Review by: Eduardo Zacarias
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD Combo)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Now who are the real monsters?
I had thought I had seen it all when it came to vampire stories but here comes Shiki to take what began as the horrific descent into darkness for a small village in the first part of the series takes an even more horrific turn as the fate of Sotoba Village hangs on the balance. Oh yes, Part Two of Shiki is not only a gripping finale but also a heartbreaking and a haunting collection of episodes that make this series as a whole an extraordinary anime experience.
Part One introduced us to Sotoba Village, a quiet farming town where nothing exciting really happens until people start dying and a mysterious new family moves into the European-styled mansion on the hill. As villagers continue dying, only a small number of villagers who haven’t fallen victims of the “epidemic” realize exactly what they are going up against even if it seemed unbelievable at first. One of these people is Doctor Toshio Ozaki who, along with his childhood friend and the village’s Junior Monk Seishin Muroi, confirm the existence of vampires or okiagari, as they are known in Japanese folklore. Seishin gives them another name, Shiki, which the eldest vampire – who is stuck in the body of a child – named Sunako likes the sound of when the Junior Monk mentioned it.
Whatever you want to call them, Doctor Ozaki sees them as viscous monsters that must be stopped while Seishin has a more pacifist point-of-view that has him convinced both the living and the undead can coexist. After all, a lion slaughters dozens of gazelle in its lifetime so would you consider the lion to be a monster? Can you really blame a predator for what it is and what it does to survive? It’s a question that Seishin ponders as he realizes that his friend does not share his same view. To him, the vampire is a plague that must be stopped and a boy named Natsuno Yuuki and his two young allies, Akira and Kaori Tanaka feel the same.
Unfortunately, in Part Two of the series Yuuki begins to feel his life force being drained away quickly after having been attacked by the only person he truly considered a friend. Yes, he realizes that Toru Mutou hates what he has become and what he is doing to Yuuki, but the other young man could not fight against the okiagari and – in the end – succumbs to the tortured vampire.
Meanwhile, more town members begin to die and a few by the fangs of the members of the Kirishiki clan such as the voluptuous and sexy Chizuru who seduces and kills the beefy son of the liquor store owner. It is Chizuru who also set her sights on Doctor Ozaki who tries to find public records that mention all the unusual death in the village only to find that Chizuru has send vampires to take control of the Public Health offices. To top it all off, the Doctor’s wife, Kyoko, also falls victim to the vampires as Chizuru promises to pay him a visit soon.
With all his allies dropping dead or abandoning him as well as a collection of villagers who call him crazy for even suggesting vampires have something to do with the rising death toll, Doctor Ozaki tends to his wife who is rapidly fading and ignoring all the problems around him. It isn’t until things get really bad that the Doc makes a difficult decision that you really have to see to believe as the man finally driven to his breaking point. I won’t spoil what happens but I’ll say this, when Seishin does show up at the clinic to see what Doctor Ozaki did, he turns his back on his friend with disgust and anger.
Meanwhile, Kaori begins to lose it when Akira doesn’t come back home from hunting vampires and with their best ally gone she feels that Megumi will show up to kill her now that all the members of her family are dead. She sees the effects the vampires have on the village, including the opening of a new clinic where patients come and never come out (well, not alive anyway) and a funeral home run by a demented Willy Wonka-like caretaker who holds insanely cheerful funerals.
Everything seems lost until Chizuru Kirishiki finally pays the Doc that visit she promised only to find herself pleasantly surprised by the Doctor who invites her to a Kagura dance festival in town only to use that invite to expose the truth about her in front of the remaining town members. As the truth finally opens the eyes of those who laughed at the Doctor’s theory that they’re dealing with the supernatural, a vampire-slaying mob is born and they begin with Chizuru who falls prey to an enraged mob that has lost loved ones to the vampires. When an attempt to rescue Chizuru by Seishirou Kirishiki fails, suddenly it is the vampires who become the prey.
