Intro to the Nasuverse

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Intro to the Nasuverse

Post by CharlotteC on Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:45 pm

Now that I've experienced pretty much all there is in the Nasuverse currently, I feel like giving an overview along with recommendations in case anyone has an interest in the franchise. Since it's so boring to be the only one with an interest in it....


There are three main "settings" in the Nasuverse. Kara no Kyoukai is the smallest. Fate is the most popular by far. Fate is more epic in scope and action-oriented. KnK has a much grittier feel. Tsukihime is sort of a compromise between the other two. More details below!


KARA NO KYOUKAI


The protagonist, Shiki Ryougi, is the daughter of a family of former demon hunters. After a near-death experience, she develops the ability to perceive the "deaths" of people and things around her and can use this ability to kill things that would normally be unkillable. Thus, she goes around and chops up bad guys while trying not to go insane. There's also a romance element with her friend from high school.

The story was originally in novel form. There is an English translation, but I haven't read it. It was adapted into an anime, which you can find very easily on the internet (I have the series on my computer if anyone wants it) with English subtitles. From what I've heard, the adaptation is very faithful to the original material. Kara no Kyoukai was easily the best anime I've seen, and is probably my favorite motion picture/series overall.

The series is divided into seven chapters and an epilogue, for a total of 9.5 hours. The chronology might be a bit confusing at first so I'll give a quick guide here:

1: In media res. This is basically just an introduction to Shiki and friends, and gives you an idea of what the protagonist is all about by pitting her against a big bad guy.
2: Rewinds to when Shiki and Mikiya (love interest) met in high school, 2-3 years before the first movie. Explains the basis of their relationship.
3: Occurs just before the first movie. Another "Shiki vs. X" battle. Gives more insight into Mikiya's personality as opposed to Shiki's, reflecting the first movie.
4: Occurs between movies 2 and 3. Explains Shiki's abilities a bit more and gives some more information about Touko, Shiki's and Mikiya's employer.
5: Occurs after movie 1; from here on, the movies proceed in linear chronological order. All about the main bad guy, who was only hinted at before.
6: "Shiki vs. X." Talks about Mikiya's sister and uses her to explain more about Shiki and Mikiya.
7: The big finale.
Epilogue: Occurs after everything else. I don't really recommend watching this, actually, but if you want to say you've finished the whole series I guess you have to. Basically, it has two characters standing in place and talking for half an hour. They first introduce some random plot point from completely out of left field, talk about all the philosophical justifications and implications of said plot point, then explain why this point is completely irrelevant and unnecessary to everything else that happened. The series ends just fine without the epilogue, and you're not missing out on anything (not even character development) by skipping this. Still, your mileage may vary.

The Kara no Kyoukai setting is not very developed outside of the main story. Shiki Ryougi is a playable character in Melty Blood: Actress Again, but she has no significance to the story.


TSUKIHIME


"What if Shiki was a boy?!?!" This is basically the premise of Tsukihime, although all the other characters and plot points are different. This was written after Kara no Kyoukai to appeal to a wider audience, to the best of my understanding.

Tsukihime was originally a visual novel. This brings up one of the major problems with this setting and that of Fate: to garner more commercial success, Nasu inserted at least one excessively graphic sex scenes in each route as is expected of the genre in Japan. Besides the issue of distastefulness, the need for sex to occur at least once in each route sometimes warps the story (this is not nearly as bad in Tsukihime as it is in Fate, and it actually flows pretty naturally sometimes). Fortunately, there are non-ero patches available that circumvent the unnecessary elements while still preserving the story.

Tsukihime has two main storylines, divided into five routes (one per love interest) and nine endings (excluding the "you die/go nuts" endings you get from making poor choices). The "Near Side" routes are more about Shiki's encounters with supernatural beings, while the "Far Side" routes are more about his attempts to deal with his family's disturbing past (though both storylines address both elements to varying extents). If you are playing on a clean save, the game requires you to go through the routes and endings in a predetermined order. If you're only interested in one or two routes, you can easily download a 100% save and just read the ones you care about. To get the full story with minimal time, I'd recommend Ciel True for Near Side and Hisui True for Far Side, but I'll discuss all the routes below. There is generally a "True Ending" (bittersweet) and a "Good Ending" (everythingwentbetterthanexpected.jpg) for each route, although neither is supposed to be "more canon" than the other – you're supposed to make your own judgment as to which fits the story better. The ending you get in Tsukihime is based solely on the last choice you make in each route.

