Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 18 – Being Kind to Be Cruel

Shiki Episode 18 – Being Kind to Be Cruel

Last episode took the situation in Sotoba to as low a point as it could reach without ending the show entirely with the vampires triumphant. In fact, I specifically noted that if Ozaki and Natsuno couldn’t make their move until the vampires felt assured of their victory, then that time had come. As it turns out, they agreed.

The episode begins with some glimmers of hope. Tatsumi visits Natsuno, residing in his family home alongside his now insane father, to confront him about his various acts of defiance toward the Kirishikis. This includes the suspicion of helping Akira escape, making it likely that both he and his sister are somewhere safe. That’s the first piece of good news in while.

A completely unhinged Yuuki invites Tatsumi in right after stabbing him for being a vampire. Tatsumi didn't seem to care much either way

However, the good news stops there. Jinrou like Tatsumi and Natsuno don’t need to drink blood to live (in fact, from being able to go into the sun to having a pulse, they seem almost human in their lack of weakness), but blood is what allows their superhuman abilities to function, and Natsuno isn’t partaking. Between that and Tatsumi’s experience, it’s clear that Natsuno doesn’t have a chance if Tatsumi gets serious.

Fortunately, Sunako wants as many jinrou as possible, so Tatsumi is willing to tolerate such things for now—even if he makes clear that no further interference will be tolerated. With Natsuno seemingly in a corner, the other hunter, Ozaki, seems completely on the edge. He’s been able to survive with regular transfusions, but as far as the vampires are concerned he’s a captured piece—and in the Japanese version of chess, that means he’s now usable by them instead.

We haven't had a hallucinatory scene like this since Megumi, I think. Besides emphasizing the strength of the compulsion effect, it might also be to remind us of all the horrors Chizuru has committed

It’s perhaps because of that confidence that Chizuru doesn’t seem to notice that Ozaki has a bit more initiative than her victims usually do. Having done all that she has asked thus far, Ozaki surprises her with a request for her company on a date, to show her the town’s latest festival. He even concocts a valid reason for her to be in his company, rather than her husband’s.

Chizuru no doubt knows all the reasons she should decline; between the comparative amount of exposure and the religious setting, things could go wrong for her quickly. But, like many of the other vampires, she longs for a sense of normalcy, and to regain the old life she had while she was still alive. The possibility of acting human again is just too much of a temptation.

The living Chizuru seems like she was a charming and earnest woman. Her overly seductive poses notwithstanding, the undead Chizuru obviously does want to go back

It’s clear to the audience that Ozaki has a greater purpose in mind. Even as he plays along while Chizuru takes on the role of a blushing housewife, he doesn’t intend for this trip to help ingratiate her to the villagers. Rather, he slowly encourages her to take further risks, leading her right up to the base of the shrine where religious symbols and chanting (of the sort that terrify Shiki) are taking place.

Chizuru plays along to seem normal, and perhaps convince herself that she is, but the fear finally becomes too much for her to handle and she tries to leave. It’s only then that she discovers that Ozaki found a way to beat her compulsion, and has no intention of letting her get away. A few choice words later, and the entire gathered village has realized she’s not human, and descends upon her.

Ozaki is careful to feign concern until another villager can corroborate his story. It's as if he scripted out the entire night's events

Why did this attempt to rouse the townsfolk and fight the shiki work where previous ones had failed? Better understanding of their weaknesses, of course, and the isolation of one from the rest. By picking Chizuru as the initial target, Ozaki brought out the town’s subconscious fear of vampires against an outsider, rather than force them to confront a returned loved one. Megumi’s father is easily roused against her murderer, but it would no doubt be harder for him to confront his daughter directly.

But Ozaki also carefully worked to bring Chizuru into a state of vulnerability, through a combination of flattery, confidence-building, and appeal to nostalgia. For all her flashy and seductive antics (another vampire calls her the spoiled child and Sunako her over-indulgent mother), she seems to love the prospect of being part of a traditional community again. She is hardly alone in this.

Chizuru revels in the opportunity to act domestic. I wonder if Ozaki had enough time to observe her to develop his plan with that in mind

The vampires are treating Sotoba as a new base of operations, but also as a future home. Having a safe haven to fall back to after preying on the towns is useful, but the prospect of being able to walk around openly living “normal” lives with friends and family is something far more tempting. The vampires under Sunako want their own civilization, and Chizuru just made the mistake of grasping for it a little too early.

This is the second time Ozaki has drawn a vampire into a state of vulnerability and the second time the show has made me feel uncomfortable cheering him on. The makers of Shiki give us plenty of reminders in just this episode as to why Ozaki must succeed. That doesn’t make Chizuru’s terror—at the religious images of the shrine, at the realization that she’s trapped, and at the mob of villagers ready to rip her apart—any less poignant.

It might just be my own hatred of mobs, but I found more sympathy for Chizuru than I was expecting, despite her many murders

And the show knows this, humanizing her even before that. It is precisely her desire to be human, and engage in the pleasantries of very same village life she and her kind have been destroying throughout Sotoba, that leads to her downfall. It is by wanting to be “good” that she becomes vulnerable. And while Ozaki manipulating her was the only way to save his own life (to say nothing of the town), that doesn’t make it less cynical or callous.

The implication, then, is that only the truly cold and heartless, whether human or shiki, can possibly survive and win out against the other. This isn’t the first time that humanity, in defending itself, comes off looking a bit monstrous; I doubt it will be the last. But given previous attempts at compromise have failed—most notably Natsuno’s attempt to negotiate with Toru—what other options are there?

The shiki have already formed some semblance of family within their own ranks, but they still has to stay out of sight. The lure of the open world pulls on them all

Well, perhaps one. Enough time has passed since last episode for Ritsuko to have died, and then come back. She knows what she’s become, and that her family has likely died in the interim. Yet, she has no panic or fear, but a quiet dignity, as she kindly refuses any offers of food and makes it clear she intends to starve herself. She has no desire to participate in the cycle of violence.

Is the show trying to point out that the other returned villagers chose incorrectly in taking the path of a monster? To present a path of non-violence to both sides, led to opposition by what only seems like irreconcilable differences?

Both are theoretically possible, but I suspect that her saintly refusal to harm others will only make her second death, at the hands of angry humans, seem even more savage and unnecessary. That is, it will be a human parallel to the crimes the shiki have committed. The show toys around with moral equivalence just enough to make that seem the most likely possibility.

Ritsuko's answer shames Toru, and the glow about her suggests that unlike him, she will have the resolve to see it through

Whatever Ritsuko means to symbolize, her path will be the one not taken by others. With Chizuru under threat and the townsfolk fully awake (and enraged), an open confrontation between the shiki and the human populations of Sotoba is inevitable. The humans are fighting for their home and for their continued existence—but, on the other hand, the things they face have the same goals in mind. And whomever wins at the end will not finish with clean hands.

You can watch the episode here.

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  1. Clinton
    December 3, 2010 at 12:29 am

    ok a new chapter just came out an extra chapter not really related to the main plot (other then the fact that the person it focus’s on Maeda Motoko is the doughter in law of the guy that may have gotten Aikra) that makes you feel sorry for her she is a lot like Nao but human

    then a new chapter focusing on her was released and it makes you feel like what happened with Chizuru but more so once the anime is over i will link the chapter

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      December 3, 2010 at 6:41 pm

      Interesting. I’ll look forward to the link; thanks!

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