Tsukihime

released on Dec 29, 2000

This story is about a young boy named Tohno Shiki who, after experiencing a traumatic accident, wakes up in the hospital with the ability to see lines and cracks in every surface and being. These lines, when traced with any sharp or blunt edge, will be permanently cut. As he is forced to see these lines everywhere, Shiki is distraught until he meets a mage girl who gives him glasses that allow him to live a normal life.

Years later, after living in a relative's home, the death of his father has him summoned back to the mansion he left years ago. There he must learn to live with his younger sister and two maid girls.

One day Shiki's life takes a turn for the worst when, on the way to school, he meets a blonde woman and he's overcome with the urge to kill her.


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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.

All-time classic characters and an interesting setting aren’t enough to stop Shiki Tohno from ruining it. And damn, they did Akhia dirty in this game! Disappointing. Hopefully the remake(s) do better by everyone involved.

I can appreciate the original Tsukihime from a distance for the impact it made to the visual novel genre and smaller studios making them, but actually playing it for myself, even if I know that the other routes explore more interesting themes and ideas, I can't bring myself to push past the first two main routes.
What makes this more difficult to parse and discuss is the fact that for the vast majority of people playing this in the west, if you're playing Tsukihime in English, you're not exactly playing the original work. It's a translation, and a fan-made community one at that which was released back in 2006 to 2008. From everything I keep hearing from those who have played Nasu's games in Japanese, there's a certain way he writes his stories that is incredibly difficult to translate into English and I get the feeling it's something that affects Tsukihime.
Is the dialogue amateurish because it was Nasu's first major work? Or is it because of the translation? Are some of the occasional weirdly out of line character reactions and dialogue from the original text, or is it translation error?
Even besides my issues with the writing itself, there's so many other little things that make engaging with the original Tsukihime so much more difficult compared to other titles in the genre today. There's 10 total songs in the OST, and they're all barely a minute or two long loops that get tedious and annoying fast. The main theme is iconic and I do like some of the more strange creepy songs like the one with drums and hymns, but they very rarely ever show up; you're going to be listening to this stupid goddamn daily life song that increasingly grew on my nerves for how often it plays and for how obnoxiously short it is before it loops. This is the song that will play in my nightmares, I swear.
Also Tsukihime is an eroge. And not a very good one at that. Sure don't appreciate the completely out of nowhere and in thoroughly poor taste rape scenes!

shiki sucks so much ass im sorry for making fun of shirou all these years

i'll finish this when the remake finally releases and i don't have to deal with the horrible, horrible h scenes
i've got a pretty thick skin for this kinda stuff but holy shit this is atrocious