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“Can Shiki kill Servants?” is a question that’s often asked in Type-Moon threads to derail the subject of the thread into a “power level” (character strength ranking) argument. It is a topic that has been argued to the point where it is a running joke in Type-Moon threads on /a/ and /jp/. It also has derivatives that appear outsides Type-Moon threads such as “Can ‘x’ kill Servants?” and “Servants can kill Shiki.”
But typically if one wants to make a mindless power level thread where fans will argue no reason, they will make a topic like, “Shiki can kill Servants. Discuss.”.
The discussion about the power ranking of characters in the Type-Moon world (Fate/Stay Night and Tsukihime) had already begun when the first “Fate” game was released in 2004.
These topics were mostly discussed on the Type-Moon board in Shitaraba BBS. The discussion consisted of comparing the power of characters in Type-Moon world with other skills in other manga/anime series (eg. Stands in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Nen in HUNTER x HUNTER). In order to avoid antis and trolls in 2ch, many of threads for the discussion about Type-Moon’s works have continued in Shitaraba since around 2003.
The oldest thread specialized for the ranking was posted on March 1st, 2004. 【最強は】型月世界ランキング【だれだ！！】. As of now, the latest thread for this series is number 440.
However, what really sparked the controversy was a Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night crossover doujin series called Type-Moon Complex X created by Crazy Clover Club in 2007. In the doujin, several Tsukihime characters defeat Fate/Stay Night characters. Shiki defeats the Servant Berserker which caused a lot of fans to rage and discuss the topic seriously.
Though Tsukihime is far more popular in Japan than here. This meme is used primarily on 4chan’s /a/ and /jp/ boards (though it makes appearances in other forums as well in Type-Moon topics). It’s variations also primarily came from 4chan.
Shiki Tohno is the main character in the Type-Moon adult visual novel Tsukihime. He is also the main character in the fighting game series Melty Blood. He has a fairly normal high school student with a personality that matches the generic protagonist that is usually in harem-type anime. However, he also has an alternate personality named Shiki Nanaya who is a cold-blooded and well trained assassin.
When Shiki’s glasses are off, he has the ability to see lines, known as the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception (直死の魔眼 – Chokushi no Magan lit. Demon eyes of Direct Death) which is an incredibly powerful pseudo-magical effect.
During this state, he gains the ability to perceive vital lines lines of his target (commonly known as Death Lines). He is able to cut these lines with his knife which enables him to inflict fatal injuries which ignores any of the victim’s defenses; armor, magical protection, and so forth.
These lines are connected to a dot that represents the target’s existence. When the dot is pierced, the victim’s concept is destroyed. This method of killing is apparently absolute; it bypasses even reincarnation, and can even be used against a collective entity. As it erases existence, then by extension, the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception can also destroy non-physical things, such as spells, thoughts, magecraft, and even nature.
Servants are a type of familiar who are summoned to fight in mage war called the Holy Grail War in the Type-Moon visual novel Fate/Stay Night.
Servants are the reincarnated spirits of heroic identities (for example- King Arthur and Gilgamesh) that swear allegiance to a magus who serves as their Master for the remainder of the war. They fit under one of seven character classes (Saber, Archer, Rider, etc) which are created for the purpose of the war.
Their goal is to fight and kill each other so that they can obtain a wish from the Holy Grail which will only grant a wish to the last pair standing.
Servants are described in Fate/Stay Night to be extremely powerful entities that humans cannot kill. Along with their own super-human abilities, each Heroic Spirit comes with their own powerful weapon called a Noble Phantasm. These weapons are iconic weapons that the hero used when they were alive (for example, Excalibur). Though typically most Servants only come with one Noble Phantasm, there are exceptions.
In an interview, the creator Kinoko Nasu describes what makes Servants powerful,
"… what makes [Servants] dangerous is that since they’re spiritual bodies, [so] regular weapons won’t work against them. As far as destructive power goes, there are more numerous powerful weapons among modern ones, but as normal weapons won’t do a thing to them, they’re among the most powerful.
The meme “Can Shiki kill Servants?” and it’s variants are often used in threads as a way to troll. However, this topic is sometimes seriously discussed and debated on /a/ and /jp/.
As to the actual argument, more reliable sources (including the creator Nasu) state that Shiki cannot kill Servants.
TVtropes.com offers an explanation as to why-
“Shiki’s eyes do not work on Servants since he does not yet comprehend their existence; they are already dead and are not truly dead when killed (they probably return to the Halls of Heroes or something).”
Despite this, many fans think otherwise (partly due do the picture of Shiki killing Berserker in the doujin), so it is very easy to provoke fans into starting a mindless power level argument by simply stating, “Shiki can kill Servants. Discuss.”
Due to the large amount of times this was asked and discussed, several variations popped up. Some troll the question by answering that “Shiki can kill servants” as a reference to Shiki being able to kill his maid Kohaku. The opposite “Servants can kill Shiki” also comes up as a troll answer to the question. Another popular derivative is to attempt to disrupt threads by posting “Shiki can kill ‘x’”.
Many arguments also involve Ryougi Shiki, the female protagonist from the Type-Moon visual novel Kara no Kyoukai, who possesses a more powerful version of Shiki Tohno’s abilities. Most fans think she would have a better chance of winning. However, according to Nasu, her strongest form would be able to put up only a defensive fight.
There is some debate about this though, as she appeared in the PSP game Fate/Extra as a summoned Servant and was said to have killed ninety-nine Servants.