Tsukihime: A Piece of Blue Glass Moon: Arcueid Arc

This is a series I’ve been meaning to get to for years. When the news of the remake came out I knew that it would be something I wanted to check out. A series that so many fans adore, yet seems to have vanished into the annals of time. A part of the Nasuverse that has spawned a billion dollar franchise, yet has next to no name recognition. Now that it has come out though, does it stand up to expectations? Or should it have been kept where it was. Well after the cut, let’s take a dive into the first route of Tsukihime: A Piece of Blue Glass Moon and find out.

The greater Nasuverse has always been something that intrigued me. While Fate is pretty much its own labyrinth of insane canon and lore, it is only one part of a sprawling universe its creator has painstakingly created. I’ve examined The Garden of Sinners and its connections, but Tsukihime was always something I wanted to get to, even if the connections are sometimes only skin-deep. And after finally reading the first route of the series I can safely say this.

It’s good, but it’s not great.

LIke with everything penned by Nasu, the Arcueid route is a sprawling magnificent story that too often feels like it is bogged down by an almost Tolkien-like commitment to its world. As we follow the titular Tohno Shiki (one of FIVE Shikis in this crazy universe), a young man blessed, or cursed, with the mystic eyes of death perception (the same ones from The Garden of Sinners) as he returns to his old life. We see him come across the mysterious and beautiful Arcueid who is on a quest to hunt a certain vampire. Much of it is good, but there is also much that is grating and suffocating.

Nasu’s strength has always been in its characters and Tsukihime is no exception.

What is great remains what Nasu has always been able to do so well: character relationships. While neither Shiki or Arcueid have the narrative depth of say, Shirou, Rin or Saber, they are good characters who are able to carry the story well. Shiki himself is different from his contemporaries, a young man who learns early about how to handle his powers responsibility early on and is a humble and well to do teenager. While Nasu does saddle him with the usual tragic backstory, he remains a well put together individual who wants to do the right thing. Arcueid, the mascot of the series, is also a delight, a bubbly and bright young woman whose devotion to her duty is a tragic curse that is shown throughout her route. Their relationship remains the focal point of the route and remains more of a ‘summer-romance’ of two people whose brief interaction will define them for the rest of their lives.

Shiki and Arcueid have a whirlwind romance that is built of passion and works for what it is.

The other characters benefit from this as well. While the meat is left for the other routes, people like Akiha, the twin maids Kotaku and Hisui and the ever popular Ciel provide good supporting rolls to help fill in the gaps. Villains and anti-heroes like Noel and Mario, new additions to the remake give the series a bit more levity and clash well against Shiki and Arcueid. Out of them I found myself most intrigued by Akiha and her relationship with Shiki, parts of which are only hinted at in the route. The idea of a sister tossing away her late father’s wishes to recover her brother is a fun idea, as well as the truth of her relationship with Shiki and her entire family. This is stuff I am sure will be explored later, but every time she showed up I found myself entranced by her presence and character.

Akiha is a interesting character right now, teasing a woman torn between her love and her duty.

However, with all the good of what comes from a Nasu work, there is also the bad and Tsukihime is laden with what is probably the worst of what I’ve seen from this brand before. Simply put, the route is stuffed with way too much worldbuilding and long, LONG stretches of explanations about the vampires, their powers, ranks and where they come from and so on. It is overbearing and suffocating and too many times I found myself just taking a break to get through it. And this is from someone who believes “show not tell” can often be a load of horseshit.

It is that Tolkien level of detail that some people will enjoy, but far more will find just grating. And for a story that is so simple as the Arcueid route: find vampire, kill vampire, I don’t know if we needed this much extra baggage stapled to it. Fate did not have this problem, even though it adored its own monologues, but Tsukihime seems to just drown in it, as if Nasu loves hearing the sound of his own voice, and I am shocked that this didn’t get slimmed down for the remake. This isn’t helped either by the pacing, which in this route seems to be all over the place. I can forgive some of it due to this being the first route and having to pull double-duty of introducing everything, but the ratio of action-to-explanation is deeply unbalanced. There are only two real fights in the route, and while they are well done, they are the bookends to that suffocating level of worldbuilding and fluff that could have been better spent on building the relationship between Arcueid and Shiki.

The detail the story goes into explaining the vampires and true ancestors is admirable, but detremental to the actual plot.

I admit that I am one of those Nasuverse guys who got into the franchise through the stellar Ufotable adaptations. I’ll also admit that because of how good those are, it can make the slow nature of a visual novel feel lackluster when ‘going back’ to the source material. I did my best to put that aside as I read this, but I also can’t let that color my views the other way. There is a lot of love from the Arcueid Route of Tsukihime: A Piece of Blue Glass Moon. The characters, the art, the action and the relationships are all solid Nasu work, but I can’t deny that it is dragged down by an almost fatal dose of over-explaining its world. To some, they will absolutely love it and I am happy for you, but for others, it can leave a bad taste in what is otherwise a pretty good sandwich. I absolutely have not written off this series yet and I look forward to reading the other routes to see if it gets better. But as much as I love the Nasuverse, I gotta call it like I see it. Give this route a look if you are so inclined, but maybe bring a pillow for the slow times.

Anime’s best bra?

2 thoughts on “Tsukihime: A Piece of Blue Glass Moon: Arcueid Arc

  1. From what I remember playing Tsukihime 15 years ago or however long it’s been, all the really good stuff comes in the far side routes. But then I also remember Nasu’s famously unedited prose continuing throughout the whole VN so that probably won’t let up. I’m also surprised to hear they didn’t bother to edit the remake down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It only gets very noticeable when Arcueid starts talking about the Vampires. The rest is has decent pace, but man oh man, does it become a fucking GRIND at times.

      But yeah, I am shocked he didn’t take a harder stance on his edit. Oh well, long drawn out conversations are sort of a Nasu trademark.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s