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10,000 Hits and Vampires!

It's hard to believe that in less than a year the blog has gone from just a few meagerly hits to something much more. In fact it was as recent as early this year when Western Otaku obtained its first 5000 hits, and now here we are after having built some good momentum.

I know for a fact that it is because of the views and support of the readers, and it's because of you that I've been able to continue writing articles, and offering reviews and rants and raves on the various aspects of anime and manga.

As an offering to the readers I offer another review.

There are a few things that are consistent about most of the American TV audience, and that is our deep fascination with things monsters, vampires, and the undead. This fascination has spread it seems beyond our shores and has taken a deep root into the foreign minds of filmmakers, and of course that means anime and manga as well.

One notable anime of vampirizm has been Shiki, a complex and deeply emotional look at what happens when one mysterious death begins to slowly reach epidemic proportions in a small village in the Japanese countryside in the 1990s.

Shiki was originally conceived as a novel in two parts by Fuyumi Ono, and later adapted into a manga and illustrated by Ryu Fujisaki; and serialized in Jump SQ. In July 2010 an anime was produced by Daume(Please Teacher, DearS, Strawberry Marshmallow) and broadcast on Fuji TV in the "noitaminA" slot.

The 22 episode horror thriller is one of those that has the hook of a good medical mystery; and while it takes an incredibly long time to gain its momentum in any way, there is still something about watching as one by one the town's folk fall into a malaise and whither away; leaving the small village's hospital dean baffled on every attempt to reverse what seem like a complex and aggressive outbreak.

It isn't until after the fifth episode that we the audience have our suspicions confirmed that this is in fact, the work of a vampire family that has mysteriously moved into the Kanemasa mansion overlooking the village of Sobota; though the town's people are still hung up on the medical nature of the disease that has now in the course of a month, claimed more than a dozen lives.

The show features two main protagonists, Natsuno Yuuki; a high school student that suffers from a terminal case of "gots to get the hell out of town", and the town's Junior Doctor Toshio Ozaki; a thirty something son of a long line of historic pillars of the community and doctors and such.

The classic elements of vampire lore are present in the show, and combined with all the medical exams and doctor-speak get integrated nicely into the narrative. One notable exception is that the series doesn't have every person bitten and fed on become a vampire, and it portrays the vampires as somewhat normal individuals once they are raised up from their graves as the undead.

Apparently one out of every five or six people killed by the sucking of their blood by a vampire will in fact die and then metamorphose into a vampire, usually by the third or fourth day; and so the vampires have a guy with shovel hanging out waiting to uncover the coffins of the fallen.

The biggest challenge I had with watching the show, was wrapping my head around the personalities of the vampires. It seems that it's easy to drive a stake into the chest of a mindless blood-sucking monster, but these vampires feel pain, experience emotion, and long for familiarity, often being driven back into their homes to be comforted by their loved ones, only to find that the undead are barred from entry unless invited.

The undead are so seemingly normal, that aside from their drinking human blood, they would seem pitiable and it really sets the audience up to be very sympathetic to them. Though my pity is often quickly replaced with disgust, as I watch them give into their hunger and feed on not only their friends, but their family as well.

Shiki is one of those anime that does not pull many punches, the brutality is on par with any gruesome Hollywood horror film, and the deaths are not pleasant at all. In fact some are pretty hard to look at, and the combination of sympathy and disgust makes for a fairly sized roller coaster ride of anger and compassion, leaving one feeling slightly drained after some episodes.

The climax of Shiki once it reached that point was pretty methodical, and the vampire purification of course turned ugly, eventually resulting in a near war where vampires began killing the living instead of sucking their blood, to exact revenge on the humans, and the humans getting so bloodlustful that some innocents were caught in the crossfire.

By the end, it was a total ruin, all is vanity it seems, and while I walked away from the show feeling down, and perplexed; I can't say that it was any better than some of them deserved. And even though the show wasn't meant to be a narrative of thought provoking tales of sympathy and or hostility, it still managed to stir up some good and interesting debates with myself about other real monsters in the world.

Shiki is a 22 episode anime that feels more like 44, and while it isn't the best vampire anime I've ever seen, it is one of the better mysteries, and it manages to have great timing with regards to its episode cliffhangers. The characters were pretty diverse, and only a few of them irritated me; not that I can't find something to gripe about.

All in all, it's not fantastic, but it is better than average horror, and it is a real thinking person's anime. Some will no doubt watch it to see the blood and cool and interesting deaths of the vampires; and I can let that go, coughing that up to brainwashed retardation and inbreeding. But the real meat and marrow of Shiki is the war with the monsters that are within each of us, and like most of the villagers, needing but a single excuse to come out, and do unspeakable things.

If anything, I took away from this show that lack of restraint, and uncontrolled desire; for food, for pleasure, when you strip away the consequences... it matters not how we obtain them, but like everyone else, even the monsters are afraid when faced with their own ultimate end.