Shiki – 22 (Fin)(Retro Review)

Originally posted 30 Dec 2010 – The Shiki finale was unbelievably good – we’ll just get that out of the way. Naturally, just when victory is in sight for the villagers, a fire breaks out. And when a fire starts in a dry, windy forest, it doesn’t bode well for the mostly-wood village it surrounds. Toshio tried to fulfill his duty to protect the village the best he could; his rage and sorrow is palpable when he swings his chainsaw around wildly. Still, he saved many lives.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without Natsuno. He hypnotized Toshio before Chizuru, which is why her glamoring didn’t take. I imagine Natsuno basically told him to keep doing what he was doing, and he did. By the  end, there’s only two vampires left: Sunako, and the newly-risen Seishin, who has chosen to stay by her side.

Everyone else meets their end in various awesome ways. Megumi is found sneaking around, and her desperate pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears: by now the villagers have heard it all. They run her over with various farm equipment until she’s immobilized, then stake her. We kind of wish Megumi had made it to the big city, and we felt a bit bad that they’d just destory her so callously; but her surviving just wasn’t in the cards.

Natsuno throws himself and Tatsumi into a huge pit full of corpses by design, and blows them both up with dynamite. It’s clear Natsuno had no intention of living as a werewolf, so taking Tatsumi out with him two birds with one stone. He also made sure Kaori and her little brother were safe in a neighboring town before going back to take care of business.

We truly thought Sunako’s long time on the earth was at an end when Oosaki cornered her in a church, but Seishin rescued her at the last minute (whaddaya know, the big bearded dude’s mortal after all!). As out-of-town firetrucks and helicopters descend upon doomed Sotoba village, he sneaks out in a car with her in a suitcase. The final cut-to-black gave us goosebumps; something we expect from any great finale.

This was a truly excellent finish to what became the series  whose episodes we came to anticipate most each week, once it got going. The payoff was made so much more satisfying and impactful by the careful, intricate build-up in the first half. This was a series that slowly but surely changed our minds about it. We’ll miss its broodiness, casual gore, sexiness, and general strangeness, as well as its superb score.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Shiki – 21 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 Dec 2010 – As if there was any remaining doubt about whether there is a distinct good or bad guy in Shiki, this episode drives the point home: there isn’t. The vampires and werewolves mostly kill to survive, as the humans do. But just as some vamps kill for sport, the humans kill other humans they believe to be collaborating. Things have gotten out of hand, and Toshio is so focused on victory he can’t see the ultimate tragedy: even if the living win, they’ve lost: they’ve cast away too much of their humanity to do so.

This is perfectly illustrated in a prologue that makes one’s skin crawl, as Chizuko and the gals cluck it up after a hard evening’s transporting dead vampire bodies. They have a meal right in the midst of corpses, without even washing the blood of their hands. This isn’t just getting used to a tough situation: to me, this is a form of insanity brought on by the need to cope with one’s hellish reality. They’ve hardened themselves to the point that cutting a person into pieces appears as easy as throwing a load of towels in the wash. Win or lose, things will never go back to the way they were; not for these people. Society’s rabid compulsion to survive has led to its own collapse.

Seishin finally asks Tatsumi why he does so much to serve Sunako, despite werewolves seemingly superior to vampires in all ways. Tatsumi scoffs at this: it has nothing to do with superiority and everything to do with feelings. He loves Sunako because amidst the cycles of society collapsing and rebuilding – the centuries of humans and their civilizations tearing themselves down and building themselves back up again – only Sunako remains and endures to see the next phase, the next world.

Her timelessness is a source of awe. Those who know and admire her cannot bear to think of her demise. Their own existence is meaningless compared to hers, and they’re willing to sacrifice themselves if it means her continued existence. Seishin obviously believes this as well, as he exerts all his remaining energies to help Sunako escape her hunters. But they’re hot on his trail, and his blood will lead them right to her. Will she wake up in time? I think we all know the answer to that!


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 20 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Dec 2010 – We were initially a bit dubious of Shiki’s unique, out-there character design, just as we were with House of Five Leaves, but in both cases, simply watching them through has totally eliminated that stigma. And having so intricately built up a story with so many characters and motivations, the final payoff is made all the more awesome. Toshio and his followers (led by Ookawa) go on a staking spree, but only succeed in destroying a third of the Shiki; there are other hiding places.

Some Shiki have resorted to desperate measures: murdering Toshio’s mother as retaliation and to send a message to other humans; an enraged Seishin picking off humans with his rifle; and even glamored humans being sent out as assassins. It’s all underhanded and not what Sunako wanted at all. She’s still in the basement with Seishin, growing more and more afraid of her expectant demise. You can’t help but sympathize with her: though she’s killed thousands in her centuries of life, it was always so she wouldn’t starve. She now questions whether it would have been better to starve; if her life itself is a sin that shouldn’t be.

