Abel and Cain, Vampire and Priest

Or, more analysis of Muroi and Sunako’s conversation in episode eleven of Shiki, along with a side of Muroi and Ozaki.

Ugh, I don’t know how I’m going to go three weeks without this show.

I’ll just start by excerpting from my full post on episode eleven so no one has to bother clicking around and scanning through the entire post to read what I said there:

“…Sunako’s reaction to the description of Muroi’s manuscript and the term ‘shiki’ came across as startlingly realistic, by the way – her excitement is that of a person who has finally found something that seems to accurately describe what they are or how they feel or reflect it accurately. She’s happy because Muroi has put a name on it and is telling a story of ‘people’ like herself. Yet she still calls Muroi a romantic because its too good to be true, even if the story is about a man who has killed his younger and thus isn’t exactly a happy story itself. Muroi’s depiction of the ‘shiki’ is ultimately romanticized since he himself is not a shiki.

This is also why she doesn’t bite him. He’s too innocent, in a sense. She just can’t bear to even if he’s basically told her that he knows what she is, and so is potentially dangerous…”

It is Sunako who vocalizes the fact that Muroi’s story references the story of Abel and Cain. I had actually thought of this resemblance when Muroi had talked about the story in a previous episode (with Ozaki, I think), so I was happy to see that mentioned here.

Most people know the barebones of the story of Abel and Cain, which appears in Genesis, the first book of the Christian Old Testament and the Jewish Tanakh. Abel is murdered by his brother Cain, who is then cursed by God for his transgression. However, let’s look at the full story:

Adam and Eve, euphemistically, have sex, and Eve gives birth first to Cain, and then to Abel. Cain tills the land, while Abel is a shepherd. With their separate occupations, they make different offerings to God – Cain offers up produce, whereas Abel kills and offers an animal as his sacrifice. However, although the shepherd is considered to be the social inferior to the farmer, God prefers Abel’s offering, angering Cain. Looking at the text, it is clear that the problem is one easily overlooked in a quick read-through – Abel has offered the firstborn of his livestock, but Cain has not offered the first of the harvest.

Cain is angered by Abel’s success, and lures his brother into the wilderness to kill him. When God asks him where Abel is, Cain tells God that he does not know, for he isn’t his brother’s keeper. But God knows what has happened and curses Cain to wander for his sins, along with making it impossible for Cain to till the soil any more. When he points out that he will be killed if he is made to wander in the wilderness, God marks him so that no one will kill him. This itself can be read two ways – either Cain is begging mercy because he does not want to be killed, or he is stating a desire to be killed, so that God’s marking of him is a further burden upon him since it denies him death.

After this, Cain does wander, although he eventually settles down and has children and starts a city. However, one of his descendants also murders someone, and increases the curse against Cain’s lineage. Meanwhile, Adam and Eve have a third kid, Seth, from whom all of mankind is descended. Traditionally, Cain’s descendants were all wiped out during the Great Flood, though this is not directly stated in the Bible itself – it just says that everyone in the world died except for those on the Ark. Which, uh, yeah, does seem pretty inclusive, but it is worth noting that nothing is said in particular about Cain’s ancestors in that story.

This failure to explicitly account for Cain and his lineage also explains later legends and beliefs relating to him. Up until fairly recently (e.g. the 18th century or so) there was a strong tradition that Cain still wandered the earth, unable to perish and fated to wander until the end of time (at which point, presumably, he’d be one of the ones cast into the lake of fire). And Cain has been used in literature before to explain the existence of vampires – he’s the father of them, and they’re all cursed as a result.

This gives some greater context to Sunako’s remark that Muroi is a romantic, and also gives further explanation for why she pauses and does not end up biting him although she has begun to lean in when he begins to lead into his ultimate question – “Are you a shiki?”

Muroi had a moment before asked Sunako if she was Abel. Initially, this is immediately worrisome to her, as it means he’s figured it out. So she goes in for the kill. However, Muroi then asks if she’s a shiki, and it is at that point that Sunako pauses, and then smiles and tells him that he’s a romantic.

