The Tsukihime Remake and the Database AnimalJuly 12, 2012
If you read my recent little report about the Type-Moon Fes you will notice that there was one very important piece of news I made no commentary on. That was the unveiling of the Tsukihime Remake preview video. As of when I write this article I have not found any footage from the event of what was shown but when I find something I will edit it in. What is important is that when I started reading the info dump from people who were scanning Twitter for news there was no video footage at all. All we had were a few brief descriptions from people who attended the event. While most people seemed very impressed by what they saw of the preview they mentioned one thing above anything else. Ciel was radically redesigned. That news came as a shock to me. As one of the few Ciel fans I was a little worried about my favorite Tsukihime heroine.
So here I am picturing a totally redesigned Ciel. Since she is the least popular of the main characters it would not be too hard to believe that they would give her a major overhaul. So I was fully braced to see something like a pink drill haired goth loli character. But since there were no pictures flowing from the festival I just had to wait. And then I found that while first hand pictures had no come out there was some fan art floating around.
So I finally saw the RADICAL NEW CIEL! She had different bangs and a jacket. That is it. While it was clear that she was not the same Ciel that debuted in December of 2000 she was also easily identifiable as Shiki’s sempai. She still has her Masami Kurumada inspired sideburns. Her signature glasses are still there. Her age, face, and body-shape are completely unchanged. There was no indication that she was anyone but the #7 of the Burial Agency that we know and love. (Well that I know and love that is.)
The odd thing was there was an unusual amount of positive reaction to her. People seemed to think she was now super cute and adorable. It is still Ciel so a few people had to chime in that they still hated that curry wench but it seemed like just a few cosmetic changes utterly flipped quite a few people’s opinion of her. You make her haircut a bit cuter and all of a sudden she is someone new.
At the same time I discovered there was another INSANELY MONUMENTAL OVERHAUL! Apparently Arcueid has been completely transformed because now she had black miniskirt instead of her original long purple skirt. There was an outcry that Type-Moon had ruined their beloved White Princess of the True Ancestors. She has gone from a modest women to a tramp.
The blatant misogyny of that reaction aside (which could all too easily derail this conversation into a different rant) how does the length of her skirt in any way change who she is? This is the same fandom that happily buys up Beach Queen figures of said vampire without batting an eye. She is a character in a eroge for goodness sake. It is not like no one could ever imagine her pure virgin soul ever doing anything naughty. In fact Arcueid’s pleasantly flirtatious nature has always been one of her charm points.
It is hardly uncommon to find well read anime or manga fans throwing around the term “Database Animal.” After Hiroki Azuma’s book was translated his theories entered the English-speaking fan’s lexicon. Bloggers, podcasters, and reviewers love to pepper their speech with points from the book. It is one thing to hear people talk about such terms in the abstract. It is easy to say that modern anime fans have a habit of breaking down characters into easily digestible fetishistic parts. It is not that hard to say that the otaku heart that once craved an emphasis on complex personality and rich story arcs has now favors the details of character design and one word descriptors. But it is another thing to blatantly see the effect in action.
There is absolutely nothing in my mind to indicate that Ciel and Arcueid will be any different then how they were presented in the original release of Tsukihime. Arcueid will still be a flighty princess that can be a terrifying monster when the situation calls for it. Ciel will still be a serious business church assassin who slowly becomes more in-tune with the mask she wears.Their back stories seem to be intact and their general personalities are unchanged. Or at least nothing says that these things are different. The only thing that has changed is the artwork has been redone for a game whose original iteration is now approaching 12 years old.
But it is clear that for a vocal segment of the modern fandom the small stylistic details are king. A superficial tweak here and insignificant twirl there and database animal brain changes a phantom change into reality. Change the hair from short and straight to a wavy pony tail and apparently you have a new person. Throw a jacket and a new pair of boots on someone and you alter their very soul.
I guess I am disappointed because I thought Type-Moon fandom was better than this. I assumed that as a rule the fans coveted narrative, world building, and rich personalities over the superficial points of design and simple moe reactions. But apparently I was naively optimistic.
I’m not saying all of Type-Moon fandom is like this. There are plenty of people I have met that come to the table for the filling main course that is the more concrete and complex parts of the universe. But to see the vocal reactions of such base database animals is slightly disheartening.