Shiki – 22 [End]
I apologise for the delay, but Shiki’s finale melted my brain so much that I couldn’t really figure out how to approach this post! I felt that the closing episode of Shiki was practically prefect, although there are a few niggling details that rubbed me the wrong way, which probably have something to do with the anime adaptation starting to draw on the novel rather than the manga, since the manga is incomplete – a few details didn’t quite gel right. However over all, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to Sotoba’s story – Shiki secures a place high in my favourites, I just need to figure out exactly where!
For this final post I’m going to try something a bit different and look at each of the main character’s role in the finale individually, in the hope it organises my thoughts a touch better……god knows if this will work, it will be longer than normal though! 😄
Since Seishin Muroi is the character that’s given us the most food for thought over the course of the show thanks to his wishy-washy attitude and self-destructive tendencies, its only fitting that I start with him. Muroi has spent the vast majority of the series being completely passive. Events wash over him, he makes no real effort to do anything and when Muroi does make a decision for himself it’s completely self-destructive – be that his suicide attempt before the start of the series, or his going to the Kirishiki’s and letting Sunako & Tatsumi have ready access to his veins – all he does is seek an escape. And finally in episode 22 Muroi does escape – in becoming a werewolf he escapes death and he escapes Sotoba, the new-found sense of release & freedom doing a complete number on his normally placid personality.
The Muroi we see at the end of Shiki is not the one we’ve been familiar with throughout the series. Gone are the soft smiles, dull eyes and reserved speech; instead we have a coolly determined Muroi who does not hesitate to kill and act on the selfish impulses that he’s somewhat resisted throughout his life, even his treatment of Sunako changes. Where once Muroi trod lightly around her, he’s now brutal with his words and actions – dragging the poor tired creature with him out of Sotoba and prolonging her suffering just to offset his own loneliness. This Muroi with all his worldly ties cut, is a whole new character but this is probably the closest to his true nature that we’ve ever seen him.
I had some mixed feelings to Muroi becoming a werewolf. It should have been a momentous reveal, but since we’ve already had Natsuno come back as one, Muroi’s rebirth felt cheapened. Werewolves are meant to be insanely rare, to have Sotoba birth two is a pushing it a bit. We’re also told that people don’t fully die when they become werewolves, so they’re not proper corpses and don’t have the same 3 days before rising thing to contend with…..it all felt a touch too convenient in the end. However giving Muroi a new life as a werewolf seems to be a kinder fate than having him become a true shiki; Muroi can pass as a human, but is now free of all that tied him to Sotoba and of the shadow of death – in a way its the best end he could have really had…although dragging Sunako into his selfishness was really quite mean.
Which leads us on neatly to Sunako Kirishiki. Poor Sunako, I felt really sorry for her in the end. She’s struggled with her nature from the very moment she awakened. Sunako is constantly on the defensive, frightened that people will judge her for caving to her instincts, tortured by the fact she’s killed and haunted by gut wrenching loneliness. Sunako is a very pitiful creature. Clearly as a child she was quite religious, and she feels the loss of God strongly in her life now that she’s been stuck in a kind of limbo for 100 years – while an adult can stick around places for quite a while before people start to notice they’re not aging, for a child its different – questions would be asked as to why she never goes to school or plays with other children her age; where an adult could justify a nocturnal existence as working night shifts etc, a child can’t – the fact that she is a different existence is constantly preying on Sunako’s mind.
It’s therefore perfectly understandable why Sunako pursues this pipe-dream of a shiki village no matter how unsustainable the idea is. Sunako crafted a family around her and sought to expand that into an entire village of people just like her – it’s incredibly selfish, but also rather understandable; she’s just lonely and frightened of being alone. Despite being a shiki and so much older than most of the cast, Sunako still has the very human desire to be safe and surrounded by warm people – she wants the feeling of belonging to a community rather than always being on the outside looking in.
