8 Dec 2011

Shiki (Anime) Review

Shiki (2010)
Format: TV Series, 22 X 24 minutes
Studio: Daume
Broadcaster: Noitamina
Score: 4 stars
Summary: Expected a real mystery series, but ended up as a fantasy thriller. Great build-up and intense conclusion to a well-produced (relatively) long series.

Vampires are running amok in the small village of Sotobamura and.... someone has to stop them.

The original creator of Shiki, writer Ono Fuyumi, is perhaps more well known for the epic Twelve Kingdoms. Shiki does not deviate her usual style of developing a setting so alive and detailed that it could be said to be the "main character" of this story. Early on in the story, we see a lot of characters being introduced and detailed, hinting at a detective-like story where one of those introduced is the eventual criminal. While I do not want to reveal too much about the story, let's just say that the plot (and genre-clichés) are not what they appear to be. Somewhere, somehow, this series slowly turned into a fantasy thriller, and a pretty damn good one at that.

The characters themselves are mostly annoying, but will eventually get fleshed out well enough for you to accept them. Their designs were also quite bland and exaggerated at the same time. Quite awkward, considering the realistic nature of the series in the beginning. However, as the town slowly gets engulfed with vampirism, their personalities start to show themselves more evidently, bringing back some emotional attachment to their otherwise dead (pun intended) characters. For such a series with a huge cast and characters constantly "dying" left and right, the characters were quite a huge disappointment. Nevertheless, they are varied and memorable enough to add some spice to the story.

The most well-executed part of the series was the atmosphere. Everything from the art-style to the music and pacing of certain scenes made them really intense. Props to the animation studio, Daume, for getting everything just right, and hiring veteran director Amino Tetsuro. The later parts of the series dealt heavily with the sense of despair and desperation of the main characters, contrasted with the spooky nonchalance of  many of the side characters. I couldn't help but share that same sense of helplessness, which made each episode more interesting to watch as the characters struggle to save their village, or whatever was left of it. Even when the protagonists seem to be winning, their brutality and moral ambiguity results in their lost of humanity. We often think that the protagonists in these shows are not methodological enough in strategizing or finding the weakness of their enemies, but Shiki shows us the coldness and cruelty of this way of thinking. It's hard to put it across in words, especially when I try to avoid spoilers, but you'll get what I mean after watching episode 14.

Noitamina took a gamble here: Ono Fuyumi's stories do not have mainstream popularity, Daume isn't exactly known for these type of adaptations, and yet they were given 22 episodes. The end result made good use of its longer running time to establish the setting and build up the atmosphere of fear and hopelessness.

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