“What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” – T.S. Elliot
TV Series; 22 Episodes
Genre: Mystery, Horror, Psychological, Supernatural
Produced: Studio Duame
At the turn of the last decade, the world seem to grow fascinated with vampires. Our pop cultures became obsessed with humanizing them, from those that stole blood from a blood bank, to those that glittered during the day. Hell, we turned the image of the vampire, from a dark, brooding creature of the night, to a harmless and proper metro sexual. For me, this new re-envisioning of the vampire has gotten stale. Hell, when did vampires evolve to stay out in the blistering sun!
Shiki was originally a light novel written by Fuyumi Ono in 1998. His work is no stranger to anime adaptions, most notablyTwelve Kingdoms and Ghost Hunt . Studio Duame, helming the project, hasn’t taken the lead on a television series in nearly three years since Miname-ke . Would this be a return to form for the studios previous successes like Please Teacher? Hopefully yes.
Set in the 90s in a rural Japanese town, Sotoba, villagers begin falling ill with an incurable anemia. Death rates skyrocket that summer causing the local doctor to fear the worst. What find it curious that this all began when a family moved into the Kanemasa mansion at the top of the hill.
The pacing of the tale is a bit uneven. It has the hallmark horror structure, ebbs and flows in the excitement that keep you hooked, but the ending seems haphazard and rushed. Six episodes seemed to be packed in the last three, creating a few loose ends that would have been interesting to resolve. The series also suffers from dialogues that last a bit longer than awkward, a symptom common among anime based on light novels.
Shiki hearkens back to an older aesthetic of vampire: the European castle, sunken eyes, heliophobic and unable to enter uninvited. But on the surface what looks like a drive through campy nostalgia is a deep plot. Characters are anything but two dimensional, with the main and supporting cast well fleshed out. Their psyches begin to evolve as the hunters become the hunted and vice-versa. More than a few similarities could be drawn with Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni , which takes the same excruciating steps to dissect the human condition. The interesting dynamics of their personalities and the well scripted writing make a somewhat predictable storyline engaging.
As with Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni , the character design seems disjointed from the actual content of the story. The relatively bright color palette takes away from the grim atmosphere. Worse is the flamboyant design of the supporting cast, who have hair that twists in every which way and vampire who are fond of jumpsuits and gravity defying dresses. The main cast of sun-dwellers, on the flip-side, have more natural designs and thus easy to relate to.
The animation and screen direction is actually quite excellent. A whole host of tricks are used, such as overexposing frames, using grainy film reel textures and cutting away effectively to create tension. There are some truly gruesome scenes where vampire contort their bodies as if they were missing joints. It’s a shame that the entire visual package was so lopsided in quality.
Shiki runs the gamut of horror anime music, from music box melodies, to haunting female choruses. I found the opening themes, Kuchizuke by Buck-Tick and Calendula Requiem by kanon x kanon being a bit too aggressive or poppy, where as something with a slower tempo would have been more effective. The ending themes, Walk no Yakusoku by nangi andGekka Reijin by Buck-Tick are quite excellent, moody pieces that are tinged with a slice of hope. The voice acting is superb throughout the entire show. In psychological shows such as this, its easy for the seiyuu to get a bit overzealous when trying to sell their characters impending dementia. Shiki is more reserved throughout, using subtle inflections in the casts’ voices to give a much more powerful effect.
It’s easy to recommend Shiki with the current crop of horror series lurking about. It takes it’s time to set up like a well planned murder but hastily executes its victim. We’re never given the chance to relish the thrill of the kill, and the ending comes quicker than we expect. If your new to horror or psychological anime, Shiki should not be your first kill. For those more experienced, Sotoba village should be enough to quench your bloodthirst.Story: 7/10