I can honestly say I’m bitterly disappointed that I didn’t like the ending for this series, even if I wasn’t totally surprised. I love this show – I rank it as the second best series of an above-average year, and that’s pretty rarefied air. But as I feared it might, Shki copped out in the end, didn’t choose a side and fell back on cheap horror movie cliche.
To it’s credit, there were things the ending got right. It managed to tie up a surprising number of loose ends, considering how many were hanging after episode 21. Megumi was certainly given her comeuppance – she seemed to enjoy the cruelty of the Shiki existence more than almost anyone, so it was unavoidable that her end would be especially grisly. Akira and Kaori appeared, however briefly, and we see that they were indeed saved – presumably by Natsuno, though we may need to wait for the DVD special episodes to see that happen. I especially enjoyed Natsuno’s end, and thus Tatsumi’s. There was an elegant poetry to Natsuno’s final arc – saving Akira and Kaori, even his father – facilitating the saving of the surviving villagers by preemptively biting Toshio. And in the end he at least got to see Tohru before his body was destroyed. He then proceeded to lure Tatsumi into a trap, taking both their lives and fulfilling his promise as best he could.
The fire was a nice touch, too, though we never see definitively who set it. It added an incredible sense of urgency to the final episode, a final layer of drama on top of an already tense and gripping situation. Though it, too, felt a bit cliched there was a sense that so much evil had transpired in the village that only by fire could it be purified, and cleansed of it’s sins – it had to be turned to ash. Sotoba couldn’t continue to exist after all than had transpired on both sides.
But then there’s Seishin and Sunako. And really, to say the ending was fine apart from that is like saying London was a fine place to live in 1666 apart from the fire. That Seishin should live after all he had done – so much hypocrisy, so much evil, a traitor to his village and his family. Seishin was pretty much correct about one thing in the entire series, and that was his self-loathing – it’s only too bad he didn’t succeed in killing himself. His speech to Sunako in the church after killing Ookawa – “No one to protect you”, etc. – was really almost vomit-inducing. Sunako had an army of her own victims to protect her – a legion of demons to clothe, protect, and comfort her – to feed her blood from her victims and practically swaddle her. Even Sunako was ready to take her medicine in the end – she knew full well she deserved to die. And Seishin took that away from us, took that poetic justice and pissed all over it and did to the ending what Natsuno did to Tatsumi – dragged it into a festering, stinking pit and blew it up.
To make matters worse, the end result was the worst-kind of cliche – Seishin driving off with Sunako in a box like this was some kind of twisted version of “Let the Right One In”. One vampire survived – will she go start the cycle anew elsewhere? Oooh, the suspense! Really, Shiki deserved better than that – and it deserved a commitment from the story itself, a side chosen – rather, we were given an ambiguous “they were all bad so let’s call it even” kind of ending, a get-out-of-jail-free card for both Seishin and the writing staff. Dammit, there was no moral equality here – as Natsuno himself said, the Shiki started it. For the humans, it was a crime of passion. For the Shiki – and especially Sunako – pre-mediated mass murder.
So now we await the DVD specials, 20.5 and 21.5. I suspect we’ll see more of Akira, Kaori and Natsuno there – but then, what was up with the “epilogue” over the ED? It looked for all the world like a preview of an episode 23 – events clearly taking place after the body of episode 22 and thus, not in the DVD specials. Was that meant to be the epilogue – this little inset scenes? If so, that’s a woefully inadequate way to wrap things up.