Remake-Worthy: Lunar Legend Tsukihime


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It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Type-Moon and its works. I wrote a giant post about them earlier this year, for goodness' sake! And in said post, I mentioned the ever-dreaded Tsukihime anime adaptation. Or, if you really want to adhere to the running gag, the non-existent Tsukihime anime adaptation. Man, it'd sure be great if someone remade that anime that totally doesn't exist, am I right guys? "But Iro," you may wonder, "What was so bad about this anime that totally doesn't exist, and why does it deserve to be remade?" I'm glad you asked, so strap yourselves in and prepare for a bit of a history lesson. Also, BEWARE OF SPOILERS for Tsukihime!


Tsukihime is an eroge (erotic game) released in 2000 by a little indie circle called Type-Moon. It follows Shiki Tohno, who barely survives a gruesome accident as a child. He wakes up with the "Mystic Eyes of Death Perception", which allow him to effectively kill anything - even inanimate objects - by tracing dark lines only visible to him. A sorceress named Aoko Aozaki gives Shiki magical glasses to prevent him from being driven insane by his new abilities, and tells him to grow up to be a responsible adult. Eight years later, Shiki is a regular high school student (apart from the aforementioned POWER TO KILL ANYTHING), and stumbles across a foreign woman while walking home. As is the typical response for any young man confronted with a beautiful girl, he's suddenly overcome with bloodlust, stalks her home, and cuts her into seventeen pieces. How's that for a first date?

Turns out she's a vampire named Arcueid Brunestud, who's hunting another vampire who has reincarnated somewhere in the city, and the process of reforming after Shiki killed her has drained most of her powers. Feeling pretty guilty about the whole dismemberment business, Shiki agrees to help her track down the villain and put a stop to his plans. And that's only the first route, the one that was adapted as an anime and manga, with Arcueid acting as the heroine. The second route focuses on Ciel, a demon hunter dispatched by the Catholic church posing as an upperclassman at Shiki's school. Collectively, these two are called the "Near Side" routes.

Even weirder is that much of this vampire business only covers about half the game. The other three routes (or "Far Side") star Shiki's younger sister Akiha and twin maids Kohaku and Hisui as the heroines. These paths focus more on the dark past of the literally demonic Tohno family and on Shiki's own muddled memories of his childhood before the accident. Confused yet? To sum up: eyes that can kill anything, cute good vampire girl, hunter from the Vatican, half-demon sister, dark pasts, and an evil vampire. Got all that? Now we can actually talk about the anime!

Lunar Legend Tsukihime was produced by J.C. Staff and aired in the fall anime season of 2003, so basically ten years ago on the dot. It was licensed by Geneon USA, which summarily folded in 2007 to hide all evidence of a Tsukihime anime. They failed. The manga adaptation by Sasaki Shonen began at around the same time and ended in 2010. The most obvious problem with The Anime That Shall Not Be Named is also the one that would arguably be the easiest to fix, were it remade with a decent budget: a lack of motion.

Most of the time, characters only make the most basic movements, such as walking or picking up a cup. Parts that should include dynamic motion, such as dismembering Arcueid or battling the early villain Nrvnqsr are depicted mostly through stills and sound effects. This is especially jarring when compared against the manga adaptation, which has only stills to accomplish the same effect, and does it better. The comparison image below depicts the same scene from both adaptations. Both create the illusion of movement (the manga does this especially well, as usual), but anime shouldn't have to cheap out in such a way. The term is supposed to be short for "animation", after all.

And this isn't a one-time problem: every action scene in the anime either displays this same lack of motion and vitality, or simply happens offscreen as we hear stock "cutting" sound effects. Occasionally, this can work (and Tsukihime is a very gory tale, so some degree of discretion is understandable), but there are only a handful of fights in the entire story. Surely they deserve proper attention. But what about the talking scenes? Well, only so much can be done about those, and Bakemonogatari this ain't; fancy typography and artsy cut-ins aren't really Tsukihime's thing, and I doubt having everyone walk in circles all the time like in Fate/Zero would work either. In fact, the hurdle of adapting dialogue from the original eroge opens up several problems.

Visual novels are unique in the adaptation process because of the presence of multiple routes. The majority of the source's content is going to left out in most cases, and the content from a single route may not be enough to last a whole season. Often, adaptations of visual novels will include bits and pieces from the other routes to fill out time or as fanservice. The medium's reliance on dialogue and internal narration presents a major problem, as well. Staying too true to the source material causes the anime to suffer from poor pacing and other issues. However, too far in the other direction means the anime bears little resemblance to the original work, becoming disjointed and confusing. Not to say you can't end up with something good in either case, but I think most of the time something down the middle is best.

