The Massive Shiki Retrospective: Part Two

All about the priest.

I was actually leery of using that as my opening line, as I can’t help but feel like I babble about Muroi a lot. In my defense, though, its easy to do so – he was pretty cagey about a lot of things for a while, after all. It took him twenty-one episodes to admit that he had tried to kill himself because he was unhappy. And he was always pretty non-committal even when he was being introspective.

However, I’ll also be talking about Ozaki a bit, as I think that these two, honestly, are the ones upon whom the story truly revolves. It was their relationship which ended up defining the whole show to an extent; their ending up on opposite sides makes that pretty clear. It all started with Muroi’s essay drawing the Kirishiki to Sotoba, and it all ended with Ozaki’s crazy mob. They both managed to set things in motion that they couldn’t truly control, either intentionally or not.

They also have a lot more in common than one would suppose at first glance, even if they do end up being the inverse of one another to an extent. Both are fairly passive, which sounds very strange to say about Ozaki. But let’s look at the evidence a bit: Ozaki may say a lot about wanting to stop the shiki throughout the show, yet it is Natsuno who spurs him twice to actually take some action. Natsuno suggests that there may be a supernatural reason for Sotoba’s troubles early in the show, and then when Ozaki is despairing of what to do after he finds that the local government has been completely taken over, it is also Natsuno who gives him the new hope necessary to take action.

One could argue that Ozaki does take action, so he isn’t that passive, after all. But Ozaki also lets the mob take on a life of its own; his protests about killing humans at the end of episode twenty are completely gone by the next episode. He’s given up on being able to keep the reins himself.

It is also worth noting that both Ozaki and Muroi, when they do make decisions and take action, make poor decisions. Ozaki sat on the entire vampire thing for how many episodes before mentioning it to anyone else? Muroi had tried to help him by gathering death statistics very early on, only to be yelled at by him. Ikumi and Ritsuko were both suspicious about what was going on in Sotoba, and both did, to wildly varying extent, make the doctor aware of their suspicions. Natsuno was the first one to suggest the supernatural at all. There were people out there Ozaki could’ve turned to. But he was too caught up in himself to do so. Despite his insistence of disgust over his father’s view of himself as town protector via his job, Ozaki was fairly under the spell of playing the hero as well.

So, we’ve got the hero complex. We’ve also got the martyr’s complex in Muroi. They’re interesting to consider in regards to one another, as both do involve a self-centeredness. However, Ozaki wants to “win” over the shiki, and he at least initially wants to be the one who is the reason for it. Muroi, on the other hand, seems to at least relish suffering in some manner. It isn’t overt; we never see him smiling while whipping himself with chains, for instance (unlike some other priests in 2010!). But Muroi neither seems so depressed as to be incapable of doing anything, nor does he ever actually do anything to change his situation. He may hate Sotoba, he may not really have any religious conviction, but he keeps going with his role as the priest.

I don’t think he started out this way. Based on his admission of being in despair, he did make an attempt once to change that. Perhaps it wasn’t the best of decisions, but he did something. So it seems as if the martyr’s complex was a later development.

Of course, Muroi continues to show signs of being suicidal. One can’t really call his defection to the Kirishiki anything but a move towards dying. That he, once again, manages to ‘survive’ death also helps to explain how the wishy-washy priest managed to suddenly kill a man with a cleaver. Muroi’s speech to Sunako also helps to explain his actions and shift in demeanor.

Muroi’s speech to Sunako is not really an argument about shiki being beyond the judgment of a god. He may frame it like that, but what Muroi is really saying is that there is no god. Muroi’s change in behavior and attitude isn’t as much of a one-eighty as it may seem. He’s still in despair. But its a different kind of despair he’s settled into now, a despair of everything. In a way, he’s moved beyond happiness versus unhappiness. He’s come to believe (or realize, since Shiki really is telling us that life and people both suck) that nothing really matters. His own actions don’t matter; he finally died, but he didn’t even get to stay that way. He’s been denied his desire for death twice now.

So Muroi is past caring. He can take Sunako’s hand and prevent her from going into the flames because he knows it doesn’t matter if what he is doing is cruel. The universe will do what it wants with him(and I do not mean ‘universe’ in the sense of some higher power), regardless of whether he is good or bad. Human society may force people to consider the consequences of their actions to an extent, but even this is easily swept away in the face of something like what happened in Sotoba. In death, he no longer has any need for human society anyway. He has become Abel from his own story (that we see a shot of the hill the temple is on in the background when Muroi explained his book in episode twenty-one is no coincidence). He is free to act as he wishes, because there is really no such thing as a ‘consequence’.

To shift back to Ozaki… thinking on it, the matter of whether he and Muroi swap places is more complicated than saying ‘they switched place’. Because Ozaki’s own character is more complicated than passive vs. active in the narrative sweep, although he is certainly more passive than he is active, honestly. For the one who ends up causing the final madness of the show, he isn’t a terribly active character. He just manages to do a lot of busy work which makes us on our initial impressions view him as being the exact opposite of Muroi. Without Natsuno, Ozaki was all set to give up. (I would like to point out, by the way, that this only applies to the anime; there is no Natsuno in the second half of the novels’ narrative, so I have no idea what does end up pushing Ozaki along. Novel!Ozaki very well could be a completely different character if he only has himself to motivate him into acting.)

So, Ozaki ends up reverting to his usual behavior. He doesn’t switch with Muroi; it just looks that way on the initial glance. ┬áMuroi is the one who ends up changing at the end, and even here it is merely a shift into a different variety of despair, albeit one which allows him to be a much more active person.

