Friday, 31 December 2010

Shiki - Episode 22 (Completed)

So, at last we reach the end-game for Shiki, with the Risen on the brink of being wiped out completely; with Sunako on the run and Muroi injured, it seems like there's nowhere left to run for the remaining major players in this story.

This is certainly the case for Megumi - having introduced us to both the series and the village it resides in, we see her "life" brought to an end in a torturous and painful fashion that it's almost impossible not to wince at whilst watching it.  Is it a fair end for such a self-centred individual?  Well, that's another discussion to add to the huge amount of philosophical discussions one can have about this series.

By the time of Megumi's demise, we're also well aware that a raging fire has started at Yamairi, and it quickly becomes clear that its fast spread and direction means that it's going to wipe out the village that Ozaki and company has fought so hard to protect.  In short, the climax to the series looks set to be the destruction of everything in near-absolute terms, with no real silver lining to this cloud.  As things wrap up however, we still have a final face-off between Natsuno and Tatsumi to consider, while Sunako's fate also hangs in the balance until the very end and a timely intervention by Muroi; one which grants us one of the few positive moments to come out of this climax, if indeed you can view it as a positive at all.

Depressing and difficult though it is to watch, this finale of Shiki is a fantastic example of what the series as a whole has achieved - a single story which can be interpreted and (more importantly) reacted to in a number of different ways.  Do we cheer the defeat of the Shiki and mourn the destruction of the village?  Do we see both of these developments as a horrible loss driven by the bestial instincts of humanity?  Do we breathe a sigh of relief that the small village and its intolerant ways are destroyed and ponder whether the Risen would have been hunted down and slaughtered by a more "liberal" society?

The most fascinating part of this all is that right now I can't even answer that question for myself, let alone anybody else - the end of this episode just leaves me feeling sadness with no concrete explanations as to exactly what aspects of this ending are responsible for it.  I feel no joy at Sunako's escape, yet I would have felt no joy at her death... does that make me an apathetic member of modern society, or simply a misguided idealist who wants the best for everyone even in a scenario where that clearly isn't possible?  Certainly, Shiki seems to be a series that is ripe to be watched again and again - it was incredibly slow to start and get moving, but the reasons for this soon became clear in the latter half of the series where much of its power was reliant on that intimate relationship with its setting and characters.  Once that base was set and things really started to progress, Shiki proved to be one of the most startlingly fascinating anime offerings of recent years - it all seemed to simple as it set vampires against humans, but ultimately proved to be anything but to leave a melting pod of philosophies and emotions that are hard to compartmentalise and rationalise.

Thought-provoking anime is always something which should be treasured and rewarded, and Shiki has the ability to provoke thought and discussion by the barrow-load.  Its quiet, steady way of doing so may not see its name shouted from the rooftops but, to be honest, it ultimately deserves all the plaudits we see fit to throw at it.

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