Shiki (屍鬼) is the 2010 shōnen anime adaptation of the original horror mystery novel written by Fuyumi Ono. It was produced by studio Daume and directed by Tetsurō Amino. I picked this anime up a short while ago after it came highly recommend to me via a few chums who knew I was craving a good mystery series. After watching the first two episodes, I feel like it’s exactly the type of creepy thing I have been searching for.
Shiki starts off with a string of mysterious deaths in a small village called Sotoba in 1994 during a scorching hot summer. Very shortly afterwards, an unfamiliar family moves into the mysterious, abandoned mansion on the outskirts of the village. One day, a local girl named Megumi who’s desperate to flee her po-dunk small-town life, decides to visit the folx in the new mansion on a whim. Later that evening, she was discovered in the local forest in a catatonic condition. A few days later, Megumi succumbs to her weakened state and dies, sending the local doctor into an uproar of concern.
When I first looked Shiki up, I had read the brief synopsis and felt intrigued. After watching the first episode, I was mostly left in a state of mild confusion with a ton of questions that needed answering. My curiosity for what the mystery entails—and whether there was something far more sinister at hand—deepened even more. Moving forward, I watched the second episode and while my curiosity and baggage of questions has mutated, I feel pretty great about it.
Anime that can make me go, “What the fuck,” are my favourites, particularly if they are psychological horror or mystery titles. It’s also one of my favourite genres of books to read, so my almost immediate interest in Shiki wasn’t a big surprise. The things that have surprised me so far, however, include the cinematography, the character designs, and the slow-burn pacing.
The first thing I noticed while watching the pilot episode was how bright everything was. It’s done to capture the blazing and uncomfortable heat of the summer season. Watching one of the teens standing on the side of the road, for example, almost caused me to start sweating, merely by association. These kinds of atmospheric elements are neat and help me to get far more invested in the story. However, when those same bright shots began to mutate into carefully placed shadows and seemingly random close-ups of people’s faces (usually for a second or two only) and then into frames that are frozen and faded, sort of like a mental snapshot of a memorable moment—I realised that there was far more to the virtual cinematography than I originally believed. It was an exciting thought and added to my eagerness to keep watching.
The character designs are fucking outrageous though. Everything about the people in the anime are pretty standard to one extent or another… except for the hair. The hair is gloriously ridiculous and clashes so intensely with the more eerie and suspicious tone of the anime. The comedic effect of the hair that some of these dudelings have is… entertaining yet polarising. I think I’ll eventually get acclimated with it as I keep watching, but for the time being, it’s a bloody riot.
The show unfolds very slowly. It takes its time showcasing details in the shots that are shared and the dialogue that is exchanged. I felt like the anime is giving the audience all of the pieces to the mystery and wants us to figure it all out before we get to the end, which I fucking love. It reminds me a tad bit of Another in that sense (another fabulous horror anime that was originally a novel authored by Ono’s husband, Yukito Ayatsuji), which was also a slow-burner of a watch. The more gradual progression seems to contribute nicely to the discomforting and tense atmosphere that surrounds the village as well, and it also helps to pull me further into the enigma of all the deathly mayhem.
As far as the mystery itself, not much has been revealed yet in first two episodes, although the main doctor of the village has started to investigate the murders and a few common characteristics between all of them that is quite easy to miss has blossomed. Thus far, an epidemic seems to be the main focus, although I don’t think it’s that simple at all. That would be too damn easy. If I had to make a random guess, straight off the top of my head, I would say curse. Either the village is cursed, or that mansion is cursed, or the family that arrived are cursed. If I were to put more thought into my guess, then I would definitely go down the route of a supernatural something or other that is pissed off and possibly trying to communicate or seek vengeance. Now that I’m thinking about it, I suppose that’s not too far of a stretch from wondering if they’re all cursed. Considering that the small village is known for making grave markers, to assume there isn’t some supernatural shit going on feels too naïve to me. Even so, I’m sure my guesses will get better (hopefully) with more revelations.
All in all, I’m enjoying Shiki very much and I hope that by it’s finale I won’t be left feeling too disappointed or let-down. My need for more horror and mystery anime in my life that I can shout about is desperate… well, almost. There are always books if I can’t find anime, I suppose.
Shiki is available exclusively on HULU with all 22 episodes.