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Tsukihime: Lunar Legend Complete Collection (Sentai Selects Edition) Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Tsukihime DVD CoverEveryone keeps secrets, but not all of those are dangerous to the ones you want to protect.

What They Say:
Shiki Tohno has a secret. As the result of a childhood injury, he can see the lines of energy that bind all things together… and by severing those lines he can destroy almost anything! Only a special pair of glasses that mute his extraordinary perceptions has kept him sane, but his attempts at living a “normal” life come to a shocking end when he is approached by a strange and dangerous woman with her own terrifying secret. Now, Shiki is fighting both for his life and to unravel the secrets of his own past; for even with a mysterious female vampire as an ally, how can anyone defeat an enemy whose power is to always be reborn? Unstoppable forces collide as the ultimate battle begins in LUNAR LEGEND – TSUKIHIME!

The Review:
The soundtrack for this re-release collection still retains the two language tracks as heard in the original issue, both of which are presented in an A52 audio codec or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and encoded at 48 kHz. The audio presentation is fairly simple with the majority being conversations between the characters and incidental background noises plus the occasional growls from the beasts which participate in the nighttime battles. But, the stirring classical accompaniments which serve as the setting for the atmosphere as uniquely as the visuals themselves are the main reminder that the sound plays the best part in this show. They left nothing to chance when they used orchestrals instead of the heavy handed guitar solos which are so predominant in so many current anime series. It is through these uplifting musical interludes which best express the uncertainty of Arcueid’s outlook toward the current world and Shiki’s conflict with the family which he left eight years ago.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime was originally licensed by Geneon in 2004 but was recently picked up by Sentai Filmworks for re-release. However, with this reissue of the collection in a two disk set, the transfer of the twelve episodes in the series does have some gaps, particularly with the gamma corrections for the show. While a majority of the brighter images still retain their crisp display, from the drab monotony of the school campus and the dreariness of the lonely mansion, the majority of the beauty which the original show intended to be projected via the stark reality is in Arcueid’s world of the night. The bright street life of downtown Tokyo, the haunting barrenness of the lonely park where the pair meet and the eerie battlefields where they must defeat a monstrous foe are but a few. But it is within these bleak realms where the transfer was not was clean as Sentai Filmworks might have truly intended.

In order to project the overwhelming hunger and power of their foes, most of those scenes are cloaked in darkness, which bring the apprehension in the show. But it is by these same scenes in which the colour encoding could have used more work. Although they were intended to show the most horror by enshrouding the pair in foreboding blackness, it is this same darkness which hides the stunning terror! Even if these scenes are only a few seconds long, the darkness works against the viewer. These same shadows which were designed to bring mystery to the show also hides the best parts which are meant to send chills down your spine than bring more questions. The mystery of these scenes are so dark that you can’t make out what the animators are trying to hide! You go from a corridor lit by moonlight, to an impossibly dark elevator where you can’t see what they are trying to show you, and the effect which that darkness is trying to hide is missed if you can’t make out what is being concealed by those shadows; the solution is simply solved by adjusting the television’s contrast, but having to do this for even a second ruins the mood. Although these scenes are few and far between, the effect which they could have had are lost with this minor transfer error.

Although Sentai Filmworks may have chosen to decorate the DVD case with the same sombre night theme as projected in the series, the purpose of using a reversible cover eludes understanding. The haunting beauty of a stern Arcueid standing before the blackness of a new moon on the front and a full moon illuminating Ciel on the back makes perfect sense for the standard cover art, but when you look inside the case, a strange conundrum is contrarily presented; the sunlit portrait of Shiki and his world versus a smiling Arcueid and summary of her mysterious history is out of place when you compare it to the underlying themes of the show – the darkness hidden behind every secret which they both keep. Perhaps they wished to present us with the happier times that each experienced, but it was a wise decision that they chose to use the darker cover as the default instead of the lighter one, which keeps the meaning of the show intact. But the charming smiling illustrations of Kohaku and Arcueid which they use on the disk art still lures the viewer into the world which they summarily represent.

