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.
Disclaimer: This is the first interaction I've had with this anime's universe, so I will be slightly ignorant to all Light novels, games, and manga associated.
Story: 5/10 - Without having a whole lot of background, the story is rather bland. I'm pretty sure I passed out during one of the episodes and my drooling snores were probably more entertaining. The only reason the story got 5 points was because there was a running plot throughout the anime. It was at least somewhat followable, but there was nothing to attract a viewer to the storyline at all. Even the big plot twist was bland.
Animation: 8/10 - For an anime that is now 10+ years old, the animation holds up rather well by today's standards. It looses points for using rather bland backdrops, and the kind of stupid ending sequence, however. Still, the lines are crisp, the color is good, it just needed something more...edgy, I felt.
Sound 8/10 - The opening sequence was pretty interesting. And again, for being 10+ years old, the sound quality is pretty decent. Would I recommend the english dub? No, the voices were dull and lifeless. I switched back to the Japanese sub about episode 3, and that was a little better.
Character 3/10 - Where this anime really falls apart is the characters. I don't think the animators know what emotion is. I've seen better facial expressions in department store mannequins. And the backstories for all the main cast are given in such small snip its that they might as well not exist at all. I'm assuming this is because J.C.Staff wrote the anime knowing that their target audience would have played the video games and read the source material. Which means poor plebes like me need to find the manga at the very least to understand the characters.
Pictured: Yumitsuka's surprised/concerned/aroused/any_other_expression face.
Overall 6/10 - Tsukihime, I wanted to like you, but I couldn't. The storyline was bland and the characters were dull. The animation was pretty, and I'll probably remember the opening theme for a while, but that's about it. They can make the package look nice, but the anime was still crap.
Lunar Legend Tsukihime is a Seinen anime about vampires with aspects of mystery, set in the modern day Japan. To start, all I knew about this anime, was that the same people who made Fate: Stay Night made this one and I love the Fate series. It was fairly satisfying, especially on the mystery and story fronts which I was worried would be bad, since a few people were complaining about it. By all means, watch and enjoy this short anime series.
The animation was done fairly well for a 2003 anime and had that familar style from Fate: Stay Night. No particularly amazing or unique shots I remember, but it didn't really need anything extra. I'm surprised there isn't a HD version of this. No iffy content, but there is some blood, which would be better if it had some proper gore to help the immersion and design. No real complaints about anything here, except for the obvious age design that plagues many anime, more on this in the character section. Sound was fairly OK. It could have had more of a horror aspect if they used better sound design and that wouldn't have been a bad thing. The theme tune and soundtrack felt a bit cheesy at times and they weren't so amazing that it would make me get the soundtrack.
The main character is Shiki Tohno, a highschool student with a mysterious past. Especially in that he has trouble remembering things. He wears glasses though there seems to be a reason for this: he can see lines on everything with his eyes and the glasses prevent him from seeing them. He seems to have a nice looking switchknife, which is also significant. At the start of this story he moves back into the family mansion after having lived with his uncle's family, due to a traffic accident he had when he was younger. He has reasons to dislike his father who sent him away after the accident, claiming it was an excuse to get rid of him.
Akiha Tohno is Shiki's younger sister. And here is where the anime messes up with the age, though perhaps on purpose? Akiha looks, sounds and behaves like someone much older, than her older brother, so much so that I thought she was his mother at times. It's probably due to her high class upbringing though and later on she starts acts like a girl her age in certain instances. I.e. she doesn't get along with Ceil or Arcueid. One of many mysteries presented at the start, is that Akiha was made head of the family by her father and is the master of the mansion she lives in. Despite Shiki being the older sibling. She appears to worry about her brother a lot (brother complex?) and is apparently tsundere (according to character bio on Anime Planet)? No, I have to disagree on that one, though it may be referring to the fact that she is hiding something from her brother.
Arcueid Brunstud is an 800 year old vampire who is immortalised in the form of a young girl. She appears to be very beautiful, resulting in getting stares from random people *facepalm* and oddly enough for a vampire, she hates blood and is never seen to drink it. She seems to enjoy doing 'pointless' things, like going on dates, watching movies and working to earn money. In other words she enjoys life (how is that pointless!?). She doesn't seem to have any special vampire powers and unlike the stories, she can deal with daylight fine and I bet she wouldn't mind garlic either. A unique take on vampires it seems, oh and of course the plot of this anime kinda revolves around her.
Ceil is a mysterious high school student, who Shiki can't quite seem to remember. She has glasses and appears to be a secret nun of sorts? She plays a major role in the story.
The other characters are minor characters, there are twin maids in the slightly creepy Tohno mansion and Shiki's schoolmate Satsuki Yumizaka appears to have a crush on him. I didn't like the red haired mage, for story reasons (didn't make sense to me).
The story is why one would enjoy this anime. It's a mature story, deserving of the seinen tag, so don't expect much bullshit like anime tropes too much. It has many mysteries presented at the start and in the early episodes, which, I'm glad to say, are looked into. Progression may be a bit slow to get to the main overarcing plot, but it's all good nonetheless, despit one filler episode, which still manages to sneak in some story. It gets a bit iffy at times and while the ending was decent it was still a bit iffy and one could argue there are a few loose ends/unexplained things.
