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DVD Review

DVD cover

Part Two


Starring (voice): Kouki Uchiyama, Toru Ohkawa and Kazuyuki Okitsu
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 31 December 2012

When citizens of a secluded village begin dying off in alarming numbers, the sole hospital's head doctor tries desperately to save his patients - but his efforts are in vain. Entire families are wiped out while others desert their homes. All hell breaks loose as the villagers discover their loved ones' corpses are rising from the grave with an insatiable thirst for human blood. Who is safe when the urge to kill in order to survive blurs the line between man and monster...?

Continuing without interruption from the end of part one, Shiki resumes its tale of vampires slowly infiltrating a sleepy Japanese rural community with the low-key horror, odd moments of whimsy and growing sense of unease established in its first half fully intact. With teenage protagonist Natsuno turned to the undead by his former best friend Toru, and heroic medic Ozaki frustrated at every turn in his efforts to expose the vampires and alert the complacent villagers to the threat, the stage seems thoroughly set for a gripping conclusion.

It's slightly frustrating then that part two of Shiki initially seems unwilling to let go of the leisurely pace that served it so well in the first half. While its large cast of diffident countryside dwellers is well drawn, their unwillingness to ask questions or rock the boat in sly contrast to the expected pitchfork-wielding mob, the rapid succession of characters often means the series has to continue to rely on captions and flashbacks to remind us of less distinguished yet pivotal characters. Even key characters like Natsuno and Toru, so central and well portrayed in earlier episodes, are sidelined in favour of Ozaki and his crusade. On the other hand, Ozaki's scenes and character development are progressively compelling and horrific, as his cold-blooded scientific investigation of vampire physiology, and the trickery he employs to expose and strike back at them, deliver some of Shiki's most shocking moments.

It's Ozaki's master stroke that leads to the villagers finally awakening to the vampire threat, leading to a multi-episode bloodbath involving every cast member and plot thread so far established, and so protracted and brutal that it runs the risk of losing the audience's attention; the added scenes for this release, while fleshing out many minor characters and tidying up loose ends in exhaustive detail, turn the finale into a near marathon of gore. Still, the oppressive feeling of rural ignorance and hate igniting against outsiders, while hardly rare in the horror genre, is exceptionally well handled and Shiki is admirable in its refusal to play favourites or attempt to elicit false sympathies for either side. The cathartic triumph of good over evil is nowhere to be found in this series.

While Shiki might lose its focus in this second half, it's still as vicious and powerful a horror story as I've seen in anime, and contains some truly upsetting, arresting moments that will stay with me long after this, my second viewing. A must-see for horror lovers.


Richard Hunt

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