I was giving serious thought to going on break from blogging for a day or two. I mean I’ve written a post for every day this month, save one, and my muse is starting to protest her harsh and unceasing treatment to squeeze out what little bit of creativity she has left in her. Fortunately for all who have enjoyed this flood of posts, I’ll be working my muse even harder until I can get my hands on Catherine, since I’m fully aware that I won’t stop playing it once I start.
Okay, so Shiki Episode 21.5! We get to see the life of a background character as her world begins to decay around her, reflecting her mental state perfectly. In the end, shiki are staked (Duh), questions about humanity are raised, and fires that serve as the icing to an already deliciously tragic cake rage unabated, reflecting the out of control nature of the townspeople. Unlike the previous Shiki Special which was just a look into a shiki den being cleansed, this one has actual plot advancement on its side.
Right at the start, we see a woman shuffling clumsily down a bridge during the heat of the shiki extermination, before we’re treated to a rewind sequence to the beginning of events. The woman, Motoko, is an overly caring mother of two wary of outsiders, working in a local restaurant. The events pan out from behind the counter of this humble establishment as they did in the main series, starting with Megumi’s death and quickly going downhill from there.
The leaps forward in time don’t stop until Motoko’s father in law, Iwao, is infected by the shiki. Her mother in law, an elderly woman who looks like the unholy cross between a basset hound and a deformed porpoise, is an abusive woman as wary of medical care as Motoko is strangers. Naturally, instead of urging the father to the hospital, the mother sends him off to bed and chastises Motoko for playing into the hands of the Man and his sinister healthcare. When he dies, Ozaki is summoned and chastised by the mother in law in the process for trying to help.
One day soon after, Motoko’s daughter comes down with a case of the shikification, brought on by the now risen father in law. Desperate to get her help, she takes the daughter to Ozaki’s clinic (Closed while Ozaki is experimenting on his ghoulified wife) before running to the impromptu clinic at the gas station and desperately asking them to take her daughter in. Basset Bitch arrives again and, with her honed sense of deduction, claims that Motoko’s daughter is alright. And really, who are we to disagree?
When the daughter turns up dead under the mother’s watch, Motoko (Or Iwao. Either one has earned my thanks) thankfully murders her, leaving Motoko with her infected son, who she takes refuge with in her bathroom, clearly losing her marbles. Toward the end of the episode her child is shown mostly decomposed and… yeah, it’s not something for the squeamish.
When Motoko finally emerges into the light of day after realizing that her son is long gone, she immediately goes to Yano, the restaurant proprietor’s, house and discovers her recently raised mother. Jealous of no one in her family returning, she sends the villagers to Yano’s house to deal with her mother before joining them in a permanent grief induced stupor. Finally, in an act fueled equally by insanity as the necessity for the plot to actually move forward, she starts the fire that razes the whole village, letting it engulf her.
As much as I enjoyed this episode, it’s still held back by Shiki’s numerous problems when it comes to presenting a heartrending, occasionally disturbing scenario of carnage and strife. Between the downright silly hairstyles, Makoto’s madness seeming more random as time went on, and the inexplicably cartoonish tear swarms, it almost felt like Shiki was going out of its way to make this as hard to take seriously as possible.
What’s more, there were a few inconsistencies that I noticed, like the sky turning from a placid blue to a tumultuous grey in a split second, then back again. They weren’t deal breakers, but they did give off the feeling that the team had to cut their budget at some point.
However, it was nice seeing some humans retain their sense of sympathy after the big reveal and it was quite fascinating watching the factors that caused Motoko to gradually descend into insanity, culminating twice on two rather disturbing notes, one of which answered a question that raged for awhile in regards to the fire.
As interesting as the discovery that Motoko started the fire was, to me it takes away some of the mystery of what started that fire in the first place. The fact that it was so mysterious made it seem almost like divine retribution for how carried away the villagers were getting in their shiki-exterminating fervor. Letting it be known that it was a loon who had suffered through a lot of damage to her psyche took away that last element of horror: Events of unknown origin.
So with all the episodes under its belt, I believe that Shiki has thoroughly disproved itself a contender for the horror genre. It’s still an excellent thriller and vampire story, but by eliminating all sense of relatable/sympathetic characters, mystery, and powerlessness, it’s given itself thoroughly over to the drama and action side of things. There’s nothing entirely wrong with that, but Shiki isn’t horror just because it has vampires.
As always, this is debatable. I know many people who are creeped out by the vampires, particularly Sunako, enough to let it get under their skin. Megumi crawling out from under Tohru’s bed did skeev me out quite a bit. In the end, Shiki isn’t an effective horror series, but ends up being something just as good, if not better, by sacrificing those chips for the sake of storytelling. I wouldn’t call Shiki a masterpiece by any means, and these OAVs haven’t changed that at all. But I thought it pretty damn good, and pretty entertaining, and this final Shiki Special only solidified that.