Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Shiki - Episode 20.5

If we're honest, Shiki isn't the kind of series that really needed any bonus episodes - its main story was delivered more than proficiently, and it certainly isn't the kind of show that has room for a slice of life spin-off it's fair to say.  Nonetheless, here we are with the first of two additional episodes, with this particular instalment slotting in between episodes twenty and twenty-one of the series proper.

This brings us to the point in the series where the townspeople are now all too aware of the threat of the Risen, and thus are slap-bang in the middle of exterminating them all one by one.  More specifically, this episode tackles this cat and mouse pursuit from two angles - that of Nao Yasumori on the side of the Shiki, and from the viewpoint of café owner Hasegawa on behalf of the living.  While the opening to the episode flashes back to see the former chatting merrily to the latter whilst drinking coffee, we soon move back to the present to find Nao and her group of Shiki cornered in a series of underground drains beneath the village.

From this point forth, the episode brings you everything you might expect from the latter segment of this series, as we see the initially wary villagers sent to flush out the Risen in the tunnels gain first confidence, followed by a blasé attitude towards those they have to drive stakes into the heart of to the point where some of them actually begin to enjoy this opportunity to settle old scores and the like.  On the flip side of this, the initially frightened Shiki have no choice but to attack their pursuers as they find themselves cornered, before even this fails and Nao in particular is left as little more than sobbing wreck of regret and sorrow, although even this isn't enough to overtake her simple, overbearing will to live.

Having come into this episode cold after six months without watching or even really thinking about this series, the full horror of Shiki and what it depicts hit me... hard.  As it progresses and its violence more bloody, brutal and eventually tortuous so I found myself more and more emotionally affected and disturbed by it - and not just by the horrific scenario, but also by the fact that the reactions of the characters we see here feel so believable.  I never really noted it while watching the series proper, but this particular episode really struck me on account of how I could genuinely imagine this kind of scenario playing out in a given set of circumstances, where even former friends could take enjoyment from seeing one another killed in the name of being different.  As is also par for the course from Shiki's later episodes, there are also plenty of moral questions to ponder here, most pertinently surroudning Hasegawa - yes, he perhaps respectably in comparison to his comrades, but does his unwillingness to see the Risen suffer mean anything when he quietly lets those around him commit atrocities without a word?  It's food for thought, but for the unprepared by warned - it's a tough chunk to swallow.

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