Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 12 – Peer Pressure

Shiki Episode 12 – Peer Pressure

Has it really been a month since the last episode of Shiki was released? Unquestionably the best show that began airing in the summer, it took a three week hiatus toward the end of last season, presumably to make up for the fact that it’s only 22 episodes long, rather than the usual 26. Now it’s back with a new opening and ending sequence, but what else does it have which is new?

One would hope that with such a long break, the show would start its second half with a suitably dramatic opening. No such luck. As much as it pains me to say it, this is arguably the weakest episode the show has had thus far—which, given my very high expectations, is rather disappointing.

The new opening tries to be as spooky as the first one, but seeing the spirits of the cast come out of their bodies just isn't the same as seeing the very flesh come off their bones

One of the main weakness of the episode is that it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. This episode reveals that Toru is feeling conflicted about his new vampire status, Natsuno is having trouble following through with his resolution to kill his deceased friend, Megumi is a jealous tart, and Natsuno’s father is a zealot against superstition and that his blindness is going to get his family killed. All of this was evident to someone who saw the previous episodes.

A greater weakness is that this episode is that it is more interested in a secondary character than in the main workings of the plot. The problem with this is that last episode, too, was focused on a secondary character, and two such episodes in a row slows down the narrative considerably. Combine that with an already long break, and the show’s restart is practically stillborn.

Any resistence Megumi has at attacking Kaori's family goes away when she learns Kaori and Natsuno have been spending time together. Someone needs to get this girl a dog or something

This episode does change the usual dynamic in two ways. Ordinarily, a focus on a secondary character explores his personality flaws, and reveals the weakness that leads to him to his death. That was the case with Megumi, with Masao, and with Itou. Here, we focus on Natsuno’s father, Yuuki (we don’t yet know his first name), but we already know his weakness: that he is opposed to superstition and prides himself on being a rational, modern sort of person. And it is not his own death he will invite by this failing, but that of his family.

These changes, too, were predictable, and in some ways Yuuki is made into more a straw man than a real person. As his son’s condition degrades, he twice considers going to get medical attention, either from the Dr. Ozaki or from a hospital a few towns over. Both times he is talked out of it; once by his wife (who, as someone has started feeding on her as well, is compelled to argue against it) and once by Seishirou Kirishiki, both of whom point out that a true epidemic of a heretofore unknown disease emerging in a small town is statically improbable.

That Yuuki's wife finds nothing wrong with Natsuno's condition is due to her being made prey as well. Yuuki has no such excuse

One would think that the sheer number of deaths that the town has suffered over the summer would be enough to convince Yuuki that improbable things are happening. It’s not, and he is so concerned about not being seen over credulous that he winds up believing whatever “reasonable” arguments are offered.

That by itself isn’t enough to get his son killed, as Kaori and Akira Tanaka are aware of Natsuno’s condition. But after getting into an argument with them over a proper defense of his son, Yuuki decides to humor the country bumpkins, and agrees to watch over Natsuno for them. Once the Tanaka’s have gone home satisfied, he dumps the charms they left in the garbage, and leaves his son as vampire chow. Good thing rational people know vampires don’t exist.

Crosses join Shinto charms and wards as items which can repel vampires. I wonder if there's any religious symbols that won't work

In all, it’s a bit heavy-handed, and that’s not the only thing hammered home this episode. Natsuno, too, has a chance to save himself, as Toru is initially reluctant to continue to feed on him. A day or two without a visit, and Natsuno is strong enough to warn the Tanakas and right back against Toru. Yet he can’t work up the strength to (re-)kill his old friend, particularly when the undead Toru resembles the living one oh so much.

But, as an unnecessarily explicit scene at the Kirishiki’s dining room makes clear, there are changes. Shiki and human cannot coexist, not because it’s physically impossible for the shiki to feed among a large enough population without killing prey, but because the hunger for blood is just too strong. It’s impossible for them psychologically to view their food as anything but food, particularly after their first kill.

The Kirishikis speak as though they regret their nature, but their tone conveys a casual contempt for their prey

So, as Natsuno desperately tries to find a way to save his friend and himself, and makes the mistake of offering Toru an opening, the latter snaps and goes for the throat. Given Natsuno’s fast deterioration after that, it seems that Toru has finally come to accept his status as a monster—which means its only a matter of time before Natsuno becomes one.

It’s fairly obvious that Natsuno will come back; he’s too important of a character to go away just because of something silly like dying. The hope, if we are too avoid an “everyone dies” ending, is that newly-raised Natsuno will have the strength of will to succeed at taking his own advice, and begin to turn the tables against Tatsumi and the Kirishikis. God knows who else can succeed.

One thing to be said for Shiki: even when it gets into the remorseful vampire shtick, it never forgets that its monsters are monsters

This was not the strongest of episodes, but that doesn’t keep Shiki as a whole from remaining on my “best series of the year” list. If this is the first review you’ve read about the show, don’t take my criticisms here as the final word.

You can watch the episode here.

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