Anime Review: Shiki Episode 3

(Originally published on Livejournal on 8/29/10)

Anime Review:
Shiki Episode 3

Anime Review in a Minute: What this is all about – I watch the shows so you don’t HAVE to!

About the Series: Tucked away in the mountains, isolated from the modern world is the small, sleepy village of Sotoba. Nothing much seems to happen here, until one hot summer when the residents slowly and mysteriously begin to die. As the deaths mount, the town doctor suspects it might be a dangerous epidemic, but the evidence just doesn’t seem to add up. Others think it might be related to the strange, reticent family that recently built a mansion on a high hill outside of town. Can the mystery be solved before the town is doomed?

ep.3 tl;dr review: Everyone knows everyone else in the small, backwater town; Little Sunako makes her first appearance.

In this episode: Natsuno can’t seem to get any sleep at his home, obsessed that he is being watched by unblinking eyes from the forest. While walking in the hot summer sun along the road, he is picked up by his friend and the town nurse, who are driving in to town. Natsuno never intended to stay in Sotoba, so he has done his best not to make any close friends; and even among those who would call him a “friend”, he keeps his distance. Even now he is viewed as an outsider by classmates like Masao, who has a seething hatred for Natsuno, as well as troubles at home caused by his own childishness. Meanwhile, Nao has taken a turn for the worse, with the same anemic condition as Megumi; the doctor is still flummoxed by the cause, suspecting some sort of communicable disease, but with a new clue found in two puncture marks on Nao’s arm. The young Sunako Kirishiki makes her first appearance, heading down from the mansion at night to find the priest Muroi, as she professes her love for his dark, serious novels. But her sweet, young innocence seems to hide a more complicated soul, when she warns Muroi that he can’t truly escape life by slashing his wrists.

My Thoughts: Tons of stuff happens this episode, but it all adds up to…nothing. So far. It’s all still just setting up the stage, very *slowly* putting all the chess pieces on the board. About eight new characters are introduced, and the complicated relationships between all of them are sketched out (much more than I briefly outlined above). Pretty soon, to keep track of them all you’re going to have to put up a big line chart.

Natsuno is at the center of the story, at the beginning of the series he was portrayed as a priggish asshole, but he’s a bit more complicated than that. Sure, he’s standoffish, partly because of his own cool and taciturn personality; but he is also purposely trying to keep his distance from everyone in town because he knows he is going to leave Sotoba as soon as he is able, and doesn’t want to form any close bonds. By closing himself off from everyone, Natsuno is only reinforcing his position as outsider, although that perhaps gives him the best perspective on what is truly happening in the village.

Sunako is equally a piece of work, with the mixture of sweetness and arrogance that only an innocent pre-teen can really pull off. She is still largely a mystery, but clearly there’s much more than meets the eye to the Kirishiki family.

But let’s not forget one very important character that hasn’t really been talked about much: Sotoba Village. The role of the town perhaps is as of much importance than any single character, and the events that are now playing out could not take place anywhere else *but* here. As described by Muroi (via Sunako), it’s a “village surrounded by death”, a factual statement that is also eerily prescient. The author has gone to a great deal of trouble to include extensive details about Sotoba in the story, almost as if it’s a separate character, giving the show a much more solid feel. (I am reminded at how great a role the seaport of Hakodate plays in Noein, as a similar example.)

More than anything, this is a “mood anime”, where the mood and tone is almost as important as the story itself. They are setting the mood wonderfully, with excellent use of visuals and sound to set the background. But it’s a slow, slow build — so settle in, because it doesn’t look like there’s going to be much serious action for some time.

The character designs are as comical as always, but that’s not going to change so better get used to it. Either I accept that’s how the characters look, or I don’t — there’s no in-between. It’s just a matter of how much it detracts from the story itself — same as the unnecessary T&A in Highschool of the Dead, for example.

For more information:

Review of Episode 1: http://matthigh.livejournal.com/520407.html
Review of Episode 2: http://matthigh.livejournal.com/525096.html

The Verdict: – creepier and creepier.

Up Next (not necessarily in this order): Legend of Legendary Heroes, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Senkou no Night Raid

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