Shiki – 19
More people need to watch Shiki, this series has done nothing but get better and better every week! The painstaking build up has meant that these episodes at the climax of the series have been nothing short of amazing! This is what we’ve been waiting for, the moment when the human characters pull their heads out of their collective arses and actually do something; episode 19 was all at once heartbreaking, thrilling and horrific – it is a very special series that can draw out so many emotions in me!
There is now a proper ‘Us Vs Them’ mentality in Sotoba. Both sides have ordered an all out extermination of the other – Ozaki wants every shiki culled regardless of who they once were, and Sunako has ordered her shiki to hurry up with the extermination of the human populace……its a very grim situation.
Lets talk about the human side first though, as it’s the humans that were the instigators of all the action this week. Ozaki was pretty damn cool this episode, as he matter-of-factly lays down the law about the shiki to the shocked villagers, and he has immediately gained two strong allies in the grief-striken Mr Shimizu and Mr Firey-beard dude. These three men quickly whip the villagers up into a frenzy of action to oust the shiki threat – there are of course dissenters who don’t agree with the violent options presented to them, and can’t stomach the thought of killing any family members that may have risen, but on the whole Sotoba seems to finally be fighting back.
I wonder how calm Ozaki really is underneath it all though – all this death and violence can not be good for anyone’s mental state, yet Ozaki’s professional veneer remains unscathed to date. I would imagine that if Ozaki didn’t have his professional facade and position of authority to fall back on, he would be a jabbering wreck by now – friends, acquaintances & family members dropping dead left, right & center, experimenting on and eventually killing your undead wife, being preyed upon by a Lady Gaga lookalike vampire, ending up working with a teenaged werewolf and then having your best friend defect to the vampire side – Ozaki has had a pretty rough time of it!
Ozaki makes a good leader – he’s calm and confident, has a lot of charisma and doesn’t suffer fools. As the town doctor he commands respect and he doesn’t shirk his responsibilities, appearing quite comfortable in his role as a leader of the village. It throws up a stark contrast with Muroi’s situation. Muroi doesn’t want to be trapped by his responsibilities or the village, he accepts his role as the village priest grudgingly and is pretty wishy-washy about performing his duties or acting as an authority figure. Where Ozaki embraces his role, Muroi runs from it – these two men may have been close friends but they could not be more different.
While the humans are getting all fired up, things in the shiki camp are tense. The weakness of the shiki is really highlighted here, as they are pretty much helpless during the day and aside from their invulnerability to most things other than being staked/beheaded, the shiki don’t really have any special skills. The normal shiki have only the werewolves and humans that have sided with them to defend them – and that basically boils down to Tatsumi, Yoshie, Seishiro and Seishin………not exactly a huge force even when you count Tatsumi’s strength and Seishiro’s gun skills.
It’s amazing how swiftly the tide has turned. It wasn’t long ago that I was proclaiming the utter doom of the entire human population of Sotoba, but now things are looking grim for the shiki instead! Its testament to how well thought-out the shiki plan of attack was, that they survived so long without retaliation – Sunako was very clever about how she planned out her attack on Sotoba. However it only takes one strong-willed and clever human to derail the whole situation. The shiki’s plan depended on secrecy and the ignorance of the villagers, now that Ozaki has blown the lid on their nature, it’s an entirely different ballgame.
I have mixed feeling about this reversal in fortune, mainly because so many of the characters I like are now shiki, but I also think this upheaval of the playing field is what the shiki had coming to them! Regardless of what way things go down it will be upsetting in some way, solely due to how the show has built up its cast so well.
No post on Shiki is complete without some Muroi speculation! In this episode its abundantly clear that Muroi is on his last legs, and that he’s completely OK with that – Muroi has some major self-destructive tendencies and I don’t think he’s going to last the series given the way he looked this week and the fact Sunako is shown crying over him in the preview. It struck me as really strange that Tatsumi would intrust a comatose Sunako to a dying priest who has never shown any survival instinct! Muroi has let Sunako feed on him, he’s refusing to eat (which is just making him even weaker) and then her lets Tatsumi feed on him in order to unlock his full werewolf potential (which Tatsumi will use to rip out Ozaki’s throat given half a chance – what are you thinking Seishin!?), so I really don’t see Muroi as an effective last line of defense!
Muroi doesn’t seem to hold any strong convictions. Sunako asks him directly why he tried to commit suicide once, and he replies with ‘I don’t know’. For all the endless introspection Muroi goes through he doesn’t appear to have found any answers; you have to wonder if he would have been a happier person if he had no obligations to fulfill in Sotoba. Most of Muroi’s issues seem to stem from his being chained to Sotoba by familial responsibility – he doesn’t want to be the village priest, he doesn’t want that heavy-duty that he will have to carry until his own death and this leads to him almost unconsciously seeking Sotoba’s destruction. Muroi is a very troubled character indeed.
Sunako was interesting in this episode – she’s acting like a kind of matriarch for the shiki, being the eldest of them despite her looks and is an effective leader. Sunako hands out her instructions with clarity and confidence, and refuses to show weakness to her followers – her brief moment of sadness over Chizuru’s tragic demise is swiftly sealed once she faces Muroi again. Despite this Sunako still comes across as a very fragile and contradictory existence – she’s older than everyone else in the series, yet looks like one of the youngest, she feels powerful when issuing orders and seems menacing when baring her fangs, yet she feels loneliness acutely and attacks purely for survival; she is a wonderfully interesting character.
I thought it was really quite clever of Ozaki to turn the shiki hunt into something ritualistic. By calling the hunt a ‘mushi-okuri’ he’s allowing the villagers to avoid thinking about just what it is they’re doing. The shiki they are killing are people they’ve lived & worked with – family, friends, acquaintances. However by painting a varnish of religious ritual over the slaughter, the limiters get removed – shiki are seen as monsters/ demons not former friends and the mob mentality completely takes over – group psychology is a frightening thing and Ozaki makes scary good use of it.
I was also glad to see poor broken Kaori actually doing something other than rock back and forth this week. She is armed and ready to fight back, mostly out of vengeance for her family – whatever remained of her sanity has probably vanished now that she’s clubbed her undead father to death! I can see no happy ending for Kaori – no matter what happens to the village there will be no way to restore her broken sanity.
Tohru was crying again this week (big shock there) however for a change it wasn’t over Natsuno! Rather Tohru is distraught over Ritsuko’s refusal to feed – Tohru has even gone and put nurse lingerie in Ritsuko’s cell and is trying to force Ritsuko to feed through a mixture of teary pleading and threats; Tohru is another character that’s completely broken now. Ritsuko’s situation doesn’t seem to be improving judging from the preview – looks like she may actually see her starvation through to the end.
Other interesting things in the next episode preview are Ozaki drenched in blood and Natsuno facing off against Seishiro – can not wait!