Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 5 – Falling Victim to Your Own Trap

Shiki Episode 5 – Falling Victim to Your Own Trap

I publicly wondered last review how Shiki would maintain its rapid pacing over the course of the 22 episodes; now I can safely answer that it doesn’t, or at least it won’t always. This episode, for example, just doesn’t achieve the same level of quality that the last one did, and it’s fairly easy to isolate the reasons why.

Last episode concentrated not only on the slowly growing horror of Sotoba’s inhabitants dying one after the other, but also on the figure of Natsuno, and how he in particular was hounded by a figure from beyond the grave. This episode does not eliminate that tension, but it does severely lessen it: Natsuno “wakes up” after seeing Toru attacked and assumes it was all a dream. As he goes about his day, he finds the oppressive sense of being watched has vanished, and thinks his problems are gone for good.

Without physical evidence it's easy for Natsuno to believe nothing is wrong. Why only some victims show fang marks is still unexplained

It’s not alright, of course, as Toru skips the next few days of school, and Natsuno comes by to visit only to find that the closest thing he has to a friend in the town has died. What exactly Natsuno’s feelings on this are, and whether he has started to fear for himself again, isn’t established, as he retains his stoic and self-controlled persona throughout the wake. But his overall actions indicate no.

His control is not shared by everyone. Masao, the creepy looking guy introduced in episode three, is also depressed by the death of his friend Toru, although he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to properly deal with it. Masao is extraordinarily possessive of all his friends, having seemingly lost his brother to his sister in law (when they married), his father to his nephew (whom grandpa seems to dote on more), and then Toru to Natsuno.

Masao is talking about his nephew's likely demise to Hiromi's father and grandfather. I'm amazed his behavior hasn't gotten him in trouble sooner

Of course, the real reason he “lost” his friends was his inability to share them with others, and by taking an all-or-nothing approach to these interlopers he wound up on the “nothing” side of the equation. When his nephew Hiromi gets sick, he can’t help but gloat about it, talking about how likely it is that Hiromi will die. This eventually gets him kicked out of his house.

Without much else to do, he stops by Toru’s wake, and actually does a decent job of being respectful until he flips out at Natsuno for not seeming grief-stricken enough. Natsuno, as usual, keeps his cool, and ultimately Masao gets kicked out of there too. He returns to his home just in time to get attacked by another roving vampire, who overpowers and bites him before he even realizes what is going on.

I'll admit the attack was well scripted. The show hasn't forgotten how to be good; it just wasn't trying very hard

Unfortunately, Masao elicits even less sympathy from me than Megumi did, so it’s hard for me to react strongly to his (impending) death. Given that Masao was built from the ground up, starting with his character design, to be unsympathetic, I’m ultimately not certain why they would devote an episode to him. The change in focus also lessens the impact of Toru’s death, which is arguably one of the most important in the series thus far.

Other aspects of this episode likewise fail to meet the high bar set last time. The one advance Muroi makes—which is one more than Ozaki and his medical team pulls off—is noticing that of the people who died, all of them who had jobs quit them, or at least tried to, before getting visibly ill. There is an active, almost psychological component to the lethargy that precedes the physical one. Toru, likewise, stopped going to school even after waking up healthy next to Natsuno.

Masao actually manages to be decent for about two minutes (for him, at any rate), but ultimately can't put his petty hatreds aside

And that’s about it for plot progression. More people die, more people are marked for death, and we get to see a barely meaningful advance of those aware of the problem in finding a solution. Toss in a return of the least likable characters this show has introduced (besides Masao, there’s also a scene with the outrageously bearded liquor store owner, who beats up his son and most anyone else who annoys him) and we have a recipe for the worst episode Shiki has put on offer so far.

Worse, of course, is not a synonym for bad, and the show is not without merit even on its off days. But after pouring on the nihilistic despair and the crushing sense of oppression last episode, this offering just can’t meet the expectations left from that. I hope the show can find a better equilibrium in the future.

Tomio Ookawa is chewing out an employee for skipping work ... because his daughter died. I think the absurdity of your character design and your likability might be inversely related in this show

One lingering question, however, is whether the Kirishikis intend to turn everyone in this town into vampires. Megumi was a special case in that she was practically begging for it, but the new vampire was a well-regarded and seemingly content librarian before being turned. As there’s no seeming reason why he would be specifically selected as a candidate, it seems likely that everyone is. Eventually the ratio of vampire to human in this town is going to become rather unfavorable.

I don’t just mean that from a “human” perspective: I’m worried that the law of conservation of ninjutsu won’t cease to apply when we replace ninja with vampire. Unless the show is going for an even more downer of an ending that I’m expecting—which is, admittedly, possible—the vampires will need to be fought off eventually. And I’d prefer, when that happens, for them to still be the awesomely terrifying creatures of the night, and not a living an undead wall of mooks. We already have a zombie show this season.

Natsuno openly tears up a finally delivered postcard from Megumi, after Toru's death. Either he's feeling far less threatened now, or he no longer cares. Neither is good for the desired atmosphere

Previously, that wouldn’t have been a worry for me. If there was one thing Shiki knew how to do, it was how to instill dread. But not until the very end of the episode does do we get that same sensation, and there it is muffled by having an despicable victim du nuit. Making a series of unforced narrative mistakes in a solitary episode isn’t enough to destroy my interest in the show. But now that the writers have shown themselves at least partially fallible, I’m no longer going to assume that seemingly obvious pitfalls will be avoided in the future either.

You can watch the episode here.

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