28 Dec 2012
After an intriguing yet ultimately disappointing first half, Shiki returns to DVD for its final twelve episodes - but can this vampire mystery drama redeem itself in just twelve episodes? Well, kind of....
Picking up right where part one left off Shiki, shows itself determined to get things moving as the humans who have become aware of the vampires begin to rise up in an attempt to save themselves before it’s too late. Dr Ozaki and the priest Seishin begin to head down two opposing yet equally dark paths in attempts to resolve matters to their own satisfaction resulting, in some quite startling and disturbing sequences including a semi-autopsy sequence that could have slotted straight into one of the Saw films. All the while, the vampires themselves begin to take centre stage as we begin to learn more about their society and motivations.
I had some pretty big issues when I reviewed part one of this series, and I have to give credit where it's due by stating that part two goes a long way towards resolving those issues - in fact I almost wondered at points if I’d put in a disc from another series, the change was so apparent! The plot moves along very quickly despite a few odd side stories (mostly in the form of two OVAs which have been slotted into the run of the series proper) and the characters begin to shine and become more than just a funny hairstyle. Although interestingly, it is the vampires who prove to be the most relatable and sympathetic characters, with the humans quickly becoming more and more one-dimensional as the series progresses.
The animation is still excellent throughout bar a few odd stylisations and dodgy CG moments. In particular lighting effects really shine here, being applied intelligently to the characters and locations. Alongside this the excellent score does a great job of building up the tension and whilst the new opening and ending themes feel a little out of place (and are far too upbeat) they're both good fun too.
Thats not to say Shiki is without issues. With the 180-degree switch from slow drama to action horror the series looses some of its uniqueness. The change also feels a little unnatural after part one, although if you haven’t watched part one recently you may have trouble realising this as the series doesn’t bother to give you much of a recap despite the complexity of its story. In fact, even in waiting a couple of days between watching the two discs here it took a while to get a handle on what was going on again.
There are also some fairly big plot issues here too - not so much plot-holes as plot-conveniences. For a start, the vampires never seem to pose a threat throughout the episodes presented and if anything they’re shown as being significantly weaker than a human most of the time, in turn causing most of the tension to leak slowly from the show. One plot twist concerning Natsuno is so convenient that it feels pointless and pretty much spoils the rest of the story as his actions and their consequences are very predictable (you also have to wonder why they introduced it, as this plot twist doesn’t take place in the original novels). Also, its never explained why no-one can escape. Even if the roads become blocked as they do – why does nobody just walk out through the forest and over the mountains?
I also have to stress that this can, at times, be a pretty uncomfortable show to watch. Scenes like the aforementioned autopsy are only the start and I’m very surprised that they managed a 15 rating for these discs given the very graphic scenes of torture and violence that occur throughout.
All in all though, this makes it very difficult to rate the second half of Shiki. It fixes a lot of the issues that were there initially, but at the same time loses a lot of what made it stand out while bringing together a variety of new issues. Is it an improvement? Absolutely – I was pretty glued to the screen for much of it. But could I recommend Shiki as a whole knowing people need to sit through twelve episodes to get to "the good bit"? Realistically, no, the payoff isn’t quite worth it. Shiki will remain an interesting experiment and should be praised for what it attempted, but in the end its not quite enough.