Region: 2 - UK
Volume: 1 of 2
Length: 253 minutes
Japanese 4.0 Surround
As citizens of a secluded village die off in alarming numbers, the head doctor tries desperately to save them-but his efforts are in vain. Panic and disillusionment run rampant as loved onesí corpses rise from the grave with an insatiable thirst for human blood. Haunting and hallucinogenic, Shiki stares into the hearts of both the hunter and the hunted-and blurs the line between man and monster.
The next release in anime horror to hit the UK is the shonen series Shiki. At first glance, it could be assumed that it is a bog standard macabre tale with a goth-lolita twist.
The creeping concern with any new series of this kind is that horror must serve up something new as it is hard to go up against a legacy of greats such as Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry), Elfen Lied, Another and Blood+. Shiki has to its credit an edgy and original aesthetic which swiftly lifts it out of the mainstream. The character designs have the kind of delicacy that could be attributed to shojo styles giving it the potential to appeal to a broader demographic.
While I had real misgivings, Shiki, caught me completely off guard and astounded me with its excellence. It swiftly takes hold of the viewer with an intense, powerful and addictive new portrait of vampirism. I had the DVD set on my list with only meagre hopes of being entertained, yet Shiki is a shocker and great for any lover of classic horror! Like icy hand rising from the grave and I have been totally and utterly gripped by it.
Realising that this was no hackneyed horror show, I set about doing my research on the series' origins and found that much of its strength and character could be attributed to the original author Ono Fuyumi. Ono is responsible for more familiar titles to anime fans such as Ghost Hunt and The Twelve Kingdoms.
The claustrophobia of this cut-off community brings back memories of murder in the sweltering summer heat, of Higurashi and particularly of Steven King's 'Salem's Lot. The secluded town even has a malevolent mansion that sits apart from the banality of the rural routine which brings bad tidings to the people of the village along with the promise of excitement to its melancholy misfit Megumi. The frustrated and flamboyantly fashioned Megumi is dying for for something different to happen in her life and she soon finds that he wish is soon to be granted... with the gravest of consequences.
The character designs are taken from the art of illustrator/manga-ka of Fujisaki Ryu and they come to life on screen exceptionally well. The animators have managed to reproduce the most arresting aspect of Fujisaki's visual narrative device - the eyes of his characters. As the drama is largely psychological and focuses on the plights of the key players, the intense facial expressions of the characters give the viewer an powerful connection to the world of Shiki.
Horror is a great genre for totally turning your expectations upside down and luring you in to situations beyond your imagination. It is a strength that Shiki possesses in spades. I am left with high hopes for the forthcoming conclusion to the series and eagerly await the time when it rises to our screens again.