I didn’t do entirely what I was planning to in this post, so consider my “previews” of next posts to be loose at best. I intend to look at Sotoba itself more in-depth next time, and I also want to parse a Muroi’s description of his novel ‘Shiki’ and his admission of unhappiness as being the cause of his suicide attempt. At some point I also want to consider the impact that Shiki as a show had on me personally. And I am going to do a standalone post about the manner in which suicide was depicted in the show, although I’ll probably just include it as part of this massive retrospective set of posts. At the very least, you can anticipate there being at least three more posts in this series!

I suppose, quite simply, I still have a lot more to say about this show. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out Caraniel’s final post on the series; its her episode twenty-two post, but its much more about analyzing the characters than anything.

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7 Responses to The Massive Shiki Retrospective: Part Two

  1. Caraniel says:

    Ozaki is a strange case really – he’s so good at looking busy, but really he’s standing still while everything happens around him. I’m really curious about what motivated him in the novels, because truly in the anime it was only Natsuno giving him a kick up the arse that made Ozaki do anything at all.

    But still Ozaki manages to be pivotal in the series, he’s the one that really gets the ball rolling when it comes to confronting the Shiki even if it was Natsuno that gave him the original push, and when Ozaki starts something he commits to it fully. He comes up with the idea of experimenting on Kyouko, and he gathers the mob and sets them on the path of carnage – both are utterly repellant things to do, but he sees it through and doesn’t attempt to shift any of the burden of guilt onto someone else……as you said – major hero complex.

    I like your take on Muroi’s actions and speech at the end of the series. To me it seemed like he was doing things for his own benefit, the speech directed inwards in a validation of his choice to abandon the idea of god & therefore his role in Sotoba – but your interpretation also makes a lot of sense given Muroi’s past actions. Giving in to a new type of despair fits him – doing things just because he can also fits, because before he was in despair over not being able to do the things he wanted because of his ties to Sotoba.

    Regardless, Muroi certainly became much more active in the end – much more active than Ozaki had ever been inspite of all his seeming struggle. The two made for fascinating characters in an fantastic series.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Ozaki committing to something fully once he starts it is going with the flow, too, though, isn’t it? A body in motion tends to stay in motion and all that jazz. He’s extremely inflexible, at the very least. (Look at that! I managed to not make a dirty joke out of his being inflexible or flexible!)
      Yeah, I just feel like Muroi’s even past feeling a need to justify his actions to himself. I think he could become a real monster, now, honestly. Even Tatsumi cared about characters other than himself. I see no evidence of that in Muroi any more. I see Sunako being extremely unhappy with the fact that he rose up, honestly. He may be a variation of the Muroi she’d met previously, but his positive qualities are wholly absent now.
      Its a really interesting turn of events, but I personally like sad-sack!Muroi better XD
      Actually, if anyone ends up trading places now, it may be Sunako and Muroi who do. HMMM.

      • Caraniel says:

        Ozaki is just all around stuck in the status quo – I don’t think he even knows how to go about breaking out of the cycle of complacency he’s stuck in…..wonder if that’s why Kyouko left him? (also congrats on not going straight to the gutter on the flexibility!)

        Muroi as a monster worse than Tatsumi – now thats an intereting thought. I do feel really sorry for Sunako, she’s tired of living and now has to deal with this strange new Muroi as her protector…..urgh.

      • adaywithoutme says:

        Maybe. I think that she probably didn’t really like Sotoba a hell of a lot, either, and that Mrs. Ozaki, while fun to irritate on occasion, over time is wearing. So, probably a combination of factors. Damn, she shouldn’t’ve returned toward the start of the series! Poor woman.
        Muroi as protector. Sigh. A totally unwanted bodyguard. I wonder what she’ll think of him now? She’s a lot older than he is, so it really is curious to wonder what she thinks of him now. I wouldn’t be surprised if she feels guilty for dragging him into the whole thing because it changed him so much.

  2. starpowder says:

    Honestly, I’ve always seen Muroi’s attempt at suicide to be as an escape from becoming a priest even though he KNOWS there are better paths to take. I suppose I may even go as far to say that he’s selfish in the way that he doesn’t care whom he upsets (be it Ozaki for us fellow yaoi fangirls, his family, or even his other friends… if he had any) – he just wants out of priesthood.

    I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the last two episodes but just from what I’ve gathered from your reviews for the last two (I couldn’t help but read!) is that Muroi is just looking for an excuse to die. Even if it’s becoming a martyr – he just wants to die and it appears since he became a Jinrou after all, he intends to make Sunako suffer with him since the whole Kirashiki family moving in Sotoba was ultimately his fault for becoming an idol for Sunako (and I mean idol in the shallowest sense of the word).

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Hmm. Its an interesting thought. I’m not convinced, though, that it is the priesthood, necessarily, so much as Sotoba. The priesthood means being stuck in Sotoba, but I’m not entirely sure that he would’ve been quite so opposed to it if he could’ve gone to be a priest in, I don’t know, Sapporo.
      Go watch the last two episodes! They’re very good.
      I don’t think he wants Sunako to suffer. I just think he doesn’t really care if she does. He doesn’t want to be alone, therefore, Sunako must survive whether she wants to or not. He doesn’t care how it affects her either way.

  3. Clinton says:

    okay the only thing thats bugging me about this series is that Yoshie could not live through a shot though the head yet Tatsumi can

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