Wow. Shiki has really rounded into form with the last couple of episodes, stepping up and starting to earn the mantle of a Noitamina series.
The episode gave us about as much exposition as the first six combined, though not much came as a surprise because the creators have never tried very hard to hide what was going on. As I thought, we’re watching a tragedy here and not a mystery – the audience is forced to watch the characters stumble through in ignorance while they, with an overview, can see quite clearly what’s happening.
We find out a lot this week. The scenes from Masao’s perspective were creepy and very well-done, especially his recollection of the nighttime visits from his killer and his time inside his coffin. Tatsumi – already having overheard Kaori and Akira (Twintails and Otouto) discussing Akira’s suspicions about the Kirishiki mansion – rescues him. In the process, we learn that not everyone killed by the vampires rises – only a select few, like Masao, are special. We learn through Masao’s flashbacks that once bitten, the victim is under the control of their killer, who comes back nightly to feed on them until they expire (very, very creepy – reminded me of this). And we learn that these vampires follow most of the rules – no direct sunlight, no getting your head cut off, etc. Except Tatsumi – he can take sunlight and is surely different in other ways too, though he doesn’t reveal how. In a wonderfully disturbing scene at the safehouse where he has brought Masao we see the little boy who has been brought in to be Masao’s first kill. Masao appears to still have a semblance of his humanity and it repulsed at the notion, but Tatsumi assures him that it’s no different than humans feeding on animals, and that he has to feed or die.
Perhaps most refreshingly, the cowl is finally lifted from Ozaki’s eyes and he figures out what’s really happening. Seishin, surprisingly, is the skeptical one – or perhaps doesn’t want to believe the truth. While Akira was clearly the first to piece this together the structure of the remainder of the series is revealed – he, Natsuno and Ozaki have all reached the same conclusion and independently set out to prove it. Natsuno, Akira and Kaori by digging up Megumi’s grave – a notion poor Kaori understandably finds horrifying – and Ozaki by using one of his patients as live bait, to see if her killer comes for her in the night.
There’s a lot of style here. There’s almost no gore and very little in the way of cheap horror movie gimmicks, but lots of atmosphere. The result isn’t so much scary as unsettling, and at its best very much so. I respect the fact that the writers appear to have been very honest with the audience – no random, nonsensical curveballs. What we thought we were seeing is what we were seeing, and the drama is watching the characters figure it out. And now, in watching what appears to shaping up as a war of survival between the seemingly overmatched Natsuno, Twintails, Otouto and Ozaki and the entire Kirishki clan and their horde of corpse demons. I can’t shake the feeling that Sunako may be the one to even the odds here, somehow – her role in this is still complicated and shrouded in mystery. Might she be the key to the survival of the village – a sympathetic figure amongst the enemy?