Overall, a worthwhile 12 episode anime. I've heard from some it doesn't do the manga justice, but I don't read manga and I criticise anime on their own two feet. It doesn't matter how good or bad, the manga is, it doesn't directly affect how good an anime is. You can get a terrible anime based on a decent mage and vice versa. I wouldn't recommend this anime for very young viewers, due to the more mature story and themes of this anime. A unique take on vampires with a gripping mystery story. Though that might just be because I like a plot with good mysteries.
Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 Blood and mature themes (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8.5 (higher is better)
Don't get me wrong. I love Tsukihime. It's just that I love the VN and not so much the anime. Tsukihime as a VN was deep and had several layers of story that all combined to make one of my favorite pieces of art. The problem with this anime is that it only scratches the surface. It's understandable. I'm sure it would be difficult to capture every aspect of the games many story arcs and throw them into a few episodes of a linear anime, but it doesn't change the fact that this anime does not do the real story justice. As far as animes go, it's decent and watchable. It will just never compare to it's VN counterpart.
As an anime, this series leaves alot to be desired. It starts out murky, confusing, muddled, and yet as the story progresses, the poor viewer is not provided with any significant answers. I was about as puzzled by the end as I was at the beginning. At first the show has promise, unfortunately that promise is never delivered. While it is ok to foreshadow and lead your intended audience into some sort of mystery, it is not ok to keep them hanging indefinitely or to provide foreshadowing of events or circumstances that never unveil themselves in the story. I got the impression that a driving in the dark without headlights on is more in depth and revealing than this entire series. We see a as usual in most anime, high school student, thrown into the paranormal, but oddly enough his mind seems befuddled. Throughout the entire series until near or at the end, he frequently stares in to empty space or appears to blank out. When inquired about himself by friends or family, he all to often provides lackluster responses if any, as if he has no idea what is going on in life at all. It is perhaps ironic, that the series follows this bewildered mind in tone and itself is also as foggy as the absent minded professor's head. There are hints about what is going on or what has happened but they are soo fuzzy, I never really got a grasp of what exactly the story was truly about and the ending was no more enlightenging than the very first episode.
If the creators of this show were to attend an average English composition class or creative writing class, I can not help but conclude, they would fail miserably. I see this quite often in anime, or more appropriately, I should say at least in the common run of the mill bad anime which, sadly like Hollywood, overwhelms the glimpses of good anime but a tremendous margin. It had its moments to be sure that teased the viewer that time invested in this story might actually pay off but that is all. I was dissappointed by the lack of support character involvement and development because like the foreshadowing suggests, they should have played larger roles. It is never quite clear either why exactly the princess thought it prudent to confront someone who attacked her and more so why exactly he attacked her in the first place. I got the feeling it had something to do with his past or his genetics but nothing is ever solidly revealed on either front there. So I have no concrete conclusion to offer or understand about the story or its connection to his actions against her. There is only one breif word ever even offered about his actual truthful past and nothing further as if we, the viewers, somehow automaticallly know all about it. That is just plain awful story telling. It is almost expected that many an anime throws the viewer into the middle of a story so fast it makes your head spin or jumps and skips important story transitions to throw the viewer suddenly into some part of the story by which you, the viewer, have no sensation of how you or the story got there, but this one does that a bit too often and starts doing it way too soon and unlike the average anime, never really gives the viewer time to settle into one scene or sequence before it throws you a bit haphazardly into another scene/situation.
Bad story telling is the tip of the iceburg here. I won't say it is totally off because it has promise and frequently hints at some logical revelation or conclusion, or even just teases the viewer that the story will actually follow established rules of story telling and somewhere bring all the scattered confusing bits of the story into one concise package to the viewers so we can really enjoy the story. That never happens however. It is almost like reading a sentence fragment in English class or reading just the first sentence of the first 4 chapters of a novel. You wont get fulfilled that way either.
The sad thing is, this story needs way more revelation to make sense. It draws your attention to too many dead ends yet leads the viewers on to believe this path is going somewhere. There is a mystery about the sister, the lead character's past, the house, the servants, the stranger princess, the mysterious killer, the first enemy encounter, the new enemy, the blood line of him and his sister, his estranged father, and a few others. It is full of unanswered questions. You get few if any answers ever in the show. So the story leaves the viewer feeling hungry and unsatisified. It is even more strange that since there is no hint of a concluding ongoing story, why we are left so empty.
I really did want to like this. It resembled other shows in some respects such as: Blue Drop, Destiny of the Shrine Maidens, and Mikagura Gaikuen, though not as well executed or as good of a story. It is a nice idea poorly executed and written with plenty of promise that never blossoms because maybe it focused on too few characters for what was needed, had too few characters to fully flesh out, lacked enough detail and conclusions to foreshadowing and unanswered questions, with a mundane empty feeling ending that leaves a viewer wondering if the show is actually over with a "That's it?" expression painted across the face.