Grim_Noir Likes Shiki A (Salem’s) Lot

Shiki DVD cover

Title: Shiki (anime series)

Series Composition: Kenji Sugihara

Director: Tetsuro Amino

Script: Asami Ishikawa, Jun’ichi Shintaku, Kenji Sugihara, Noboru Takagi, Sawako Hirabayashi

Chief Animation Director: Shinji Ochi

Art Director: Ichirou Tatsuta

Based On The Novel By: Fuyumi Ono

Music: Yasuharu Takanashi

Produced by Daume and Aniplex

Published in North America by FUNimation & available on Hulu

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Well, it’s almost Halloween and you’ve already seen all of Freddy’s, Jason’s and Michael Myers’ rampages, caught up on American Horror Story, read the most current chapter of Tokyo Ghoul, PLUS gone to the movies to see Crimson Peak and even Goosebumps. How are you supposed to make it from now until Halloween night without something creepy? I have one word for you, kiddo: Shiki.

The lonely Japanese farming village of Sotoba is the type of town that you have to turn down a single rural road to get into. The type of road you might pass on the main highway and not even know it led anywhere. Sotoba is surrounded on three sides by a pine-covered horseshoe-shaped valley. At the end of one very hot summer, the town’s only medical clinic begins to see an outbreak of a mysterious blood-borne disease. As the bodies begin to pile up, the clinic’s director Dr. Doctor Toshio Ozaki, begins to suspect the new residents of the rebuilt Kanamase mansion, on the hill, may be more dangerous than they initially appear…they may be something…undead…

Doctor

Around the turn of this century, Japanese horror novelist Fuyumi Ono read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. She was intrigued with the idea of a small, isolated village being invaded by vampires, however she found King’s cast of New England characters completely unidentifiable. She boiled the story down to its most basic bones and built Shiki back up with a profoundly Asian skew. at the same time, like Clive Barker, Ono sympathizes with her monsters. As does Shiki‘s primary religious character, Seishin Muroi, a Buddhist monk who struggles with his faith’s precepts regarding all creatures right to live, even predators like the vampires (or shiki [Japanese for “corpse demon”], as they prefer.) Even if these shiki are killing all of his friends.

Ono also adds layers of dread and madness that are closer to Poe and Lovecraft than King. Not everyone who is drained of blood will return from the dead as a new shiki. It is a genetic crap-shoot and, when relatives do not get resurrected, it begins to weight on the newly-formed shiki who caused their deaths. The need to feed proves as painful as it is powerful.

HELLLOOO

The infestation continues into the Fall and a few others begin to catch onto what is going on, including high school student Natsuno Yuuki. A transplant from the “big city,” Natsuno has one close friend in Sotoba and a stalker who is more in love with the idea of an urban lifestyle that being with Natsuno. As standoffish as Natsuno is, he really begins to feel alone after both his friend and his stalker die. It is this isolated status that lets Natsuno see what is happening to the town. (As much as novelist Ono avoids recreating Salem’s Lot exactly, the “tapping on the window” scene proves too juicy for her not to redo with Natsuno.)

Traditionally, anime has sucked at horror, but Series Director Tetsuro Amino and his episode directors deserve praise for the look and feel of this series. Shiki was adapted into a manga before it was an anime and Amino uses the conventions of manga and anime to great effect in keeping the viewer off-balance. The outrageous fashions and gravity-defying hairstyles add positively David Lynch-like touches to the goings-on. At the same time, there are also scenes of bloody body mutilation that would cause David Cronenberg to cackle with glee as his audience squirms. However, to me, the most effective images are simple shots of the village at night, trapped by the valley, showing less and less houses with lights on.

A good stake

To say much more about this vampire tale would spoil the surprises along the way. These vampires don’t twinkle and these villagers aren’t pure as the driven snow, either. There is horror and tragedy here, in equal amounts. Before it ends, things will explode into an outright war and, as the frantic battle rages, you wonder how anyone can “win” when everyone, living and shiki, has lost their humanity. For both fans of the original Salem’s Lot and newcomers, Shiki is a tale that sinks its teeth into your brain and doesn’t shake off easily.

Another Attack

 

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is full of cyber-shiki. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or “Friend” on Facebook or Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

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