Shiki 20.5 — I Watched This Whole Episode with a Grimace on My Face
The first of two bonus Shiki episodes is out, and if you want to be reminded just how grisly and gruesome Shiki can get, well, this is the episode for you. Shiki isn’t really more violent than many pieces of horror, but it feels that way because of how well it builds its scenario and characters. It’s a horrible, tragic situation, and plenty of good people get caught up in it. This episode partly centers on Nao, who got hit hard pretty bad — she’s one of the first victims, and then goes after her family, none of whom rise like she did. Nao’s not really shown to be a bad or evil person; she’s perhaps insensitive (but not to a greater extent than many people), and she definitely makes a selfish choice by going after her family, but it’s not selfish in a way that is meant with malice. She just wants her family around to lessen the pain of being a monster.
It’s not really “right” — especially considering how everything ultimately turns out; she essentially murders her family — and brings Nao a massive helping of guilt, but more than anything, it shows why I never really found myself with the “ALL SHIKI MUST DIE BECAUSE THEY ARE EEEEEEEEEVIL” crowd (though I definitely believe the humans should have protected themselves). Strict human morality wasn’t really built for a situation like this: Something undeniably unfair happens to a person, and then tragedy follows. Nao is shown to be like most people — not an angel, but decent. But suddenly she becomes evil because of something inflicted upon her entirely out of her control? I can’t buy that.
It’s easy to counter with, “Well, she just shouldn’t bite people and die”, but how many people are shown who actually have the strength to follow through on that? Very few. Many people don’t want to die, even if they feel tremendous guilt through survival. I certainly don’t approve of Nao killing people, and if she went after me, I damn well wouldn’t stand around and let her kill me, but if I killed her, I wouldn’t feel great about it either. In some places, there is just no room for moral righteousness.
I think Hanners has an interesting point regarding Hasegawa’s behavior in this episode: He can’t stomach killing people he cared about before they became shiki, and he ultimately kills the remaining shiki so that further suffering is not brought to them at the end, but at the same time, he doesn’t really attempt to stop his comrades from slaughtering the shiki in increasingly brutal, tortuous ways. Hanners questions whether Hasegawa’s actions have any meaning; in the wider scale of things, they probably don’t. Pure survival has superseded any conceptions of morality (beyond, uh, “don’t kill humans”). But his actions at least bring him a modicum of personal comfort, however slight it may be. Not going totally mad is probably a bit more important to him in this situation than not looking like a hypocrite.
So, yeah, I started writing about one thing and ended up on something different. But the depth of thought and feeling Shiki inspires illustrates what I wrote about in the first place: I care a great deal about what happens, and therefore the terrible things are more terrible as a result. The basis of true horror is empathy, and having that empathy destroyed; that’s what makes it so horrifying. Does anyone have any sympathy for the characters in the Friday the 13th movies? Of course not. Who cares if a bunch of cardboard cutouts eat it? But in Shiki . . . well, it feels worse when power is taken away. Maybe that’s why the humans are so vicious in their vengeance.