Meanwhile, Tohru finally surrenders to Ritsuko’s refusal to feed off of her friend. She wishes to avoid detesting herself by not killing anyone, even at the cost of her life. She wishes she had never risen. Tohru’s pleas are no use; all he can do is make her comfortable in her waning hours. At some point, Sunako, Tohru, and all the others made the choice to live and live with the guilt, a choice Ritsuko isn’t capable of making. She is a nurse, after all. It is truly heart-wrenching to see her suffer, but breaking her will would be worse.

Which brings us to Toshio’s dilemma: their enemies aren’t just Shiki, but the humans they control through drinking their blood. Ookawa splits the village into black-and-white: good guys (them) versus bad guys (the Shiki and the “traitors”). Ookawa even stakes the human assassin, disturbing Toshio. He absolutely does not want humans murdering other humans, but what choice do they have when they’re coming to kill them? We’re in for a hell of a final two episodes.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 19 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 12 Dec 2010 – The war begins between the surviving humans and the Shiki, as Chizuru is very publicly exposed and staked and Toshio is finally able to convince a mob to join him in driving out the “pests”. Yet we’re on the fence as to who’s truly in the right here; since we’ve learned so much about the Shiki. They aren’t killing because they’re evil demons. They’re killing because they need human blood to survive.

The Shiki must kill humans to live; the humans must destroy the Shiki to live. No wonder coexistence is so tough. Even if a segment of humans were okay with giving blood to feed them – and there is – there will always be extremists on both sides who will sabotage any chance at peace. Both overly wild and violent vampires and intolerant humans won’t agree to even the most mutually amicable compromise.

Sunako sheds tears not only for her child Chizuru, but because after coming so close to realizing the dream of a Shiki village, Toshio now threatens to crush that dream. Even worse, when day breaks, she falls asleep, leaving her defenseless. Who has been charged with protecting her in the basement? A supine, anemic, Seishin. Meaning if the mob finds them, they’re toast.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 18 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 3 Dec 2010Oho! Now things are getting interesting…and they were already plenty interesting before. Toshio replenished the blood he lost with an infusion at the clinic, which lessons the effect of Chizuru’s glamor. Allowing her to bite him was an immense risk (though it was going to happen anyway), but it seems to have paid off big.

Sunako is the vampire queen, not Chizuru. Chizuru, it would seem, is her daughter, who lived part of her adult life as a human, and even had a husband. Toshio taps into that and lays on the charm, with good results: asking her out for a harmless date to help her mingle more with the still-living villagers and allay their fears, Toshio is able to get her close enough to a temple so that her worst fears surface. The fear weakens her, and Toshio gets everyone’s attention that this is indeed a okiagiri – including Megumi’s dad, who remembers the scent of her perfume. This scene where Toshio turns the tables is delicious – and vicious – in its justice.

This is huge, as for once a good chunk of the living are forced to shed their denial and face facts. It also raises the stakes considerably for the vamps: a full-on assault to finish the villagers seems necessary. Meanwhile, Tatsumi, the blue-haired daywalker pays Natsuno (and his now-crazed dad) a visit. Tatsumi and Natsuno are called jinrou, the best of both worlds. But he won’t let Natsuno keep living if he won’t suck blood. Oh yeah, Ritsuko rose and doesn’t want to suck blood either. More power, more problems.


Rating: 8
 (Great)

Shiki – 17 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 27 Nov 2010 – Seishin still can’t get on board with Toshio’s methods, and this is driven home when he meets exactly what he’s been talking about: Toru, who is killing to live, not out of evil or hatred. Do vampires have just as much a right to kill humans as humans have to kill animals to live? Is this just the luck of the food chain? This seems to be his line of thinking: Killing vampires is still killing. He won’t kill. After a strange encounter with poor tormented Kaori, he goes to the Kirishikis’ mansion to hang out with Sunako. Will she bite him?

Meanwhile, Toshio is holed up in his clinic, carving stakes for the coming battle. He definitely seems resolved to go out fighting. When another victim arrives, he lets slip that it isn’t an epidemic. Ritsuko, remembering seeing Nao in action, asks Toshio what he meant, but the conversation stalls. When a fellow nurse is kidnapped, Ritsuko is drawn out into the night and bitten herself, and it’s over. It seemed she had come around to the conclusion about what was going on, but it was too late. She is glamored by her biter to refuse treatment and insist on being left alone.

