Based on: Volume 1
UK Distributor: MVM
* sigh *
I'm sorry Nosferatu fans but I've never been a huge fan of the vampire genre as it is very hit or miss. A vampire film/series is either far too focused on action and fails to make the plot comprehensible, or it manages to strike a perfect balance between the plot and the action and makes everything believable. I have rarely found there to an in-between with the vampire genre, so I was in two minds before watching Tsukihime. Thankfully though, volume 1 proved to be a start to one of the most intriguing anime I've seen for some time.
Tsukihime opens the main character, Shiki, being given a special pair of glasses by an unknown woman to protect his eyes from the 'death lines - the lines that bind life in all living things - which appear to send him into a murderous rage. Fast forward many years later and we find Shiki as a shy teenager living a normal school life until he seemingly inadvertently kills a woman when he sees her death lines. Shiki then completely forgets the incident until the woman re-appears and introduces herself as the vampire princess Arcueid Brunstead and forces Shiki to help her fight an enemy. It is not clear if her intentions are for good, but Shiki reluctantly agrees to help her, thus forming an unholy alliance.
Sound just a tad clichéd? Trust me it isn't, but it really is difficult to describe Tsukihime and not make it sound like the standard vampire action fare as it rarely focuses on the usual clichés. For starters the action in Tsukihime is very limited and only appears when absolutely vital to the plot, unlike most anime such as Hellsing where the action is given equal billing to the drama. No - Tsukihime instead creates a dramatic mystery that is never quite clear where it is going to go but at the same time does not confuse the viewer with needless sub-plots and bizarre imagery. Instead Tsukihime concentrates on an impressive, intelligent script that draws the viewer with its complex characters and by revealing a small amount of character detail throughout each episode.
Tsukihime's animation style also impressed me, it was refreshing to see an action anime that doesn't feature bright colours that deviate from the suspense of the script as Tsukihime keeps its palette muted throughout. Backgrounds and character clothes are mainly browns and blacks that really add to the atmosphere as the lack of bright colours drew me in more I found. Unfortunately the pink-haired servant twins unnecessarily ruined this slightly as, stylistically, they do not fit it in with the rest of the cast.
Musically Tsukihime also stays muted like the palette as most scenes occur in very effective silence. When the score does appear it is the usual strings you hear in suspense drama, but it is effective nonetheless. The real musical highlight is the excellent Enigma-esque opening theme that builds the suspense quite well at the start of each episode, the ending theme impressively winds the show down as well.
Overall, I found the first volume of Tsukihime quite a treat as not since Serial Experiments Lain have I seen I show as intriguing or suspenseful. After many months of comedy and action releases in the UK, it is refreshing to once again see an intelligent suspense drama that should be hopefully appeal to non-anime fans as well due to its excellent and realistic script. I can't wait to see where the next volume takes the series and I definitely recommend it.