Review: Shiki

seishin-sunako-natsuno-toshio-tohru-kotokoSeishin, Sunako, Natsuno, Toshio, Tohru, Kotoko

Anime: Shiki

Studio: Daume

Episodes: 22

Original Run: Jul 9, 2010 to Dec 31, 2010

Genres: Supernatural, Thriller, Mystery

[Some Spoilers]

Synopsis:

The quiet, isolated village of Sotoba is abruptly besieged by a mysterious epidemic that spreads without warning or reason. The victims show uniform symptoms that do not match those of any previously existing diseases. Villagers are dropping like flies and attempts to seek outside help are suspiciously derailed.

Even as the majority of Sotoba’s people remain unaware of exactly what is happening in their village, a few individuals are exposed to the darkness that has come to their conveniently remote community. The village doctor, Ozaki Toshio, is driven to desperation by his inability to help those under his care but desperation becomes vicious determination when he figures out the true cause of the epidemic. Koide Natsuno, a teenager who’s recently moved to Sotoba from the city, ends up discovering some unsavory truths about the rampant deaths. Meanwhile, the village priest, Muroi Seishin befriends a mysterious young girl, Sunako, who can only come out at night.

Unlikely partnerships are born are as two opposing forces clash with all of Sotoba at stake.

 

Story:

I’ve seen Shiki described as ‘terrifying’ more than once so I watched it expecting some hardcore horror. That was not what it turned out to be but Shiki is far greater than just mindless horror. It’s not scary per se but its realistic exploration of the quiet and insidious takeover of a closed off village has the potential to be more horrifying the more you think about it. Vampires, take notes.

s1

Shiki starts out rather slow and the bright, ridiculous hairstyles alone are enough to cast doubts on the tone of the story. But it doesn’t take long before the illusion is shattered and the anime’s true colors shine through. Despite a handful of characters being the main players, Shiki makes an effort to focus on a considerable number of Sotoba’s residents so that even the most inconsequential or unsympathetic of deaths have an impact on the viewer’s perception of the overall condition of the village. The setting is one that the show utilizes to the best of its ability, evoking not quite sympathy but a muted despair for the inevitability of the tragic events to come.

As for individual characters, their appeal is hit or miss but there’s no doubt that each of them are unique and even memorable. Some, like Natsuno, Sunako, Seishin, Tatsumi, Tohru and Toshio are fascinating, though with various levels of likeability, due to the way their personal struggles tie in with the condition of the village. Others like Megumi, Masao and a few less important others are irritating every time they appear on screen but that too seems to be a deliberate choice.

s2

There are a lot of interesting elements that shift and develop at different stages of Shiki, little subplots that often manage to be even more engaging that the whole. Natsuno and Tohru’s doomed bromance as well as its even more disastrous aftermath, Toshio’s slow, subtle descent into insanity that may also just be ruthless practicality, Seishin and Sunako finding in each other someone drastically different but also startlingly similar to themselves are all parts of the narrative that serve to widen its appeal.

The extreme reversal that takes place in the second half of the anime is one of the best parts of Shiki, taking the story in an entirely different direction from before. The ending is also quite spectacular for reasons I will not mention in order to avoid heavy spoilers. Let’s just say that there is an oddly appropriate twist in there. Shiki does induce apathy in the viewer after a point with all the constant deaths but rather than subtract from the story, I’d say that it enhances the general mood. Because ultimately, Shiki is a quiet little tragedy where no one wins and everyone hurts.

This anime also has the dubious honor of being the one that made me laugh during the most inopportune moments out of a mixture of dark humor and sheer incredulity.

If this is now novel adaptations turn out to be, then I’d like to see more of them.

 

Characters:

Sotoba may be a small village but it certainly has enough residents to give Shiki a sizeable cast, comprised of both humans and the titular shiki who are vampiric creatures. Though we do have a handful of main characters, the nature of the show is such that even minor, unnamed characters are important, particularly towards the end. In this section, I’ll just focus on the four mains – Natsuno, Toshio, Seishin and Sunako.

megumi-kaori-nao-ritsukoMegumi, Kaori, Nao, Ritsuko

Natsuno is a character that won me over quite fast despite the fact that he’s an utter jerk in his first few scenes. It’s likely that I just identified with his desperate desire to get out of a deadbeat town, a desire which he expressed in a manner that was far less toxic that Shimizu Megumi, the first character we’re introduced to. Natsuno is the first to find out about the existence of vampires in the village when he witnesses Megumi, who’s obsessed with Natsuno, prey on his best friend Tohru out of jealousy. Though aware that no one would believe him and that he can’t fight too effectively, Natsuno still refuses to passively accept Sotoba’s current reality. Natsuno’s character undergoes a fair amount of growth in the story. Namely, he ends up rejecting the chance to just escape and save himself in favor of trying to save his friend and then the entire village. His arc is one that kept me invested till the very end.