Sunako’s life has been one of constant struggle, but finally with everything burning down around her and all her plans and allies destroyed, Sunako gives up. Even though she’s terrified, she is willing to accept Ookawa’s stake and escape from everything that’s hounded her over the long years. However she’s denied that release when Muroi kills Ookawa, and then refuses to let Sunako burn, even when she tells him, “at last I have made the decision to abandon myself. Those that have been forsaken by God shouldn’t be alive.” Sunako believes this from her heart, she’s constantly sought answers from God and this is probably one of the reasons why she was so attached to Muroi since he’s a priest and meant to have these answers (poor Sunako, Muroi is a terrible, terrible priest!) Muroi’s speech at the end was all sorts of mean. Sunako wants to be reconciled with God, she doesn’t want to be told ‘yes you have been excluded from god’s protection and love’, that’s what Muroi himself wants to believe so that he can cast off the role of Priest of Sotoba! It’s entirely cruel to drag Sunako down with him, I can’t imagine what kind of life these two are going to have now that they’ve left Sotoba and its carnage behind.
From an old shiki who wanted release, to a young shiki who just wanted to live – lets talk about Megumi Shimizu next. Megumi’s fate was utterly brutal – pinned down by tractors, even having one crush her skull and still live on until a stake is finally driven into her heart; even though she was a complete bitch who went a bit power-mad when she was turned, no one deserves to be killed like this. What made Megumi’s death all the more repellant was the attitude of the villager’s responsible for it. Here’s a teenage girl, who they know quite well since Megumi has always stood out in a crowd thanks to her attitude and clothes, and they still calmly mow her down repeatedly with tractors, while she screams for mercy and then curses them for their cruelty throughout her life. Its only once they’ve crushed her skull that they think to clarify if she’s really a shiki – the villagers are so far gone that they barely differentiate between those that are human and those that are shiki – the slaughter has become random.
Megumi to the bitter end only wanted out of Sotoba, it’s all that’s driven her throughout the series (well that and her incessant stalking of Natsuno). The fact is that once the Kirishiki’s were out of the picture Megumi felt absolutely no compulsion to stick around Sotoba – she really would have went off to a city and never looked back, she doesn’t really pose any further threat to Sotoba. Still while I never actually expected her to survive, but it was still sickening to witness her demise – Megumi was a very entertaining character, the way she relished in her new powers and freedom was fun to watch, and to have her vibrant personality brought so low was jarring.
Onto another character that was entertaining to watch in all his bastardness – Tatsumi, and like Megumi, Tatsumi had a really bad time of it this week as well. Playing his decoy role with dogged loyalty, Tatsumi was hit repeatedly by speeding cars and sustained multiple gunshot wounds (where the hell did all those guns come from all of a sudden anyway!?). Just because the shiki can’t die doesn’t mean they don’t feel the pain such horrific injuries inflict. To watch Tatsumi get mowed down, only to get up time and again was tough – Tatsumi may have been a bastard at times, but he did display a soft side at the end in his treatment of Muroi and absolute loyalty to Sunako; I really did like his character.
When Tatsumi comes face to face with Natsuno, who has been largely responsible for throwing Sotoba into this circle of destruction, Tatsumi shows the same calm, methodical way of dealing with the matter as he has throughout the show. Tatsumi is very reliable and does whatever he can to get the job done, you can see why Sunako placed so much trust in him…..and its this very personality trait that made him such a great villain. Tatsumi didn’t care what methods he had to employ to fulfill Sunako’s wishes, he easily slipped into the bad guy role to ensure order among the new shiki – all in order to protect Sunako’s dreams. It was pretty tragic that he ended up killed by a teenager with some sort of twisted hero complex and death wish rolled into one, but Tatsumi’s expression of resignation at the very end is typical of him. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Tatsumi truly emotional throughout the series, he’s level-headed to a fault and even when he’s about to be blown to bits, Tatsumi is still perfectly composed – its hard to dislike a character that self-assured.