Again, I argue that Muroi has proven he’s an innocent with his words, hence Sunako’s reaction. Where others have drawn the conclusion that vampires are of Cain, Muroi instead attributes them to the martyred Abel. It is a more romantic idea, as Abel is not the cursed figure in that tale. Yes, he is wrongfully killed and denied a lineage of his own, but he gains a favorable legacy for being the pure victim. Cain is the predator. So while being of Cain would definitely cast vampires in a bad light, to be of Abel would be to say that vampires are the wronged group, those suffering through no fault of their own.

Muroi’s words on the one hand demonstrate that he is of no true threat to the vampires – if anything, he feels sympathy for them. But, perhaps more importantly, his words also show that he is very innocent, at least from Sunako’s perspective. He is accusing Sunako of being a vampire, but he isn’t doing so in order to further curse her. Instead, he is acknowledging what she is, and in a sense looking for answers as well. He isn’t just asking if Sunako is a vampire, he is also asking if she is the wronged Abel.

From Sunako’s lines throughout the show, it is very clear that she thinks of herself as being of Cain, not of Abel. She has spoken of Muroi’s work as seeming to have been written by someone abandoned by God, and that this is part of why she is such a fan of him. She sours on Muroi slightly when she states that she thinks she was mistaken to consider Muroi as being forsaken by God. And now she has become fond of him for the noble sense of tragedy he is attributing to her and those like her. Its a very interesting evolution of their relationship; she is more the adult figure now than Muroi is in a way, for her words essentially tell Muroi that he is naive. She is not the innocent victim; she is the fratricide.

And now for a wee bit on Muroi and Toshio/Ozaki’s conversation:

Toward the end of their conversation, Toshio asks angrily if Muroi wants to see the village die out, as Toshio perceives Muroi as being too wishy-washy and naive about the nature of the vampires (a view Sunako would surely agree with). A few images then flash through Muroi’s mind, the second two of which have made an appearance before, when Muroi first met Sunako – a conversation in which Sunako says that her father decided to have her family move to Sotoba after having read an essay of Muroi’s in which he described the place as “surrounded by death”. The first scene that Muroi sees of the set of three in episode eleven comes from his description of his book, Shiki.

I thought the scenes had seemed a bit familiar, so I went back and re-watched a few of the episodes, which is how I found the earlier use of them. The meaning seems pretty clear to me – Muroi is beginning to think that it is his own fault that the vampires have come along and are now killing his fellow villagers. Cain and Abel pop up again here, too, for in this scenario Muroi is Cain, killing all the blameless Abels around him, albeit not directly. For a Buddhist priest in particular, though, whether it is direct or not would have little meaning, for he still is at fault for having enticed the vampires to move there in the first place. One of the interesting things in Buddhism is that while thinking evil thoughts has the same weight as doing them, bad results from good intent are equal to bad results from bad intent (seems a bit hard to not be damned in Buddhism, I must say) (there is an analogue in Christianity and Judaism to this in that to look upon someone lustfully is to commit adultery).

So Muroi’s latest angst-out is that he’s getting everyone killed, but he also feels badly for those who have become vampires, as he views their fate and actions as not being their fault. He has for them literally done what the Cain figure of his story has done – killed the innocent and made them into monsters cursed to wander forever. He is also unable to truly do anything given his views, for he cannot bring himself to harm those who have become vampires, since its his own damn fault. He’s stuck and despairs for he knows not what to do. And yet his inaction means that people will keep dying, and some of them will keep rising. Quite the unenviable position!

This, too, is why Toshio is more angry than depressed, for he feels no culpability for the problem (and would probably tell Muroi he was being stupid for blaming himself) – the problem is more simple for him: there are vampire. They are killing people. Therefore, the vampires must be destroyed.

And, to return to Sunako and Muroi one again – both believe that they are Cain, while the other is Abel. Both feel a sense of sympathy for the other as a result, as both see an unwarranted tragedy or doom hanging about the other.

Alright, I think that about covers it. I have hope that at least a few people will manage to make it the whole way through.

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15 Responses to Abel and Cain, Vampire and Priest

  1. Charles says:

    I made it all the way through!

    I’ve haven’t seen the series…in fact, I haven’t heard of it. But I was able to follow your explanation through, and the parallel is very strong. I have never heard the legend of Cain still walking the earth and being a vampire (I’m not real in touch with vampire literature, shows, etc.) and I found that really interesting!

    The blog I’ve started is actually primarily about making parallels such as this – you might find it interesting.

    I’m glad I read this post…I think I made need to check this show out!

