Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Anime review: "Shiki"

After more than three months of forced rest from anime, I watched a new anime, called "Shiki". It was one of the hits of last year, some mystery with vampires, so I was looking forward to watching it. In the end, I was satisfied, although with some reservations.


I will start with the reservations. "Shiki" is a vampire anime, it is clearly from the second episode or so. And it brings absolutely nothing new to the concept! Not one shred of originality (except one detail, revealed in the later parts). It follows all those naive tropes that have been know since original "Dracula", present in books and shows (yeah, I am talking about "Buffy") for century or something like that. I will abstain of revealing them to avoid spoilers. In most cases I would stop watching or reading a work so low on originality very early... Anyway, anime takes place in (big) secluded village (or combination of villages) where nothing interesting ever happens. In first episode we meet Megumi, who is not satisfied with this situation, and who daydreams about escaping to big city, preferably with Natsuno, a boy recently arrived from a big city. Things are looking brighter as they have some mysterious rich family settling in. Suddenly, Megumi is found in the woods, with amnesia and signs of anemia. But things don't stop here; next you know, anemia is spreading and local doctor Toshio don't know what to do...

Second thing that come is mind is design of characters. It looks like mix between shounen action anime (on trail of "Bleach" or "Sengoku Basara") and dating sims (e.g. "Clannad"). You can guess people's roles after few seconds of watching. For instance, main character is manly, tall, silent guy in his fifteenth year (coincidely, this description can be applied to second main character, except the difference in years). And for God's sake, that guy has wolf ears on top of his head!!! And I am not even starting with the look of that Kirishiki guy... Vampires all have bad complexion, black eyes with red pupils and long canines... I mean, a little subtlety. Also, most female characters have big breasts and there is some fanservice, just to know what to expect.

Also, after few episodes you get a complete revelation of bad guys, so the mystery part is not very subtle, also.

So why watch this anime, you ask? I can't quite explain it why, but "Shiki" really has good atmosphere, unexpectedly considering all these objections. I watched first four or five episodes in on sitting, on windy evening/night, and turning the lights off before going to sleep wasn't exactly a comfy decision. Even though characters are so clich├ęd, you nevertheless root for them.

And never mind that some things get explained very early; there are still many things to ponder about. Especially when the view starts to shift to the other set of characters. At the beginning I didn't expect to see any alternating POVs. Ending is quite surprising; I didn't believe they would take it to such extreme. Especially the conclusion of main character and one of main villains... What a bang!

So, all these objections from the start are just some unique quirks of this anime, nothing to really complain about.

On the other hand, there is one serious question/objection that you are able to raise after watching the whole anime: I don't get the moral of this story? I mean, it is questionable does it have any. Position of victims changes from one side of characters to their complete opposites, but without any explanations, redemption or anything similar. I like when characters are grey, but this is not the case; in here black and white just changes the places. On the other hand, it does leave you thinking about it. Why would someone deserve a punishment and why would there been need for effort before redemption? If the authors were aiming at this, they hit the bull's-eye, but I suspect that this was just a side-effect of unclear intentions...

In the end, "Shiki" is good vampire/mystery anime, although not much more than that. I did enjoy it much, and it has good grades at AniDB, so I recommend it to all who like these type of anime. On the other hand, I you never watch it, you won't miss any masterpiece.

A final note: the end is pretty inconclusive. In fact, the end practically begs for sequel, so don't be surprised if one comes out.

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