“Death is terrible for anyone. Young or old, good or evil, it’s all the same. Death is impartial. There is no especially terrible death. That’s why death is so fearsome. Your deeds, your age, your personality, your wealth, your beauty… They are all meaningless in the face of death.”
Crosses, stakes, garlic, sunlight – these are the instruments of destruction and safekeeping that were once thought only to exist in fairy tales. But what if all the stories held some semblance of truth? What if monsters aren’t simply shadows of the mind, something kept far from causing us harm and danger? What if…
In a small, desolate mountain village most known for its shrine and burial rituals, there remain many people comfortable with the way life is. The village doctor tends his patients under strict family practice guidelines carried down through his lineage; a young monk and novelist upholds his duty to the shrine, following in his fathers footsteps; and children work hard at school, studying for exams in hopes of either following into their parent’s footsteps or even perhaps to one day get far, far away from the somber place of their youth.
However, nothing ever truly stays hidden or the same.
When a young couple and child move into the old European style mansion on the hill (far out of place in a village of this measure), the locals look on in wonder. Their big city style and mannerism is unheard of and not to mention that nothing good has ever come from that mansion since it creation. It was just what drew villagers away and drove some too it at the same time.
One particular villager, a young fashionista girl by the name of Megumi, became enamored by the couple; and earned her place among the first of many deaths that would occur over the next few months. Day by day, more and more villagers fell to this strange illness. Rumors of a summer cold gone instantly severe and incurable crept through the clinic and thoughts of an epidemic were told to be kept under the strictest of secrecy.
It’s not long before suspicions arise of a force beyond the control of humans; something reigning from a realm far more supernatural of nature. Shiki, roughly translated to “corpse demon”, are vampiric in nature from their unprecedented strength and aversion to sunlight to their desire and need for blood. As more and more villagers die from unknown ailments the problem is no longer what is causing this plague nor how to cure it; but rather how many will rise up after their death and join the enemy’s ranks.
Shiki is a 22 episode anime that follows the transformation of a small quiet village through its untimely downfall into the mouth of hell. As two polar opposite protagonists, Natsuno, a young loner with few acquaintances and even fewer close friends, and Toshio, the village’s most trusted and only doctor, begin to follow their instincts into an unlikely possibility; they find that their efforts may have begun entirely too late.
Vampire series often follow a similar trend, yet it is how they stray from the norm and portray themselves differently that truly can make one stand out above others. Shiki excels in this category not only through a wide character cast but also through the overall mood and presentation of the storytelling. Certainly, going into this series most will have a generous idea of what is to come; yet many will not be able to predict exactly how each twist will turn out or even the surprises lurking within each twist.
At first, everything seems very predictable; and to a large extent, it is. However, the story unravels in a way that leads the viewer to soon question those very suspicions. Characters that never seemed to have much significance or depth begin to take on a whole new role. The lines between good versus evil are not clear cut; black and white meld into a shade of gray that leaves you feeling torn and emotionally attached to certain characters no matter what their affiliation. Whatever stance you take on the story at the beginning may not hold through to its end and that is something that makes this series truly gripping.
How can we be expected to love those that kill? To feel pity for those only following their instinct? Perhaps there is no correct choice; and in the end, that might just be what makes us who we are.
“Is it so bad that I want to live? Is that my sin?”