From one calm, methodical werewolf to another, moving on to Natsuno Yuuki. Where Tatsumi’s way of working is understandable given his age and strong conviction, Natsuno’s role in the later half of the series felt really out-of-place and out of character. Natsuno went from a stoic teenager with a major chip on his shoulder and trust issues, to a one man band of heroics with a dash of chess master fired in. It’s very difficult to accept that a 15-year-old who was all but begging his undead best friend to run away with him prior to his turning, became this cool, collected character that pulled strings behind the scenes and ended up blowing himself and Tatsumi up with dynamite! Such overblown behaviour just didn’t seem to work with the tone of the rest of the episode, and I find it hard to belive that Natsuno went to such drastic lengths to utterly destroy the shiki just because he didn’t like the Kirishiki’s methods.
It seemed like the anime wasn’t quite sure what to do with Natsuno for the most part in the later half of the series. In the novels he stays dead once Tohru bites him, but he comes back in the manga apparently. However because the manga is ongoing, and the end of the anime pulled stuff from the novel instead, it seems that Natsuno became a character that was pure plot device. Ozaki needed to throw off Chizuru’s hypnotism – have Natsuno bite him. The werewolves & Seishiro need to be dealt with – away you go Natsuno. Oh crap we’ve forgotten Akira & Kaori! – ah its ok, just have Natsuno rescue them off screen……its kind of frustrating given how big a role Natsuno played in the 1st half that he was reduced to this in the 2nd half. The only time Natsuno really acted like himself in the final episode is when he’s standing amidst the flames in Yamairi, looking at Tohru’s corpse – he looks really heartbroken there and considering his next move is to go tackle Tatsumi into a pit and blow himself up……..well the BL vibes are still strong there!
Finally we come to Toshio Ozaki, another character with a hero complex. I had to finish with Ozaki really, he forms such a perfect bookend with Muroi – the two characters contrast each other really nicely. Where Muroi started off floating though the series with no real sense of purpose, but ended up quite happy in his own skin and embraced a chance to escape and start over; Ozaki by contrast started out self-assured and very determined, but got caught up in the madness of the mob and lost control – ultimately all his struggle came to nothing…….Sotoba burned, the shiki may have been exterminated, but so too did many villagers lose their lives, homes & arguably their humanity in the carnage – Ozaki’s hands will never be clean of the blood he spilled.
Ozaki definitely becomes aware of how futile his actions are during episode 22. He’s still marginally in charge, as some villagers do still turn to him for instructions, but ultimately Ookawa and others have taken matters into their own hands and Ozaki has had very little real influence over them. Watching Ozaki take his frustrations out on a tree with a chainsaw harked back to a similar scene at the beginning of the show were he was kicking the wall of the gazebo at the clinic at his feelings of inadequacy. Truly Ozaki never really changed much – he tried to enforce the status quo back on the situation, rather than adapt to the change. The result was utter chaos and the loss of everything he ever had ever worked for. It’s hard to see how Ozaki will ever come back from these events; where Muroi has decisively put Sotoba behind him, Ozaki is still chained to the town – how on earth do the survivors explain what happened in that town and how do they even attempt to forget?
So Sotoba burned and the only shiki to survive were Sunako & Muroi who ran from the flames. But you can not call this a victory for the humans; many more of them survived, but they’ve lost their town, loved ones and will have to deal with the fallout of their bloody actions. We’re shown survivors literally getting on a bus out of Sotoba at the very end during the ED credits – Kaori & Akira, Mr Yuuki, the drive-in lady & Nurse Lingerie all survive in addition to the majority of the mob and Ozaki. Part of me would love a proper epilogue to see how the survivors are coping in a few years time, but think that this rather subdued end to the series fits best. Ultimately what Shiki tells us, is that people suck – the people of Sotoba were horrible, horrible people……but that’s a very realistic depiction of what humanity is really like – Shiki refused to sugar coat anything and thats what made it such a fantastic series.
Its been an absolute joy to write about this series. I was frustrated by the incredibly slow pace to start with, but once Shiki got going……..wow. I got completely sucked into the show, it burned up all my energy when watching/thinking/talking/writing about it and I’m both relieved and saddened that it’s over. I’m definitely going to pick up the manga, and if the novels ever get a translation I will be all over them! So all that remains to be said is, thank you so much for sticking with me through all these posts (and I apologise for the length of this post!) – Shiki gets 5/5 and a high place in my all time favourites – I can’t praise it enough.