Home > Episode Reviews, Shiki > Shiki Episode 22 – Apocalypse Now

Shiki Episode 22 – Apocalypse Now

The woes of Sotoba have been long and heavy, but Shiki continually seeks ways to make the situation worse. The latest offering: a fire, in the recently-cleared-of-vampires Yamairi. There’s no indication as to what starts the fire, but it quickly becomes a full-fledged conflagration.

After all that Sotoba has suffered so far, a fire seems like insult to injury. But it’s a problem even beyond the usual way: a fire will attract outsiders from the neighboring town of Mizobe, who, if they come early enough, will discover blood drenched villagers and mounds of corpses. Or, they can try to stall bringing in the fire crews, only to risk having all of Sotoba burn.

Ozaki takes to fire-fighting as a man possessed; he's sacrificed so much to save Sotoba, and now a natural disaster comes to ruin his day

Ozaki chooses the latter option, waiting for the smoke of the fire to draw in rescue crews while the villagers engage in a mad dash to hide all the bodies. That succeeds, but only to the extent that the fire itself pours into the town to destroy any lingering evidence. Ozaki has to let the town burn when it becomes clear there is no other way to hide all the evidence of what was done there. Sotoba suffers unspecified amounts of damage, but it’s implied the whole place goes up in smoke.

Thus, after scouring the town of vampires, the town still may die out anyway, and all of Ozaki’s work undone. He’s saved the remaining villagers, yet his goal of saving Sotaba itself falls apart. It’s better than if he had just led an evacuation of the surviving villagers, as the vampires won’t be around to terrorize the surrounding towns, but the village itself may never be rebuilt.

Ozaki in his final reflections is perhaps too hard on himself; the population of the town was a risk of extinction before he came along; that he can't save the buildings is tragic, but still small by comparison

It’s a noticeable nod to despair and pointless destruction, one entirely in keeping with the tone of the episode, and of the series as a whole. Shiki manages to work it in on at least two other ways.

Tatsumi’s final confrontation with Natsuno provides one example, as the second greatest defender of the town admits he doesn’t really identify with the town at all. He fights against the Kirishikis because they attacked him, and he takes it personally. He’s not on anyone’s side; he’s just against the vampires. By his own admission, he’s not driven by anything other than anger.

Natsuno's claim not to care about anything is belied by his work to save Akira and Megumi and get them out of town. He does still have some human connections

Their fight ends inconclusively, with the possibility that one or even both of them survived, although it seems likely that both Tatsumi and Natsuno died. Natsuno himself is fighting without any regard to his own life, something all the more ironic given that he is technically still alive. Jinrou are living shiki, who have the same unique blood of the vampires while otherwise being breathing human beings.

It’s an interesting last minute revelation that explains why jinrou have the abilities (and pulse) that they do; it also explains how Natsuno avoided the crematorium. Jinrou, never having completely died but only bled to the edge of death, don’t have to wait days to rise again; this also proves important for a later plot event.

Natsuno woke up as the funeral home staff came to collect him. Jinrou being alive, they probably produce enough blood of their own to keep their vampire blood from "starving," so long as they eat normal food

Even living, even not having to feed, Natsuno still treats himself as a monster for the tainted blood that runs through him. Sunako, terrified at the prospect of her imminent demise, continues to fight, yet she is beginning to reconsider. When caught by a vengeful Ookawa, who outlines her crimes in the condemnatory way that Muroi could never offer, she takes his explanation of why she deserves to die very seriously.

Muroi manages to rescue Sunako from both Ookawa and herself, convincing her that, being forsaken by God as she is, divine rules no longer apply to her. She has committed no crime because there is no law restricting her. More to the point, he presents a portrait of the universe where God, if he exists, is silent and utterly uncaring. The world is just one of his hellish novels, come to life.

Sunako's pleas before whatever god might be listening show how she desperately wants a god to exist, if nothing else to have someone to complain at

That’s not necessarily the right way of looking at the world—Muroi’s perspective has been demonstrated again and again to be warped—but it apparently convinces Sunako that there’s no point accepting death for her actions. The two of them flee in the confusion of the fire, leaving the town behind. It appears no other vampires make it out.

The show then ends rather abruptly; whoever is still alive, it can be assumed to be alive, but there’s little to no explanation of what comes after that night. That, if anything, constitutes my main disappointment with the ending; an extra episode (or even half of one) to treat on how, or if, the inhabitants of Sotoba recover would have been greatly appreciated. A few unexplained clip scenes inserted in the final credits don’t cut it.

