It’s not a big surprise that the intensity level was turned down a few notches this week – episode 14 was about as intense as any episode of any anime I’ve ever seen. But that doesn’t mean it was much less powerful. This was very much a “calm before the storm” episode – complete with a surprise (not so much) ending that returned to the earlier reliance on creepiness rather than shock and awe.
Shiki has been very smart in doling out its exposition is bite-size pieces, and we got a few more morsels this week. For starters, Tatsumi is a “Jinrou” (werewolf) which actually makes a whole lot of sense. It explains his strength and ability to roam around in daylight, and firs in neatly with a historical trend in fiction for werewolves to serve vampires. We also got our longest look at Chizuru Kirishiki, the “matriarch” of the family. She spills the beans about her taste for sweet young flesh during the most chilling scene of the episode, Toshio’s visit to the village office. It’s like a ghost ship – empty during the day and staffed at night entirely by okiagiri, busily erasing all evidence of massacre happening in the village. She tells Toshio that if he behaves she’ll take her time before killing him herself. We also get a glimpse of the Shiki’s bizarre funeral home, which puts on the most tasteless funerals ever.
But the important moments of the episode were centered around Toshio and Seishin. Seishin, unsurprisingly, is horrified at Toshio’s actions in the prior episode. He returns home to find interesting notes written in the margins of his manuscript – written by Sunako, no doubt, who we haven’t seen for ages. Toshio, meanwhile, is discovering just how delusional the villagers are as they march towards their doom. As he correctly surmises, they’re simply choosing not to believe what’s happening. But just when all seems lost and even Toshio resigned to his own demise, Natsuno reappears. Is he a shiki, or a jinrou – or something else altogether? It seems obvious the shiki don’t know he’s “alive”, and he tells Dr. Ozaki “You’re not alone” – the first real evidence that we’re about to see the beginnings of a counterattack.
That was a much subtler experience, but still effecting. The episode spent the first 21 minutes isolating Toshio – from the villagers, from his staff, even from his best friend. But what happened at the end, while still opaque in meaning, feels like the first real hopeful moment in the series.