Sunday, December 23, 2012

Characters with Character: Kirei Kotomine

Characters with Character: Kirei Kotomine

                Many stories have at least one villain, and a villain must have a motivation that puts him or her upon a path that runs opposed to our heroes’. These motivations could be anything from a desire for power to revenge, and for a memorable villain these motives can be used to give the character depth. Out of all the motivations a villain can have, the most usually scorned is that the villain does what he does simply because he’s evil. It is understandable why since that usually results in a character with little depth and often times one that can’t even be taken seriously. Type Moon’s Fate/Stay Night provides a rare exception to this rule in Kirei Kotomine.

                Warning before we continue, I will be discussing (and showing) spoilers for both Fate/Stay Night and its prequel light novel recently adapted into an anime Fate/Zero. If you have not played the game and want to experience the (excellent) story without being spoiled, buy it now here or here, install the game, patch it into English (your choice if you want to seek out the voice patch), play all three routes, watch Fate/Zero, and come back (feel free to play F/SN again after watching Fate/Zero, I sure did).

                One of the things that makes Kotomine so fascinating as a character is how his backstory makes for an interesting nature versus nurture story in which nature ultimately wins out.  Born “broken” as  a few characters in the game call him, Kotomine could only find joy in things most people would see as negative, particularly the suffering of others. However, because his father was a man of the church Kotomine was essentially raised to be a good man and through that grew up knowing he was abnormal but could not really find a way around it. It’s this upbringing of his that sets the stage for an inner struggle that helps to not only give credence to his eventual step into villainy, but also to give him the character depth necessary to make him both believable and memorable.
                The details provided about Kotomine’s backstory during the Heaven’s Feel scenario help in properly establishing the disorder he was born with so that it doesn’t come off as a cheap way of backing up his motivations in the game. The player learns how Kotomine, prior to the game’s events, really put every effort into  trying to become normal from devoting himself to the church in hopes that God would show him the way to getting married and starting a family. In the end both only resulted in giving him indulgences for his twisted personality from finding pleasure in seeing the depression and self-loathing of church attendants brought on by the sermons he spoke to only finding joy in his wife’s dying of a terminal illness and the anguish it caused their daughter.

                Left like that, Kotomine probably would just come off as an interesting villain, but one that could be interpreted as an  “I’m evil, but I feel ‘so’ terrible about it” kind of villain. However, Kinoko Nasu avoided this by writing it that rather than feeling guilt over finding joy in these things, Kotomine’s disorder conflicting with his upbringing brings about a feeling of bafflement (and to some extent anguish) instead which will end up tying into a question he considers his entire life which I’ll get to later. In the case of his mass readings, particularly on December 31 as in his eyes his preaching’s effect on people gave him the power to ruin both the past year and the New Year, his bafflement was in how thankful the parishioners were to him after the mass even after being reduced to such a sorry state.

                Kotomine’s reaction to his wife’s death is a bit more complex and requires some explanation. The woman he chose to marry was someone he knew had a terminal illness from the start, but it’s debatable if that’s the reason he chose to marry her or if it was because she was the only choice he had as not even Kotomine himself could figure it out. Still, despite the illness, his wife was, in Kotomine’s eyes at least, a saint to him, knowing of his disorder and accepting him. Until her death she did all he could to change him, but to no avail with Kotomine even admitting to her as she was dying that he was unable to love her. She noted however that he was crying as he said this and soon after died believing that she had managed to change him. In reality, the reason for Kotomine’s tears was because he was unable to kill her himself.

                The main bafflement he has as a result of this is the recurring thought on his wanting to have killed his wife at that time. Kotomine is never able to determine if this thought is one of regret at a missed opportunity or some form of regret at having those thoughts towards someone who he loved (or tried very hard to love). He eventually gives up on trying to find an answer to that question because in his mind finding a definite answer would make her death worthless, which is something he didn’t want even if their time together couldn’t change him.

