Fuyumi Ono, the author of Shiki, has done a brilliant job of setting up the role reversal in this series. The humans have becomes the hunters, the aggressors, in their own way hungry for blood. They’ve even taken over the roadblock the Shiki set up to keep outsiders out – not wanting to have to stop their counterattack for messy explanations. But it’s left to the viewer to decide where they come down on the morality play.
The humans were certainly on the offensive this episode. Sunako and Seishin are holed up in the basement of the mansion, thinking only of escape. Tatsumi (thankfully dressed in a relatively demure tracksuit this week) brings them grim news of the massacre on the surface and promises to effect Sunako’s escape, after snacking on Seishin’s arm. The Shiki, in rout, are relying on guns to counterattack now – both through their hypnotized slaves and through Seishirou, who takes out a human or two with his scope rifle before Natsuno intervenes. Here we get the big reveal – Seishirou is not a jinrou but a human, a Shiki-wannabe. His fate in unknown at the end of the episode, though Tatsumi acts as though he’s dead.
Meanwhile, in the best scene of the episode, Ritsuko continues to resist killing despite the constant prodding of Tohru. Slowly wasting away she mutilates herself in agony, but holds out – re-stating her vow as a nurse and her desire to die with her self-identity intact. In the end Tohru relents and releases her friend, and they huddle together in the cell awaiting death. Sunako launches into quite a soliloquy, a sort of self-pitying confession to Seishin. She’s killed countless people, she knows that her impending doom is her just punishment. Yet she also defends her killing as self-preservation, and states her fear of death. If this was meant to engender sympathy, it didn’t work with me.
There’s no question that the humans are deliberately being shown as bloodthirsty killers in their own right, and difficult choices and being presented to the viewer. Old Ookawa, GAR as ever, crosses the line and labels the hypnotized Shiki victims as “collaborators” and even stakes one of them who attacks the shrine with a gun. Sure, Toshio is shown to realize just what he’s unleashed – but that still doesn’t make the humans the moral equivalent of the Shiki for me. Ritsuko shows that the Shiki do have free will – they can choose death rather than extend their life at the cost of others. Sunako is afraid? Good – she’s been terrorizing people long enough. She said it herself – this is her punishment. I know Sunako was a child when she was turned, but at some point she could have chosen another path rather than making an industry out of human slaughter. Clearly she has an awareness of just how evil she is, perhaps even regrets it in some way – she is, as she says, “forsaken by God”. But even Shiki have a choice. What the humans are doing is dark and ugly, but it’s self-defense – and it’s a fight they didn’t start.
As for Seishin, I find him perhaps the most reprehensible character of all. While some have set him up as some kind of pacifist Buddhist saint, refusing to condone killing of Shiki to preserve the humans in the village, he has in fact taken a side in all this – the Shiki side. By walking into their clutches, by actively helping them, he’s endorsed their way of life (and death). He’s not neutral or a conscientious objector – he’s an enemy combatant who chose those annihilating his people over those people. Perhaps his self-loathing led him to attempt suicide, and perhaps that loathing extends to humanity as a whole.
Only two eps left, now. They certainly are drawing out the Akira cliffhanger – we haven’t had a resolution and three eps have passed. We also don’t know what happened between Kaori and her father. They’ve progressed the story far more than I thought possible in these last few eps, but there’s an awful lot left to do and it should be quite a ride.