Shiki was originally a horror novel written by Ono Fuyumi in 1998 and published in two parts. About nine years later it got a manga adaptation and this was followed by an anime adaptation in 2010. Why the long delay? Well, it probably wasn’t originally intended to be anything except a novel. The important question is, should it have been adapted?
The story proper begins in a small Japanese village. A new family moves in to a really conspicuous European house. Soon people in the village start dying from loss of blood, but with no visible wounds except for two tiny puncture marks and no internal bleeding. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on there. Honestly though, the fact that everything that’s happening is really obvious is one of my few issues with the series. The story it tells brings up some interesting moral questions and Ono obviously did a lot of research into vampire lore in order to set the whole thing up. I like the way the characters respond to the events in a pretty realistic way instead of just jumping to the obvious conclusion, obvious to the viewer anyway. Since the obvious solution is pretty unrealistic. But on the issue of it being far too obvious, it’s pretty clear what’s going on from the beginning and you know everyone who’s going to die, because the first theme song shows all of the major characters who die dying. All I have to say about that is “what the hell were they thinking?” Why would you include spoilers like that in your opening theme? Did they just figure that every single viewer would have already read the novel and/or manga? Did they think that the viewers would be too stupid to notice? It really ruins the mystery element, and a lot of the suspense.
The characters mostly make up for the major flaw in the story. They’re excellently developed and have a lot of depth. What they do is understandable given their circumstances and it makes the morality of the story really grey, which I like. Even the background characters are important to the story. The result is that the characters feel like real people, whether you agree with or even like a particular character or not, and that helps keep the narrative compelling. Even if it is really predictable.
The art is mostly really well done with nicely detailed characters and backgrounds. I do have a few issues, though. The first is that they draw the shiki so that they’re obviously the antagonists with huge, empty eye sockets. Then they explain that they’re supposed to look completely normal. What’s the point of drawing them so that they look obviously different? Is it supposed to symbolise that they’re dead? Is it supposed to help the viewer? Either way it doesn’t make sense since the viewer knows or can figure it out, pretty quickly. It’s just another touch that adds to the lack of any subtlety. They also draw some of their dogs so that they look more like pound puppy stuffed animals than actual dogs. Again, I ask why? It makes them look like they belong in a children’s cartoon rather than in a horror story. And why is it only a few dogs? That just makes it obvious that they can draw dogs but choose not to for some of them.
The voice acting is very well done. The emotions conveyed sound very genuine and the voice actors actually employ subtlety very strongly in their performances. So at least there’s one subtle element. The music is really well done and used to great effect.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. There is no yuri in this.
My final rating for Shiki is an 8/10. I might have a few issues with the story and art, but it’s still a really good anime with a great cast of characters. If you’re interested in well done vampires or you just like a good story, I do recommend it. I would just suggest that you not pay any attention to the visuals during the theme because they will spoil quite a bit (I still have no idea why they set it up that way.)