                Kotomine’s giving up on finding an answer to that recurring question actually ties in to the only solution he could find at that time. In despair at not being able to change even with starting and losing a family and unwilling to take his own life, Kotomine concluded that joy and pleasure must be sinful as his finding that in other people’s pain could only be seen as such. Until the events of Fate/Zero, he would devote himself to his work in the Church until gaining a Command Seal that would designate him a Master in the Fourth Holy Grail War, all the while seeing himself as an empty man devoid of any real desires.

                The Fourth Grail War is where Kotomine finally accepts his true nature, beginning with his interactions with the summoned Servant of Tokiomi Tohsaka, a fellow Master and a mage that the church has assigned him to serve (the Church and the Mage’s Association have an agreement with one another when it comes to managing the Grail War). This Servant encourages him to embrace pleasure rather than reject it, giving Kotomine the necessary push that would lead him down the path of villainy. These interactions make for an interesting look at two characters with completely different viewpoints and are written well enough so as not to diminish Kotomine as a villain as the actions he takes from pursuing his curiosity about the other Masters to utterly destroying one of them for fun are all his own and not something that can be put under “the devil made me do it” trope (insert Star Wars Episode 3 joke here). I do however find it interesting that the aforementioned Servant to give Kotomine this advice is Gilgamesh, who in his mythological story loses the fruit that will grant him immortality to a snake.
                To make a long story short, Kotomine does get killed in the war by the last remaining Master Kiritsugu Emiya, but the Grail, corrupted in the previous war by the Servant Avenger ( a little more on him later) preserves both his life and Gilgamesh’s (who at this point had become Kotomine’s Servant after Tokiomi’s murder at his hand). This ends up setting the stage for the next Grail War, the events of Fate/Stay Night, in which he ends up manipulating both the daughter of Tokiomi, Rin, and the adopted son of Kiritsugu, Shirou. While the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes portray him as a pretty one dimensional villain who ultimately dies in a way ironic to his killing Rin’s father, it’s in the Heaven’s Feel route that not only portrays him better as a written character but also provides a conclusion to his story that actually ties him well with Shirou.
                To begin with, one of the things I liked about Heaven’s Feel was how it portrayed Shirou as a more human and believable character than in the previous two routes. This route does the same for Kotomine in a few ways. First it reveals most of the background information I just discussed and second it shows him act in a role other than as a manipulative villain in his allying with Shirou against the new threat posed by Zouken Matou/Makiri and his plot concerning Sakura (the main heroine of that route (unless you count Ilya…and Rider) and the Holy Grail. Thanks to that alliance we actually get to see Shirou and Kotomine actually talk to each other from a genuinely funny scene (always comes to mind whenever I see mapo tofu on a menu) to an interesting bit of character dynamic that makes for another interesting look at two characters with opposing viewpoints interacting that comes off as an opposite of Kotomine and Gilgamesh’s interaction yet at the same time ties in with it in how Kotomine rationalizes allowing the birth of something that could very well destroy all life it comes across.

                This brings us to the third part, in which we learn about a question that Kotomine has been pondering his entire life: whether or not his birth was a mistake. In the aftermath of the death of his wife, part of his deciding joy must be a sin was his deciding that it was a mistake, but the events of Fate/Zero open that question up again as he eventually begins to ponder whether or not something born evil can really be considered evil if it’s just following its nature and doing what feels right to it. He ends up getting a chance at finding an answer in Avenger, a Servant summoned by mistake during the Third Holy Grail War that ended up becoming part of the Grail after its defeat and corrupting it. This is because Avenger’s identity is Angra Mainyu, a spirit of pure evil and destruction from the mythology of Zoroastrianism (to any who have played Prince of Persia (the one that doesn’t have anything to do with the other games) you’d probably remember it as Ahriman, the main villain of the game) so his influence ends up corrupting the grail, and his summoning is a mistake mainly because there can only be seven servants: Saber, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin, Lancer, and Berserker (in Avenger’s case he replaced Berserker) and up until then the Grail could only summon heroes whose alignment would be good.