Near Side:


Arcueid Brunestud Route: Arcueid is an incredibly beautiful vampire who falls in love with Shiki after they team up to kill all the other bad vampires. If you think this sounds like Twilight, you're largly right. This is a lot better written than Twilight and Arcueid is a more compelling character than this synopsis can get across, but the basic premise is the same and the story suffers for the same reasons.
True Ending: I was ripping my hair out at how derpy the characters are to get this ending over the good one.
Good Ending: This one was a lot more realistically written. People criticize it for having a Deus Ex Machina, but so did the True Ending, so I can't see the argument that it's the inferior end to Arc's route. Still, Arc's route is the worse of the Near Side routes in my opinion.


Ciel Route: Ciel is Shiki's senior at high school and has a somewhat unsettling interest in him for reasons explained in both her and Arc's route. It is very similar to Arc's route at first, but then goes off the rails into pure awesome at the point where Arc's route would have ended.
True Ending: Touching to the point where I actually cried IRL. This ending also partially redeem's Arc's suckishness from her own route.
Good Ending: This was more depressing than her True Ending to me, for reasons I won't explain because spoilers but which you'd understand when you got there....

Far Side:


Akiha Tohno Route: Yes, Akiha is Shiki's sister. Yes, Shiki has sex with her in this route. The central role that their incestuous love plays in this route made the whole thing really creepy to me, which is sad since I actually like Akiha in the other Far Side routes. Hisui's and Kohaku's routes did a better job of explaining the situation anyways.
True Ending: Very sad; I don't know if their forbidden love really deserved THIS. This ending is built upon with a lot more optimism in the sequel, Kagetsu Tohya.
Normal Ending: This is what happens you screw your sister. Your Good Ending gets renamed the "Normal Ending." This should give you some idea of just how depressing this route is overall.


Hisui Route: Shiki's maid. This IS a Japanese game, after all. Hisui is a weak character, in my opinion, but this route does a really good job of explaining things. Sometimes it gets excessive; there are a LOT of talking and surreal dream sequences in this route, so more patience is required than in the action-packed Near Side routes.
True Ending: The better of Hisui's endings, in my opinion, although the difference between them is slight. This one just seemed to have more realistic consequences for those involved.
Good Ending: Not pants-on-head retarded like Ciel's good ending; I just don't like it quite as much, since Kohaku is kind of derpy.


Kohaku Route: Akiha's maid. Still a Japanese game. Kohaku is far, far more compelling than Hisui, and her sex scene is the only one that I feel was justified, written into the story well, and actually important to the plot. Kohaku only has a True Ending, but the tone is more like that of the Good Endings from other routes, so you won't feel like killing yourself at the end like in Akiha's route. The general consensus is that Kohaku's route should be the last one you read, since it depends on a lot of points brought up in other routes and ties them together in a satisfying way.

Other Works:

Kagetsu Tohya: An extremely non-linear VN that occurs some time after the events of Tsukihime. It doesn't follow any particular route (it could reasonably follow from Arcueid's Good, Ciel's True, Ciel's Good, or Kohaku's True), but sort of assumes events from all of them happened to some extent. It's hard to write a synopsis for the plot since the whole premise is that you're trying to figure out what the plot is, then figuring out how to resolve it happily. This work further develops the relationships between Shiki and the characters of the original VN while introducing another character, Len. Len is really not that interesting to me (she's the token loli... yeah, Japan), but Kagetsu Tohya explains her existence and sets you up for Melty Blood's plot to some extent, so I still think it's important to the overall Tsukihime setting. The VN also includes ten self-contained side stories that further expand on points that wouldn't fit into the normal narrative that well. Of particular note are the story explaining Arcueid's and Roa's relationship and the story explaining the relationship between the Tohno and Nanaya families.

