Well, I’m completely sold at this point. Shiki has been on an upward trajectory and 8 was clearly the strongest episode of the series thus far.
One element that was much more in play this week was suspense. There have been suspenseful interludes in the first 7 episodes, but 8 was a masterpiece of Hitchcockian, edge-of-your seat anticipation. The ep started with yet another fascinating conversation between Seishin and Sunako, philosophical and foreboding and deepening the mystery around her character. We were then treated to an intensely exciting scene where, as most expected, Natsuno, Kaori and Akira find Megumi’s grave empty. But in a classic horror-movie riff, a vampire (corpse demon?) abducts Kaori and she’s saved only by Natsuno and his spade. In a questionable decision (well, these are kids) the trio decide to bury the unconscious demon only partially in hopes that adults will discover him. Akira is keen to attack the Kirishiki mansion, but Natsuno points out that everything they assume to be true about vampires comes from movies and might not apply – though the hints have been strong that at least some of the cliches hold true – and that they might not even be fighting vampires. Akira and Kaori snuggle together terrified in a rather poignant scene, unable to sleep but bravely planning to fight on. The next day the grave is empty – and that evening, a very strange little girl and her puppet arrive at Natsuno’s house in one of the creepiest and best directed scenes of the summer season.
I continue to be intrigued by the possibilities here. Most significantly, Sunako, about whom we’ve been given only tantalizing hints. It seems obvious to me that she’s going to be at the heart of this story’s ultimate resolution, but how? Is she the leader of the vampires and ultimately the most powerful and cruel, merely toying with Seishin for her own amusement? Or might their conversations hold real meaning for her, and she truly does feel something for the humans on which her family preys? Also interesting is the relative absence of curve balls we’ve been thrown thus far. Creepy and suspenseful this series has become, but the vampires have thus far behaved obediently to accepted standards – no sunlight (bar one of them), unable to enter without being invited, etc. Are things really as obvious and predictable as they seem, or is this a colossal feint on the part of the writer? I’ve said it already, but I rather hope it’s not – I like the idea of a smartly written tragedy, where the drama comes not from surprising the audience but in watching the characters struggle like rats in a maze. In any case, we have 14 eps to go so there’s all sorts of possibilities here – if things continue to improve at the rate they have been, Noitamina clearly has another classic on their hands.