                Avenger ends up becoming a part of Kotomine’s lifelong  question during the events of Heaven’s Feel as the events of that route lead to the Grail giving it life as an “incarnation of All the World’s Evils” (as the game describes it). Kotomine essentially wants to see this new creature born, even if it does mean it’ll probably kill everything on the planet including himself, because it will be something that will be evil in nature like him. Up until this point Kotomine has seen himself as unique in his desires, which seem to support the notion of his existence being a mistake, but with the impending birth of Avenger from the Grail he now has a chance to see how something born evil will react to the world that it’s born into and compare it to his own. The reason this all helps his character is because this is as close to a personal wish that Kotomine ever has (aside from his earlier desire to be normal) because it the Fourth Grail War he didn’t have a wish at the start and even after he betrays Tokiomi his main motivation from there on was basically to have fun .

                This is basically where the part about Kotomine’s character tying in with Shirou’s comes in. The character reveals about Kotomine in this route establish him as someone similar to but at the same time very different from Shirou. They’re both empty beings as a result of their backgrounds, each trying to find some sort of happiness. The difference being that Shirou’s aims are to do good for other people as opposed to Kotomine’s joy coming from the suffering of others. By the route’s climax the two are actually in a similar position, while they both have a personal desire, Shirou to save Sakura and Kotomine’s to see the birth of another being like himself, it’s not something that the Grail can grant them (revelations about it aside) and is therefore something they have to fight each other to the death for.  While in the end Shirou wins, Kotomine is able to find some satisfaction at his life’s end because he was at least able unleash his frustrations and envy he had towards normal people.

                Interestingly, Kotomine’s being drawn to both Shirou and Avenger in Fate/Stay Night and Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero may also be signs of a twisted desire for companionship with those who have something in common with him. When the fourth Grail War begins, the first thing to catch Kotomine’s interest is Kiritsugu after going over intelligence gathered about him and from those (limited) details determines that Kiritsugu must be a person similar to him. Unfortunately for Kotomine, he soon finds that Kiritsugu is neither empty like he is and even has companions who he has genuine bonds with, which ends up planting the seeds of hatred and envy that will influence the wish he will make upon the corrupted grail. Kotomine’s being drawn towards Shirou could be an unconscious one considering their differences and while part of the reason the two of them interact so much in this route is a combination of circumstance and so Kotomine can manipulate Shirou, there’s no denying that in their interactions Kotomine is surprisingly truthful towards Shirou and by the end the two don’t really hate each other even if circumstances have forced them to fight to the death.

                Unlike the case with Roa in Tsukihime, Kirei Kotomine hasn’t faded into the background and is both well remembered and regarded by the Type Moon fanbase when it comes to the villain characters of Fate/Stay Night. While I admit Fate/Zero probably helped to extend his character relevancy, the fact that he makes a bigger impression than most of the Servants as a villain in the Heaven’s Feel route and its prequel story is a testament to how well written he is as a villain. His backstory not only manages to  give him the necessary depth that he was lacking in the other two routes, but it also makes an effective motivation for a villain out of the much derided “because he’s evil” motive. Considering his presence in all of the spinoff material (and yes, I realize he’s not in Ataraxia, but considering much of the events of the that fandisk are connected to him I’ll count him as “present in spirit”) from Fate/Unlimited Codes to Fate/Extra*, it’s practically undisputable that Kirei Kotomine is a major part of Type Moon’s Fate series and is well worthy of that place. Now having written so much about the serious side of Kotomine, it’s time for me to take a look at his funnier side be it battling the other Masters and Servants of Fate/Stay Night and Zero together with Gilgamesh and Lancer in a game of hanafuda all to reach the local hot springs or overseeing a Grand Prix version of the Holy Grail War…yeah, Type Moon is weird.