Melty Blood: A series of fighting games. The original Melty Blood was a cross between a VN and a doujin fighter, following up on the original Tsukihime much like Kagetsu Tohya while introducing Sion (European alchemist hunting down the Tatari, a vampire responsible for killing most of her organization). If you want to read the story, get Melty Blood ReAct for the PC and play through the story mode (probably on an easier difficulty if you're not used to fighters). The later games in the series (Act Cadenza and Actress Again) were much better games, but eliminated the story mode in favor of short vignettes for each character that play out in Arcade Mode. These aren't really crucial the main storyline, so I'd only play them if you're interested in the actual game rather than the story (basically, like any other fighting game in existence).

Shingetsuan Tsukihime: The Tsukihime anime. According to /a/, it doesn't exist. I haven't watched it myself, but everything I've heard about it suggests it sucks hard and bastardizes all the original VN's routes together without doing anything new, so it's probably safe to overlook.


FATE:


The most famous portion of the Nasuverse, because Japan just loves to pit a bunch of normal people together in a fight to the death and see what happens. The premise is that the three big wizard families created a project to reveal the deep secrets of the universe to them by summoning heroic spirits from history and sacrificing them to power the Holy Grail, a vessel named after the mythical cup that could grant wishes. This lasted about five minutes before the families started backstabbing each other to get the power of the Grail for themselves, resulting in periodic "Grail Wars" as the Grail manifests spirits in preparation to grant a wish to the last man standing. As of Fate/Stay Night, the main VN in this setting, the 5th Grail War involves seven masters, each of whom controls a legendary spirit (such as Alexander the Great or Robin Hood). The protagonist, Shirou Emiya, is unfortunately a completely incompetent magus who got forced into the war for reasons explained in the VN, but mostly relating to his retarded father. This setting is a lot more focused on "epic battles" and outlandish characters than the other two settings.

Fate/Stay Night has three distinct storylines as compared to Tsukihime's two, but with only one route per story and five endings total. Like Tsukihime, you are forced to go through the routes in a predetermined order, but can circumvent this with a 100% save. There is a patch for this game called "Realta Nua," which adds more music, CG's, and a happier conclusion to the Fate route. Also, in the Fate setting, sex lets you transfer mana. Yeah. I HIGHLY recommend the non-ero patches, since the lead-up to and consequences of said sex scenes are so derpy that it hurts. Sex still occurs with those patches, but it's not pants-on-head retarded anymore and actually done in a (somewhat) mature way.


Fate (Saber) Route: Shirou falls in love with the spirit he summoned and watches as she beats the crap out of everyone else in the war. Similar to Arc's route in many ways, and not really my favorite for similar reasons (more of a power fantasy than actually good storytelling). There is only one ending for this route and it's a serious downer, but it gets better with the RN patch as I mentioned.


Unlimited Blade Works (Rin) Route: Rin is really kind of secondary in this route; the focus is on Shirou's self-sacrificial ideology, which is challenged by Rin's servant Archer. Which ending you get (True or Good) depends on your interactions with the characters throughout the route; the good one is actually pretty tricky to get without a guide, but personally I don't think it's as satisfying as the True Ending.


Heavens Feel (Sakura) Route: Sakura is the focus of this route in that her existence challenges Shirou's ideology at a far more visceral level than the conflict in UBW. This route is extremely dark and feels very different from the other two, and the story follows a much different path. There are two endings, but the True Ending definitely feels like a failure on your part when compared to the Good Ending rather than a distinct ending (and is actually really hard to get as long as you don't make Shirou act like even more of a retard than usual).

Other Works:

Fate anime/UBW movie: Adapations of the original VN. While not as blatantly horrible as the Tsukihime anime, the general consensus is that these are an inferior adaptation of the source material.

Fate/Hollow Ataraxia: A sequel to the story of Fate/Stay Night. This is unfortunately not fully translated yet. I've played through the parts that have been translated so far and am familiar with the direction the story takes, and I think it's an interesting expansion on some of the events of the original VN.

Fate/Zero: A prequel light novel and anime that tells the story of the Fourth Grail War, in which Shirou's father took part. The light novel is complete and has been translated; the anime is still airing, but is usually subbed within a day of the original broadcast. I haven't read the LN, but the anime is high-quality and faithful to the source material. The story in F/Z is a bit darker and more mature than that of F/SN (maybe excluding Heavens Feel), but it might make more sense if you've read F/SN first since there are a lot of references between the two.

