tsukihime and i have been building up the guts to talk to eachother for ages, now. type-moon's work was always something i was aware of - certainly, growing up in the post-y2k onslaught of the visual novel heyday and with fate/stay night exploding in popularity at that time, it was essentially a matter of when, not if i would get to it. of the two really big studios of the era that garnered a lot of buzz in the west, though, i was a key/visual arts devotee. in my days of clannad and little busters!, stuff like tsukihime and kagetsu toya slipped me by. well, i'm happy that years later i can finally rectify that. i want to make clear off the bat, i do think tsukihime remains one of the most pivotal works in the history of the genre and one of the most underrated games in history in comparison to the unspeakable influence it's had on japanese media over the last 20+ years. it's absolutely a classic and an essential play for anyone interested in the medium. but it sure ain't perfect.
nasu was clearly a writer getting his chops here. i can't comment on how this evolves with his work yet (this is my first of his works) but he clearly doesn't understand how to let moments speak for themselves yet. he doesn't quite have a grasp on how to let characters internalize feelings or thoughts yet. and, jesus fucking christ, can he not write a romance to save his life. despite being overall a far less interesting or compelling game, i look to the same year's never7 as a much more competently multi-route romance endeavor. nasu's depictions of sex in this game is not only painfully amateurish but at times directly spits in the face of some of the end-game's heaviest moments and reveals. i have no problem with sexual abuse or sexual violence being used as an element in a story inherently, but i do absolutely believe tsukihime falls into the camp of "gratuitously overzealous for the sake of provocation over actual meaning or value" like 8/10 times.
i do think he managed to write a largely compelling cast of characters though. i walked away from each route really enjoying its main heroine, and in a sense i think i enjoy this cast and the idea of their stories a lot more than i like the stories in execution. arcueid is an incredibly fun, goofy character who manages to land a few really strong moments when it matters; an interesting examination of what a grown person restricted from meaningful human connection could look like when granted an unyeilding amount of power and terror. ciel's route largely serves as a loredump but she herself is a pretty charming character. the dynamic between the two in the near side routes is pretty blase though. akiha, hisui and ESPECIALLY kohaku are where the game shine, though. i'm reminded a lot of be-papa's revolutionary girl utena with some of the dynamics at play here; retaliation against unfair violations of trust and innocence through either developing harmful complexes or lashing out when all one seeks is affection. hisui and kohaku's routes in particular stand tall above the rest of the game, and i almost wonder if a game focused entirely on the dynamics of the far side routes with more competent writing could land genuine "masterpiece" status (here's hoping the remake lands this). definitely see the sparking influences for works like higurashi and the house in fata morgana here. shiki almost works as a main character, but the necessity for gratuitous objectification of the entire lead female cast (and i'm not talking about his unstoppable 'urges' or anything here) strays too close to the inauthentic for me to really care much about what happens to him or the internal complex he himself is dealing with. i will say, the game's brief epilogue does a lot to close his arc out pretty nicely, though.
still, if tsukihime was going to make any sort of commentary on much of anything... i feel like it was better suited to push hard into the angle of "these are all repressed, traumatized teenagers trying to learn to connect with one another in spite of the positions they've been shoved into" over anything else. the lore and the constant near side-gushing about vampires and blood-sucking and all that didn't grab me beyond simply providing context. shiki's abilitiy itself is really interesting though, and i'm interested in checking out kara no kyokai since i hear it's talked about more in that.
tsukihime still wins me over, though. despite my many criticisms, the bulk of my experience with the game was good. no way i couldn't be charmed with an art style and a fantastic (albeit dramatically limited) score like this. tsukihime's presentation and perpetual hanging loneliness speak exactly to what i love in this medium. honestly some of my favorite art direction in any game, period. enough that it really managed to keep me invested at points the story could not.
this is one of very few examples where i actually think i might end up liking the remake more than the original, despite absolutely hating this new art direction it's going for. the changes i've heard made to this story ultimately sound like improvements thus far, and i look forward to sitting under the blue, blue glass moon once again after the far side routes are released. i'm invested and charmed enough to want to continue with nasu's work, and ultimately i walk away from tsukihime with a setting, a feeling, and a cast i care about more than i think i actually enjoy the game itself. i think i could see myself really attached to this series as a whole, so despite feeling fairly shaky about tsukihime itself, i'm really glad i've finally taken this off the list and i'm sure it's the start of something a lot bigger for me.