*On a side note, if you want a good sample of the Fate series, Fate/Extra was recently released in English for PSP (don’t worry, it’s available on PSN) by Aksys. It’s an alternate universe to the original game where the Holy Grail War is fought inside a virtual reality with more than seven Masters and Servants and many of the returning characters are completely different from their F/SN versions. The story’s really good, though the RPG gameplay can get a bit monotonous outside of boss fights. I do recommend playing it, though I must say you’ll find it a bit more enjoyable if you’re familiar with the Fate series…also I want it to do well so Aksys can license its upcoming sequel of sorts Fate/Extra CCC where one of the Servants we get to choose is none other than Gilgamesh (the official thread for it is here).

Characters with Character: Shiki Tohno and Roa

Characters with Character: Shiki Tohno and Roa
            The hero and the archenemy, this is a character relationship that we see time and time again when following the ongoing adventures of a heroic figure. The archenemy can sometimes be the complete opposite of the hero such as Mario and Bowser or Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, but in a lot of cases that character can be portrayed as one who is so similar to yet also so very different from the hero such as Harry Potter and Voldemort or Solid Snake and Liquid Snake. I have to admit I favor the latter relationship mainly because it tends to add more complexity to both sides, and the two (technically four) characters that we’ll be looking at in this special “Characters with Character” segment are certainly of that category. I present to you, Shiki Tohno and Roa of Tsukihime.

