Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 2 – Counting Corpses

Shiki Episode 2 – Counting Corpses

I suppose after an opening sequence where we see most of the main cast turned into skeletons, I shouldn’t be surprised that the show isn’t afraid of killing off its characters. Still, I wasn’t expecting a double digit body count by the second episode. Clearly one of the reasons for the expansive cast is to offer plenty of leeway for lethality.

Last episode ended rather abruptly at Megumi’s death, so it’s only now that we get a look at the immediate repercussions. Dr. Toshio Ozaki, the town doctor, is shocked that what seemed like anemia could lead to death (apparently by heart failure), but the parents, both outraged and distraught, refuse an autopsy. They don’t want their little girl disfigured anymore.

Muroi is one of the few people who seems interested in pulling the pieces together

So, as after Megumi’s burial—this town being one of the rural places of Japan that actually does practice burial rather than cremation—he sets about checking out what leads he can. Megumi’s blood test finally comes back, showing that she was suffering not from iron-deficiency anemia, which is what Dr. Ozaki believed. Instead, she had normocytic anemia, which was inexplicable given her lack of exterior wounds or internal bleeding.

Two more deaths, however, follow in the days after Megumi, and although both are elderly, local Buddhist priest Seishin Muroi becomes a bit suspicious. He shares his concerns with Dr. Ozaki, and the two do some research to discover that 10 people have died in the past month: the three elderly people mentioned in the first episode, Megumi, the two this episode, and four others whom neither of them knew about because they went to (and died at) the hospital the next town over.

Despite their lethargy, victims occasionally demonstrate compulsive behavior—rarely directed in their best interest

It’s not unusual for the elderly to die in Japan’s fierce summer heat, but not in these numbers, and not interspersed with the young and healthy. And when a friend of one of the more recent victims reports that her symptoms (lethargy, unresponsiveness) were identical to Megumi’s, and Ozaki recalls other similar cases he’s seen recently, he realizes that the deaths are all connected. Convinced there is a possibly epidemic of some sort spreading through the village, he and Muroi agree to try to find the common link to determine what is transmitting it.

Meanwhile, Natsuno Yuuki continues to be his unsociable self, effecting the same hatred of country life as Megumi did. (If anything, he thinks that Megumi wasn’t good enough at it.) While he hates how everyone talks about everything that happens and how easily people are placed into roles by other villagers, he does take some comfort in the fact his stalker is gone. Needless to say, he only participates in Megumi’s funeral to the extent that he is obligated to.

Natsuno manages to be even more of jerk to Kaori than Megumi was, which takes some effort

Yet, things don’t quite seem right. Although Megumi is gone, he still feels as if something is watching him through his window, just as Megumi used to. This isn’t quite as creepy as it could be (the music choice at one of the times he feels being watched is just plain odd), but it reveal to Natsuno a piece of the puzzle that Ozaki lacks: Something malicious has come to town.

Reviewing Shiki is difficult for the reason that explaining any horror story is difficult: it is difficult to communicate the tension and slow-growing dread that pervades such series without showing the “actual” events. The fact that we, unlike the poor inhabitants of Sotoba, know that the ultimate cause behind the deaths is supernatural can also make the incremental discoveries of Ozaki and Muroi seem tedious. At the moment this is looking to be a very slow-going 22 episodes.

The map is a great help, and a sign to this story's origin as a novel

As boring as my review might seem, I felt this episode improved on the first. The odd character designs introduced in the first episode don’t grate quite as much this time, although the most egregious examples didn’t show up at all. Likewise, the work put into developing this village of 1300 interrelated inhabitants (now in the high 1200 range) is still on full display. Even those who died off camera and out of town are still mentioned by name.

What is curious is that the deaths started in earnest before the Kirishiki family moved into town. While I’m sure that the family is connected with them, it will probably be a bit harder now for Ozaki and the rest to figure out the culprit now, assuming they realize that there is a culprit in the first case. The Kirishikis stay off camera entirely this episode, which is ok in the short term. But Shiki is a horror story, not a police procedural or medical drama. We’ll need the monsters to make their presence known for this story to maintain interest.

The show's opening is great, but it shouldn't be the creepiest part of an episode

You can watch the episode here.

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