Fun fact: Kitty Media once released an OVA under the title ‘The Hills Have Size’! I’m sure it ranked right up there in fine storytelling with classics such as Mother Knows Breast, Menage a Twins, and… Anal Sanctuary (“Under the violin of St. Cecilia Acadamy lies an evil monster that feeds off your colon and grants power to the one who plays Kannone, the demon violin.”). Oh, yeah, and who could forget ‘Do You Know the Milfing Man?’? To go through Kitty Media’ catalogue is to either laugh yourself silly or cry uncontrollably. Anal Sanctuary? Really?
Ah, but none of that is really at all relevant…
Shiki! Shiki, Shiki, Shiki. A few weeks back I talked about how Shiki was intriguing to me, although it hadn’t managed to make me feel creeped out at al yet and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that made me find it intriguing in the first place. But I kept watching – is it really all that important to always understand why one enjoys something?
Episode eight came through insofar as scares are concerned, as I felt truly leery about poor Kaori getting dragged off by the vampire before Natsuno smacks it with the shovel. Some had questioned whether Shiki could really work all that well when the viewer knew that vampires were lurking about almost from the word go, but the show has certainly proved that that is of no problem for it. I felt a sense of unease that increased the longer they stayed in the woods as the sunshine started to fade, in large part since I knew what was lurking around. There is a sense of unease one gets from knowing when the characters in the show by and large do not know. Even when they are beginning to suspect one can’t help but wish they could smack them and say, “HERE BE VAMPIRES!!!”
Shiki would never be that crass, though. I am enjoying this true slow-boil, as it gives some sense of how the villagers themselves may be feeling as they watch people dying under mysterious circumstances one by one and across a decent stretch of time. The show begins in August, and now has reached early October, yet the deaths are not letting up at all. It’d be enough to drive any sane person crazy. So the slowness of the narrative does an excellent job of giving us a taste of that part of the atmosphere.
It also makes the recent moments of pay-off all the more rewarding – the attack on the clinic, the admittance of the creepy little girl to Natsuni’s house, the attack on Natsuno himself… it took a lot of building up to make these moments seem so good.
The slow development has also allowed Natsuno to actually become a likable character. I hated him at the beginning; yeah, Megumi was kind of annoying, but he was pretty crappy to her, and he really wasn’t much nicer to a lot of the folks around him. His whole ‘get back to Tokyo’ thing made me roll my eyes. But the time spent with him has allowed him to become human, particularly in episode ten when he opens the window to Tohru despite knowing that he really shouldn’t, and his subsequent admission of the fact that basically all his memories of Sotoba have Tohru in them. So of course, right when we’ve finally warmed up to him, he get’s nom’d. I don’t think he’s dead, but the entire thing does lend it more weight than, say, Masao’s being attacked had.
I have also really enjoyed the characterization of our would-be Claudia, Sunako. Actually, what is somewhat relieving is that she isn’t really in the Claudia (Interview with the Vampire) vein at all (wow, no, really, no pun intended on that one, legit). The creepy child character has become such a stock item for horror, and so often the piece of work in question just goes through the motions – essentially, if you just add a young, generally female, character who says adult things and is pale, presto! Instant creepiness! However, Sunako’s portrayal is, really, quite understated. Sunako comes across as a very lonely child more than anything, precocious yes, but definitely still a child (as opposed to, say, Hiiragi from Hanamaru Kindergarten, who is obviously an exaggeration). She’s a very sympathetic character.
Its also been such a nice relief that she hasn’t been sexualized like so many young, female characters are in anime these days. SHE ACTS LIKE A KID! SHE ACTS LIKE A KID! HALLE-FRICKIN-LUJAH!
It’s pretty sad that this is a cause for celebration.
But, silliness aside, Sunako is a very good character. And her relationship with Muroi has been pretty interesting, particularly her observation of how slashing one’s wrists is an ineffective manner of suicide (although I do wish that Muroi’s apparent prior misery had been explored a little more; perhaps it’ll have some more light shed on it later). Now that’s quite the way to open up a friendship with someone, although I will confess that I’m not sure I’d term their dynamic to be ‘friendship’ exactly. It looks like she’s going to be chowing down on Muroi next episode, which I feel may have something to do with her apparent disillusionment with Muroi in a previous episode, as she remarked that she had thought that Muroi had to have been a person forsaken like God as she has been in order to have written his novels. Despite Muroi’s bug-eyes, I’m fairly fond of his character, so I’m going to be a bit bummed if he does go vampire on us, although it does seem pretty inevitable.
Anyway, at the end of episode ten I was pretty much leaping up and down in excitement over how good it was. I really can’t think of a more perfect ending to the episode than Tohru biting Natsuno. I’m curious as to what ended up being his ultimate motivation there – fear that his family would be punished if he didn’t? A desire to ‘save’ Natsuno from the worse experience of being attacked by both Shimizu and Tatsumi? Who knows. He had been crying his eyes out only a few minutes earlier, so it is a really curious turn of things.
I suppose my only quibble at this point with Shiki is how stupid the characters are on occasion. I try to remind myself that its easy for me to perceive certain actions as dumb since I am not in a similar situation myself, but Natsuno in particular does really dumb things on occasion that have astounded me. Yes, his opening the window to Tohru was understandable, and so was following him… but both actions were still really, really stupid, too.
Also: why has no one used fire yet? That’s the first thing I’d use versus vampires! I realize that this is an item gleaned from fiction, however given the information that the main characters hold already (i.e. most of the vampires don’t operate during the day), it seems reasonable to think that fire would work against them. But I’d also have pitched a tent outside of my house if I were Natsuno and have told anyone who wanted to come in, “Fuck no.” by now, so…
Another note for episode ten, by the way: was it just me, or did the cursed character in Muroi’s latest novel look like Natsuno?
On a less analytical note, I love the OP, Kuchizuke. The single actually got released earlier this month. Sometimes OP songs don’t really hold up in their extended form, but it remains a solid song. If you’ve liked the OP, its worth getting the single, although the B-side itself is fairly bland and isn’t really well-served by being packaged with such a good song.
Aaand back to analysis: the anime version of the above picture was used in a lot of the promotional stuff for Shiki, and it looks to have proven to be foreshadowing Natsuno’s fate. In particular, it reminds me of how the librarian vampire looked when Natsuno, et al. did their half-assed burying job of him.
And, with much, much less analysis – when I first saw the anime version of that image, I thought Natsuno was a girl. Yeah, I know, he’s wearing a male uniform. But, look! It looks like he’s got boobs and cleavage! See that damn line? And those legs are so slim! Can you really blame me? I also swear that the anime iteration of it makes him look more effeminate…