Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 21 – Escape Routes

Shiki Episode 21 – Escape Routes

For the last two episodes, the question hasn’t been whether the humans will win, but how many more casualties they’d suffer in wiping out the vampires and what moral lines they’d cross in the process. Strangely enough, we don’t see any repercussions from Ookawa’s murder of a poor hypnotized villager; but (with one flagrant exception) we don’t see the practice expand either.

This episode, mostly, isn’t about the hunters at all, but about Muroi and the pull Sunako exerts on him. Muroi’s own personal regrets and fears are finally outed in this episode, and as well as at least some some of the repercussions of them. Needless to say, none of it is for the good.

All of Muroi's fiction is ultimatly autobiographical, reflecting his hatred of his life situation and the town which forced it on him

Muroi’s old suicide attempt and his current submission to the vampires all seem to stem from a single source: the unrelenting pressure he felt to conform to the town’s wishes and become the new head monk of the town, as his father did before him (and presumably on into the past for time immemorial). He wanted an out from the wave of overwhelming destiny, and the vampires give him one.

Of course, if he wanted to just die, he could have taken the option his father did, which was to offer himself, and himself alone, to the vampires. Instead, he revealed Ozaki’s hunting plans and is even now working to protect Sunako from the rest of the village. Something here goes beyond a mere tendency toward suicide.

The last words of Muroi's father might seem to an outsider as a request to be free of living as a monster. If he's anything like his son, his request, like that he made early to the vampires, was to be freed from life entirely

It’s Sunako that drives him, for Sunako, in the midst of her despair and self-loathing, still strives to forge a life for herself—and far more, to create a place where she can be something more than a monster. Despite her age, she’s still in a child’s body and far weaker than most of her kin, but even the sadistic Tatsumi, more powerful than her in every tangible way, follows her lead implicitly. She fights, and that got the vampires as far as they did.

And, in her own way, Sunako is the embodiment of all of Muroi’s built up resentment toward the village for its expectations. Muroi’s fiction always returned to the themes of a village surrounded by death—which was an image that both attracted Sunako and represents, in some ways, Muroi’s desire to see something like Sunako brought in. For Muroi to be free, the village has to die, or he does.

Tatsumi admires the way Sunako fights against the collapse of everything around her, a collapse she embodies by her very nature. It's an odd form of love, but it's probably the most Tatsmui can muster

Muroi’s path, of course, was not foreordained. Ozaki was similarly forced into his role of village doctor thanks to his parental lineage, and seemed resentful of it, yet embraced his role to the point of making monumental personal sacrifices to excise the vampiric “disease” from Sotoba. Megumi and Natsuno both loathed the village, yet their reactions to the Kirishikis and to their undead state could not be more different. There is always a choice.

Muroi’s choice is for death, and the death he has willed goes beyond himself. Attempting to flee the village with Sunako, he takes temporary refuge at his home. When his angry pursuers encounter his clueless yet defensive family, a heated conversation turns violent, and remaining temple staff is killed for “collaboration.” Choices are not made in a vacuum, and Muroi’s continue to have negative effects.

The death of Muroi's mother and coworkers is nothing more than murder, but if Muroi will almost certainly spent the rest of his short life blaming himself for it anyway

Whether he will succeed in saving Sunako is unclear, but nearly all the vampires have now been exterminated. Yasuyo, whatever reservations she might have had on the subject, reveals the location of the last vampire sanctuary after she makes good her escape, and with that the last holdout is expunged.

Not a moment too soon: the resolve of at least some of the hunters has reached breaking point. Particularly as they encounter more and more vampires come from villager stock, and particularly the most recently killed and still unmourned, the strain is just to much. Men like Ookawa can kill and sleep soundly at night, but ordinary men have greater trouble with it.

For some reason, it's not the other hapless vampires getting slowly hacked to death by farm tools but the comparatively serene corpses of Toru and Ritsuko which causes some of the hunters to break down. Is it somehow obvious that they didn't resist?

The humans who find it easiest to kill are those who have lost loved ones and not had to face them. Shimizu, Megumi’s father, is after Ookawa the most aggressive hunter; what will happen if and when he encounters his vampire daughter will likely be very unpleasant. Chizuko Murasako lost her son Masao, and treats vampire dispatching duties like slightly messy gardening duty. Her brother-in-law Masao, hapless to the end, finds that hoping in her pity isn’t a path toward long term health and well-being.

With Masao gone, the only unaccounted vampires of any major concern are Tatsumi, Megumi, arguably Nao, and of course Sunako. I don’t expect any of them to get out alive, but there’s only one episode left to treat on all of their fates, and I hope they’ll get proper attention. I’d hate to see Masao’s death covered and Megumi’s missed.

Chizuko has a mother's rage behind her. The fact Masao was always horrible to her and her son in life might make it a bit easier

I’d like to see some exploration of the long term effects—psychological or otherwise—that the town as a whole suffers from these events. Ozaki’s present problem is figuring out the logistics of what to do with all the bodies; but particularly for those who killed humans, the emotional effects, recriminations, and sleepless nights will be long lasting. Even in victory, the humans will still find horror.

The penultimate episode leaves the vampires in a position remarkably similar to that of the humans just a few weeks before: on their last legs, with key players killed or compromised, and the remainder just barely hanging on. I don’t foresee any sudden reversal of fortune that saves them as that which saved the humans; it’s an odd sort of tribute to the show that, just maybe, I wouldn’t mind seeing one.

We don't see the Natsuno this episode, but we do see the aftermath of his fight with Seishirou. We also see that Natsuno is ... practical

You can watch the episode here.

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  1. Clinton
    December 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    for some reason i don’t think that Masao is dead yet

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