            Warning before we continue, there are major spoilers for  Tsukihime’s story, so if you want to enjoy this game’s story first then go download and play or youtube it (reminder, game’s out of print) then please do so. I’ll even help you with the latter with a look at the game’s opening:
            Almost everyone in the VN community knows who Shiki Tohno is as a result of the well told story of Tsukihime and the narrative from his point of view throughout the game helps in establishing him as a character who manages to be likable, believable, and badass. Out of all the MCs I’ve ever come across in the visual novel game genre, Shiki would be in my top three favorites, and to be honest one could easily make a CwC article about him alone. However, I’ve noticed that the subject of his enmity with Roa rarely comes up aside from explanations about the events of Tsukihime. Now don’t get me wrong there’s plenty about the character as his character history has been well expanded over the years, but it seems Roa gets pushed aside in Shiki and co.’s rogues gallery in favor of the more over the top powerful vampires like Nrvnqsr Chaos (it’s pronounced Nero) or TATARI/Night of Wallachia. While it is understandable why, it is a shame considering the two make a fine example of hero and villain who are both alike and different. This article will be my attempt to examine that with as much detail as possible.
            Now at first glance, Shiki and Roa could not be more different; Shiki is a high school student who has been living a mostly normal life until his fateful encounter with Arcueid ends up drawing him into the hidden world of the supernatural while Roa is an ancient vampire, formerly a powerful member of the Church named Michael Roa Valdamjong, infamous for his ability to reincarnate and avoid permanent death. However, once you start taking a look at them, one of the firsts in this strange combination of similarity and difference is that both characters have something about them relating to death. Shiki has the ability to see the death of living and nonliving things, meaning their eventual fated destruction, expressed as small points on them with lines connected to said points that spread out from them. Tracing these lines results in (according to Type Moon wiki, who can explain it a lot better than me) “…realizes the fated destruction, and the victim is cut or cracked or broken along those lines. Because this destruction is destined, this method of injury ignores any of the victim's defenses; armor, magical protection, regeneration, and so forth are useless. While a line symbolizes "damage" along that part of the body, a dot symbolizes the totality of that body's damage, and by extension, "existence". When a dot is pierced, the victim's concept is destroyed.”  On the other end, Roa has the ability to reincarnate as a result of having altered his soul so that after death it can retain itself in Akasha (Kinoko Nasu’s take on the Akashic records) and from there he can revive in a new body after a period of time.
            With these two death associated abilities that are also opposites (Shiki’s to end life, while Roa’s is to continue it), we also get two different outlooks on life and death from these two. Shiki discovers his ability at a young age, but guidance from a sorceress he meets by chance named Aoko Aozaki results in him not only learning that his death dealing ability isn’t something to be used on a whim but also that there’s a value to life. This is coupled with his having unstable health as a result of an injury in an accident he can’t remember which not only helps him appreciate living but it also gives him a more accepting regard to his own death because for a while his bad health made it very unclear if he would live for very long after the accident. That’s not to say that Shiki isn’t afraid of dying as events throughout the game do show moments where he’s close to dying and does indeed feel fear, but he’s always able to find some sort of drive to help him pull through. It’s this value of life that is a central part of Shiki as a character from his appreciation of the normal everyday life he’s able to lead with his friends to his willingness to go the extra mile to in some way save those close to him, the best example being in Akiha’s route in which it’s revealed that the main reason Shiki survived the “accident” that occurred all those years ago is because Akiha gave him half of her life force to save him. Unfortunately this leaves her susceptible to the cursed bloodline of the Tohno family and over the course of her route it starts to drive her insane and the only sure way to return her to normal is for Shiki to either return that life force to her and the only way that can happen is through his own death or keep her bloodlust brought on by it sustained by letting her routinely bite him (a very painful process) in order to drink blood from the wound and hope she eventually returns to normal. While the former choice is considered canon to Akiha’s story, either choice shows just how much of a personal sacrifice he’s willing to make for a loved one’s sake. Nasu even made sure to write the scene following making the canon choice to show as noble a sacrifice as Shiki is making he doesn’t have any illusions about making this choice: he knows killing himself would be one of the last things he’d ever consider, he realizes what he’s about to do is only the lesser of the two evils as it may save Akiha but it will also hurt her, and despite knowing what he has to do he still feels fear at his impending demise but is able to pull through as he focuses on the person he’s making the sacrifice for. Surprisingly, this scene is pretty short, yet it really is an effective one.
 On the other side is Roa, whose ability to reincarnate came about as a result of research on a way to obtain eternal life as he believed that eternity was the only thing worth attaining. This belief stemmed from a view established when he was very young that all living things, including himself, were pitiful in how no matter what they did nothing about them could last forever, that they were all destined to break down or degrade over time in almost comically repetitive series of cycles. To obtain his goal of eternity, Roa ends up sacrificing his humanity and countless human lives over the course of his many reincarnations. Ironically though, Roa’s personality fades with each reincarnation and by the time Tsukihime takes place, Roa’s goal has become simply to continue his cycle of reincarnation. We also get a second irony relating to the loss of Roa’s original personality over the course of these reincarnations in that it counts as one of the very degradations that he was trying to avoid. Finally, one more ironic twist is that even though one of the things he disdained about mortality was how repetitive it seemed, once Roa gained the eternity he sought through reincarnation, each reincarnation would follow the same course of gaining power in his new body until Arcueid confronts and kills him, making his view of life by the time Tsukihime takes place simply a means to an end so he can keep meeting the vampire who he became obsessed with from the moment he saw her (we’ll talk about that later).
 This is where we see the opposing viewpoints of Shiki and Roa on life and death, for Shiki life is something to be appreciated for every moment there is and death is something to be acknowledged as something that will happen eventually and while it’s natural to fear death that fear shouldn’t be allowed to consume you. For Roa, originally, life was a series of the same degradations from birth into death that he wanted to break away from, and by the game’s time it’s just another phase until death. Roa’s view of death was initially just as something that he was to surpass in order for him to accomplish his goal and by the game’s time it’s simply the equivalent of pressing a reset button after a game over. Interestingly though, despite these differing viewpoints, at the near end of Ciel’s good ending we see the only scene where we get to see Roa’s thoughts on finally dying for real and he simply says that nothing is interesting at all even all the history of his reincarnations represented in a large book before disappearing. It gets you to wonder, did he reach the same conclusion Shiki did (or a similar one) about death or was he simply giving up and acknowledging that he couldn’t surpass death in the end?
            Now when talking about Shiki and Roa to fully analyze them, you’re also going to have to address the other Shikis and to do that I’ll need to explain more backstory. The Shiki Tohno we know is actually the child of a different family, the Nanayas, a clan of demon slayers massacred by the Tohno family as they were part demon and would be hunted by the Nanayas. Shiki was spared due to his being very young and after erasing his memory he was adopted by the Tohnos. He’s raised alongside the head of the family’s children, a boy also named SHIKI (the name’s written with different kanji so the English speaking fanbase write it as SHIKI) and his younger sister Akiha. Not long after, SHIKI ends up succumbing to his demonic blood, goes insane and attacks Akiha, Shiki ends up protecting her and is nearly killed in the process, so the head of the Tohno family has SHIKI imprisoned and Shiki’s memories of the incident and SHIKI are erased and he ends up taking SHIKI’s place in the Tohno family. Roa ends up reincarnating into SHIKI and that’s the body he’s using throughout the game; during the Near Side routes Roa is the dominant personality while in the Far Side routes SHIKI is the dominant one. SHIKI also possesses eyes similar to Shiki’s but can only see the aforementioned lines and not the dots and only on living things and not inanimate objects. This is because he’s more perceiving the life of something rather than its death, which makes for an interesting match with Roa considering his only regard for death is a step into another life for him.