Fate/Unlimited Codes: A fighting game with Fate characters. Supposedly it sucks and doesn't really have a story.

Fate/Extra: A JRPG set in an alternate Fate universe, one with more cybermancy than magic. There are a lot of clones of Fate characters, but they are separate characters. The game feels a lot like the Persona series overall. In my opinion, the story is stupid, the characters are shallow (the main character is more of a self-insert than an independent being like Shiki or Shirou), and the gameplay is horrible (glorified rock-paper-scissors), so I'd pass on this one – it's just fanservice, ultimately. There is an official English version for PSP, and it can be emulated pretty easily on PC. A sequel called "Fate/Extra CCC" is under development.


CARNIVAL PHANTASM:


Not so much an independent setting as a parody of Tsukihime and Fate. It doesn't make much sense unless you're familiar with the source material. There have been eight fifteen-minute episodes released so far.


MEMES (spoiler alert):


"Shiki can kill servants. Discuss.": Shiki Tohno can kill most things by observing their lines of death and cutting them; basically, this "actualizes" the concept of their death and permanently destroys that section of their being. It's been shown, however, that there are limits to his ability: Arcueid survives one attack of Shiki's and manages to regenerate from it, but only because she has the magical energy of Gaia behind her. It is unknown whether Shiki could kill servants by cutting them in this manner, so claiming that he can in order to harass the power-level obsessed Fate fandom is popular. Realistically speaking, Shiki's ability to instakill the servants is probably irrelevant because they are leagues above him in terms of physical ability; he acknowledges in a conversation with Arc that he would have trouble actually hitting her even though he can perceive her lines of death. This argument usually only applies to Shiki Tohno – Shiki Ryougi's eyes are more powerful and far better-trained than Tohno's, and her physical abilities are also much superior. While she may not be able to match a servant one-on-one outside of her void personality, she probably COULD kill one given the opportunity.

Power Levels: This is more prevalent in the Fate setting than Tsukihime or KnK thanks to the numerical faggotry Nasu pulls in the former. Basically, servants rape any normal human because they are fueled by the magic of the Holy Grail and are spiritual beings, unlike the strictly physical humans. Gilgamesh is stronger than most servants for completely arbitrary reasons. Ciel can actually stand toe-to-toe with the average servant, although she is at a disadvantage. Vampires range from only slightly stronger to humans (fledglings) to servant-level (Nero Chaos). Arcueid, because she has the magic of the whole planet behind her, is potentially broken beyond reason, but diverts most of her power to staying sane – if she lost her sanity, she could possibly lose the support of Gaia, although this is just speculation on my part. Under normal circumstances, she is a bit stronger than Gilgamesh. Shiki Ryougi's void personality is potentially strong enough to kill Gaia, but since the void personality is more of a hypothetical than reality, she is normally weaker (she does kill 99 servants in Fate/Extra, although that's not really canonical). Half-demons are also of varying strength. Akiha Tohno apparently outmatches Roa, who apparently outmatches Ciel, yet Nasu claims Akiha is not as powerful as Ciel (perhaps it's a rock-paper-scissors thing). Kishima Kouma, on the other hand, is supposedly at servant-level. Ultimately, however, as the source material shows over and over again, you can overcome a difference in power by out-thinking your opponent or getting allies on your side, so all of these arguments are stupid and so are the people who make them.

"There is no Tsukihime anime.": It's that bad, apparently.

"Please explain further.": Shirou's dialogue makes him seem a little slow sometimes. This is partially due to idiomatic translations and partially due to his naivete. This became much more popular after a comic in which Shirou needed to be taught the particulars of "mana transfer" by Rin.

Tohno Gland: Shiki makes no less than eight (possibly nine) women fall in love with him across the various VN routes (and his split personality from Melty Blood nets a ninth/tenth). These women frequently try to kill each other (or him) because of this. The irony of this is that Shiki is not actually a Tohno, but an adopted Nanaya....

Sakura is a Slut: Sakura was violated by worms repeatedly during her childhood as part of her magical training by the Matous. She was then raped frequently by her adopted brother to reduce the sexual tension this process apparently caused as a side effect. After all of this, the only thing she wants is for Shirou to love her so she can eventually escape from that nightmare, which means she kind of jumps on him as soon as he gives her the chance. After Shirou dies, she spends the rest of her life single to honor his memory while his sister shacks up with lots of guys and molests Shirou's servant. Obviously, Sakura is a horrible, manipulative slut who deserves to die.