As fire consumes the village, the camera shows several of the named characters, already dead, slowly succumbing to the flames. Masao and Nao are both included, probably to clarify they're dead

That lacunae is an annoyance, as is the somewhat arbitrary introduction of the fire. Neither keep the finale from being a proper ending to yet another one of the great shows that have run on the noitaminA block this year, a conclusion that preserves and embodies all the themes of the series. That all of those themes are rather depressing to think about doesn’t lessen the achievement.

Series Review: Shiki is not what we would call a feel-good show. Its horror stems not from the slow-growing dread of watching the vampires infiltrate the town, or the sudden flashes of violence as lives are snuffed out, nor even from the unnerving reversal as the vampires become the hunted (and thus the sympathetic portrayal of them in their final moments). These are all present, and expertly done, but they are just window dressing.

Muroi's outlook, if anything, becomes more nihilistic and degraded over time. The "problem" is that much of the content of the series seems to confirm his views—but that's sort of the point

The horror comes from the depiction of a pitiless, uncaring universe, where morality bows before the needs of survival. It’s from a world where love and friendship do not conquer all, where hatred and dehumanization fuels the success of both sides. It’s a world, in short, almost Lovecraftian in the force of its nihilistic moral outlook, but with the added twist of focusing on a smaller scale—only to make the stakes all the more personal.

All this makes it a fantastic show, albeit one which is entertaining in a very odd way. I enjoyed it greatly—the tension, the shocking acts of cruelty, the lingering dread that pervades the entire production—but I’m not certain what that says about me. We are not quite asked to root for the bad guy in Shiki (although it comes dang close), but we are asked to take enjoyment from observing a fundamentally bad world.

I also should feel a bit bad for enjoying Megumi's demise. She tries to vie Sunako for a spot at the pity me parlor, but her "Why me?" speech comes off as shallow and selfish as she always has

I do think, however, the the show benefited greatly from Ritsuko’s example. I’ve mentioned it several times, and continue to mention it, because Ritsuko points to a path of self-sacrifice that both vampires and humans eschew. The show gives no reason for the audience to feel that Ritsuko goes off to a better place as a result of it. But, by serving as one beacon of light in the darkness, she at least makes the option attractive.

In the end, Shiki will be something of an acquired taste. I can easily see some finding the moral universe of Shiki too revolting to accept. Others might just find the unrelenting storyline, with no recourse to comic relief save occasional gallows humor of the darkest sort, too much to take for 22 episodes. But Shiki accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, and does so with excellent craft, characterization, and skill. This is the best horror anime to come along in a long, long while.

Sunako's last words to Muroi show how hard it is to live in the world Shiki presents, yet she chooses to live all the same. The cycle of death will thus continue on, at another time and place

You can watch the episode here.

  1. Animka
    December 31, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I like Shiki.It is a pity that it ends so sadly.I verry like Megumi and Sunako 😦

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      December 31, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      I very [much] like Megumi and Sunako.

      We can agree to meet halfway.

  2. FatalxInnocence
    January 7, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I’m gonna have to disagree with the Megumi seeming selfish in her death speech thing. She probably meant it in a selfish way, but it ended up making a heck load of sense in regards to not only herself but the shiki, and even Yuuki to a certain extent. They point at things that are different and automatically assume negative thoughts. It was actually the main speech which made me think pretty damn deep thoughts. Then again, Megumi was my second favourite character in the anime. She reminded me of Eri from School rumble somewhat- who was actually my favourite.

    Anyway Shiki was an awesome anime, it had some really unique diverse characters and a somewhat deep meaning to it. Loved it!

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      January 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

      See, I think Megumi’s statements are a stereotypical view of how rural towns react to the outside world, but it doesn’t seem accurate in Sotoba’s case. The village was actually quite welcoming to the Kirishikis despite how undeniably odd they were, as illustrated by how quick residents were to invite them over or consider them “glamorous”. Ikumi Itou led the most reluctant and confused mob she could possible have found to bash down the Kirishiki’s door, which is one reason why she failed.

      Likewise, Megumi’s feelings of isolation were caused (if the first episode is any indication) by her own classic teenage reaction to feeling different–the villagers were more gently playful in their reaction to Megumi than coldly dismissive. More to the point, Megumi was loved–by her parents, Kaori, and the entire town, which came out in force to search for her–and she rejected all those loves. If anything, she was the one always willing to demonize the other and the strange (that is, the town, which in her eyes was not “normal”) and her later acts of gleeful cruelty reinforce that. For all her complaints, she’s the one with the stereotypical provincial mindset, just inverted.

      I did like Megumi in some respects (Haruka Tomatsu is one of my favorite VAs), but mostly for providing a truly vile villain. I regret she didn’t get a final confrontation with her father, but I’m happy it was Sunako and not her that made it out alive.

  1. January 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm

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