Finally, Mrs. Kirishiki appears in the clinic, with her…interesting outfit. Toshio comes at her with a stake but Mr. Kirishiki shoots it to pieces with a sniper rifle. Is this...Game Over? Well, she bites him, and tells him to burn his data, and he does. But who said this wasn’t the next stage of the plan Natsuno suggested? Natsuno can think for himself; perhaps the risen Toshio will be rebellious as well.

Of course, first things first: Toshio has to die and rise. And his last words before being bitten suggested he didn’t care about the village anymore; it was full of idiots who did nothing to stop their plight. Excellent stuff.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 16 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 Nov 2010 – One of the really neat aspects of any vampire-themed narratives is the ridiculously long lives vampires live. When Toru can’t seem to get over killing Natsuno, he’s summoned to the mansion to meet with Sunako. Who had been just your typical creepy little ghoul girl became orders of magnitude more interesting when she shared her rich and harrowing life experience with Toru. Killed, buried, then risen; she embarked on a quest to find her parents that spanned human lifetimes, all the while killing kind and weak humans for food. Compared to her, Toru has absolutely no reason to kvetch.

The Kirishikis would prefer all of their vampire servants to have an attitude more like Megumi. Parts of her human personality remain – her cheerfulness, fashion sense, and love for Natsuno, for instance – but she’s also become totally desensitized to the actions she now takes nightly as a risen. She’s not going to let anyone rain on her human-draining parade. But she’s still just a baby vampire;  perhaps decades or even centuries from fully understanding what she is.

This week Toshio meets covertly with Natsuno, who is a daywalker…and seems to now get fashion tips from Megumi (we’re not knocking it; after all some people have to look correct in this backwater village). However he’s dressed, he’s not interested in falling into line like Megumi; he wants to help Toshio get rid of the Shiki, including himself. But they must bide their time. We’re curious to learn how they’ll do it, and why they have to wait until the moment the vamps think they’ve achieved irreversible victory.

Not a party to these plans, Akira takes it upon himself to start the war early, but fails pretty quickly when the blue-haired daywalker appears. It would seem Akira is a goner, which will leave poor timid Kaori as the only living Tanaka – a family that’s gotten the short end of the stick in this series. One thing’s clear: if the living are to take back the village, an uncoordinated direct attack isn’t gonna cut it.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Shiki – 15 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Nov 2010 – Seishin walks in on Toshio just having staked his dead wife through the heart. But however Toshio justifies it, Seishin is against all killing, be it human or risen. Considering he hasn’t been targeted yet, its as pragmatic a position as it is moral. Toshio then stops by the health office, only to find no one there during the day.

Everyone works at night, now that they’re risen. Chizuru Kirishiki happens to be lounging around in that very office when he visits. While that particular fact doesn’t make much sense, it is made quite clear to Toshio that he’s on their list. It’s only a matter of time before they come knockin’ on his door.

No one else who’s still alive is interested in what Toshio has to say. They either don’t or won’t believe him (or in Seishin’s case, cannot help him). Things look pretty bleak, until BAM, Yuuki’s back! Despite being risen, he still has his regular purple eyes, but his get-up is much more Vampire Chic (I’m going to assume he’s risen unless they say otherwise). He isn’t there to kill Toshio. He’s there to tell him he’s not the only one who believes Megumi is still walking around. Tasty…now what’s gonna happen next?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 14 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 13 Nov 2010 – Yowza…just when we think Toshio’s checked out emotionally, he springs into action once his wife rises. He even gets it all on tape. It must take an ungodly amount of dedication to treat one’s recently-deceased wife like, well, a fetal pig in biology class, and treat her arm like a pincushion. Toshio won’t let the risen corpse speak, even though she knows his name. As far as he’s concerned, his wife is dead. Whatever this is, it’s a golden opportunity to discover what makes the vamps tick.

Even so, you can’t help but sympathize with his corpse-wife: he’s doing these terrible things to her while she’s wide awake, listening and watching. Even for a vamp, this is clearly torture, which then leads to a staking, Toshio’s last resort to extinguish her. We all know staking and beheading vampires is the only way to get rid of them, but he had to be scientifically sure. With possession of this concrete knowledge, he’s perhaps the only one who can save the town.

Meanwhile, Megumi kills the Tanaka kids’ dad, and later expresses her concern that Yuuki hasn’t risen yet. We love how she still has the hots for him. It would be a shame if Yuuki ended up cremated in the “big city”, since the first half spent so much time on his character. When the creepy effeminate guy (bad with names) who did rise rubs it in Megumi’s face, she has a rock and Chuck Taylor ready for his face. We’ll admit a macabre satisfaction when this kid’s big mouth gets him in trouble.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Shiki – 13 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 29 Oct 2010 – Things just keep getting worse in the ol’ village. Tohru ends up drinking enough of Natsuno’s blood to finally do him in. He’s definitely not gone, though, he’s sure to become the newest okiagari (vampire), which will have all kinds of ramifications. Meanwhile, even Toshio’s wife ensnared by the risen, and he’s powerless to stop her death.

