The Torture-Pr0n ROSSMAN
You simply must hand it to the Japanese; they can make any exciting genre of storytelling (from comedy to action/adventure to horror) soul-crushingly boring if they put their minds to it. Take for example Shiki. It's a 22 episode supernatural story about a small town in the mountains — almost completely isolated from the rest of the world — that's pretty much systemically wiped out by a clan of asshole, over-arrogant vampires. That sounds promising, no? Like it's a roller coaster ride of deception, blood, action, and villainy, right? Well, in order to make you understand the snail-like pace of this unelectrifying tale, I'll tell you a more detailed synopsis of the plot, but this time I'll only reveal two words a week:
Stay tuned next week for more exciting Shiki review!
No, I wouldn't do that to you. I don't hate you like the Shiki director loathes his lower-than-rat-dick viewers. I'll review this thing properly so that you don't have to waste 11 hours of your life (like I did mine) on this visual sleeping pill of a series.
First let me explain the dumb narrative to you, seeing as all the main story points themselves are just as stupid as the choice to stretch out an hour and a half worth of plot into almost half a day's worth of drawings.
Things begin in the quiet little mountain valley town of Sotoba (in East Bumblefuck, Japan) during the end of a long, hot summer. Slowly at first, and then with the pace of a bug zapper placed outside a butcher shop after the freezer breaks, the redneck population of Sotoba starts dropping due to cases of extreme anemia. Well, that's at least the only answer that the townies and doctors can come up with (anemia), despite the fact that there are several sets of fang marks on every person (young or old) who's kicked the Earthly bucket during that time. Oh, and nobody believes that the creepy new neighbors who just moved into the giant European castle up on the hill (of whom, the pale-as-a-sheet wife and never-shuts-her-goddamn-cake hole-by-giggling-all-the- goddamn-time daughter are "allergic to UV light") aren't normal, despite the obvious fact that they reek of vampirism, and look all lifeless and soulless with their all-black eyeballs.
Oh, and on top of that, people start seeing the unfortunate residents who've died due to "extreme anemia" walking around at night in the forest, or entering the recently purchased castle belonging to the new freaks. And there's that very old legend passed down through the ages in the town about okiagari (or "risen dead") that specifically warns people about shit like this befalling the tiny hamlet, but everybody in this podunk community is much too smart to fall for that crap.
After about a month of these mysterious deaths, only three teenagers, one doctor, and one shinto priest (out of a total population of 1,300... well, probably only 800 or so by the time they get their shit together) have even a vague idea of what's going on, and they alone try to fight back. Barely. I mean, they TALK about fighting back but they never really do jack shit as more and more folk die and come back as murderous, blood-sucking vampire douchebags (and yes, apparently all of these okiagari [or "shiki," as they prefer to be called] are total dicks after being turned) to the point that live humans appear to be the minority.
This point in the story takes over 17 episodes to tell. NOTHING ever fucking happens. Oh, but when stuff actually does start to occur, it's due to people doing the DUMBEST SHIT ON EARTH in order to move the plot forward. A fraction of an inch at most.
Example: The main teenage boy, one Natsuno, has had several of his young friends die, and starts acting paranoid in front of his parents (who have the pants-shittingly stupidest habit of letting strange little pale kids with glowing red eyes, who talk through a reeeeeally creepy ventriloquist dummy (with fangs) enter their son's room at 9PM at night to wait in ambush for him when he eventually comes home). So Natsuno starts covering his walls with crosses and talismans in order to ward off the undead evil that he knows is around the town (he's seen it and fought it already). His goddamn hippie dad though tears them all down and angrily burns every last protection seal because..... He's.... Well, he must reeeeally hate religion. And then, he continues to keep the house door UNlocked because..... Um... Well, that's what you do in small towns.... Even when creepy, red-eyed, talking-through-doll kids have already forced you to invite them in. And on top of all this, after Natsuno is bitten a few times by some dicky shiki, and is lying in his bed (covered in fang marks) just waiting for death to take him, his remaining few friends come over and decorate his room with more talismans, charms, and crosses. But father knows best, and in a hissy-fit of retardation he demands his son's only remaining living buddies take it all down. Then he even tricks the kids from coming back to guard his son from the agents of evil that night. And then, he actually does something that is so unbelievable that it strains the already cracking credibility of this series' competence: he opens Natsuno's window that night before leaving his almost dead boy alone in his room.
The younger of Natsuno's friends at one point even suggests to Natsuno's father "It's like you WANT him to die!" It's like the writers thought that by throwing this line in and making the people in the show aware of the lameness of the shit going on that they made this mongoloid situation believable. No. It just makes everybody in this town look like they wouldn't even get rented at the stupid store because they were just TOO GODDAMN STUPID!
Really, all the lame morons who just give up without a fight, all the blind ignoramuses who simply choose to ignore the supernatural elements enveloping their town like a ghostly fog on a British moor, and all of the geniuses who don't start checking graves to see if they're indeed full, or even start burning the bodies of those who are taken from them due to the mysterious missing blood, fang-marked epidemic that seizes their beloved Sotoba... they all make me raving mad!