Toshio is perhaps the character with the most impact in Shiki. The village doctor who runs a clinic that’s been passed down to him by his father, Toshio firmly believes that the well being of the villagers is his responsibility. That’s why the series of deaths and his inability to help the victims wears on him to the point that he becomes a little unbalanced. Even after a brief conversation with Natsuno helps him understand that it is vampires causing these deaths, Toshio finds himself unable to do anything to stop it. Eventually, he sets down a path of ruthlessness where he becomes as much of a monster as the one’s he’s hunting. A remarkable thing about Toshio is how he comes to the brink of self-destruction multiple times but always pulls back from it. He chooses a course of action and follows it to the end, but unfortunately, that end turns out to be the farthest thing from what he envisioned it to be.

tatsumi-yuuki-seishirou-kyoukoTatsumi, Yuuki, Seishirou, Kyouko

Seishin and Sunako presents one of the more interesting relationships I’ve seen in a narrative. Seishin is a young priest who feels trapped in a village whereas Sunako is an old soul trapped in a child’s body. It’s Seishin’s description of Sotoba that draws Sunako and family there in the first place. The two soon meet and quickly forge an odd friendship that lasts even after Seishin finds out what she is and what she is doing to Sotoba. Rather than an evil vampire with little regard for human lives, Sunako is portrayed as someone who is fully aware of the nature of her actions but is nonetheless willing to go far to ensure that she and her kind have a place to belong to. And Seishin, who despairs of the life he’s forced to live, finds in Sunako’s company the freedom to be himself and not who he’s supposed to be. Their ultimate fate is not one I quite agree with but it does illustrate quite well that life is rarely fair.

 

Art and Music:

Shiki’s art is really something else. The character designs are not only eccentric but also very bright, which is completely at odds with the tone of the anime. Their hairstyles are particularly notable for their impossible shapes and gravity-defying properties. Really, the hair in Shiki should be considered as sentient entities. The art in other areas are pretty good and the shifts in style during some of the more creepy moments are certainly effective.

art

Neither of the opening and ending themes stood out much to me but they weren’t bad either. The original musical score, on the other hand, does a very good job of complementing the varying moods of the anime. The melancholic but unsettling tracks are quite effective.

 

Veridct:

I highly recommend Shiki. It’s a greatly engaging anime with elements of psychological horror that poses interesting and not easily answerable questions on human nature and morality.

Rating: 8/10

 


As you may have noticed, I made some changes to my blog’s appearance. The theme is still the same but I played around a bit with colors and fonts. The header images are new as well – I was thinking of using images related to the Top 5 from here until next year.

If any of you find the changes to be irritating for the eyes, let me know.

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About D

Just another avid anime fan.
This entry was posted in Anime, Shiki and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Review: Shiki

  1. Karandi says:

    I absolutely love Shiki so it was great reading your thoughts on this. It definitely has a slow build up but it is incredibly worth it as all of those smaller stories have purpose, even if that purpose is just to enhance the tragedy unfolding. You’ve kind of made me want to rewatch this (yet again). Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I’d say that Shiki is one of the best vampire stories I’ve ever seen in any media and I’ve consumed quite a few of them. It was greatly enjoyable and even writing this review was so much fun. I’m happy you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karandi says:

        I like how complete they feel as vampires. The doctor learning about them and being very thorough in his investigations as well as our own observations, really make the shiki feel like a real threat rather than something out of a horror story or folklore. Its an interesting take on a modern vampire story because so many just assume we know vampires and just dive headfirst into the taking them down without building up the threat.

        Liked by 1 person

      • D says:

        True. Something that really struck me was how Toshio methodically goes through vampire myths and finds out all he can about their biology. As pitiful as his wife was during the process, the scene itself is one of the most powerful in the show.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I would definitely most likely not watch this but I really enjoyed your analysis! Very well done 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Thank you! You not into horror shows?

