After watching numerous seasons of Buffy and True Blood, I feel I entered Shiki with a little more sympathy for vampires as people than the typical person. Especially during the last extra episode (#20.5, reviews here), I noted there was virtually no way I could root for the ordinary humans, whose savage, sadistic, predatory behavior was no better than the worst vampires. Sure, they’d been taken to the edge of desperation, and their loved ones were being killed, but I didn’t care. Tying up Nao and the others to burn in the dawn is not appropriate behavior for any decent being in my books.
Anywho, this episode does things a little differently, essentially giving us an abridge re-telling of the entire series and its five months of horror, almost entirely from the perspective of a new character, Maede Motoko, a devoted mother of two with Sonic the Hedgehog hair! Aaaand I’m sympathizing with the humans again! Seriously, to say Motoko had a rough half-year is an epic understatement. Her family is taken by her one at a time, starting with her father-in-law and husband. When her daughter becomes pallid and eventually dies, she kills her horrid mother-in-law. When her son shows the symptoms, she sits in a bathtub with him until he dies and decomposes.
Finally, she goes to the top of a hill and starts the fire that eventually envelops the village and requires all the survivors to evacuate, having descended totally into madness. Her transformation from cheerful mother to smelly ranting lunatic is extremely rapid and disconcerting. Shiki proves yet again it is not for the faint-hearted. The episodes final moments – in which she is consumed by the flames, grinning from ear to ear – just gave me flat-out c h i l l s, something Shiki does a lot. It was also nice to hear the quirky, eclectic soundtrack once more.
And now for something completely…alternate.
This week we take a break from the trials and travails of Huey Disward and Dalian and follow along a brand spankin’ new duo of bookish detective and bratty library-maiden. They are Hal Kamhout and Flamberge. Hal looks like he could be an officer in Fullmetal Alchemist, while Flam reminds me a bit of Tycho Science from Diebuster, only with the voice of Holo from Spice & Wolf.
There’s is an adversarial but clearly effective working relationship here, although they bury their mutual respect for one another behind slightly more vicious teasing and insults. Hal keeps Flam locked up in chains, even in the heat of battle, and when he unlocks the library within her, well, let’s just say he’s not as gentle as Huey is with Dalian. Aside from the new faces, it’s another open-shut case involving a town full of enchanted dolls, repopulated by a female cop after a bombing raid killed most of the town’s population.
Unlike Huey, who is just kinda muddling through with his role, Hal is a full-fledged “Libricide officer” complete with knowledge of baritsu and possession the Staff of Surtr (kinda a mini Lance of Longinus?) whose duty is to find phantom books, take them out, and “burn away” the evil parts of the people who use them, if they can be redeemed, as the cop could. Nice diversion, but I still think I like Huey and Dalian more.
This week was a very talky episode, but a lot was revealed about Sou and Renji’s past, and the question floated: what’s more important, friendship or truth? Narumi is running every which way, carefully extracting tidbits of information, risking dire bodily harm, and trying to piece together exactly what their beef is, and why Renji wants to destroy Sou so badly. All this while checking in intermittently with Alice and arranging all the PR for Mika’s upcoming concert, which hasn’t been cancelled.
Turns out they used to live together with a third roommate, an illegal immigrant named Hison. They both loved and protected her – you could say she was the glue that held them together – but she was no saint herself, working at the bar of a rival gang, and was its leader’s mistress. When the leader’s wife found out, she ordered her killed – even though she was with child. Sou tried to stop it, but couldn’t. These very crucial blanks were filled in by none other than one of Hiro’s conquests, an eyewitness to the incident.
All these years, Sou has been content to keep the truth buried, and loathed anyone digging into it. Renji believed Sou used Hison as a human shield, knowing nothing about the mistress or pregnancy angle. Renji has a gang of misfits working for him and many years of rage for Sou stewing. But whether he think Renji killed her or simply didn’t stop her from being killed, it will be hard to dissuade him from his vengence. In fact, in the episode’s cliffhanger (long arc, this), Narumi gets the message that “Sou is down”, signalling that it may be too late for peace negotiations – the war may have already begun.