As someone who has steadily become a stan for Type-Moon properties over the last few years in my short anime loving life, I was always fascinated by the titles outside of my reach. Sure, I knew about Fate and had (still have) an obsession with The Garden of Sinners, however my knowledge ended there. I wanted to experience more. Naturally, I inquired about this with our resident Type-Moon expert, Reikaze, who let me know about a visual novel by the name of Tsukihime. I was enthralled by the story that this particular work was a prototype/origin of what eventually molded into The Garden of Sinners, however I had no way of playing it at the time. With some help from Reikaze, I was able to experience the visual novel.
The novel was, at best, an okay time with a few high spots but otherwise a little disappointing. After I emerged out one playthrough, I was not excited to return for the other routes. With this disappointment behind me, I asked the next natural question. This was a question that, in a public forum, made people scatter like the townsfolk in an old Western showdown.
Does Tsukihime have an anime?
These words rocked people to their core. Men shook. Women wept. Children cried. All at once, AniTAY looked like they collectively saw a car accident directly in front of me. This is usually the point where I say something like “someone told me about how bad it was” but, to this day, people vigorously deny the existence of this anime.
Not to make this sound like a creepypasta, but even the story of how I obtained the DVDs for this anime were unsettling. The home media version of this show is titled Lunar Legend: Tsukihime and my library had not one, not two, but three copies of this trash. As I searched their anime collection (which honestly looks like a Best Buy in the mid 2000s with how much anime they have on DVD stocked up there), I could not find any of the three copies. Mind you, I had no clue that there would be three copies since they were nowhere to be found. I swore I would never ask for help to find anime at a library, so I basically assumed they did not have a copy. Right when I was going to give up, I found the cursed copies buried in the “K” section of the collection (Lunar Legend is close enough I suppose). I had no idea that it wasn’t just called Tsukihime, and I should have taken this difficulty as a divine sign that I shouldn’t have seen the anime.
As it goes, Umi peer pressured me into actually renting this despite my hesitations to watch a cursed anime. We discussed the show on our first podcast together, however the misadventure is well worth discussion here. Despite hate watching the show, I had quite a bit of notes written up to reflect upon this work. Considering that the source material is already kind of a hot mess, the anime was doomed from the beginning.
Starting with positive notes, I actually didn’t hate the opening theme to this show. Yes, it isn’t great. However, it was just catchy enough to get stuck in my head at the office for an entire day and some of the visuals are rather crisp at moments (especially when considering how bad the actual anime was). It feels very of its’ time, and I think it fits right in with the early 2000s anime openings surrounding it all things considered. I know I am on an island not hating every last detail about the show, but the opening was entertaining enough to not fast-forward through every time.
There are a few moments I think that the show could have separated itself from the source material and be a semi-decent time with. One in particular comes from the show’s exploration into “slice of life” moments between characters. It is complicated because no real development happens after the show takes a reasonable amount of effort to bring the characters together in “friendly” settings. Similarly, the bond between the two main characters, Shiki and Arcueid, could have been much sweeter in the show than the visual novel. There are a few moments in the visual novel that squanders opportunities for meaningful development between these two, and there are virtually no moments that attempt to allow other characters to meet and develop relationships (besides those kind of relationships...Nasu you dirty boy you).
This might sound all over the place, but I have a reason for bringing it up. Instead of making itself better than a problematic visual novel, the anime takes leaps backwards from the source material. Indeed, the playbook is there for having a safe anime that is a pretty decent time (after all, we see this with Carnival Phantasm...which is probably the correct Tsukihime anime). Instead, we see the show get lost in the weeds that grew from the visual novel and try to interpret rather hazy lore. This lore is already a mess, and the anime hyper fixated on the oddest details. Without spoiling much (yeah, I’m still trying to stay spoiler free...old habits die hard), it felt like the show wanted to explore about the origins of Arcueid without really having a full grasp on the lore it is feeding off of. Even if the visual novel is a mess, the thin sliced (TL;DR) explanation of her origins could suffice for a 12 episode anime. Unfortunately, the show gets cute with what the writers must have read into the mysterious woman’s story and we get a headache inducing mess of storytelling.
Similarly, Shiki’s senpai, Ciel, suffers from many of the same plagues in storytelling. Actually, all of the main characters in this series have these problems and they are glaring as the show irks on. Indeed, there are several “routes” to the visual novel and it feels like the anime did not want to commit any given one route. Instead, it simply elects to meander and show very small notes from any given route. There is no resolution akin to any particular “ending”, and even the closest one might interpret the anime’s ending to requires quite a bit of mental gymnastics.
I’ve gone this whole time without getting into the real turd in the upper deck of the toilet that is this anime- the animation. I wish I had some better images/gifs to share here, but seeing as I watched this on my PS4 with the DVD version, I don’t have any gifs for reference. Bare with me as I try my best to explain instances. In Umi’s favorite scene, Shiki’s sister, Akiha, collapses in what I can only explain as a render of her character being rotated using a basic Photoshop editing tool. Another scene sees Arcueid swiping her hand at a demonic beast to protect Shiki. A rare action moment would surely show good budget, right? Unfortunately, the animation makes the fight a wet fart.
Ultimately, this anime is incredibly forgettable and barely passes as a “so bad it is good” anime. If you are familiar with the background and that this is the same material that inspired The Garden of Sinners and technically is related to Fate, it might be a good hate watch. Besides this, however, it isn’t even all that bad to warrant watching. As for my big parting shot? Tsukihime never struck me as a fantastic work in the first place, so I don’t think people should be so surprise there isn’t a stellar animation accompanying it. Finally, there definitely is an anime for Tsukihime, there is no point posting memes saying there isn’t one. But it is so mediocre that it isn’t even worth pretending it doesn’t exist. It is a dull, forgettable time.