      Like

      • No, not at all! 😛 I might have watched some in the past but they’re definitely not for me as I’m quite the squeamish person hahaha
        I do enjoy reading about others’ perspectives, though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • D says:

        I tend to freak out sometimes at live action horror but am immune to it in anime. I guess skinless corpses and the like are more scary the more realistic they are? Anyway, I definitely get why you stay away 😀

        Like

  3. katrinasade says:

    I’ve been wanting and wanting to watch this anime and I just haven’t done so yet. I’ve been hearing that it was “terrifying” as well but I’m glad to hear that it’s not just mindless horror. My favorite types of shows are ones that are more suspenseful and spooky and Shiki seems to be more up that alley.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Adam says:

    I have mixed feelings about this series. On the one hand I felt that the characters were well developed and established, that even without names characters were easily recognizable and not generic. I also felt the suspense was well done, but sometimes over done. The pacing felt far too slow, particularly in the early episodes. I often found myself looking ahead and accurately predicting how a given conflict would resolve.
    I will say that some of the subplots in the second third of the series felt engaging, as the story humanized and demonized both sides of the conflict. there was a definite way in which both groups elicited sympathy and revulsion, but most of the story felt tragic, rather than suspenseful thriller.

    I would strongly recommend Higurashi no Koro ni, and have heard good things about Another, if people are looking for more strong suspense/horror anime.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. D says:

    Yeah it was predictable at parts. The vampiric nature of the ‘epidemic’ and the direction it was taking was clear enough from the start, even the role reversal. But the fire caught me off guard in the best of ways and maybe it’s inappropriate, but I had to pause the screen to laugh at the whole mess by that time. I have a weird sense of humor.

    It is more of a tragedy than a thriller and the pacing helps with that I’d say. Personally, I prefer this kind of slow, harsh tragic fall over thrillers so the anime as a whole felt tailored to my tastes.

    Those are on my watch-list too. It’s a huge list though.

    Like

  6. remyfool says:

    Wahaha I actually watched this one. Unfortunately it seems the shoes we’ve watched rarely overlap. But man, I felt pretty old seeing that this aired 7 years ago since I was watching it while it aired….

    Despite my aversion to horror, I thought the show was amazing. A bit hard to watch, but it was wonderfully tragic. What happened in the show is still in my head even now.

    Thanks for the review! I think you definitely captured what made the show fun to watch.

    (Also I remember feeling happy when a certain detestable character died. Starts with a M! Serves him right)

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      They don’t, do they? I tend to go for action gorefests and you for girls and their cute shenanigans. But hey, let’s look at it like we’re expanding each other’s horizons.

      Early 20s ain’t old! Okay, I vaguely recall your comment on someone else’s post thus why I’m remembering that. Or am I misremembering…

      Thanks! It was more fun than usual writing this review, probably because I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

      (I was happy with Masao and Megumi died. Loathed them both so much jeez. Masao is definitely more creepy though.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • remyfool says:

        Wahaha yeah. That’s a good way to see it.
        No u right. Well, actually I’m probably in my mid 20s as of this month. Rounding up puts me there, at least.
        Mmm! That makes a huge difference when it comes to writing the review. Yay!
        (Ohhh snap I forgot Megumi’s name started with a M, too. Which is weird since you mentioned her in your review. But yes, good riddance!)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Mel’s Round-Up Week 18 – Mel in Anime Land

  8. Elisabeth O'Neill says:

    I love horror that can make me laugh as well as unnerve me. It’s one of those satisfying kinds of catharsis only horror can really provide. John Carpenter’s The Thing does that for me, and I also love how Evil Dead 2 pushes that response with how ridiculous it is. For me, it’s just one of the marks of a good horror. With all the complex characters and relationships you mentioned too, I can see myself really enjoying this show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Horror that’s amusing but still identifiable horror is a rare treat. I don’t think my moments of laughter while watching Shiki were the most appropriate responses but hey, to each our own. This is a very enjoyable anime and I really hope that you end up liking it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I really liked this show, but I couldn’t get over the character design aesthetics. The crazy hair, tears that look like facials, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I can totally understand that. They really went crazy with the designs to the point that by just looking at it, one wouldn’t even begin to guess that it’s a horror anime…at least until they break out the pitch black sclera.

      Like

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