The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 167 – Tsukihime

Tsukihime 1

Last week’s column covered the film series The Garden of Sinners (No. 166), a supernatural story whose central character is able to see the lines that indicate death in all things. However, this series actually has an earlier incarnation, which The Garden of Sinners was later set into. This week we look at the original work.

Tsukihime originally began as a video game only released in Japan back in 2000 by a company called Type-Moon on 3½ floppy disks, which is a sentence that is guaranteed to make anyone feel old. The game became very popular, and in 2003 it was adapted as a 12-part anime series, under the full name of Lunar Legend Tsukihime.

The story follows a boy named Shiki Tohno, who when he was younger suffered a trauma which resulted in him gaining the ability known as the “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception”, the ability to see the normally invisible lines of mortality in all objects, living and non-living, and the same ability also used by the similarly named Shiki Ryogi in The Garden of Sinners. The only way he is able to stop seeing these lines is by using a special pair of glasses.

Eight years later, Shiki is now living with his sister Akiha following the death of their father, living a relatively normal life with his new school friends. However, one day walking back from school he meets a woman, and upon doing so Shiki enters a strange dreamlike sequence. When he comes to, he discovers that he has in fact killed the woman. The next day though, on his way to school, he finds the same woman alive and well. Shiki tries to flee the woman but fails and the two are then attacked by a group of demonic hounds that the woman is able to kill herself.

The woman then reveals her secret: her name is Arcueid Brunestud, and she is a vampire, although she herself does not consume blood. She is one of the True Ancestors, whose job is it to kill “Dead Apostles”, who are humans that have had their blood sucked by True Ancestors and are thus rogue vampires. As Arcueid is still recovering after her attack from Shiki, Shiki ends up helping her. Arcueid reveals that her main mission is to kill a vampire named Boa, whose soul takes over other people and acts as a host for him.

However, as the story progresses, Shiki begins to learn more about himself and those around him. Some of his close friends seem to have vested interests, Akiha is not all she seems to be, and even he comes to realise there are bits of his own past he has previously forgotten that he might want to forget again. It all eventually comes down to the final conflict with Boa, and whether he and Arcueid can defeat him.

If you watch both Tsukihime and The Garden of Sinners you can clearly see the similarities. For exampke, Shiki Tohno’s appearance is used as the basis for that of Mikiya Kokuto. Also, the person who gives Shiki his special glasses is the sister of Toko Aozaki. There are plenty of differences of course, chief among which is that there are no vampires in The Garden of Sinners.

The character of Arcueid is one of interest though, mainly because in terms of appearance she looks like the least vampire-like of any vampire I can think of. The look of vampires in fiction tends to fall into two groups: you have your traditional, period costume, gothic look; and then you have this trendier appearance. It is normally either the Dracula look or the Twilight look. Arcueid though appears to have no look. The only outfit you see her wearing is a white jumper, a long red skirt and black shoes. Whereas most vampires seem to get their outfits from the 18th century or Topshop, Arcueid seems to be the only vampire to get her clothes from Marks & Spencer.

There are some issues with Tsukihime, the main one being the length of the adaptation. While 12 episodes might seem fine on the surface, the original video game takes a long time to play. It contains over 5,000 pages of text, and thus the anime does not cover the whole story.

Tsukihime is released on DVD by MVM Films.