When Natsuno’s dad emerges from his workshop to find his wife has run off and his son is dead, he has Natsuno’s body taken away by the new funeral home (apparently, word’s gotten out there’s mad mortuary money to be made in this village), but the good doctor decides to put his recently deceased spouse on ice, presumably to wait for her to…rise.

Both deaths are surprisingly austere and there isn’t much exposition, a testament to how accustomed everyone is getting to death. With one of the main characters sure to become a vampire, and no sure solutions in sight, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how anyone is going to survive this.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 12 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 16 Oct 2010 – After a hiatus of a couple weeks, the dark, angsty vampire series has returned for its second half. It doesn’t start off with a bang nor a whimper, preferring to take the middle road. Natsuno was bitten by Tohru, and continues to be bitten, so he’s well on his way to dying of anemia and likely becoming a vampire himself. Interestingly, Megumi doesn’t seem to care about him either way anymore.

Natsuno wants to find a solution for the risen to coexist with humans, but Tohru doesn’t want to hear it. Sure it’s hard to kill people for food at first, but like all things, with practice it gets easier and less of a big deal. The more human lives you take, the less human you become. When and if Natsuno becomes one of the risen, he’s bound to find this out for himself. His urban-minded, anti-superstitious father tricks Natsuno’s friends into leaving him alone and tosses out all of their crosses and talismans. So no help there.

There’s still hope for the human Natsuno; if his family moved out of the village, back to the city, and he was admitted to a hospital and given a blood transfusion, he could recover. But it isn’t entirely clear one can even leave the village, and it isn’t known whether anyone who ‘moved away’ is even alive anymore. That’s kind of a downer. What are the humans gonna do?


Rating: 6 (Good)

Shiki – 07 thru 09 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 8 Sept 2010 – So just about all the cats are out of the bag: this village has a nest of vampires, and they’re sucking everyone dry. We feel even worse for the poor tortured doc after his piece-of-work wife and battleaxe mother stop by and tell him to wuss out and let someone else handle the ‘epidemic’. Great advice, gals.

We also feel pretty bad after he does everything he possibly can to keep a bite victim alive (and actually succeeds for a time) but it’s all for naught, as the blue-haired daywalker intervenes. This marks the first time the doctor has had direct contact with his pointy-toothed nemeses.

Having watched a lot of True Blood, we believe the solution to the village’s problem is fairly simple: stake the daywalker(s) and burn down the nest(s) in the daytime. PROBLEM SOLVED. Of course, there’s the matter of getting them all, and with thirteen episodes left, doing so will be no simple task. Still, now that things are moving and all the important people know the score, I’m enjoying this dark and unrelenting series, goofy hairstyles and all.

Special mention to the OP – “Kuchizuke” by Buck-Tick – an angsty, twisted J-rock ballad filled with despair and longing, fitting the series rather perfectly.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 01 thru 06 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Aug 2010 – We’re not huge fans of the character designs (some are outright nutty and random), but that isn’t nearly enough to detract from what’s shaping up to be a decent vampire horror series.

The medical professionals in the show spew a lot of medical jargon, which adds credibility to the show (regardless of whether its 100% accurate or not; we wouldn’t know) and paint them in a corner where conventional medical consultation and care is having little or no effect on helping the patients. The village is already quite small and mostly elderly people (mirroring a coming crisis in real-world Japan), so the fact that so many people are dying so quickly creates a great urgency to solve the mystery. The building dread is infectious – no pun intended.

But it’s hardly spoiling to connect the dots (anemia and bite marks) and conclude that this village’s problem is vampires. A monk has already met and befriended one (as much as you can befriend a creepy tweener vampire), while the main character’s dreams are haunted by a vamped-out version of the village’s first victim, a formerly cheerful cosplay girl who had a crush on him. After six episodes, these three – the monk, the teenager, and the doctor – are starting to come together and realize what’s going on (and what we already know.)

What we don’t know is if this can be resolved before the entire village is killed, and how (We know the answer now, but at the time this was written, we were totally in the dark). At 22 episodes, Shiki is a good-length anime, and we’re confident it can make use of the remaining 16 to spin an entertaining resolution. But seriously, WTF is up with some of these characters’ hairstyles?


Rating: 6 (Good)