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.

8 Responses to “Shiki 20.5 — I Watched This Whole Episode with a Grimace on My Face”

  1. Non-rant:

    This episode was great! I was afraid the extra episodes were going to be bad, since the main characters wouldn’t be able to make an appearance (what with the story finished and all). But this episode really reminded me of what made Shiki so haunting and interesting.

    I liked the addition of a human with an intact conscience who wasn’t that stupid monk guy. I was never able to sympathize with either Seishun or Sunako because I hated the two characters so much, so this normal guy was appealing.

    Rant:

    I’ve always had a problem with people seeing Shiki fans as “pro-Shiki or pro-human.” I don’t think there’s any legitimate argument going on there. It’s impossible not to strike a middle ground – as you say, you don’t agree with “shiki are evil,” but you also say that humans must defend themselves. The show spends 22 episodes forcing the audience to believe this ambiguous viewpoint by showing all the Shiki getting brutally killed in all sorts of gory ways. I don’t understand why people want to pull up some straw men who seem to really love or hate humans.

    • Yeah, exactly. My main problem with the humans wasn’t so much that they killed shiki, but more that many of them took such sadistic glee in the act of killing. It’s really creepy. Then again, perhaps it’s creepy because the shiki were made to be relatively sympathetic?

  2. Mad Chemist Says:

    Yeah, Nao’s story was very emotionally involving. I think one of the reasons is, like you said, watching a fundamentally decent person take a fall and suffer the repercussions – she did kill her family regardless of excuse, but her actual reasons do make it harder to judge her completely. Honestly I’m not sure how many people would have the fortitude to make the kinds of mistakes that Nao or Tohru did were they placed in that situation.

    As for the human side, I’m just glad to see someone perform a good deed in this horrible situation. The part of the episode that disturbed me the most was at the beginning when the Shiki hunters were talking about how to avoid thinking of the Shiki as former friends, and while Hasegawa’s mercy killings may have been small comfort for those who had already died it did at least keep him from falling into the same rationalizations as the other hunters.

    • It’s pretty jarring to see people do a quick 180 with people who had presumably been good friends and/or neighbors for a long time. The survival instinct runs pretty strong.

  3. So much blood all over the place! And blood on top of more blood! Well this episode just shows how humans are more evil compared to the Shiki, I felt bad for the ones wanting to get away T__T

    I couldn’t help but laugh with the whole crying on the guys ass and clawing at it…LOL I don’t know why…just found it comical.

  4. Cholisose Says:

    Ah, I finished Shiki not too long ago–I’ll have to check out this bonus episode some time. I always liked the sliding scale of morality in this series, with most of the characters being neither wholly good nor wholly bad (if not all of the characters). Lots of things to ponder about.
    And yes, lots of blood, too. >=}

  5. This episode left me feeling a bit hollow inside. I don’t think there’s much else I can say about it, other than I don’t think Nao deserved her fate. There’s a point where survival is used as an excuse to justify horrific acts of violence, even against those who are technically no longer alive, and the humans in this have reached it.

    While I can’t say I really sided with the shiki, I thought of them at worst as some kind of wild animal that people have to kill (humanely) to keep from having their way of life taken from them. After all, none of these people really asked to be turned into walking abominations, they’re just trying to cope and survive as best they can.

  6. Just finished the series, will probably watch these extra episodes some time soon.

    I find it interesting that the series outright rejects the possibility of coexistence. Sure, Natsuno considers it at one point, but it’s never portrayed as a real possibility. Natsuno and the monk guy aside, everyone else assumes from the get-go that the other side is too dangerous/hostile to be allowed to live. (And considering how things play out, it certainly seems true.)

    It’s kind of morbidly funny that this whole event started with essentially only two shiki. (From the looks of it, Tatsumi probably could’ve lived a normal life without all that much trouble.) And how quickly the power shift occurred: the shiki were the predators for most of the series, but the moment the humans found out about them, they went down fast.

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