“A Small Town in the Woods” – Shiki (anime) – 7/10 Disco Balls

All say, “How hard it is that we have to die” – a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live. ~Mark Twain

Genre: Horror/Mystery/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (22 Episodes/ 22 Episodes)

Licensed: This is currently licensed in the US

Art/Animation: While the animation is decent, the art takes some getting used to. There are wild hairstyles in wild colors, and in some scenes you can tell someone was playing a little too much with the color/texture maker.

Summary: During a fiercely hot summer in Sotoba, a peaceful and quiet village with a population of 1300 people, a series of bizarre deaths begin to occur. At the same time, a strange family moves into a long abandoned mansion in the region. As time goes on, more people start dying, and their families start to disappear. A few recognize why this is and begin to fight back, culminating in a battle between the living and the undead.

Review: This anime manages to get you at the beginning. Not just because of the strange and unusual hairstyles, but because it so clearly conveys the tension the characters have. Megumi is dying to get out of the town, while Natsuno just doesn’t care. The town doctor is dealing with a bunch of deaths that have no explanation, while the junior monk is dealing with the stress of being stalled in one of his stories and having to deal with an unusual amount of deaths in the village.

Each episode brings you into a little more of the story, with the Shiki gradually being revealed, seeing how they start taking over the village, how the families are affected, how the affected are controlled, and what’s going on in the minds of the Shiki.

This goes a route that few vampire stories today do- it brings in the various feelings of different Shiki, from those who are happy to be murderers, to those who merely want to be with their loved ones forever, to those who are tortured by how they must survive, and those who refuse to become killers because of the shame they would feel.

At the same time, you see how the few who do recognize what’s happening deal with the Shiki invading the town, while the other villagers scoff at them and rationalize the events.

There are a few downsides to the interesting story- the pace for the first half is pretty slow. Apparently, they animated one chapter per episode. For some, this will prolong the tension that is in the episodes- some won’t even feel bored. For others, this will drag out the story and prolong it more than necessary.

Even so, with the 14th episode and the last 5 episodes, there is definite payoff. You get a very good idea of what can and can’t kill the Shiki, as well as finally seeing the bloodbath that a vampire hunt can become. You get a definite look at good and evil in them, with the villagers becoming the predators instead of prey, and in some cases becoming monsters that are just as bad as the ones they’re hunting.

Unfortunately, this didn’t have a very conclusive ending. You see the destruction of most of the Shiki, the destruction of what the villagers were trying to save, but the ending implies that things aren’t quite over between the Shiki and the villagers.

Overall, this was an interesting story that went back to the predator nature of vampires.

Recommended: 16+. The violence gets very graphic, with episode 14 all about finding out how you can kill a vampire, and the last 5 episodes about hunting them and anyone who might be associated with them down and killing them. Lots of blood and death, such as having stakes being driven through hearts, some bodies being hacked to pieces, and one Shiki’s head being crushed before she was staked.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Shiki (light novels and manga)
Blood+ (anime)
Higurashi: When They Cry (anime Season 1, Season 2 and manga)
Hellsing (manga)
Hellsing Ultimate (anime)
Monster (anime or manga)
Mail (manga)
Ghost Hunt (anime and manga)
Kakureno: Hide-and-Seek (anime)
Blood: The Last Vampire (anime)
Bizenghast (manga)
Doubt (manga)


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