that unlike those previously mentioned anime males, he does not just let things happen to him. Instead, he takes an active part in uncovering his past and working to make amends -- a motivation that goes beyond innate goodness.

So maybe his motivation is the enigmatic Arcueid Brunested (voiced by Nabatame Hitomi), alternately moody and free-spirited. But so what? It’s easy to see why Shiki is drawn to Arcueid. She is a girl you’d want to protect, even though she probably has enough powers to protect you from this life until the next. Despite its unlikely plot, the series uses Arcueid to drive home a very important point: despite our short lives, we insist on spending time on things that seem to be useless. But because we are alive, because we are free, these things lose their insignificance and may even become the most important things of all.

Individual Rating: Art: 9; Story 9; Characters: 9; Sounds: 9

SWonderfully human. >>> by Shunichi Sakurai (08.19.2005)
Well this was intriguing. I haven't seen too many other vampire-related anime, but Tsukihime certainly is a different take on the genre.

One point of interest is that this started out as a popular bishoujo dating game, released in 2000 by a group called TYPE-MOON (yes, it was hentai in the first place), and the production staff were challenged to keep the feel of the original. Do some research and you'll find out Tsukihime the game spawned a pseudo-sequel and a fighting game called "Melty Blood." Again, not many outside Japan have played the game due to its length--it would have been hell to translate or localize--but all the important b-game cues are there, such as the dark, restrained visual stylization and the very atmospheric, moody piano/violin music, which is an achievement in my book.

The focus of the story is within Arcueid. She is a vampire that bends all the usual conventions--she's out in the mornings, eats hamburgers, has a penchant for "what-if" scenarios and says she hates blood. Most significantly, Arc is depicted as a very human vampire. Her "dates" with Shiki have made her appreciate her 800-year-old life and led her beyond simple existence, driven by her newfound curiosity for human culture. Vampires being what they are, however, she also poses an undeniable threat to Shiki's life.

Shiki is tasked to become Arc's shield after severely wounding her. He assists her in her mission to destroy the vagrant fallen vampire Roa. The events unfolding around him lead to his closer collaboration with his new vampire friend, and in typical anime fashion they reveal that those around him aren't as they appear, such as his friends, his immediate family and himself.

Overall, I fell in love with Shingetsutan Tsukihime. I love Arcueid, I love the events behind Shiki's true identity, and the b-game stylization wins my approval. The only flaw I see is that it's more interesting in its presentation than it is in terms of plot. Like many anime that started life as something else, I've heard there was a fair bit that got lost in the adaptation, particularly many of the elements that made up Tsukihime's alternate story arcs in the game. Get beneath the slick presentation and the pretenses of the anime's story and you'll see it's all very simple.

I'm not complaining. I now want more Tsukihime: I'd be willing to shell out the cash if the bishoujo game ever gets an English adaptation. Until then, this good-as-PG anime will fit the bill nicely.

Individual Rating: Art: 8; Story 9; Characters: 9; Sounds: 9

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