Geneon // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // May 19th, 2005
"If I weren't a vampire, what would have happened to Shiki and me?" -- Arcueid Brunestud
At its heart, Lunar Legend Tsukihime is a soap opera, which is to say it's bad melodrama. The story advances at a snail's pace, most of the big revelations coming via lengthy passages of expository dialogue. Occasional punctuations of ultra-violence prove turning points in the narrative, but the show is mostly comprised of characters standing around delivering incredibly rickety speeches.
Based on a fan-made video game, Lunar Legend Tsukihime is the supernatural tale of Shiki Tohno. He's a high school student gifted/cursed with the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, the ability to see the lines that bind all material things. Breaking those lines causes immediate and catastrophic death and destruction.
Shiki finds himself in the midst of an ancient war between a vicious vampire named Roa and one Arcueid Brunestud, a beautiful girl and True Ancestor, the race of immortal beings who created the nocturnal bloodsuckers. He lives in the Tohno family estate with his cool and distant sister, Akiha, and their twin maids, Kohaku and Hisui. He struggles with fractured memories of an injury he suffered in childhood. Meanwhile, one of his classmates, Ciel Sempai -- a girl with a mysterious connection to the Tohnos and Arcueid -- haunts the night, hunting vampires.
Volume 3 of Lunar Legend Tsukihime contains the final four episodes of the show:
* "Death" -- More childhood memories rush back to Shiki as he recovers from a nearly deadly encounter with Roa. Kohaku's confession that Tohno blood is somehow tainted causes a rift between Shiki and Akiha, who carries the burden of the family's past. Shiki discovers a blood-spattered dungeon below the family estate.
* "Vermilion Crimson Moon" -- The rift between Shiki and Akiha grows. Arcueid longs for romance with Shiki, but fears her coming destiny. Shiki learns from Arcueid that Ciel is a member of The Church, a group that opposes the True Ancestors. The mystery of Roa's identity begins to come into focus.
* "Misfortunate Night" -- Ciel reveals Arcueid's past and the nature of the True Ancestors to Shiki. He learns that, though Arcueid returned to life after he killed her in Episode One, the damage done her was irrevocable. Ciel also exposes the connection between Arcueid and Roa, and why she is so determined to kill him. Roa's history with Shiki also comes into focus.
* "Lunar World" -- Shiki is determined to confront Roa, though Ciel urges him to wait for the members of The Church to arrive and destroy him. Arcueid meets her final fate as Shiki discovers his true power and faces off against Roa for the final time.
The cheapness of the animation is surely a contributing factor to the malaise of the series. While backgrounds and the use of light and shadow are sometimes beautiful, character movement is awkward and kept to a minimum. Key pieces of character movement are recycled from show to show, with a new background simply slapped behind the actors. If the animation budget had been larger, perhaps the story could have been told through more action and less chit-chat. Since Lunar Legend Tsukihime is a gothic horror anime, non-stop action and mayhem wouldn't be appropriate. A languid pace that accentuates the mood of dread and melancholy is entirely necessary to the story, but as it stands, the series is far too slow. Moments of action and violence are too rare (and too poorly executed) to bring the excitement necessary to balance out the melodrama and give the story a sense of momentum. It's too bad, because the series offers a unique and richly detailed vampire mythos, along with a wealth of characters whose lives are entwined in the intricate manner that lends the best soap operas their appeal.
The dialogue is so poorly written and acted that it's noticeable even in the subtitled Japanese audio. But it's even worse in the English dub. The show isn't a comedy, but it's hard not to laugh out loud when Shiki says stuff like, "I want you to live, damn it! We need to go out on another date!" The English voice actors appear to have been more concerned with synchronizing to the characters' lips than delivering believable line reads. Their performances are atrocious. Audio quality is otherwise excellent, though. Both the Japanese and English tracks are crisp stereo presentations. Dialogue is clear, music is full and rich, and the spatial design is convincing. The Japanese track is mixed slightly louder, but that's about the only difference in technical quality between the two tracks.
Video is offered in an anamorphically enhanced transfer framed at 1.78:1. The show's palette is intentionally delicate, with an emphasis on pastel greens and yellows. Nighttime scenes offer bold blues and solid blacks. The image is stable and free from compression problems. Though the animation is mediocre, Geneon has done a fine job transferring it to DVD.
The only supplements on the disc are previews for three other Geneon anime releases: Paranoia Agent, Saiyuki, and Tokyo Underground.
This court finds Lunar Legend Tsukihime more effective as a sleeping aid than a gothic entertainment. It's a 12-part, 300-minute tale that would be far better told in a single 100-minute piece. The substance of its story is detailed and smart, but its execution is structurally awkward and, at times, excruciatingly dull.
Review content copyright © 2005 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* TV Tome