TV Series; 22 Episodes
Genres: Mystery, Horror, Psychological, Supernatural
Produced: Aniplex, Funimation
Review “What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” - T.S. Elliot
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 notably Twelve 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 and Gekka 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.