Shiki – Part 2 (Episodes 13-22) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 270 minutes approx.
Continuing straight on from the previous volume, the residents of the remote village of Sotoba have now accepted the fact that the recent spate of deaths was not an epidemic but attacks from okiagari or “the risen”, victims of a family of vampires, and they are keen on revenge.
The two main movers of this insurgence are resident doctor Toshio Ozaki and local priest Seishin Muroi but being a peaceful man, Seishin is uncomfortable with the bellicose and approach the villagers have adopted towards the okiagari and the violent methods they have concocted to evict them from their village. The turning point for Seishin comes when Ozaki’s estranged wife, the vain and superficial Kyoko, shows up in town and immediately succumbs to the Shiki, becoming their latest victim. Needing to understand what makes the Shiki and okiagari tick and how to counter them, Ozaki performs a grisly and necessary post mortem on Kyoko, which disgusts Seishin enough to distance himself from the blood baying villagers and takes the ill advised approach by entering the household of the family at the centre of the vampirism the Kirishiki family. Meanwhile Ozaki’s reveals to the surprise of no-one that the best way to kill an okiagari is through a good old fashioned stake through the heart.
So we may be slipping into familiar vampire territory with this latest development (although the garlic repellent thankfully never rears its ridiculous head) but Shiki still blazes its own path in the world of bloodsucking yarns, seasoned by its unique Japanese cultural flavour. For anyone who found the deliberate and often laconic pace of the first volume a little too restrained for their tastes, your patience is rewarded with lashings upon lashings of blood letting and visceral vampire slaying violence. The underlying creepiness of the spindly character designs is retained but the energy level certainly picks up as we head towards the blistering conclusion.
Finally making her presence known in this volume is the matriarch of the Kirishiki family and apparent centre of the okiagari epidemic, Chizuru, providing some rather incongruous fan service in the process with her outrageously revealing outfits. As you can imagine she is a flirty seductress who gets every man to fall for her before becoming her willing slave. Realising that Ozaki is getting closer to the truth about the Shiki, Chizuru decides to take matters into her own hands and targets Ozaki as her next meal. Will the weary doctor be able to resist her sultry charms and rather effective power of persuasion?
One aspect of the storytelling where Shiki excels is how it involves a number of key protagonists rather than one central hero, in the process making the plight of each one as important to the plot rather than a distracting side story. From the youngsters Kaori and Akira to the nurses who work for Ozaki, the far reaching effects of the terror facing them is explored with enough depth to engender audience interest without overcrowding the central storyline. One thing Manga should be applauded for is the addition of two bonus episodes that didn’t air as part of the original TV broadcast. Numbered 20.5 and 21.5, they manage to step away from the main plot without spoiling the flow while filling in some vital holes left from fleeting glimpses in previous episodes. In particular, episode 21.5 looks at Motoko a nervy and timid mother of two who seems to panic over everything, annoying her monstrous mother-in-law – only as we learn she was right to panic, although the fall out is far more extreme than expected.
There is a key twist in the plot featuring a central figure from the first volume which admittedly feels a little contrived at first but soon works itself out to add an intriguing new perspective to the proceedings. The biggest change as far as the tone of the show goes is in the latter half of this set as the villagers begin to fight back. Suddenly the commanding and stultifying grip of the Shiki is loosening and, if you’ll pardon the cliché, the hunter has now become the hunted. It’s subtle at first but the shift in dynamic soon becomes apparent as the villagers take a stand and mete out their own gruesome and unrepentant retribution against their fanged foes, growing to take great pleasure with each skull they crush and stake they drive through an okiagari’s heart. Conversely, once the vampires are on the run, especially the (possibly) prepubescent little minx Sunako, the viewer’s allegiance is in danger of swaying to their side, such is the emotional power of these scenes and the performances of the voice cast. It’s a peculiar sensation but one genuinely does start to feel concern for them and it is the villagers, protecting their land and extracting vengeance for their loved ones – and in some cases against their loved ones – who are now the monsters.
Don’t be fooled by the early displays of comedy and often surreal frivolity, this second volume of Shiki is darker, more violent, more explicit and more unsettling than its predecessor. Venturing into some deeply unpleasant areas of graphic depiction, gore fans will find their tastes well satiated; the easily squeamish unfortunately will no doubt be wondering why they didn’t watch their Ah! My Goddess DVDs instead!
Much like the first volume, the pervasive chill and sense of unease that permeates through each quirkily rendered frame grabs the viewer from the onset and doesn’t let go, even after the final episode comes to its intriguing end, just like every good horror tale should. And this is a good horror tale!
Episode 18 Commentary
Episode 22 Commentary
Textless Opening Song
Textless Closing Song
Ratings – **** ½
Man In Black