Anime Review: Shiki Episodes 4, 5, and 6

(Originally published on Livejournal on 9/17/10)

Anime Review:
Shiki Episodes 4, 5, and 6

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.4 tl;dr review: Natsuno is haunted by dead Megumi’s presence; The deaths keep piling up as the doctor becomes more frantic.

Episode 4 Synopsis: No matter what he does, Natsuno cannot get Megumi out of his mind, causing him to be unable to sleep. Elsewhere in the village, the epidemic continues to spread, as more people fall victim to the unexplained anemia. Frustrated and without any answers, the doctor, Toshio, calls an all-hands meeting at the town hospital to try to control the situation. At night, the junior monk Seishin encounters Sunako again, where she tells him she has a disease that prevents her from going out during the daytime. Megumi’s presence continues to haunt Natsuno, and he asks Tohru if he can stay over at his place for the night, to try and get some sleep. However, that night he envisions Megumi entering the room while he suffers from sleep paralysis; Megumi turns on Tohru, biting him in the neck with vampire fangs.

ep.5 tl;dr review: Seishin discovers a disturbing non-medical connection between the victims; Masao learns that karma can be a bitch.

Episode 5 Synopsis: Natsuno jumps awake, finds Megumi is not in the room and Tohru seems fine — perhaps it was just a dream. Seishin travels through town to interview all the family members of victims to find some clues to their deaths, and discovers that most of them suddenly quit their jobs, without explanation, immediately before falling ill. After a few days, Tohru has been away from school; Natsuno arrives at his home just in time for the doctor to declare him dead, and he immediately suspects Megumi’s interference. The next day, he receives a postcard Megumi mailed to him a month earlier, which he promptly tears up and scatters outside his window. At Tohru’s wake, Masao behaves like a selfish ass, and ends up running away feeling alone and rejected. When he arrives at his closed-up house, Masao has to use the back entrance, where he is attacked and bitten by the village librarian, who had passed away a few days earlier.

ep.6 tl;dr review: Toshio is pushed past his breaking point until he realizes he’s been barking up the wrong tree all along; Natsuno bones up on vampires and the undead.

Episode 6 Synopsis: The undead Megumi visits Natsuno’s window, sadly picking up the pieces of the discarded postcard she had sent him. Natsuno uses this as proof that he really is being haunted by Megumi, and vows he won’t die so easily. As more people die and tensions among the villagers rise, Toshio snaps. Seishin visits Toshio and explains everything he found out about the victims suddenly quitting their jobs and moving away, but Toshio doesn’t want to hear any of it, chastising Seishin for wasting his time. Seishin, however, realizes that Toshio is really just frustrated and mad at himself, and he explains his feelings to Sunako that night in his secret temple. Natsuno decides to try and study up on vampires, and learns about the local legend of “Rising Dolls”, peculiar to the village because it is one of the few places in Japan where they bury the dead. Masao dies, barely noticed. Natsuno asks Toshio about the possibility of the dead coming back to life, but Toshio laughs it off, then catches himself and asks why Natsuno would think about that. In an instant, he comes to the sudden realization that there never was a medical epidemic, and fears something more sinister may be happening. Kaori and Akira, like many of the villagers, have grown suspicious of the reclusive newcomers at Kanemasa Castle, and plan to sneak inside.

My Thoughts: Shiki has really grown on me over time — a very moody and dark show, the tension is building nicely, and I’ve managed to get used to some of the more quirky character designs. Sure, some of them are pretty silly, but the more I get to know them as actual *characters*, the less I focus on the looks. I think I’m in this show for the long haul.

Yeah, it’s not a medical mystery any more, now it’s a vampire horror flick. I still can’t really tell how all the puzzle pieces will fit together, but it’s quite clear that strange things are afoot in Sotoba village. Little Sunako who can only go out at night; the creepy mover-guy Tatsumi seems to play a major as-yet-unexplained role as well. The bitten fall almost into a daze, about their only driving desire being to quit their jobs and move away. Only briefly mentioned is the new dour replacement town policeman, who I’m sure has a part of this as well. The deaths seem to run in certain families, while other families are just moving away without notice or explanation. And after nearly two months of unexplained deaths, the doctor is finally realizing the cause is not medical.

The “star” of the show, sweet and innocent/not-innocent Sunako, and the weary-of-life-beyond-his-years Seishin, have these eerily foreshadowing conversations. It almost seems to me that when they talk, each one is conveying carefully crafted volumes of meaning beyond the sentences they actually speak. At times Sunako acts like a giggly twelve year old, at other times spouting chestnuts as if she has lived for centuries. And in this village, Sunako has managed to find a kindred spirit in Seishin, whose tortured soul has been laid bare in his thickly emotional novels. I have the feeling that Seishin suspects a great deal more about what is really happening in Sotoba than he’s willing to put to words at this time.

I would have thought that Megumi would have mostly disappeared after she died in the first episode — no such luck. She haunts Natsuno incessantly, who feels her icy stare boring through the walls of his house, almost like the Great Eye of Sauron. And we finally have a hinted explanation for her continued presence as well: the Rising Dolls. Sunako says that the reason the Kirishiki family moved to the village was for her health, but in truth it may be because of the village’s ancient custom of burying their dead instead of cremation, creating a supply of fresh ‘dolls’ to control. Just a guess at this point, though.

We’ll see who bites the dust next. Based on the end of the sixth episode, looks like Kaori and Akira are about to discover the joys of vampirism. They’re killing off characters almost as fast as they can introduce them.

The Verdict:

Up Next: Legend of Legendary Heroes, Broken Blade, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Senkou no Night Raid (conclusion)

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