In the village, the quiet village, the lion sleeps tonight…
The funniest part about reading Shiki right now is that I am getting on a train in about two hours to go to a little, tiny town that also happens to be in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by pines. If I never post again, you’ll know why!
…actually, my dedication to my blog is so fierce and burning that I would continue to post on it even as a shiki! This I promise you!
So, with Megumi dead, the story really has started to pick up, with death raining down like so many raindrops. For whatever reason, the manga does a better job of conveying all of this, making things seem more nerve-wracking through demonstrating the actions that characters such as Muroi and Ozaki are taking. And, interestingly enough, while Muroi doesn’t get his name on a chapter until chapter thirty-three, we get a lot more of him at this point than we did in the anime.
In seeing more of Muroi, too, he also comes across as much more active than he did in the anime. He was doing the same things in the anime at this stage of the game, but we didn’t see it in as much detail as there is here. Muroi had come off seeming more malicious in the previous chapters than he ever did in the anime, as he gazed at Sotoba from the temple stairs and commented on the village disappearing. He did the same thing in the anime, but he thought it, whereas in the manga he actually verbalized it, something which somehow came across much more ominously. Saying things makes it true, perhaps?
Anyway, despite that, Muroi doesn’t behave like a man who is wishing for the village’s doom, although I don’t think he loves the place either. He’s doing a lot of his own detective work, talking to relatives of deceased people, and checking in with the heads of the various funeral groups throughout Sotoba. Sotoba doesn’t have its own funeral parlor, so the duties of prepping bodies for burial and of arranging the funerals is handled by the villagers themselves. There are several different subdivisions within the village for this purpose, neighborhoods, basically, which are called ‘funeral groups’. They do things like dig the grave and set-up for the wake. I personally found these details to be interesting, and there obviously was no room to really go into these intricacies in the anime’s run-time.
But, back to Muroi. He just seems more well-adjusted than anime!Muroi and less passive. There’s even this hysterical thing I can only describe as a bishounen moment for him, where he comes skidding up on his scooter, whips his helmet off, and there are sparkles.
I giggled out loud when I saw this. It was actually pretty jarring, honestly, and it was the only incongruous moment I ran into while reading. There was a panel with girls drooling over Natsuno at the high school which seemed stupidly out of place, and at least one other point as well where I cracked up over how silly some moments seemed. While I am finding the manga to be creepier than the anime, the anime also lacked these toneless bits which serve only to undermine the atmosphere. Seriously, having Muroi sparkle? And even the whole sliding scooter thing. When is a scooter ever going fast enough to do that? Any potential cool factor is ruined, anyway, by the simple fact that he looks like a doofus riding a scooter in his robes and in geta.
If Muroi has more positive characterization in the manga, both Masao and Sunako are even creepier than before. Actually, let me revise that slightly, because Sunako never really struck me as creepy in the anime. Sunako is creepy in the manga. Masao is creepier. He is also a nastier person; it no longer seems just a matter of him lacking sympathy or empathy. He’s actively mean, as it turns out that he beats up Hiromi, his nephew, and Hiromi lies about his bruises to cover it up. He’s a nasty piece of work. I was even happier when he got attacked than when he did in the anime!
At the same time, his sorrow over Tohru’s death is more palpable. Not that that makes him a better person.
Overall, though, I felt that Tohru’s death had more impact here than in the anime. The reverse applies for Megumi, whose funeral I found quite shattering, honestly, in the anime. They really nailed it there. Kaori’s request to bury the present she’d gotten Megumi with her absolutely killed me. But I may also have been taking my experiences in losing a friend with that sequence, and my friend was both young and female as well. But, anyway, we see more of Natsuno’s reaction to Tohru’s death than we had at this point in the story, so it pinches at us that much more.
Sunako. A hell of a lot creepier here, perhaps helped by her examination of the stained glass windows in the church… and the fact that she smiles as she comments that the person who built the church must’ve had an interest in martyrs. I like the inclusion of the windows here, by the way. We only saw them very briefly at the very end of the anime when Ookawa was chasing Sunako, and they piqued my curiosity then. I also like how they connect with Muroi, as it became apparent as the story went on in the anime that the man has a martyr’s complex himself.
I know we probably won’t get any further explanation about the windows, but I really wonder what, exactly, they are meant to depict. Obviously, martyrs, yes. But Japanese ones? Ones from the early days of Christianity? Saints? I’m inclined to think it is a combination, as Christianity was illegal in Japan for a period of time and punishable by death. Also, one panel shows a man about to get his head cut off by a samurai, while another has a man who is wrapped in a straw mat and has been set on fire, a Japanese execution method. However, a third window is of a man being bitten by a lion, which certainly seems more second century Rome than Japanese. So its probably a combination.
(As an aside, I will note that, intriguingly enough, religious scholars believe that the amount of Christian martyrs tossed to lions and other such creatures in pre-Christianized Rome was probably much, much less than has been claimed historically. In fact, it was actually probably a fairly uncommon practice.)
I’ve talked relatively little about Ozaki, admittedly, even though he is the co-lead. There was just less of him in these chapters than of other characters, although he does have the meeting with his clinic staff and that was fairly important, as it establishes the fact that Ozaki is surrounded by a very competent group of people. Ritsuko seems suspicious about things already, as she thinks to herself “It’s here.” after Ozaki talks about having a meeting. I think we’ll be getting a more perceptive Ritsuko in this version of events, which I find exciting given how much I liked her as a character. I would really like to get some more about her past.
Overall, I would say that I think that the Shiki manga has been a lot creepier than the anime thus far. Now if only it could get rid of those stupid moments with people having bishounen sparkles!
Caraniel hasn’t posted her manga post yet, but be sure to check her blog as I am sure it shall appear soon.
EDIT: I forgot to mention – we get a shot of Ozaki, Muroi, and Mikiyasu as kids, and Muroi talking about them as children. Its cute! Even if it is in the context of Mikiyasu dying! Oh, and the seats on the bus are upholstered in a panda print cloth 😄