The Horror of Shiki: When Vampires Are Done Right
Ever since I was a child, Vampires have always fascinated me. Nosferatu, Dracula, and more; these shows presented vampires as mysterious monsters, cruel, but with a heart. However, Western media began to corrupt Vampires, turning them into the abominations we see in things like Twilight, True Blood, and many more. I was never again able to find that feeling I felt as a child when vampires were concerned… At least, not until I watched Shiki.
“Shiki, adapted from the horror novel written by Fuyumi Ono, goes beyond the average vampire story. It tells the tragic tale of survival in a world where one cannot easily distinguish between good and evil. Abandoned by God, the Shiki, as the vampires call themselves, have only their will to live as they clash with the fear of the paranoid/unbelieving villagers. Shiki explores the boundary that separates man from monster.”
What Is Shiki?
Shiki gives us a gripping tale about a rural farming village that has a family of vampires move into the castle on the hill. As the vampires slowly begin to leave their mark on the town, the resident city doctor starts investigating the mysterious deaths happening around the town, determined to save his village from whatever plagues it, at any cost. Literally. The behavior and actions of the villagers, especially Toshio, the doctor, is what makes Shiki stand out among so many other Vampire shows.
Western media has long been portraying vampires as either mindless monsters thirsting for blood, or sparkly fairies of otherworldly beauty, boasting incredible power. Shiki, however, turns both of those portrayals on their heads. The original vampires that come to the village are mysterious and beautiful, yes, but lonely creatures. As they begin to drink the blood of the town, however, some of the townspeople begin to rise from the graves, reborn as vampires themselves.
These vampires, though possessed of seeming immortality, come with quite a number of drawbacks. While their wounds heal quickly and they don’t age, they aren’t really stronger than ordinary people, and they light on fire when exposed to even the slightest amount of sunlight. After biting a human, they can control that person’s mind, but they can only withstand a few days without drinking blood before they die from hunger. Additionally, they have the same personalities and appearances they had before they died, meaning many of them are immature, idiotic, or ugly.
The slow, methodical progression of the show, especially in the first half, may be a turn-off to some viewers, but I believe it’s one of the best parts of the series. It gives the show a chance to really build up the setting, and the story, allowing the utterly incredible soundtrack to do its job on setting your spine shivering. The dark, brooding nature of many of the scenes combined with the haunting soundtrack is one of the best parts of the show, and it perfectly sets us up for the climax in the latter half.
What makes Shiki stand out?
Shiki does a wonderful job exploring the human psyche, showing us that not only can monster have hearts, but that humans can abandon theirs. By never giving us a reason to pick one side or the other, we can only watch helplessly as the conflict grows to a peak, and chaos envelops the village. While Shiki could have taken a shorter route to the destination, and been a decent horror gore-fest show, the slower pacing of the show makes it so much more than that.
The vampires are there because they just want a home, somewhere to live in peace, away from persecution and hunting. The humans have lived there for generations themselves, and want to protect their families and their way of life. As the vampires try to survive, to settle down and rest from the fear and pain of being hunted, the humans succumb to their fear, abandoning their ‘humanity’ in a quest to kill all the vampires, cleanse their village.
I’m unsure if it was intentional or not, but most of the characters in Shiki are extraordinarily unlikable in one way or another. Perhaps it was just a result of the direction, or perhaps it was made that way to help keep viewers from taking sides, but whatever the case, it makes viewers grow increasingly uncomfortable as they continue to watch, as they don’t know who to root for, or feel sorry for.
Humans and Vampires. Two very different ideologies. The two are totally incapable of getting along by any means. But with Vampires showing humanity, compassion, and grief, and humans revealing what cold, ruthless creatures they can be inside, the tables are turned. I love the way the show makes you think, makes you try to choose between one side and the other, yet leaves you stranded in the middle, right to the very end.
Should I Watch Shiki?
If you’re looking for some scares, proper vampires, and a fantastic story with lots of depth and emotion, I highly recommend you give Shiki a try. There are so many reasons to give it a watch; you’re really missing out if you don’t. It’s a show that I guarantee will stick with you for a very long time, and will keep you up at night, thinking, and glancing out your window from time to time. Enjoy the watch, don’t forget to leave your thoughts about Shiki down in the comments below!