Anime Review: Tsukihime (2003)
Thus far, the three shows in the Type-Moon universe that I’ve covered: Fate/Stay Night (F/SN), Fate/Zero, and Unlimited Blade Works (UBW) have been two-cour shows – spending 24 episodes to tell their story. In the case of F/SN and UBW, they have each adapted one route from the first Fate game – with the former title dropping a few elements of UBW in to give Rider a little screen time. However, Fate was not Type-Moon’s first game. Before this came Tsukihime, which set up elements that came up later in F/SN and Fate/Zero, and it too received an anime adaptation, one that came out prior to the release of F/SN – and with only a single cour (12 episodes). The question then becomes, how well can it tell its story in half the length?
The answer is… not as well. The show follows Shiki Tohno, a young man who was nearly killed in a traumatic car accident 8 years prior to the start of the series. That accident damaged his memory, and left him with the ability to see lines at which things will break when they die or are destroyed, and with it nexuses that can be struck to break things. To avoid being driven mad by these lines, he’s received special magic glasses from a mage that will repress this ability. Also following this accident, Shiki moved in with his aunt and uncle instead of living at the main house.
Immediately prior to the start of the series, Shiki’s father dies, and his younger sister and the current head of the family, Akiha, has him move back into the main house. While settling in to pace of life at the main house, he ends up discovering that families as old as his have some deep, dark secrets. Further, while all of this is going on, a vampire (or someone like a vampire, called a Dead Apostle) is attacking people through the town, and Shiki ends up joining forces with an attractive female semi-vampire named Arcueid (Arc for short), to find this vampire.
So, if that sounds super-cluttered, that’s because it is. The game this show is adapting has not 3 routes, like Fate, but five. There are three for the Tohno household – Akiha, and the family’s two maids Hisui and Kohaku – and two for Arc and Shiki’s classmate Ciel. The household and external routes interact some, but not entirely, with Arc not showing up in some routes entirely.
The show takes the decision to basically mash most of these routes together, so the important story mysteries get covered – Arc’s hunt for the vampire, and Shiki’s investigation of the history of his family. On the one hand, this leads to most of the loose ends getting tied up. However, because the show only has 12 episodes to tell its story in, nothing is tied up satisfactorily.
This also hurts characterization, which is curtailed, meaning that a lot of characters don’t get the development they need to be fleshed out for the audience. Further, while I can’t speak for the game, the need to focus so strongly on the story means that there barely any humor in this show. Even the most dark and dour of the Fate series, Fate/Zero, had some very funny moments. Here, moments of levity are few and far between.
To the show’s credit, the other Fate series covered over any sense of sex or sexuality related to the characters. Here, while we don’t get any sort of involved sex scene, the romantic relationship we see in this show doesn’t feel like it has to keep it chaste, something that even fanservice-heavy romantic comedy series like To-Love-RU feel like they have to do. I really appreciate that, and it gives the story a sense that it handles sexuality in an actually mature fashion.
There are rumors that the visual novel that the show is based on is due for a remake with some updated graphics and an added route. Watching the show, I get the feeling that this anime would almost merit from a re-make more. Type-Moon’s universe has established itself considerably more as a successful franchise, so hopefully a new series would get the runtime it needs to tell its story well.