Moving on to Shiki himself, unbeknownst to him until later in the game, Shiki has another side of himself that emerges when the supernatural are about that is more adept at fighting and seems to revel in killing. This other side is basically the result of the training Shiki received from his blood relatives the Nanayas before the Tohnos attacked. It’s debatable if this other side is truly another personality or just a result of his memories being erased, though Shiki does at some points refer to his other side as if it were another person, and the fanbase tends to treat it like one (dubbing it Shiki Nanaya) so I’ll count it as one.

Having explained all of this, I’ve covered the similarity of regardless of which version of Roa that Shiki faces they both have a second hidden personality. The contrast though is that Shiki never gives in to his other side completely, even in fights where it emerges usually as a result of nearing death, while SHIKI ends up becoming Roa or vice versa. With Shiki and Roa we see a sub theme of succumbing to/giving in to vs. not succumbing to/giving in to quite a bit throughout the game: Shiki is always able to resist attempts to either drive him insane like we see in the Far Side routes (though that is mainly a side effect from his connection to SHIKI) or control him like in Ciel’s route where Roa tries taking him over after his body is destroyed and aside from his first major encounter with Arcueid he doesn’t give in to his desire to kill brought on by his Nanaya side; conversely Roa is unable to fully maintain who he originally was in any of the routes as a result of his reincarnating and SHIKI can’t resist the madness brought on by the demonic part of his bloodline. Another example would be how Shiki never gives in to despair from the apparent hopelessness of a fight like when Nrvnqsr Chaos tries devouring him to when he has to deal with getting over having to kill Satsuki Yumizuka in self-defense when she’s turned into a vampire by Roa all of which helps in leading to a drive to continue moving forward and living, meanwhile Roa gives in to his despair towards life’s having an inevitable end. Shiki’s struggling and prevailing against these rather than giving in shows us the value of inner strength while Roa’s cycle of giving in provides us a look at a villain that lacks the inner strength of the hero but is able to manage without it even if it does bring him lower, which is certainly interesting to see.
Finally, the last major area of similarity and contrast with Shiki and Roa comes from how both have some connection to the heroines of the game; Shiki’s being positive and Roa’s being negative. The best example would be in Arcueid’s case: while at first there’s the more  obvious part of Roa being responsible for Arcueid having to live a monotonous existence of killing each incarnation of Roa and then sealing herself back into the Brunestud castle in order to sleep until the next incarnation (though admittedly that’s only half Roa’s doing since Arcueid was created by the True Ancestors as a weapon to kill the True Ancestors who had gone insane from blood drinking) as Roa tricked her into drinking his blood in order to become a powerful vampire as Arcueid wasn’t aware of her nature as a vampire (and yes I’m aware of Roa’s being associated with the snake due to his reincarnating so queue this), while her relation towards Shiki results in her experiencing a life outside of all that and subsequently some of his value of life rubs off onto her, there is a slightly less apparent one in the area of romance. This basically covers the root of Roa’s obsession with Arcueid; basically when a then human Roa (here’s a bit of trivia Roa also wore glasses, originally) first saw Arcueid he essentially felt feelings of love for her as he saw her as the embodiment of eternity that he was seeking, however since he didn’t understand what he was feeling was love having not experienced it before he instead interpreted it as his first feelings of hatred, blaming her for changing his goal of attaining eternity simply for the sake of attaining it to a means for him to keep reaching out to her. On the other end, Shiki does start feeling an attraction to Arcueid soon after helping her with Nrvnqsr Chaos, which he does recognize but has a hard time admitting until their relationship develops further, and it does give him an interesting perspective when he sees into Roa’s soul and finds out his initial feelings of Arcueid, leading Shiki to ponder what would have happened if someone had just explained to Roa that his feelings were actually love. Now I could write about the other connections as they’re all very fascinating such as Ciel’s being Roa’s incarnation prior to Tsukihime and how Shiki’s influence affects her similar to Arcueid, Roa’s incarnating into Akiha’s actual blood brother and how that affects her relation towards Shiki, and how Kohaku’s cooperation with against the Tohno family SHIKI affects her and Hisui, but if I discuss those in detail I’ll probably have written enough to fill a National Geographic magazine. However I can say that these arrangements of both Shiki and Roa having ties to the heroines adds depth to them both in how it fully rounds out Roa’s role as a villain not just for Shiki to overcome but for him and the main heroine of the route (though this significantly less so for Hisui and Kohaku) to overcome together after Shiki plays a role in helping to fix the negative influence brought upon said heroine by Roa.