Sakura is Evil: Sakura didn't want to fight against Shirou in the Grail War, so she gave her servant to her adopted brother (the one raping her) to fight in her place, giving him the chance to redeem himself in his family's eyes for his complete lack of magical talent. When her brother and Shirou finally did come to blows, she intervened and stopped them at the cost of her psychological stability (explained more in the VN). When the accumulated stress of being frequently raped, hosting parasitic worms to overcharge her magical energy, her sister trying to murder her, being forcibly psychically linked to a servant embodying all the evil and hatred in the world, and having her mind overridden by the accumulated magical energy of the Grail, she goes to Shirou and her sister and tells them to leave town before she snaps and obliterates everything nearby, including herself. When Shirou and her sister ignore her, the latter telling her that she thinks she's a baby who is exaggerating her problems, Sakura relents at the last second and knocks her sister unconscious before trying to kill herself so as to not accidentally the whole city. Meanwhile, her sister manipulates Shirou into letting her put a geas on him so that she can make him kill his love interest when convenient. Obviously, Sakura is a horrible, manipulative slut who deserves to die.

"Isn't it sad, Sacchin?": Satsuki Yumizuka was a quiet girl with a crush on Shiki Tohno. Finally, she got the courage one day to talk to him and he promised to always be there for her. On the way home, she got attacked by a vampire and left for dead. She then became a vampire herself, and went to go find Shiki in the hope that he could figure out a way to save her. He stabs her to death in an alley. Ironically, when she shows up again in Melty Blood (there is no real explanation for this other than the Tatari's reality-warping ability), it turns out that, while she has crap-tier luck with guys, she is one-in-a-million in terms of magical potential; it usually takes years for a vampire to achieve self-awareness after being turned, and they must kill their creator to attain independence. Satsuki became aware within hours of being turned, and broke free of her master's control within days while he was still alive. She can also manifest a reality marble, Depletion Garden, which is an extremely rare ability as well. Amusingly, Depletion Garden is the ultimate manifestation of how incredibly terrible everything in her life goes: it obliterates all the mana in the environment, raping anything magical in the area and leaving it dead and lifeless. It is rumored that she was supposed to have a route in the original VN, and that Melty Blood may follow off that cut route.

"A cat is fine too.": This actually originated from a doujin of Tsukihime. Len can turn into a cat, so when Shiki pursues her for the purposes of "mana transfer", she goes into cat mode to avoid the impending pedo rape. Shiki says this in response. This does not actually happen!

Unlimited Blade Works: Shirou's reality marble from the Fate route of the same name. Shirou's specialty is projecting copies of swords for combat, which is normally considered pretty inefficient among the wizarding community. For most magi, projection means you have to conceptualize the object mentally (creating the bullet), manifest it physically (loading the bullet), know how to use it (aiming the bullet), and then actually use it as intended (firing the bullet). These steps require both knowledge and energy input. Shirou has a reality marble, however, in which he stores information, materials, and copies of swords he has encountered throughout his life. This is because his father implanted a sheath into his body when he was little to save his life (this is explained in more detail in the VN), which warped his magical abilities in this unusual way (Shirou sucks at other types of magic). Because Shirou already has an effectively unlimited number of copies available in this internal world, he can skip the conceptualization step of projection, making him much more efficient. Because he stores information about how to use these weapons, he also skips the third step. Like most reality marbles, Shirou can also manifest his reality marble onto the environment around him, which is prana-intensive but allows him to skip the manifestation step. The end result of this is that Shirou can make a hell of a lot of swords in a very small amount of time (and this is actually useful because he can shoot them at things instead of just dropping them nearby). The memetic result of this is "Unlimited X Works." This is not really hard to explain nor particularly intellectual; just have a picture:


"Being Lancer is suffering.": The Lancer class of servants includes such wonderful individuals as Diarmuid, Chu Chulainn, and Vlad the Impaler. They are treated like Kenny from South Park. Amusingly, Nasu assigned them all terrible "Luck" stats. "Being X is suffering" is now a pretty common phrase.

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