So we all know this scenario, we have a friend who you wanna share an anime with, problem is they know nothing about anime and think it’s weird, no matter what you say you can’t convince them to even try it. Their final response usually ends up being something along the line of “it’s all in Japanese and they have weird stupid hair”. Well guys they might have just seen Shiki at some point because holy balls does its art direction epitomise everything non anime watchers see when watching anime.
I mean look at them! One girl’s hair is literally a green rope cemented into place, and don’t get me started on Tina two stars up there. All the characters are like this which for me at least makes everything kinda hilarious. I have a feeling though that this design was done with a more intelligent reason as Shiki itself is kinda generic horror drowning among a sea of other horror anime, basically its art style is the one thing that makes people really remember it. So Shiki in a nutshell is vampires and yes whenever anyone mentions vampires tragically Twilight must be mentioned but yeah these aren’t like Twilight’s fairy vampires these are nasty ass bite you a lot vampires.
I’ll say first that I really wanted to enjoy Shiki and I did but for the hilarity rather than the horror, it goes into some really good themes about humanity and people but dammit! It tries too damn hard and goes completely bananas by the end. It’s like watching someone try to do their best ball throw and it looks great till it flies out the pitch and hits someone’s grandma.
The whole series is set in the small town of Sotoba in the 1990s (which I’m guessing is why when shit goes down people don’t post about it on Facebook thus ending the series), the town is isolated by mountains on all sides but the residents seem pretty happy and pleasant enough. However, this is a particular hot summer (if you’ve ever been to Japan you’ll know the summers are pretty hellish anyway) and so people start dying. Well old people, which unfortunately is known to happen in extreme temperatures, as more people start dying though the Doctor Toshio Ozaki worries about an epidemic, being a small town with only one hospital this could cause some grave problems indeed! (heh heh) Meanwhile a new family moves into that one creepy ass mansion all old towns have on top of a damn hill! Why not just go the whole way and make it a castle with Dracula singing on top? So the set-up is… Super isolated town with no help, new creepy ass family, bunch of ridiculously haired people…. what could go wrong?
There is a lot to the anime so I’ll try not to ramble on for days about it. There are about 3 plots running through, first plot involves the teenagers of the town, second involves the doctor trying to help the town, and third involves doctor’s bff from childhood, a priest who becomes close to head vampire girl. This and the overarching plot of vampires eating people and people taking a dim view of being munched on.
The arguably main character of this mess is Natsuno, he moves into the town at the start and finds it boring as hell but makes friends quickly with a guy named Toru and his siblings. After tragedy hits he takes it upon himself to investigate the Shiki, enacting justice and well he’s got purple/blue hair and he’s a teenager so he’s bound by anime law to do something. He’s pretty cold and stand offish at first but has genuine attachment to his friends.
Another girl named Megumi develops an instant crush on him as she despises living in the town and longs to move to the city, unlucky for her Natsuno despises her and throughout the series she torments him and acts insanely jealous to devastating effect. This girl is just awful, and spoiler alert! Is the first victim of the shiki. Too bad she doesn’t stay down, really she’s just a spoilt brat. I could even try to sympathise with living in a town where people don’t understand you or your dreams but she actively hates them when they genuinely care for her, as far as I’m aware one old lady comments on why she’s wearing such nice clothes when she knows they are surrounded by farming land before Megumi snaps at her and then gets blasted by dirt from a tractor. Girl that isn’t hatred, that’s practical! She becomes one of the main villains of the series as after she is killed by the Shiki she comes back as one and enacts revenge on everyone. I say revenge but really the plan is turn everyone into a Shiki.
The problem with this plan becomes one of the major moral themes of the show as a Shiki must feed on humans to live, if they feed too long (about 3 days of hypnotic haunting) the person will die but there is no guarantee they will become shiki so some just stay dead. This causes a huge split in the village as naturally the Shiki want their family to become immortal Shiki like them so proceed to feed off them, unfortunately this just ends up killing a lot of family members… awkward.
We then have the Doctor Toshio and his BFF Seishin. The doctor is one of the more interesting characters, he fits the workaholic archetype and desperately tries to save his home village however the methods he uses to do so could be seen as becoming a monster yourself and in the end might have been for nothing. Seishin provides the other view-point as he is calm and collected and sympathises with the Shikis plight.
Now what about the shiki? Well Sunako is the token creepy child in this anime, she is a 13 year old girl who is actually over 100 and the original shiki. She pretends to have a disease which stops her from going out in the sunlight so isn’t seen for a while but gradually as the series progresses she shows how much influence she has. Her back story is quite tragic and thus creates another moral dilemma for us to ponder, she was locked away after being forcibly changed into a shiki and given humans to eat by her family till she escaped. Unaware of how much time had passed she realises her family is long gone and decides to make a new one, this is her ultimate plan. She doesn’t want to hurt people or kill them but she wants to make a village where shiki can live together and she doesn’t have to be alone. Unfortunately this plan goes awry and everyone starts beating the crap out of each other. After speaking to Seishin a few times they become close as he too is lonely and feels lost.
The characters in this anime are actually one of the best parts, at the beginning they all represent just normal kind people however as their lives are put in jeopardy they become twisted and commit atrocities that only a few weeks prior would have been unthinkable to them. The moral dilemmas are pretty strong as both sides are fighting for survival, and both have quite douchey people who completely abuse the other side. But you also have gentle and nice people who have been caught up in this horrible mess and just want it to be normal and over and refuse to give up their humanity. There is a little gore in this so if you are sensitive to that I would steer clear. Where Shiki fails for me is just the sort of ham-fisted way it goes about things, it peaks in the middle of the series where you’re just starting to see humans stand up for themselves, after that it just starts going a bit insane. Not to mention one of the villains in the series is trying to be menacing with his hair styled in cat ears….
Overall it’s an ok horror, but there’s better out there. I know I made fun of the hair but the rest of the art is actually pretty nice especially the rendering, but that hair… that’s where this anime really shines. My recommendation is to watch this with a group of like-minded friends and either ponder the deep meanings behind the characters struggles or wonder how these people get through doors.