Shiki Part 1
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: R - 17+
Running Time: 300 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes
When an investigative team comes to find out the cause of death to three people in a peaceful rural village, they put the deaths down to natural causes, wild dogs roaming the area, but Toshio Ozaki, director of the local clinic doesn't think so. Megumi is a high school girl who isn't so happy at living in the village. To her every day looks the same, she hates the wildlife, the people there, even her friends, all except a young man - she is in love with him., but he doesn't even notice her. When several people start to die nearby, the sense of peace and tranquility is disturbed enough to make people afraid so they think all sorts of nasty things. And while everyone else is thinking of whether the dead were murdered or not, Megumi is too busy daydreaming about the young man in the castle.
Once the deaths start to mount up, people in the village think about the huge castle on the hill above them, and who they really are, as they are the most recent residents, and suspicion mounts that they could be far from human, but is it the suspicions of an ignorant public, or is there some truth to the rumors When Megumi takes a walk into the mountains to visit the mansion and the man of her dreams, her parents worry about her when she doesn't return. Her disappearance sparks a search party, which leads them to her, laid out in the forest -they think she's dead at first, but when she wakes up, she isn't herself.
Several characters form the key to this anime; one is Natsuno, his best friend, Tohru, Toshio Ozaki, and his monk friend, Seishin Muroi. Natsuno, known by others affectionately as Yuuki is suspicious of everyone and everything, and this is what makes him one of the first to notice that something is wrong in the village, and the deaths all lead to one family – the ones who live on the hill, but don’t interact with anyone. No one really knows who they are, and most close their eyes to what they are. Natsuno doesn't however, and his thoughts that the deaths are not a part of an epidemic, but are part of a shiki invasion make him a target for death – this much he knows as when his friends an neighbors around him are all dying, he can’t believe it when he starts seeing them, even after he has been present at their funerals. Tohru, his best friend dies, and he is one of the only ones in the village he bonded with – in his mind the rest of them could go to hell.
He takes it as personal when Tohru dies as he has an idea he has been cruelly murdered by the shiki, and all their symptoms seem to be anemia fatigue, refusal to eat or drink and he notices bite marks on their skin, usually the throat. He has nothing but memories now of being his friend, and when he rises from the grave to visit him, he can’t understand why, but he is even more angered when he is still his normal self even though he is now a shiki. Tohru is the most endearing character in the entire anime, you get to feel emotionally about him which can make you close to tears, as he isn't the ravenous vampire he might look – he actually cries when he sees him, and even more so when he tells Natsuno he has been sent to kill him by Tatsumi, a werewolf type called a Jinrou. Natsuno still loves him as a friend, and even offers to help him, but he can’t accept him as he is, even if he wants to. They are two different people and, as he finds out, they can’t coexist.
Natsuno and Seishi are torn between the reality of death, and the strangeness that the undead could be living near them and taking over their village with the intention of making it a vampire village. While Natsuno is visited by his newly made vampire friend, Seishi is visited by a young girl, Sunako Kirishiki who is captivated by his stories and essays on the shiki. Seishi is an unusual character who lives with a permanent cloud over him, from trying to kill himself while in his college years with Natsuno. He always looks like he is hiding something from the villagers, and seems to be full of guilt about what is happening around him.
Unlike other vampire based anime series where the characters would group together to take out the vampires, the villagers for the most part don’t want to believe that there is anything bad happening to the people and so they let the shiki carry on killing.
They do know that the killing is going on, but they are too afraid to stand up for themselves. Natsuno on the other hand is determined to find out exactly what these shiki are, and will even go so far as to kidnap one and experiment on them. There is a dual effect in this series that will have you questioning your sense of morality, as the shiki kill for food, while Natsuno wants to intentionally harm the shiki out of hate – even his friend, Seishi tells him he will lose his humanity if he does this. Shiki Part 1 is haunting, emotional and unlike a lot of anime that have been seen before. In Shiki, unlike in most vampire movies, the ones who have been turned retain their memories of who they were, and have emotions, feelings and thoughts just as when they were human - the only difference is that they are eternally drawn to a thirst for human blood. Even Tohru tells his best friend Natsuno that he can't help his lust for blood, yet he doesn't want to make him a vampire as he still has human feelings for him, and wants him to live - Tohru didn't have a choice in the matter when he was turned, but Natsuno does.
Bonus Material: Bonus features are Commentary on Episode 1 with Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Jerry Jewell (Natsuno) and John Burgmeier (Seishin) and on episode 12 with Mike McFarland joined by Chris Burnett (Toru), Tia Ballard (Megumi) and Alexis Tipton (Kaori), Original Japanese Preview Featurettes, Trailers of other anime titles, and Clean Opening and Closing Animation.
Verdict: Well-written, scary, and atmospheric - also heartwarming - you get to feel for the characters, even the shiki ones.