It is then that the story shifts to the vampires as we see, through their undead eyes, the tables turn and now they are the ones who are living in fear. Led by Ozaki and the owner of the liquor store named Mr. Ookawa, the humans slaughter their way through town as they search homes and every dark corner the vampires might be using to avoid the sunlight. In a horrifically memorable scene, Nao – who is now a vampire – escapes into the sewer tunnels with a group of undead only to realize they are trapped in a dead end. You can practically taste the fear as – one by one – each vampire is dragged out and killed with a stake to the heart.
As vampires begin to die by the hands of the bloodstained humans, another interesting drama unfolds as Seishin follows his elderly father’s example and goes to the shiki. What he finds is Sunako who is no longer the overconfident, cold creature we first met but rather a frightened child who desperately wants to live. Seishin could see that the remaining villagers are determined to wipe them all out as Takumi – a day walking vampire called a Jinrou – leaves her under Seishin’s protection.
It’s easy to become sympathetic towards the vampire as we witness the brutality of the humans. In one case, one character drives a stake into the heart of his own son who retaliates against the Doctor in a horrible manner. Meanwhile, we witness noble moments such as Ritsuko, the young nurse, refusing to take a human life or Kaname Yano who witnesses her mother’s return only to feed her frightened mother her own blood in one of the more heartbreaking scenes.
And there are certainly a number of standout scenes in this second half that makes the vampire side of this tragic that you almost start rooting for their survival. On top of that, there are jaw-dropping moments such as the introduction of overprotective mother, Motoko Maeda who – at the end of her story – causes an event that could very well mean the end of Sotoba Village. It is storytelling like this that makes Shiki so compelling that you will find yourself deeply enthralled by it.
Part Two of Shiki is a powerful second half that will leave you with your jaw dropped and wondering how is it that you find yourself feeling sorry for the vampires who – in Part One – were seen as nothing more than just monsters. As gripping as the first part of this series was it is Part Two that is a mesmerizing and completely unforgettable collection of episodes that will have you wondering why Hollywood can’t produce a vampire tale this brilliant. For anyone who has lost faith in vampires, Shiki will definitely renew your interest.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
As the death toll increases as those the number of shiki that rise from the dead, Doctor Toshio Ozaki suddenly turns the tables on the vampires by exposing their existence to the remaining villagers. It is then that the humans band together to exterminate all the vampires in the most vicious and bloody way possible. Meanwhile, the Junior Monk makes a decision that will lead him on a path against his friend and the rest of the village.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
If you thought the first half of the series was gruesome, Part Two is even bloodier as the death toll rises and the vampires become the victims of the human mob. This is certainly an anime series that is visually astounding and best enjoyed on Blu-ray. Also, you have to love those crazy hairstyles.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
Once again, the score for this series is beautifully cinematic and deserves to be recognized and the new opening by KANONxKANON is awesome as is the closing theme song. The original Japanese voices are amazing but the English dub performances in Part Two are absolutely breathtaking with Dana Schultes, Lydia Mackay and Cherami Leigh – in my opinion – stealing the show.
You will find the original U.S. Trailer for the series here as well as a few FUNimation trailers to go along with the DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack. Included are the clean opening and closing theme song animations and even Volumes 5 through 9 of the Preview Featurette that features the preview animations along with the Japanese Seiyuu who voices Seishin do his “Reflections by Seishin” monologue.
Also included are two more audio commentary tracks that include ADR Director (and the voice of Yuuki) Mike McFarland. In the Episode 18 commentary, McFarland chats with Ian Sinclair (voice of Tatsumi), J. Michael Tatum (voice of Seishirou) and Lydia Mackay (voice of Chizuru) that is worth a view. Then there’s the Episode 22 commentary with Cherami Leigh (voice of Sunako) as well as John Burg Meier (voice of Seishin) and David Wald (voice of Dr. Ozaki) again as they touch on the changes their characters go through.
Without a doubt, Part Two of Shiki is haunting, unforgettable and, at time, heartbreaking as the roles are reversed and the hunters become the prey. The first half was a brilliant introduction while this second half puts us in a place that will make us feel sympathetic to the vampires who now become the tragic figures. It takes a special kind of story to pull off something like that and Shiki does it with ease. Whatever you do, you must not miss out on this series.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment