First and foremost, I am aware that there is a huge Type-Moon universe surrounding the Shingetsutan Tsukihime franchise and that the anime supposedly only scratches its surface.
That said, I have yet to touch it in any fashion beyond its actual anime adaptation, and thus my opinions are solely reflective of my viewing experience and nothing more. Keeping my bias (to the fanboys) or lack thereof (to the non-fanboys) in mind, let me say this: Tsukihime is a decidedly average show that sits at the top of its class. While certainly having flaws, including customary pacing issues and a mediocre ending, the series manages to avoid becoming glaring or obtuse. The story begins simply enough when our local protagonist, a boy named Shiki, receives word of his father’s death. Having been separated from his family for eight years, he makes plans to return home, only to discover that a string of serial killings occur on the day of his move. As can be expected, he soon finds himself unwarily caught up in the events, which happen to include blood, gore, and pissed-off, sadistic vampires. Despite being slightly shaky in presentation, the introduction hints at twelve episodes of action-packed bliss, fronted nicely by Arcuied, Shiki’s badass-but-beautiful companion, through the course of all the mayhem.
Unfortunately for the action and horror fans in crowd, this notion dissipates rather quickly. While the hunt for the ravaging vampire remains the series’ central premise, the majority of Tsukihime is devoted to the telling of Shiki’s story by means of tense drama and angst. Surprisingly, the story transitions smoothly from thrills to theatrics, and forgoes superfluous fluff by sticking with a perpetual air of solemnity. Though the content makes an abrupt shift, both the mood and presentation do not, and as a result they provide the story with a general taste of coherency. Indeed, the series juggles an intriguing cast of characters quite well for the span of its routine, and strings out tinges of mystery and intrigue to bait the viewer through all twelve episodes without much difficulty. While the world itself ends up being rather blithe and uninspired, watching the characters quip and spar with one another largely makes up for this flaw, and leads to an overall positive experience.
Yet, just when Tsukihime appears to hit its peak, it stumbles over itself amidst its attempts to sprint back to an action-packed climax. While for a raw action sequence the ending is certainly tolerable, it fails every major aspect of the show; with no emphasis on prior drama, mystery, or suspense , it limps along and ultimately thuds. The characters hit a sudden pinnacle where they no longer seem to have depth, and aside from a single major plot twist, none of the auxiliary parts of the story are given any closure. This is largely caused by the primary villain making his debut on a rather strange whim, and the story tries to quickly explain his importance by attempting a bit of world building. Given that his presence in the show has but menial importance up until this point, this results in hackneyed dramatic closure for the protagonist cast and results in a strong sense of incompleteness. While perhaps not a deal breaker, in terms of raw enjoyment it substantially dulls Tsukihime’s final impact; the ending sensation is one of remarkable emptiness.
For a production now six years old, Tsukihime's animation has aged remarkably well. Whine as I may about the ending sequence, each of its handful of action scenes bear no half-assed quality about them, and all are remarkably crisp and fluid. Though a few clips such as Ciel's exit sequence suffer from a painfully low frame count, they tend to be outliers, as the clear majority of scenes look splendid. Even down to such subtleties as the choosing of a color palette, detail and rigor pervade every aesthetic decision, and heavily contribute to the sense of atmospheric solemnity. This results in Tsukihime looking much the way it feels, which adds substantially to its enjoyment factor.
Total sucker that I am for pipe organs, violins, and Gothic hymnal voices, Tsukihime's musical score was a treat; not only did the soundtrack have appeal on a surface level, but it fit the anime remarkably well. Despite dabbling in an urban setting, the series' vampiric themes play much more to a traditional medieval tune, and the music takes this notion heavily into consideration. Combined with commendable voice acting, the music works well in weaving a perpetual air of mystery and secrecy. Even during its more jovial moments Tsukihime remains true to its roots, and, in echoing the animation, feels much the way it sounds.
Though not entirely flawless in their presentation, Tsukihime's entourage of characters are undeniably solid. While most anime forego intelligent male leads for fan base appeal, Shiki most certainly bucks the trend. Not only is his ability with a dagger the embodiment of "completely badass," but it is incorporated into his character with a great deal of finesse. While special powers often seem a tacked-on afterthought to the common-high-school-guy-meets-action-fighting-etc persona, Shiki's feels very natural to his both his design and his personality. He remains loyal to his calm, collected persona without much variation, and cedes the notion of impudent heroism for a much more pragmatic world view. This same functionality appears in Ciel, Arcuied, Akiha, and the other primary characters as well, and results in a smooth, natural interplay between a number of brazenly distinct personalities.
One of my major gripes, however, is that the antagonists are not lavished with any such similar treatment. For a supposed vampire lord, Roa is frightfully generic, and seems to exist solely for the sake of creating a common enemy between the protagonist cast. Despite the series spending an intrusive amount of time trying to explain his motivations toward the end, they never get much beyond the manner of "just because." His so-called malicious minions come close to touching on monster-of-the-day triviality on an annoying number of occasions, and their presence borders on random in nature; they tend to come and go in a rather inexplicable fashion, and sap precious time that could have been used to flesh out a much more coherent ending.
All in all, Tsukihime is a worthwhile watch in lieu of its problems. Keeping in mind that it could have used some work on a number of levels, its overall presentation is one of positive flair. Even so, action fans should be wary of jumping into the anime forthright; if you dislike long periods of characterization and drama, turning your attention elsewhere might be best. Still, for those like myself who can appreciate a good balance, the anime possesses enough quality to justify a once-through.
With a past shrouded in mystery and a blank memory, Shiki Tohno seems to be just another "average high school student". That is, until he nearly kills a female vampire with his secret deadly ability to "see the lines". His journey to unlock the secrets of the Tohno family and unbury his own lost memories has only just begun, and now he must also help the woman, Arcueid Brunestud, find a lethal phantom named Roa, and kill it using his ability.
Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!