May 10, 2011 2 Comments
Warning: This post contains explicit spoilers to Shiki.
Shiki at its best is a thrilling mystery about a small village cursed with the presence of beings risen from the dead known as Okiagari (or Shiki). A summer 2010 anime produced by a studio, Daume, that, being far less known than other studios, presented to us a gem that we as a fanbase have seldom seen. Shiki’s use of mystery and horror with a dramatic story give us a fantastic show that bears one of the darkest themes an anime can have.
What the most obvious message Shiki gives us is human being’s tendency to adapt to a certain environment and the conflicting theory of good and evil.
Much more prominently shown in episode 21, there is a complete change amongst the villagers from a state of fear and panic to one where staking an okiagari is as normal as brushing your teeth. In the scene that the picture above is from, the women of the village who are typically seen gossiping or chatting on the side are casually throwing the bodies of the dead okiagari wrapped in blood-soaked sheets while complimenting the younger girls for their youth. The young girl then further stakes an okigari that is still squirming with an expression of tedious handiwork, almost as if you were to adjust your desk or chair because it’s crooked. The group then continues on to eat rice balls but not until after wiping some wet blood on their aprons. It’s a staggering change in state of mind because their idea of peace and rest is now corrupt into thinking that killing– ending the life of another being– is part of daily life.
The idea of good and evil is abstract, and it depends really on what side of the conflict you stand in. There is almost no fabric of what is good and evil in Shiki.
In the first half of the show, it’s obvious that the Shiki are evil. They appear to have no resolve and attack humans to only increase their numbers. In the second half of Shiki, when we see insight of the leaders of the Shiki, namely Sunako, the true leader of all Shiki, we realize that she is a victim of God’s indifference to her and her judgment, and despairs becoming a Shiki. Most of the villagers, which we see at first as the victims of the Shiki who cower in fear, become aggressive, merciless and cruel to all Shiki, particularly Toshio Ozaki, one of the two main protagonists, and appear to become to evil force in the show. Toshio
But both sides, the Shiki and the humans, have people who have conflicting desires and emotions. Toru, after becoming a Shiki, falls into despair for having the desire to kill humans to live. Alongside Toru, Ritsuko, one of the nurses, pities Toru and dies with him. Megumi becomes elated to becoming a Shiki, leaving her former life as a resident to a boring and spiteful village. Natsuno, the other protagonist to the series, is adamantly anti-Shiki, and after actually becoming one (more specifically a Jinrou, a more powerful Okiagari) goes as far as killing himself to kill one of the strongest Shiki. Muroe, the local priest, becomes extremely sympathetic towards Sunako and helps her escape from the humans, killing one of the villagers and becoming one of the Shiki in the process.
Good and evil has almost no place in this show.
Shiki’s most important and prominent theme is Death. In episode four, Sunako, the leader Shiki, explains to Muroi what Death is. Shiki emphasizes how much of a tragic and and cruel force Death is and, most importantly, Death’s ultimate impartiality to anything about anyone. A person’s actions, thoughts, beauty, power, money, ideals, kindness and innocence are all meaningless in the face of Death. More important to the show, Death is also impartial to where you stand in good and evil, mostly for the fact that it faintly exists. Almost the entire main cast of Shiki end up dying, whether they advocated the existence of Shiki at all, no matter what their intentions and ideals were made up of. Innocent and kind characters ended up dead such as Toru and Natsuki. The “hero” figure Natsuno dies alongside Tatsumi, one of the Shiki advocates. Even the entire village itself “dies out,” as Ozaki puts it.
The opening itself also literally portrays most of the cast “dying” by turning into skeletons.
There are also parts of the show that carry the theme of despair and desire to die, such as Sunako and her anger towards God for forsaking her, Muroi’s attempt to commit suicide, and, most of all, Muroi’s novel, Shiki, which is a rendition of Cain and Abel. In it, a man kills his younger brother because to him, the younger brother is his “point of contact between him and the world.” It turns out that they are the same person, and he committed suicide because of the despair he suffered by him working on “the hill controlled by God,” implying that he detests God and the life under his rule.