This review has been long in coming since I announced my plans to marathon it for Halloween in my Halloween Anime Picks. Take in mind that I am unfamiliar with the original video game. I am, however, a big fan of other Type-Moon works like Fate/stay night and Kara no Kyoukai, and am currently watching the first season of Carnival Phantasm.
Shiki Tohno sustained a life threatening injury as a child, and due to that incident he was sent away from the Tohno household and given to a relative to be raised. Years later, when Shiki is in high school, the head of the Tohno household–his father–dies, and he is ordered to move back in by his sister Akiha, who is the new head of household. However, Shiki holds a huge secret. Ever since that injury, he has been seeing lines on objects, and only with a special pair of glasses is he able to stop seeing them. Also, he is unable to remember anything well from the time before his accident. The day he moves back to the Tohno household is the day he stumbles upon a woman named Arcueid Brunstud and decapitates her with one stab of his knife in a temporary fit of insanity. When she suddenly shows up beside him alive and well, and asks him to be her bodyguard, Shiki’s journey to unravel the mysteries of his past begins. (ANN)
Thoughts: 7/10 (Good)
The story itself is an interesting one, and anyone who has seen Kara no Kyoukai will be familiar with the concept of the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception. If you haven’t seen either, then simply put, it is the ability to see the lines and points of death on both inanimate and animate things–if cut or pierced, a portion of the person or object’s existence dies, or is extinguished entirely. This gift, or curse, is terrifying to see in action, since protagonist Shiki can destroy everything around him in a blinding moment. What makes it even more interesting is that he seems so mild, so unable to hurt anything or anyone. The instant he comes to his senses after dismembering Arcueid–who is incidentally a “vampire”–into seventeen pieces is just as bewildering to the audience as it is to him. The hows and whys are what kept me glued to the show. I did find the pacing of the story a bit slow, since more time was spent on Shiki and Arcueid getting to know each other in various date scenarios than on fleshing out any of their back stories or giving us some heart pounding fight scenes.
The atmosphere of ST is a paranoid type of eeriness, where you constantly sense something isn’t quite right, something that is withheld from our knowledge for the majority of the show. This works great along with the characters, who are, for the most part, mysterious. We know next to nothing about their pasts. This mystery is what gives the show some credibility as a horror piece, despite the lack of truly frightening, in-your-face moments. The discomfort with our limited knowledge of the state of affairs of Shiki, Akiha, Ciel, and Arcueid is the driving force of ST.
Talking about characters, Ciel is easily my favorite. Heck, I’d love to cosplay as her, since my hair is already similar and the costume looks fun, yet simple. The best part would have to be the tattoos, which I could imagine using body paint for and would be a first for me. Of the main cast, I found her to be one of the least explained since no details were given as to how she was possessed by Roa, and why she is able to work for the Church. I gave in and investigated outside of the anime to get the answers, which I wish had been explained in the anime. Another character left in the dark was Akiha, but I found her pretty annoying anyway. If more time had been spent on showcasing and elaborating upon her family’s curse instead of on her big brother complex and tsun-tsun personality, I would’ve been much happier.
In terms of art, animation, and music, I found them all wanting. While I admit the darker color scheme aided the atmosphere, the quality was so-so. I do have to consider, though, that this is an older anime (2003), so I can’t set my standards too high. I’m just spoiled by the gorgeous works of Fate/Zero and Kara no Kyoukai. The background music suited the various scenes, but again, was nothing exciting. I did, however, greatly enjoy the OP, “The Sacred Moon,” by Toshiyuki Oomori. It fit the atmosphere of the anime perfectly, and blended choral work beautifully with rock elements (mainly drumset).
I recommend this show for any fans of slow-paced, psychological horror. Shingetsutan Tsukihime surprised me with its intensity; it straddles suspense and romance, and has a huge story world behind it if you’re willing to try out the games and/or manga (Tsukihime and Melty Blood).