Just as a warning, I have NOT read the manga. I intend to, but there are distractions abound at this time. This is entirely based off the anime experience, and as such some things may come off as uninformed. Apologies in advance for that.
Browsing through my preferred anime streaming site, I took a cursory glance at the “Latest Episodes” list before resigning myself to the newest episode of Dog Days and starting up Fatal Frame II promptly after. However, there was something odd on that list, between the newest episodes of shit I don’t and never will follow: Shiki Episode 20.5. I heard about these specials and, already being enthralled by the main series, vowed to watch them when they came out on DVD. The one flaw in that plan was that I can watch the last one by the end of the month, so I’ll officially be rewatching everything when I inevitably get the DVD a few years from now.
For those of you who followed Shiki, this is more in the same vein as the last few episodes, where the humans make the shiki look absolutely pitiful. For those of you who haven’t followed Shiki, watch it now. I’ll wait.
Again, it’s par for the course; Humans fight shiki, shiki lose horribly, humans do inhumane things to show WHO THE REAL MONSTERS ARE. However, it follows from the point of view of Nao, somebody who I apparently forgot existed despite her decent role in the main series, hiding with her group in a complex of tunnels beneath an old crypt. Throughout the episode, it flashes briefly to her life from before she was shiki-fied, which apparently involved an engagement of some sort and wanting to have children. The humans somehow get the idea to check here, and notice conspicuous footsteps in the dirt leading to the entrance to the tunnels below.
The entire fight is nothing but extermination, with the shiki making a brief counterattack before being swifty repelled and ultimately annihilated after a futile escap. Nao spares the barkeep of the bar she used to frequent after he pulls out a cross, reminding me that the shiki abide by nearly every vampire trope in the book. As she attempts to climb out following the shiki-fied policeman’s lead, she’s pulled out by the human group leader and brought to the surface to be tied to spikes in the ground until dawn.
While the shiki begin to burn to death, including a cameo appearance by Light Yagami, the barkeep in a moment of sympathy goes around and ends their lives with a sword. By the time he reachesSuzy, her face is all but recognizable, and he plunges the sword into her still beating shiki heart. After a brief moment with his wife, the episode unsurprisingly ends on a somber note.
There were two very infuriating things with this episode:
1. The shiki were shown to be fighting at night, in tunnels that didn’t allow for much maneuverability for the human enemies. As such, they should’ve easily dispatched the humans that were hunting them with little difficulty. But no, even at night in total darkness, their home turf, they somehow got their brains bashed in and hearts impaled by the humans. I get that this was a plot induced power-down, but it’s still annoying. Then again, I was one of the few who vainly hoped the shiki would prevail in the end.
2. The shiki were killed by a douchey Kevin Bacon. In no conceivable universe should that happen, no matter how justified he was in his rage. Yes, it’s petty.
Aside from those two gripes, this episode had the same quality as the episodes of the main series, and was an interesting look into the specifics of one particular vampire den cleansed of the undead presence. It also further illustrated the dropping off point of the mob mentality of the remaining humans as they ceased questioning their deeds. Were these people killing those who were still essentially human? Or were they merely animals, driven by an unstoppable lust for human blood?
This argument is mulled over several times by the group, showing that they haven’t completely lost their humanity in the process of becoming shiki hunters. The second death of Nao was surprisingly heartbreaking as well, seeing as she lost everything because of her affliction. She hated what she had become, how she had killed her entire family in her unquenchable thirst for their lives, yet she still had the will to live. She clawed madly at the man in front of her as she was stabbed through her legs and slowly dragged away to her inevitable death.
Despite her current state, she was still very much human on the inside; full of self loathing and hatred, sympathetic for those that she had killed. Also like a human, she had a very strong drive to live, to survive her turmoil.
In short, the first of the two Shiki specials was an excellent and much needed look into the townspeople and how they tore themselves apart at the seams for survival, and the mindset of the shiki who weren’t main characters. Shiki continues to provide a brutal look into humanity at its most primal. No matter what kind of hold civilization has on us, we will all inevitably fight for survival, and nothing will stand in our way. Even when confronted with inhumane choices, man is a creature that would sell his own family and even kill them if it ultimately meant his survival.
All this talk of the fallible nature of man is bumming me out. So to balance out the seriousness of the past few paragraphs, here’s a video of kittens riding a Roomba.
The point is, if you enjoyed Shiki, watch the special. You will not regret it.