The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Shingetsutan Tsukihime

Title: Shingetsutan Tsukihime aka Lunar Legend Tsukihime
Company: J.C. Staff
Genre: Drama/Romance
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 10 Oct 2003 – 26 Dec 2003

Synopsis: Since the death of his father, Tohno Shiki has to live with his sister in a very traditional household with strict rules. When he meets the outgoing and weird foreigner Arcueid Brunestud, he starts breaking out of his family bonds to uncover the mystery behind the strange woman. Little does he know that he will find more than he was looking for, even the truth about his own past…

The Highlights
Plot: Beautiful background story.
Mood: Engrossingly gothic.
Music: Original and unique.
Ending: Does not live up to its premises.
Side characters: Too often lifeless.

My first glimpse at Shingetsutan Tsukihime was somewhat tainted by the feeling that this was going to be a story very much like many others I had seen before: a weak hero, both in body and character, who suffers from strange visions and occasional memory lapses is really part of something much greater. That’s not exactly the most original premise.

Fortunately, the moment Arcueid hits the scene, everything changes for the better. Slowly, more and more about the background of both her and Shiki is revealed, and with each revelation and twist, the story gets better and better. As a writer of short fiction, I can only applaud the dramatic arc the script manages to build. The story behind Shingetsutan Tsukihime is sculpted out almost to perfection.

However, the true strength of the series is its mood. Rarely have I seen so many clichés of gothic literature used so well. From the entire Victorian design of Shiki’s house and the tradition followed there to the very tasteful use of blood and violence (and I never thought I’d use the word “tasteful” in this context), everything seems to come straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe story.

While the artwork is nothing special, the music certainly is. Aside from the opening, most orchestral pieces during the series are played by string quartets and accentuate the dark and quiet mood powerfully. The style is truly unique – the music doesn’t need to rely on bombastic orchestral effects but can just underline moments of great emotional strength. Here’s one of the few soundtracks you can play when your relatives visit you – no one will suspect its origins.

Had Shingetsutan Tsukihime played more with these strengths, it might have been truly great; unfortunately, it doesn’t. The final conflict is a stereotypical fight between good and evil, both between two characters and within one of the protagonists. You could see that coming from a mile away. Also, all characters except for Shiki and Arcueid are either lacking development, a part in the main plot or both. If two characters out of four with an almost equal amount of screen time have either no relevance to the plot or only traces of a personality, you know something has gone wrong.

In the end, it’s the romance between Shiki and Arcueid that keeps the plot together and makes up for the shortcomings of the series, at least to some extent. It makes Shingetsutan Tsukihime an enjoyable series with a background story unlike any I’ve seen before. Had the predictable resolution of the plot and the lack of character interaction not spoiled some of the overall great storytelling, this series would have been an all-out winner.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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