Finally this leads into one final aspect concerning these two, companionship and what they take from it. Both Shiki and Roa have or have had companions over the course of their life, for Shiki it’s the friends he’s made and for Roa it’s the allies he makes from the people he worked with when he was a member of the Church, Kohaku, and Nrvnqsr Chaos. In Shiki’s case these are genuine bonds and from those bonds he learns things that help him grow as a person such as with Aoko Aozaki it’s why he needs to control his power and the value of life or why his continued living is more important to those close to him than he realizes over the course of Akiha’s route. With Roa his allies are mainly just associates he can rely on for aid without any real attachment between them; while there is some indication that some of his allies from his days in the Church may have regarded him as a friend (much of this is from Nasu’s published notes and Melty Blood rather than Tsukihime), I can only really talk about Kohaku and Nrvnqsr Chaos for sure. For Kohaku, it’s mainly an alliance of convenience with both using the other for revenge, Kohaku against the Tohno family and SHIKI/Roa against Shiki. Nrvnqsr Chaos is the closest to an actual bond since the two do call each other friends and have helped one another out, though there seems to be a line for as to how far this friendship goes since even Nrvnqsr Chaos won’t accept him as a numbered member of the Twenty Seven Ancestors of Dead Apostles (who basically the most powerful vampires in the Type Moon universe) because even though the Church has declared him one of them they won’t accept Roa as such because they view him as a heretic for his methods as a vampire, and in Roa’s case he never seems that upset after Nrvnqsr Chaos dies at Shiki’s hand.

It really is a shame Roa fades into the background as a villain after Tsukihime and Nrvnqsr Chaos is more iconic in that aspect. He and Shiki make for an interesting hero and archenemy to analyze from the major points they have in common contrasted with their many differences, yet it’s this case of similarity and dissimilarity that ties in so well with their enmity making them such interesting characters with character. Each of their unique confrontations per route makes for one of the many pillars that has helped Tsukihime stand the test of time and be remembered to this day as a classic of the visual novel genre. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fry my brain on the product of Kinoko Nasu’s decade long buildup of the Type Moon universe’s mythology coupled with his insanity, Carnival Phantasm, only those who have played at least Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night may join…it’s the only way you’ll get the jokes.