Tsukihime Image 4

The menu screen is composed of a barren midnight blue background with skeletal structures standing to the sides of a new moon shining from beyond sight, its light shining down on the logo at centre. While you choose your selection with a red cross cursor, the first minute of the opening theme The Sacred Moon is played in preparation for the upcoming exploration into this pensive world; this enchanting music gets the viewer properly motivated for the show, but it does get tiresome when it restarts at the end of the sequence. Perhaps they could have been a better choice to allow the entire song to cycle through or allow the watcher to switch the music off, but then they probably not expected too much time spent to make a selection.

The extras for this series are very meager, aside from the traditional textless opening & closing animations and some trailers from Sentai Filmworks other acquisitions. This is a shame since background information about the characters and the world could have used some fleshing out for those not familiar with the source story – especially Western viewers.

Tsukihime Image 1Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shiki was involved in an accident eight years ago and due to complications from his recovery, he was forced to live with his relatives; it is only after the death his father that he can now return to the family home and resume his relationship with his younger sister. But, due to his long absence, he is now a stranger in this huge mansion and even the friendships he has built with his classmates seem empty. Lapses in his memory leave uncomfortable gaps in daily conversation and even basic facts which he should be familiar with are lacking due to a general malaise due to his malady. The only seed of comfort from his previous life he has left is an ornate pocket knife decorated with a strange emblem which offers the only link to his past.

As his school life passes uneventfully, Shiki finds that his new home has even more restrictions, including an unusually early curfew due to a serial killer who leaves his victims drained of their blood. His once loving sister Akiha is now strangely sullen and distant, simply offering a subdued welcome upon his return. It is only after he takes a moonlit walk at the local park does he meet what might be a link to his past, a strange woman named Arcueid who cryptically tells him with a sly smile that he must redeem himself for her murder. This blonde haired foreigner calmly reclines on the swing as she blurts out this accusation, her statement all but unprovable until Shiki has a flash of recollection concerning the grisly act. But how can this woman be dead if she is now standing before him accusing of a crime and offering redemption? The only clear path appears to be to accept her offer and hope that in doing so, he can restore his past and also reclaim some key to the sanity which now eludes him.

In Summary:
Lunar Legend Tsukihime is based on the visual adult novel game of the same name, and as such, it appears that producers of the anime assumed that viewers would have a rudimentary knowledge of the base material. As such, they did not attempt to give any background on the series until the third episode. While this might have been fine for those who know of the characters, those who are unfamiliar with them might be tempted to give up on the series after the first episode since we are projected into this world unarmed with any information and must make conclusions on sketchy clues as to what is happening to Shiki.

The show starts off very slowly and keeps that tempo for a majority of the anime, only pausing for the occasional fight against shadowy creatures and their vampiric masters. While the beginning premise might seem like this series will be the typical hunt for these creatures of the night, once the viewer becomes acquainted with Shiki and his classmates, we are quickly introduced to the mercurial Arcueid or the Tsukihime of the title; while this name of Moon Princess might be appropriate for a normal vampire, we quickly find out that she is not your classic monster. Instead, with her eternal life and infrequent hunt for those who seek to harm humans, she has become contemplative and wishes to learn of this modern world. This is appropriate when she encounters Shiki since his name means literally means death spirit or time of death; after her murder, it is now his job to protect Arcueid while she recovers from her injuries.

It is this relationship between someone who does not know his place in the world and one who wants to interact with a world she barely knows that makes this series so unique. All of the outside influences steer these unlikely partners into trying to track down the mistakes of the True Ancestors or first vampires who have turned humans into Dead Apostles or bloodthirsty beasts; however, after their first victory, this story line is quickly discarded in favour of trying to amuse Arcueid with the wonders of this modern world and uncovering the mystery behind Shiki’s lost memories and strange powers of death. It is not until the end of the series that we resume the hunt and it results with a rather disappointing ending.

If you are looking for a vampire story of bloody massacres, then this series will leave you unfulfilled. But, if you want a human interest story of two people trying to find themselves, then Lunar Legend Tsukihime will be a satisfying twist on that classic tale. The viewers’ main purpose should be to enter this anime with an open mind since there are quite a few gaps in the story and character histories which are never fully explained. And it is rather strange that this anime is advertised as a vampiric mystery, but one of the main protagonist named Arcueid, a pseudo-anagram for the most infamous killer in horror, will not touch a drop of blood. Maybe this should have been a signal for the departure from that genre.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 1, 2015
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i mpeg-1/2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player

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