THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS
Now here's an interesting little anime from back in 2010 that just didn't seem to get noticed, but really is worth your time. Shiki is the story of a small village whose residents start either dying of a mysterious disease or mysteriously "leaving town" without saying a word.
Eventually, several characters (Dr Ozaki, Natsuno, and 2 children whose names escape me right now) are forced into the conclusion that the town has in fact been invaded by vampires, or as they call themselves "Shiki".
Now, before I talk about why I like Shiki so much, I need to first address the elephant (or should I say elephants) in the room:
- The first episode was terrible, full of annoying backing music and focusing on the series's single most annoying character Megumi (or as I like to call her, Jar-Jar Pinks).
- The animation style was very pointy, clearly inspired by Trinity Blood, but with very peculiar gravity-defying hair in some characters, and with one guy in particular having ridiculously big lips.
- The show isn't very good at creating a scary atmosphere, as much as it tries, with everything being too brightly coloured, and with the "atmospheric" music (that goes "laa laa laaaaaa!", when vampires are around) being just plain annoying.
- Junior Monk Seishin is an extremely inconsistent character: he says all killing is objectively wrong and then he kills a guy in the last episode, he says he's all about protecting people, and then he betrays humanity in episode 17 for absolutely no reason whatsoever except his friendship with with Shiki leader Sunako Kirishiki.
- Seishin is apparently a christian monk, but his theology is kind of weird, and members of his temple dress more like buddhists.
- Oh, and remember when I said that this show was trying (and failing) to emulate Trinity Blood at first? Well, they even got the same guy who sung the Trinity Blood theme song to sing the first theme song to Shiki (it was ok, but the second theme was awesome!
I've finished complaining now!
- The writers were amazing at actually reproducing what living in a small village is like, and pretty much every kind of person you get there, from the old gossips to the strangely snobbish types.
- The character development was brilliant, and every time a character seems to do something out of character, it's revisited and properly explained in later episodes.
- You don't know who to support, because Shiki has no bad guys, just people (and shiki) who are pushed too far out of desperation. The writers are so good at throwing internal conflicts and moral ambiguity at us that picking a side is really impossible, and it really makes you think about the way you view right and wrong. Heck, even our main character Dr Ozaki (pictured below) crossing the moral event horizon several times with what he did to his wife after she was turned, and the down-right callous way he manipulated and sent Chizuru Kirishiki into a pretty horrifying death just to prove the vampires' existence (made even worse by the fact that none of the vampires actually want to kill people).
- The way the mindsets of both the villagers and the shiki play out are just so realistic, and you see how desperate scenarios lead honest people to do terrible things, and when characters are as well developed as some of the ones on this show, certain deaths are truly heartbreaking.
BUT DON'T GIVE UP ON THIS SHOW JUST BECAUSE IT'S SAD, because it does have some freaking hilarious moments
For example, the crazy Willy Wonka-esque chocolate juggling funeral director:
And Mr. Yuuki, Natsuno's dad who (after admittedly VERY tragic circumstances), goes COMPLETELY NUTS (and I'm not even going to spoil that scene for you, but I just couldn't stop laughing)!
With that said, Shiki is DEFINITELY NOT A COMEDY, it's a tragedy, but the ending (while bittersweet) does not disappoint, and wraps up in exactly the way it should, tying up every character arc and story line beautifully.
So, yes, it's a flawed mess of a show, but it's also completely unique and really worth your time watching.
I'm Dan King, signing off.