This is days late because being an admin on a site where any sort of security or efficiency of code was an afterthought is suffering. And then I just forgot. Anyway.
There are a lot of anime about vampires out there. But of the ones I’ve sampled, I feel like very few of them are serious about them. I can only think of four anime that featured vampires prominently off the top of my head (so this clearly makes me an expert on the subject) and Shiki is the only one that was super srs about vampires. That’s spaced repitition system, for those uneducated on abbreviations. Anyway, Shiki was the only thing I watched during the 2010 Summer season. I fell in love with it through the first few episodes, but bad things always happen to shows when it’s not the beginning again. Does Shiki survive these bad things? Read more to find out! Next super special edition issue goes on sale in December.
Just kidding, of course. Let’s get this review started. Shiki has a really great soundtrack, composed by Yasuharu Takanashi. To make things even better, all its music is used really well. I mean I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of shows where the music is great but just lets itself recline in the background without truly becoming part of the viewing experience. Shiki tries to make it part of the experience. I like that.
Visually, Shiki is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a very clear, clean, and colourful art style… and at times, notably episode 4, they use some pretty interesting visual effects for, well, effect. The aspect of Shiki’s visuals that tends to have a negative effect on it is not, as one would expect, animation quality or art consistency or anything like that. Shiki is actually very good about those things. Although I will admit that there are some problems of this variety in the second half, they’re not that bad or all that common. The problem is this:
Shiki has some of the most ridiculous hair and clothing designs I’ve ever seen! How am I supposed to take all this seriously when half the cast looks ridiculous half the time? I managed somehow, but… it definitely had an effect on some later scenes. Killed immersion. That type of thing.
But really, there’s something inherently awesome about the way Shiki initially presents itself. It’s got plenty of mystery and suspense, which, in my opinion, is the only way anything of the horror genre can succeed. Unless it has comedy (or unintentional comedy) as secondary genres. Shiki probably has some of that unintentional comedy going for it too, but mostly it has suspense. The mystery is not really “what is killing people” since the viewers all pretty much know that right from the start. It’s more “how are the people in the show going to find out from the myriad hints and information we’re given”? I mean, Shiki actually gets really detailed about how exactly these vampires work. Probably helps that one of the main characters is a doctor.
And for those whom it would please, Shiki uses a lot of traditional, olde vampire lore for the powers and limitations of the vampires. It also uses some that I can only assume are modern, since there were a couple of things Shiki used that were never in Dracula or Carmilla (which are the oldest vampire stories I’ve read, but they’re not the oldest in print and I have no idea about what sorts of things people said about vampires back when they genuinely believed in them). Of course I’m not going to tell you what these “couple of things” are. The show lets you learn these things gradually as part of the mystery. I don’t want to ruin that for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
Now let’s talk about the second half. I hope I’ve established that Shiki is overall pretty awesome so far. In the second half, as it must, the focus of the story changes a number of times. It kind of has to since being all mysterious about everything when we already know everything doesn’t really work that well. All things considered, I have to say Shiki did a really good job of shifting focus without totally ruining the atmosphere and suspense it had earlier. But there’s a problem of an increased showing of the monster (this is never good)… We have entire episodes that feature the vampires prominently, demystifying them and giving the opportunity to show more ridiculous clothing designs. Biggest problem right there. That demystification. Not cool.
It also starts using goofy-looking stills out of the blue in some episodes (not terribly common but you’ll probably remember how goofy they were for the rest of your life). And, well, there’s inevitably a role reversal of the two opposing sides in Shiki, and the way this in particular is presented can definitely be problematic. It just gets too over the top with it. Also don’t watch this show if you’re squeamish, whatever that means. Too much blood, and some scenes would be hard to watch even without the blood. There were two that actually bugged me, and I’m like, some sort of seasoned horror-watching person.
Anyway, regardless of any of its flaws, Shiki is still awesome. I expect you need to have patience to be able to appreciate the pacing early on, though. So let me kind of set some things straight here. This is not an action show. This is not a gorefest. It is a show about talking heads, creepy atmosphere, dumb clothes, zig-zagging hair, giant mosquitos, and the most attractively-drawn lips you’ll ever see in anime.
tl;dr if your Aoi Yuuki vampire can fit into a suitcase, you know you have a great show. If not, it’s probably really boring. Even Shaft wouldn’t be able to save it from such an uninteresting fate.