Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 7 – Making Monsters

Shiki Episode 7 – Making Monsters

Last episode teased us with the possibility that the two main characters of the show, Natsuno Yuuki and Dr. Ozaki, could finally pool their knowledge together and begin a real fight against the vampires that have descended upon their town. As it happened, it is still just that: a tease. Both of them are still going their own way in this episode.

For that matter, neither of them accomplish much by themselves, either. Natsuno meets up with Kaori and Akira instead, as the two siblings talk about the Kirishikis, and suggests that they dig up Megumi’s grave to prove that she is back from the dead. Kaori is greatly disturbed by the idea, but seems unable to stop them; Tatsumi, however, overheard that conversation as he overheard the original one betwen Kaori and Akira, so it’s possible he has a plan. We have yet to find out.

It's a nice cliffhanger, but I expected the plot to advance much farther

Dr. Ozaki, on the other hand, does nothing more than talk with Muroi, who arrives to tell him that Ishida from the town office has disappeared, along with most of the town’s death reports. With those gone, and with the number of families that have “moved away,” there is no way of proving how many people have died and thus no practical way of getting support from the government. The town is on its own.

This is just further confirmation of the vampire hypothesis for Ozaki, and he shares his theory with Muroi. The doctor, too, has a plan: keep the latest patient in the clinic with a full watch around the night, and providing blood transfusions to keep her treated. If she recovers, then he’s developed a successful treatment and proven the existence of vampires. This also has yet to be carried out at episode’s end.

Muroi is obviously skeptical of Ozaki's theory, so it's possible he'll prove a hindrance rather than a help, at least at first

Arguably, an episode that fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way is a bad episode. But I felt this was one of the best yet, as it succeeds at doing something I didn’t think possible: making Masao sympathetic.

In case it wasn’t clear from my earlier reviews, I hated Masao. I disliked him so much that, when the episode begins with him waking up in his coffin and panicking about seemingly being buried alive, I actually laughed at his misfortune. But when Tatsumi digs him out of his grave and starts to introduce him to the world of the unliving, the tone shifts considerably.

Training a new vampire includes the mundane as well as the monstrous. It's hard to speak when you don't naturally breathe

Tatsumi gives Masao the basic run-down: You’re dead, you need blood or you’ll starve, sunlight or decapitation or getting something shoved in your heart are to be avoided, etc. No words on crosses or garlic yet, but he didn’t mention the invitation rule either, so that may be active as well. Tatsumi also clarifies that only some of those killed come back, making it sound essentially random. He implies it’s a minority, however, and points out that Masao’s nephew Hiromi didn’t come back.

Masao barely has time to be pleased about this before he is brought to a house on the outskirts of town, presumably one vacated by deaths or by “moving.” Tatsumi brings him inside and gives him a test. Feed and finish off this already weakened child we’ve prepared for you, he says, or make it known that you aren’t one of us. When Masao hesitates, Tatsumi offers him a way out with a glass filled with blood, to ease the transition, but it’s clear that his generosity in providing it won’t be extended forever.

Tatsumi can be remarkably charming when he feels like it, but it's all in the service of a twisted end

Which brings us to another difference between these vampires and some others depictions of them. These vampires are not soulless in the classic sense—as they still have some semblance of conscience when they awake—but neither are they bright, shiny, or even misunderstood. They are monsters because they are made that way, but it is not part of their physical transformation. They are manipulated, abused, and broken.

Tatsumi is a master of this game, using praise (you’re special for coming back and therefore above others), rationalization (eating people is no different than eating other animals), direct threats (show us you’re with us or I’ll kill you), and even guilt and ostracism (don’t disrespect your new friends by not doing as we do, or think we’re bad for doing it). The ultimate goal is to get Masao to kill—the child is selected specifically for being at the brink of death, making sure his first “live” feeding with become a dead one—and then use that sense of guilt to further degrade his conscience, making him do worse and worse acts on the grounds of how far he’s already fallen. It’s a technique used to great effect to train child soldiers, and Tatsumi obviously knows of the method.

It's common for the act of vampiric feeding to be portrayed in a sexual way; here it comes off more as child abuse or rape

And it’s also obvious it works; while Megumi didn’t have too far to fall, the two other figures we know have come back, Yasayuki Ootsuka and Yuzuki the librarian, were known for being happy with their jobs, well-liked, and generally friendly folk. When we are shown a flashback of how he slowly killed Masao over the days of feeding, however, Yuzuki seems completely fine, even joyful about the fact. Seeing him control Masao, who desperately wants someone to come and rescue him, but can’t call out for help or disobey Yuzuki’s orders, one gets the feel of the genuine terror he must of felt in his last days. Yet Yuzuki shows no hesitation or remorse about the hell he puts Masao through.

Why do we have such details? Possibly just to amplify the horrific nature of it all. But I think that one of the reasons that Tatsumi expends all the effort to turn the newly made undead into monsters is out of fear of what they could do on the other side. For all I’ve been piling on Masao for his character flaws and general nastiness, it would be a fantastic reversal for him to find some redemption after his death, in opposing the Kirishikis. And even if he fails to resist his indoctrination, it raises the hope that someone else, eventually, will succeed.

We've seen both the disgruntled and the content become willing thralls. Perhaps the perpetually angry will prove the exception

You can watch the episode here.

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  1. December 17, 2010 at 8:38 pm

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