Shiki – 4

Things certainly aren’t going well in little Sotoba. The body count grew impressively this episode, with Nao’s husband kicking off among others, and her son possibly right behind. We’re up to twenty now, and our intrepid Dr. Ozaki has finally decided it’s time to do something more than monitor the victims as they slowly expire. An epidemic of some sort is suspected and he assembles his team of nurses and administrators to go to battle. Meanwhile the bishie author-monk has another encounter with creepy Sunako, out for a midnight stroll, in an abandoned church on the Buddhist temple grounds.

And then there’s Natsuno, for whom things just seem to be getting worse. He isn’t getting much sleep, and it shows. Visions of a lantern-eyed Megumi outside (and inside) his shoji screen plague him. Desperate for rest he stays over at pal Torou’s place, but that doesn’t turn out too well. Megumi and the Kirishiki son show up – whether in reality, Natsuno’s dream or some combination of both we’re not sure – and things start looking really bad for death flag Torou.

I stand by my belief that there’s no major curve-ball headed our way. I think this story is going to turn out to be about exactly what it seems – a clan of very traditional vampires terrorizing a small village in rural Japan. Rather than a mystery like Higurashi, I think we’re watching a tragedy, where everyone knows what’s going on except the people it’s happening to.

Admittedly, the clues seem almost too obvious to be taken at face value. The bite marks on the victims, Sunako’s statement that she has a “disease” preventing her from going out at night, the implication that the Kirishikis need to be invited before they can enter a house, etc. So it’s entirely possible that I could be wrong and this is a complete feint – but I don’t think so. Rather than twists and turns, I think the creators are having fun with the cliches of the genre itself. The character designs are so over the top as to almost comical, yet oddly beautiful. The BGM is classic horror camp. I actually hope this is the case and I’m not giving them too much credit – because if they’re playing this material straight, it’s some of the heaviest and must humorless stuff I’ve seen in a long time.

Is it good anime? I think so – this episode was genuinely creepy, more so than any of the first three. The look is distinctive and production values excellent. The plot, while seemingly obvious, is interesting enough to keep me hooked in from week to week. This may be one of the few times I’m hoping for no major surprises – I’d like for Shiki to turn out to be a wry and witty riff on old-time vampire lore than a more traditional puzzle box of twists-and-turns anime horror. Time will tell.

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