Shiki Episode 6 – Man of Science, Man of Faith
It can be very hard to change a worldview, particularly one that’s been confirmed by every bit of evidence you’ve ever known. Masao, whom I was rather hard on last episode, might have had some legitimate cause for jealously, given how his entire family was too busy mourning the death of his nephew to notice him wasting away and dying this episode. I still think a good chunk of his emotional distance from his family is self-inflicted, but in death it becomes easier to understand his complaint.
Ozaki hasn’t died himself, but he’s seen the death of far too many patients to remain unaffected. He thinks he has finally located a method of transition (multiple victims have “insect bites,” mostly on their arms), and by midway through the episode he’s discovered a temporary treatment in blood transfusions. But nothing seems to work in the end. Even the recovering patient, after being left alone for a few days, falls back into a comatose state and dies.
His temper is increasingly frayed. Patients don’t follow instructions, refusing to check in for appointments (which is how the recovering patient died) or even trying home remedies before coming to him in the first place. Finding himself powerless to save patients is bad enough, but that the poor decisions of others is what’s causing it drives him mad. Don’t the residents of Sotoba known the value of scientific medicine?
His frustration gets vented at anything and everything that displeases him, particularly those who don’t understand what needs to be done. He even yells at his good friend Muroi, for presenting what seems to be a collection of unrelated facts and asking if will be helpful. What does it matter if a bunch of victims quit their jobs? Why would the fact that families are moving out of the town be important? Ozaki knows the epidemic is a natural phenomenon—what else could it be? So gossip and rumor aren’t his concern.
By contrast, Natsuno knows what is really going on, and it turns out his destroying Megumi’s letter was a deliberate test. Finding the scraps moved about and stained with tears, he knows for certain that Megumi is, if not alive, still around. Vampires do exist.
Figuring that out, however, doesn’t help him at all, because all he knows about vampires is gossip and rumor. He does the best he can—fashioning a makeshift cross, renting bad horror flicks to get ideas for possible defenses—but at the end of the day he is fighting blind. He doesn’t even know about the invitation issue, which would tell him his best method of keeping safe. Knowing the source of the problem won’t be enough to survive.
In fact, it might be problem for some Sotoba residents. Akira Tanaka knows that the Kirishikis are involved in the deaths somehow, having witnessed a deceased townsperson enter the castle through a passage in the wall. But dragging out Kaori to Kanemasa with a bat won’t help the situation, and only ensures that they are overheard by the Kirishiki’s dog-eared servant, Tatsumi. Knowing or not knowing seems equally likely to get one killed.
Still, enough people knowing might be enough to bind the villagers together against a common foe, so it’s a pity that the only two people who have figured out the Kirishikis’ involvement are a child and a repulsive looking woman whom no one seems to respect. (As the deaths started before the Kirishikis were known to arrive, no one seems to pay attention to her.) We’re still far removed from torches and pitchforks, but as the show is less than one-third done, that’s hardly surprising.
Still, every little bit counts, and thus winning Ozaki over would represent a major step in the right direction. So, after a couple near misses, the paths of Ozaki and Natsuno finally cross. Natsuno knows that Ozaki was the doctor who pronounced Megumi dead, and he wants to make sure that there is no natural explanation for her return to life. After running through some possibilities he finally asks the question straight out: Can people come back from the dead?
Ozaki at first treats the question humorously, responding that only zombies and vampires do that. But no sooner are the words out of his mouth than all the pieces fall into place. “Insect bites” always found in pairs and with the same spacing, symptoms reminiscent of blood loss without any obvious wounds, the fact that a tranfusion is the only thing that improved a patient’s health—all this makes sense if he just steps outside the medical and scientific framework to which he has dedicated his life.
Ozaki is exhausted, at wits’ end, and reaching the point of psychological meltdown. But were it not for that, I doubt he could even entertain the thought that vampires are loose in town. He just tired and desperate enough that even what seemed impossible can, for a moment, seem real. Natsuno leaves before telling Ozaki why he asked the question, and it’s possible that Ozaki will shake off his doubt in the solutions of science by the next episode. But the seed has been planted. It only remains to see if it sprouts before it’s too late to matter.
Supernatural horror dating from at least H.P. Lovecraft has informally held the idea of technological and scientific mastery in contempt, not because of man’s overreach (that dates back to at least Mary Shelley), but due to the inability of the rational human mind to understand the unrelenting danger and unexplainable mysteries of the universe. Scientific rationalism tells us our world is orderly, explainable, and controllable; supernatural horror tells us that we are not at the top of the food chain, that the laws of nature are only what we can understand, not what is real, and powers alien to our comprehension are always ready to consume and destroy us.
Those who can survive an onslaught of such powers are those who by the standards of the real world have gone a little mad. The town of Sotoba, at this point, is distressingly sane, but as the bodies continually pile up and more and more families “relocate” insanity might start catching. Unlike in the X-Files (or Occult Academy), no one wants to believe in monsters and demons. But that doesn’t mean the clues they leave can be ignored forever.
You can watch the episode here.