Shiki (manga): Chapter 00-02
My Shiki fixation refuses to go away and so A Day Without Me and I started decided that the obvious thing to do, would be to read the manga & write about it (this is why I got so pissy about manga spoilers in the comments of my anime posts). First thing to note is that the Shiki manga chapters are pretty damn long – about 55 pages, and these three chapters bring us up to episode 3 of the anime, roughly covering a chapter an episode. Also for the most part the anime was a very, very faithful adaptation of these chapters – but there are a few subtle differences which I found interesting.
The prologue chapter starts with introducing Megumi and there’s very little different. The only thing I noticed was that Megumi doesn’t seem to have any cute side to her at all in the manga. I remember that in the first episode of the anime Megumi was pretty unlikable, but she was also given a cute side – her nerve failing her when she tries to post the card to Natsuno & then her shy dejected manner when speaking to him about wanting to go to the city while Natsuno ignores her; basically a misunderstood teenager with a crush. However in the manga, this shy side disappears, the same scene at the bus-stop in the manga feels slightly sinister, as Megumi is almost smirking at Natsuno instead of looking all downtrodden when he ignores her. The end result is that the manga version of Megumi comes off as a bit more of a yandere stalker than she did in the anime adaptation.
Another slight difference is that when the search party for Megumi is formed, a group of the men go to the Kanemasa castle to ask if they had seen Megumi, since this is where Kaori last saw Megumi heading towards. Tatsumi answers the door & even joins the search in the manga, all while putting up a very subservient and unassuming front – he even has a slight verbal tick where he adds ‘yah!’ to a lot of his sentances, which I didn’t really notice much in the anime. Another thing that I found interesting is that when Megumi is taken into the Kanemasa castle, you can clearly see Seishiro come to the gate with Tatsumi in broad daylight. A quick scan over the 1st episode of the anime shows that Seishiro does this in the anime too but I completely missed that detail. I thought that the first time we saw Seishiro Kirishiki during the day was when crazy old Ikumi arrived on their doorstep & slapped an ofuda on his chest!
Strangely I didn’t find Natsuno to be as big a prick as I did in the initial episodes of the anime. He has a big attitude problem, but he’s not completely devoid of feeling. Natsuno just seems to be like a fish out of water in Sotoba. When he and his family moved in he had to put up with all the unwanted attention that being the focus of village gossip brings – Natsuno seems to be the kind to just want to blend into the background and get on with things, he doesn’t want to be the centre of attention. Natsuno dislikes the way his very name gets him attention, he doesn’t like it’s girly connotations and gets touchy about it – his prickly exterior just comes across as a defense mechanism, perhaps he was bullied for having a girly name & unmarried parents?
Natsuno’s flat rejection of Megumi’s postcard when Kaori tries to give it to him, also seems like it wasn’t Natsuno being unkind, but rather very socially awkward – Kaori’s over-friendly attitude kind of freaked him out and he more or less ran from her, while being perhaps being very insensitive of Kaori’s feelings. Natsuno is capable of holding a normal conversation, but only with those older than him – he does talk to Ritsuko about the village, and even though Tohru is three years older he’s Natsuno’s best friend – Natsuno just seems to be very awkward around those the same age as him.
The splash page for chapter one is interesting as it features Ozaki, but says that this is the start of the ‘Natsuno Yuuki volume’. I’m also curious about the meaning behind the blurb;
If I were an honest doctor, would I have returned to this countryside?
Does Ozaki feel like he wasn’t being honest with himself when he returned to Sotoba to take up his late father’s role as the village’s doctor? We never get the same sense of unhappiness from Ozaki as we get from Muroi when it comes to honoring obligations; for the most part Ozaki seems to embrace and even revel in his role as a village leader – is this just a front, or is he making the best of a bad situation? If Ozaki isn’t a ‘honest doctor’ is he a dishonest one – that conjures up all kinds of bad connotations of shady backroom doctors like Shinra from Durarara!! Ozkai certainly doesn’t have the same air about him, but he does have moments when it seems like his pride and standing in the village are more important to him than the patient at hand – like in this chapter when he wants to autopsy Megumi despite her parents obvious distress, just because he feels that her death reflects poorly on him. Indeed when speaking with Natsuno, Ritsuko mentions that Ozaki is taking Megumi’s death hard, but that’s not through any kind of sympathy for the bereaved, it’s just frustration at making the wrong call on her diagnosis.
Ozaki’s dishonesty is seen again in chapter two when speaking to Mikiyasu about Nao’s condition. Ozaki knows that Nao is past the point where she can be saved by the equipment he has on hand, yet Ozaki lies to his childhood friend, smiling with clenched fists at his inability to save yet another life. Much as Ozaki care’s for his childhood friend, once again its his feeling of helplessness that is Ozaki’s primary motivation as earlier in the same chapter he declares to Ishida & Muroi; “I won’t let this thing trample on my village any further!” (Ch02 pg13). “My village” that’s quite telling – Ozaki may not have originally wanted to return to Sotoba, but now he see’s it as his village, his home and its residents are his patients; Ozaki takes responsibility for these people and embraces his role in the village even if it wasn’t what he really wanted out of life when he was younger.
In contrast Muroi seems to somewhat reveling in his distaste for Sotoba. Rather than embrace it as Ozaki has done, Muroi resents the village for being so small and remote. Muroi writes about the morbid aspects of Sotoba, somewhat sensationalising what is a very ordinary little town in his essay on the place. Also while Muroi is quite interested in whatever is afflicting the village, he seems emotionally detached – Ozaki claims Sotoba as his own, but Muroi stands apart and looks down on the place, content to observe.
Muroi’s initial meeting with Sunako plays out more or less exactly the same way as it did in the anime. Sunako explains that it was Muroi’s essay on Sotoba that made them want to move there. Sunako sort of comes across as a rabid fan in this conversation, she talks about reading all Muroi’s novels, short stories & articles and about how easy it was to figure out where he lived. There is an uneasy tension in the conversation which Muroi attempts to defuse when he offhandedly remarks that Sunako must be disappointed by how different he is in real life, but rather than lifting the tension this comment seems to make things more strained when Sunako remarks that Muroi is much more ordinary than she thought he would be. Before she turned up Muroi was thinking about how small and ordinary Sotoba is, Sunako basically says the same thing about him so I can imagine this wounding Muroi’s pride a bit.
The major difference in this scene in the manga, is that Muroi’s initial suicide attempt is directly addressed rather than being completely left up to our rampant imaginations. It’s also rather unnerving how Sunako refers to his scar directly, rather than hinting at it like she does in the anime – it seems to freak Muroi out too…..such a creepy child. So Muroi was still a student when he cut his wrist, and he claims to barely remember doing it or why he did it. This really made me think of A Day Without Me’s post on the depiction of suicide in Shiki, in particular the section on ‘impulse control’. Muroi’s cutting of his wrist occurs when he was young and drunk on impulse rather than something that had been building up in him and done as a last resort kind of escape. I don’t know if I like this clarification, I think I prefered the way the anime left it up to us to speculate on Muroi’s frame of mind.
Ok this is getting out of hand, going to stop here. More or less everything else in these chapters was the same as the anime. Ritsuko got a bit more development (seems like a past boyfriend suggested that they get married & move out of Sotoba but she refused) and turns out that Tohru’s dad is the head of administration in Ozaki’s clinic (I think that this was briefly mentioned in the anime, but I can’t actually remember).
A Day Without Me has also written a post on these chapters – we are planning to cover the manga at a rate of 2-3 chapters per week, so many more weeks of Shiki fangirling to come!