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Well, I’ll be thrilled if I’ve managed to convince you to check the show out. It starts a bit slow and takes a while to build up, but it never was boring nor would I say any of the episodes are bad.

      The legends of Cain still walking the earth, though, aren’t the same as the ones positing Cain as the father of all vampires – rather, authors have drawn on the tradition of Cain the eternal wanderer to give origins to their own vampires.

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  4. hashi says:

    Great post(s). Those scenes between Muroi and Sunako just get deeper and deeper. The title of a Rolling Stones album just popped into my mind: “Sympathy for the Devil.” I can’t help feeling sympathy for Sunako — and for the local Shiki, even Megumi, despite their vicious crimes. As Christian doctrine says, we are all sinners, to greater or lesser degrees.

    Yuuki Aoi is going to become a specialist in playing sympathetic vampires. It makes me wonder what she could have done with the role of Yuki in Vampire Knight.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Man, Vampire Knight – I thought that was a very, very bad adaptation, and I would argue that Yuuki Aoi got robbed a bit of the opportunity to play badass!Yuuki.

      I think for the most part that the vampires in Shiki are fairly sympathetic, with the exception of Tatsumi (at this moment). Megumi’s attack on Tohru was fairly vindictive, but her being a vampire doesn’t change the fact that she is fairly young and immature and in a bad situation. I would also argue that her understanding of death is warped since she died but rose from it; in such a context, killing someone loses much of its normal moral weight – they’ll just come back!

      Also: Natsuno is such a bitch to her! I know her infatuation is annoying to him, but he’s such an unpleasant person!

  5. Jo says:

    After seeing your second post, I thought I’d drop by and say that ‘yes I read the full post’.
    Other than that I don’t have much constructive feedback to give you. Sorry.

    But it’s a great post. Gives us viewers a better insight of what Muroi is going through/thinking.


  6. Elineas says:

    I don’t think naive or innocent is the correct word. Romantic indeed, but not naive. Naivety implies a level of ignorance. Muroi is simply believing such an ideal even in the face of knowledge. One could hardly say Muroi isn’t aware of the terror the shiki can wreck upon the village, and so I’d like to say it’s simply a sympathetic standpoint. Sunako may consider it foolish, but I think that speaks more about herself than Muroi. In that case, she has a level of self-loathing, a complete acceptance of her state as a monster.

    Still, awesome analysis that emphasizes the level of tension and depth of this character interaction. If only the quality in this dialogue could be the norm in anime!

    And on a random side note: Mentions of Cain and Abel remind me heavily of Hermann Hesse’s Demian, which was also a tangential influence on RGU…

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Its interesting that you should mention Demian, as I actually saw an article recently about Cain and Abel and Demian; I forget where it was, though.

      I still think naive or innocent works fairly well as a description of Muroi. He may be aware of the havoc the vampires have brought, but he is ignorant of the true genesis of vampires, and thus ignorant as to why they exist. Sunako probably doesn’t know from whence vampires came either, though; however, Muroi’s attribution of a blameless beginning to vampires is still borne out of a lack of knowledge. Muroi doesn’t really think vampires came from the slain Abel, but he thinks of them still as being victims. Sunako thinks of herself as the predator, not the prey, so, again, Muroi’s assignment of innocence to her kind is itself innocent or naive.

  7. Epi says:

    Really interesting analysis of episode 11. I liked the Biblical explanations that you have provided, not being a bible reader myself.

  8. Nyitora says:

    Thanks so much for this post! It really clarified much of Sunako’s and Muroi’s relationship, and really analyzes the religions/philosophy behind it. I always find analytical posts like these so interesting. Hope for more! 🙂

  9. Red says:

    Wow, you did some deep analysis on this show that is usualy saved for classic literature. You raised some very good points, but I just have one thing to bring up. Didn’t Muroi say that it would be better if the village ws destroyed? He may be naive, but that isn’t something a good person would say/think. I read the manga so i’m not sure.

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  11. Kanon says:

    Awesome post, this was so informative and enlightening. I never really understood how Muroi’s Cain and Abel story related but now I do. I watched the anime last year but I can’t wait to re-watch it will all this new information.

    Do you have any more posts about Shiki? I would love to read everything you have to say before I re-watch it again. Also, what other anime have you commented on and are you a literature major? You totally understood the symbolism of Shiki!!!

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