The third volume of Tsukihime brings Arcueid and Tohno back together for another round of wrestling with the supernatural. This time, it’s not vampires but zombies — or rather, zombie minions of sorts created by vampires from unsuspecting innocents. They’re not the pushovers they look like they ought to be, partly because Tohno has that much more trouble turning his “death vision” on those who were once just bystanders.
Actually, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Most of the third volume is lead-in and build-up to this particular battle, and while it’s not the bang-bang pacing of the action scenes that peppered the first two volumes, it’s more than decently absorbing. The last volume ended with what seemed like a conclusion of sorts - Arcueid and Tohno went their separate ways after defeating the vampire Nero Chaos. Tohno would like nothing more than to put on and leave on the glasses that restrain his ability to see the points at which he can strike things (or people) to destroy (or kill) them, but there are too many other unexplained, freaky things going on around him that he's unable to just willfully tune them out.
For starters: His classmate Ciel (whom he holds in high regard) invites him into a school-club room after classes are over and begins talking to him in a weird, guarded way about vampires. She clearly knows a good deal about what’s going on, but Tohno is far too nice to simply ask her. Not only that, but for him the whole world of the supernatural has something of the form of an anthill: don’t poke it and it won’t erupt. But sometimes the supernatural has a way of reaching out to you, as when he has a very NC-17-rated dream about himself and Arcueid — which turns out to have been something Arcueid sent him as a kind of thank-you note for his help. He’s more outraged than flattered, which kind of puts a damper on what is slowly shaping up to be a relationship between them.
Then the zombies begin to turn up — or rather, their presence becomes unignorable — and Tohno and Arcueid forge a new agreement between them to go and find how they’re being engendered and put an end to it. The likely culprit is Roa, another vampire of legendary power whom Arcueid has been tracking on and off for centuries, and whose schtick is to turn the living into the dead for his own amusement. (One would hope the guy would have just taken up philately, but no…)
What’s interesting about all this is how it’s never assumed that the two of them are simply going to team right back up and go out to kick zombie butt. There’s a lot that stands in the way of something like that just happening — not the least of which is Tohno’s own reluctance to stick his neck back out again after almost getting it chopped off. And finally, Tohno is of course wrestling with himself — dismayed by the fact that whenever someone needs to be called on to open up a 55-gallon drum of whoopass, it’s him. This is not a role he wants to keep filling, especially when every time he does it, he feels that much more affinity for his role as a killer.
The last portion of the colume also goes a bit towards explaining why Tohno’s sister has been able to so blithely dismiss his peculiar nocturnal schedule. It seems Tohno’s late father was quite possibly aware of the strange abilities his son possessed, and it takes a self-described “meddler” to break into the house and bring these facts to light…
The whole of Tsukihime has so far been a kind of a balancing act: the fluffier, cuter elements of the story (and the growing warmth between Tohno and Arcueid, too) offsetting the violence and supernatural lurkings-in-the-dark. So far they’ve kept it up nicely, although the next volume (which I’ll be discussing very shortly) is the last one to be out in English for some time. I do hope they can keep it up.