To its credit, the Tsukihime anime tries to take the middle path, removing some scenes and adding others. The problem is that important exposition is removed and entirely pointless scenes are added, leading to something that technically follows the proper sequence of events, but fails to capture the original spirit. I realize this is something that's difficult to articulate to anyone who isn't already familiar with Tsukihime, so bear with me.

As an example: as mentioned above, Ciel is a vampire hunter posing as a student at Shiki's high school. Her mission is to kill the villain Roa, who has reincarnated somewhere in the city. He usually reincarnates into a prestigious family, and this means Shiki and Akiha are prime suspects. This is barely a subplot in Arcueid's route, but is more important in Ciel's and Akiha's paths, as one might expect. In the anime, an entire episode is added depicting Shiki and his classmates, Ciel, Akiha, and even Arcueid all going to the amusement park together. This serves little purpose other than to have Akiha tell us she doesn't like Ciel, and for Ciel to tell us Akiha isn't entirely human. A reasonable addition? Maybe, but the events don't follow logically considering the choice of route, and as a result the entire episode comes across as baffling and pointless.

Compare the manga adaptation's handling of essentially the same events: Akiha stumbles across Ciel snooping around the Tohno mansion for clues on the family's demonic lineage. What ensues is basically a battle-interview as Ciel interrogates Akiha about the signs of Roa's influence while the two of them try to kill each other in the forest. The scene fulfills multiple roles, showing, not telling us important details about both characters and tying all of it back into the original plot of Arcueid's route, despite the scene being sewn together from various (and mostly unrelated) pieces of Ciel's and Akiha's.

Exposition isn't axed entirely, but instead condensed and presented alongside exciting action scenes. Revelations from other parts of the visual novel that aren't being directly adapted are folded in, deepening the experience and giving a nod to those who are especially familiar with the source material. This is the kind of stuff that I'd want from a remade anime. This is what would make or break any adaptation. But could any studio handle such a thing in an anime format? I rave about the manga adaptation, but walls of text are commonplace and accepted in manga, and it's easier to increase the scale without summarily increasing the budget. KyoAni is rolling in cash and is famed for their subtlety.

But, recent anime seems to have proven they can't write anything other than the character types they already know. Shaft did dark action well in Puella Magi Madoka Magica and allegedly does dialogue well in the Monogatari series, but as I mentioned above, I don't think that style isn't suited very well to Tsukihime's almost film noir tone. But of course anyone who likes Type-Moon in passing can see where I'm going with this. At this point the fans seem to only want to accept one studio to handle Type-Moon properties from now on: Studio UFOtable, known recently for Fate/Zero and before that for Garden of Sinners / Kara no Kyoukai. Yknow, that other anime about a person named Shiki who has Mystic Eyes of Death Perception.

In the aftermath of Fate/Zero, it seemed like everyone was suddenly clamoring for UFOtable to make an anime adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. Except me, partly because I think the F/SN anime isn't that terrible and partly because I think UFOtable's style fits Tsukihime much better. Garden of Sinners was originally written before Tsukihime, and the two share many aspects. UFOtable has proven they can take some of these and adapt them well to anime. The slow building of tension; the dark, horror-movie atmosphere; the sudden bursts of violence; all of these things were done well in the Garden of Sinners films, and they could conceivably be done well a second time.

But that isn't what Tsukihime's all about. It's only ever around the edges, but Tsukihime also has a playful side, with awkward romance and some measure of daily life, and the original anime adaptation didn't include any of that. And that's what worries me the most about any hypothetical remake; I don't want the fun bits of Tsukihime to be entirely swallowed up by its serious side. I think it UFOtable has the potential. Fate/Zero wasn't 100% serious either, and they pulled off the light-hearted bits arguably even more convincingly than the serious parts. There's no guarantee things would turn out well (we still haven't solved the problem of how to deliver long bits of exposition, for one) but I'd sure as hell want to see what would come out of it. It's the easy answer, but I wouldn't want any other studio to remake Lunar Legend Tsukihime.

And as it turns out, right around the corner is the best time for more Tsukihime. The long-promised remake of the visual novel is on the horizon, fresh with redesigned characters and plenty of added material. A new anime would be great at drumming up hype for the new product. Hell, for all I know, maybe an anime remake will come out after the new VN. Maybe that's what they're waiting for. I certainly hope so, because Tsukihime is a story that deserves being told properly. It deserves a proper anime. Hopefully I've interested some of you enough to actually check out the original visual novel, or even the manga, and hopefully some of you will understand why I bothered to write so much about this. Hopefully, I can inspire more people to wait and hope for a new Tsukihime anime. And hopefully next time it won't be total shit.

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Irothtin   gamer profile

I'm the sound you don't quite hear, yet nevertheless wakes you up in the middle of the night. Picky watcher, Writer-class Servant, and all around misanthrope. I also write at , reviewing a rand... more + disclosures



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