Lunar Legend Tsukihime
After being gravely injured in a car accident, young Shiki gains the ability to see strange lines on the people and objects about him. A mysterious woman gives him a pair of glasses which suppress the lines to help him live a normal life and informs him to keep them until he needs to protect someone. Years later, Shiki is to move in with a sister he hasn't seen since the accident.
Discomfort with his new living situation is perhaps the least of his worries though. Strange murders have the town in the grip of fear and Shiki himself is plagued by a strange nightmare relating to a beautiful blonde woman. When he encounters the woman, she has more than a few surprises to tell him. She claims that Shiki killed her. If that wasn't shocking enough, she also reveals that she is a vampire.
Dark forces are stalking the night of Shiki's city and soon he finds himself dragged into the center of it all as the truth behind his strange childhood ability is revealed to him. All the while he is still not sure if the mysterious vampire, Arcueid Brunestud, is a friend or foe.
The opening episode of Tsukihime had me very intrigued. It set up some of the background, provided plenty of mysteries to hook the viewer, and was done in a style that really communicated some of Shiki's fear and confusion. The opening sequence and music is wonderfully evocative and I ended up having high expectations. I must admit I'm a bit disappointed. It isn't that Tsukihime is a bad show, rather, that from the opening few episodes, I honestly thought it was going to end up considerably more impressive.
Overall, the plot is rather intriguing. As I noted earlier, in the beginning there are a number of mysteries hinted at both regarding Shiki's background and the motivations of several of the people (and beings) that he associates with. Many people around him seem to be much more than they appear at first. As each episode proceeds, the show did a good job of helping to reveal small clues and pieces of information to help keep me intrigued.
About half way through, though, I realized that something just wasn't right. There were the mysteries, but given that they had already introduced some major supernatural elements, the plot flow felt somewhat stifled. As one of my fellow THEM reviewers put it: "It seems like this show might get good at any moment now." The mystery elements and plot hints were helping to heighten expectations but it felt a bit like they were just stalling.
Once the main plot really does begin to start flowing a bit more readily, a lot of the dramatic tension and impact of several of the events is somewhat dampened by an awkward alternation between the main plot elements and certain aspects of the character development episodes. The romantic relationships between some of the main character start to, somewhat abruptly, take center stage and the episodes centered around such elements disrupted the overall plot flow. I felt they could have done a better job of smoothly integrating those aspects into the plot.
The reason behind this awkwardness probably stems from the heritage of this show. Tsukihime was based on an independently produced computer game that basically is a horror/mystery with hentai and dating sim elements. The game was very popular in Japan and the Type-Moon group has apparently produced a number of sequels (as the original game was an early work). With that background in mind, it is easy to see why the show ended up the way it did especially with the various mysterious attractive women around and somewhat awkwardly handled romantic issues. However, Tsukihime rather wisely keeps its romantic focus rather than falling into the trap of being a supernatural harem show.
Ultimately, the show just feels a bit underdeveloped. I felt somewhat ambivalent about the romance aspects. The characterization in the title contributed heavily to this. Though I could understand the motivations of the characters, they for the most part, seemed underdeveloped. The show also leaned a bit too heavily on exposition for explanation rather than actual character development. Development of the primary romance subplot seemed a bit artificial as well.
For all the built up mystery and atmosphere, when I finally got to the conclusion of the title it just didn't have as heavy an impact as I was expecting. The earlier noted awkward pacing weakened the tension and the final episode in some ways felt like a quick exercise in tying up loose ends. Without a deep investment in the characters, I ended up being a bit more apathetic.
I felt the character design and background work was fairly good. Though the first episode had a lot of creative visual pacing, from the second episode and continuing the show was a bit more standard in that regard. The animation itself is decent enough and for the most part serves its purpose. Most of the action scenes in this show were extremely brief. They aren't bad, but the rather basic nature of the encounters doesn't make them all that exciting either.
In terms of music, I was somewhat impressed by Tsukihime. While the string intensive orchestral soundtrack probably wouldn't be something that a person would want to necessarily listen by itself, it was integral in helping setting the setting the atmosphere of the show. I particularly liked their choral opening. This was definitely not the type of show where you would want to stick some random J-Pop song in as the opening theme.
Perhaps if I hadn't had such high expectations for this title I would not be as disappointed. Tsukihime, though somewhat entertaining and atmospheric, is a title that just doesn't fully maximize its potential.
Though the show did a fairly good job of generating atmosphere, awkward plot pacing in the latter half along with somewhat weak characterization take what could have been a great title and make it instead a simply average one. — Jeremy A Beard
Recommended Audience: Well, several people die in this title. Most of the violence tends to be rather brief. In the first few episodes there are supernatural beings that tend to just disappear when killed but things get a bit bloodier later on. Some of the most vicious wounding though is never shown directly. Later on, there is a implied sexual encounter though you are only show the couple together in bed right before with some brief kissing and right after, so this is far from hentai land. Overall, it is generally safe for teens and above.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Lunar Legend Tsukihime © 2003 JC Staff / MOVIC / TBS / Tsukihime Production Committee
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