Okay, say you don't believe in the supernatural, that's fine. Good for you. But say you saw your dead neighbor walking around with black eyeballs at night with a trickle of blood running down her chin... Would you at LEAST consider that you might possibly be wrong on that one point?
Anyway, so the remaining living souls in Sotoba start wondering why nobody ever comes to visit them (the only road to town was dynamited closed), and why all the offices are changing their hours (to become nocturnal... and no, I'm not making a joke, that really fucking happens), but they never DO anything about it until it's pretty much too late. THAT'S when the paper-thin plot finally starts to kick in though (at around episode 18 or 19, out of 22). That's when the few remaining warm-blooders start striking back and start kicking some undead ass. Still slow as molasses, sure, but at least they actually did something. And all that leads up to an interesting and complete clusterfuck of a finale that at least ENDS things (though not satisfactorily for anyone involved). Finally.
It's these last few episodes that the greatest character in this series (and maybe even in all vampire stories ever told) rises from the ranks and leads what can only be described as a Cuisanart Holocaust of vampiric death and destruction the likes of which I've never had the privilege to witness before. Dr. Toshio (the young chief physician of Sotoba) had ever so slowly pieced the whole undead puzzle together over the course of the series, and with his mad intellect, he forms some ingenious traps to first expose the shiki to the disbelieving townsfolk, and then lead the lifers in a systemic mass assassination against their tormentors.
Okay, to be fair, the last 3 episodes are quite entertaining — LOTS of people and shiki die horrible, horrible, painful, and well deserved deaths (I was rooting for both the douchebag vampires AND the stupid villagers to expire) — and the background music to most of the series is fantastic, so it does have some things going for it, but for as much of an improvement as the ending was over what came before, it still wasn't enough to redeem the whole boring first 6/7ths of this story.
While not a fan of zombies per se, I typically enjoy vampire tales (when told well, and when not filled with glittering faggot "vampires" who love daylight). Shiki though will test the patience of Job. Job would watch this shit and say, "Jesus titty-fucking Christ, people! Alright already! I get it! These townies are goddamn dumb! Let's move it along now! Make something happen! Fuck!"
I will say that yes, the last few episodes do have a lot of bizarre and twisted events occurring in them, but I just can't get behind this show due to the horrendous pacing issue and the general moronicness of the first 6/7ths. In the end I just didn't care if ANYBODY survived, and most of the few people I did kinda like didn't make it to the final credits, so I had NO emotional investment in the supposedly horrific last chapter. It was just a bunch of stupid assholes dying terrible deaths who I thought warranted even more than what they got. Oh, the writers and director TRIED to make me feel sorry for every last fucker in this thing in the end, but it was so goddamn forced. And really, just having a character beg for his or her life with tears in their eyes isn't enough to make me wish they kept on living after they'd killed so many innocents, or betrayed their friends, or especially if they whined incessantly for 20+ episodes about their shitty lot in life. Quite honestly that stuff just made me applaud their deaths more, and it made me cheer that pink-haired bitch's and that whiny sallow-faced dick's ultimate comeuppances like no other.
Sigh... More vampires, huh? Well, I suppose I must find some solace in the fact that the vamps in this story aren't all whiny teenagers who don't drink human blood and who love the sunlight. I am of the group of people that believes that something as overdone as a vampire story can still be fresh, but changing the rules of vampirehood doesn't necessarily do this. It in fact makes them NOT vampires at all, and thusly pretty dang pathetic.
This Shiki television show though had fangs to it, and a whole lot of blood sucking and stakes through unbeating hearts. But I also fell asleep 22 times during it. That's once per episode if you weren't paying attention, though the last three actually did keep me entranced (yet another vampire trait).
This show was interesting in that it felt small at first — taking place in a small, rural, Japanese town — but it expanded ever so slowly to the point where the burg's infestation of vamps made it seem like it was one of the largest tales of its kind. Too bad it was just so gosh-durn-it boring.
Because I respect you, dear reader, I'll tell you the entire plot of this Japanese anime show up until the last three episodes. A vampire family moves into a small town, town people start getting sick and then die from lack of blood and fang marks in their arms or necks. Some of these dead folk then start coming back from the grave, all pale, with large black eyeballs. Nobody in town cares to notice this except the good doctor and a handful of dorky teenagers. The smart as a whip doctor then decides on a long-term plan to take out all the vamps once he can convince the stupid townies that there really are vampires in their world. That's it. This could have been told in 3 half hour episodes, but they turned it into something like 19 because I guess they got the budget for 19 and figured they might as well spend it.
What gets me is just how stupid they believe the average rural townie to be. Honestly! Back when I had my summer lab out in the mountains, I had snooping kids and nosey adults poking around my business all night and day. And that time that Loup-Garou I has genetically spliced together had gotten free, I didn't even have to warn anybody even if I tried and didn't make a bee-line for my Corvette in my secret garage! Those hillbilly peeping toms had the town air-raid sirens blaring within seconds, and then they captured and ate my poor little creation. I did get a few of those bastards though when my timed explosions went off in my lab an hour later, when the po-lice and a few "good citizens" were nosing around my lab for any "incriminating evidence" or whatnot. That's always the safest way to dispose of any evidence against the laws of science or the Geneva Convention.