Shiki Episode 16 – Family Matters
Shiki continually challenges the basic expectations of exactly what becoming a vampire does to someone. On the one hand, the personalities of the recently deceased seem to mirror what they were when they were alive. So Toru is still something of a softy, Megumi still a vicious brat, etc. Mr. Tanaka, just recently risen, still places a keen value on his relationship with his family and their well-being.
Yet they are monsters now. What makes the existence of Shiki so troubling is not that they turn into soulless things upon arising. Were they just demons wearing the skins of the dead, then we wouldn’t need to feel pity or sorrow for them. Rather, it is the hunger for blood that leads them to damnation. Their need drives them to commit atrocities again and again; the only distinction between Megumi and Toru in the end is that Toru still feels regret.
Confronting Toru about this, Sunako reveals her own story. Having died decades prior, she rose only to kill the woman who rescued her from the grave, and continued to kill, again and again, the people who stopped to help her. Whatever gratitude she might have felt toward her rescuer was overridden by the hunger.
Sunako says she no longer regrets hunting humans, but her need to tell the story to the remorse-filled Toru suggests that even now a part of her despises what she’s become. As she wandered through Japan, she never stopped trying to find her human family, until she finally realizes that they must all be dead of old age. Even now, the Kirishikis play out the act of being a human family, and Sunako seems to find some comfort in that.
This story plays out again and again in Sotoba. Nao killed off her entire family hoping that one of them would rise up and join her. When none of them comes back, she blames herself and her own broken family background as the cause of her curse, yet she does not repent of her actions. Instead, she turns on a neighbor who Nao feels unfairly escaped the Kirishikis’ notice.
And Mr. Tanaka, even knowing how horrible what Megumi did to him was, winds up taking her advice and targeting his own family for feeding. Perhaps it wasn’t his intention at first, but when his own wife and even his own dog treating him as a alien intruder, his sorrow turns into rage—even if it still remains sorrow as well. His actions are those of a jealous lover in a murderous rage; but he still acts as a “lover.”
Natsuno proves an outlier to this trend in more ways than one. Given the differences of his eyes from normal vampires and the fact he can walk around in sunlight, it seems he’s come back as a jinrou, the special type of vampire that Tatsumi is. Now secretly coordinating with Ozaki, he urges caution for the moment; the pair need to wait until the vampires are sure of victory before striking.
I really don’t know how this is supposed to work. The longer the humans wait, the more vampires will be around to fight against them. And Ozaki can theoretically become Chizuru’s next meal at any moment. (Very likely the only reason he’s still alive is that she likes to play with her food.) I don’t really see how the odds could ever get better for them.
Even still, Natsuno possesses a resolve that none of the other raised villagers have. Megumi may glory in her new found state, and Toru mourn, and Nao do both in equal measure. What unites them is that all gave in to their hunger, and each chooses to live by killing others rather than die.
Natsuno, perhaps chastened by his attempt to negotiate with Toru, will have none of that. He completely agrees with Ozaki that the shiki must be eliminated, without negotiation or compromise. And Natsuno himself numbers among the ranks of the condemned. Having become the very thing he pledged to destroy, Natsuno, and it seems Natsuno alone, has the determination to finish what he started anyway.
I’m still somewhat annoyed about how much teasing—and how little concrete information—we’ve gotten on Natsuno’s return, how come he slipped past the Kirishiki’s notice, etc. It also seems a bit of a contrivance not just that Natsuno returns but that he comes back as the most powerful shiki variant we’ve seen. I hope there’s a solid in-plot reason for that.
For that matter, I’m not certain how Natsuno is feeding himself; if he’s anything like a normal vampire he might have drunken enough to kill someone by now. If he now is determined to eliminate not just Toru but even himself (and he couldn’t do even the former while he was still human), he might be determined enough to hunt to keep himself alive until the final confrontation. But would Dr. Ozaki allow it?
With Natsuno’s former allies Kaori and Akira increasingly in peril, we might have a test of Natsuno’s post-mortem resolve. Natsuno is like Megumi in that he never cared much for his family, but unlike her he was capable of forming real human connections with some of the villagers, strong enough that they eventually got him killed. Can Natsuno sit idly by and watch his fellow hunters suffer his fate?
Invariably, those who come back as shiki come to accept their “lives” as killers, and their fellow shiki as some form of family. It is ironic that Natsuno, who never had much love for family, this town, or humanity in general, should become the champion of all three. But it’s not clear if his current desires are oriented toward protection or revenge. That, among many other mysteries, is something we’ll discover over the next few episodes.
You can watch the episode here.