Category Archives: Shiki

What Ends Well

Anime and ending is a tough topic, because in order to talk about it to people who speak English you have to first talk about eastern and western storytelling modes, just in case. But I can talk about something about endings that ought to be universal–or rather, the opposite of judging a book by the cover: judging a book by almost the entire thing except the very, very end.

I think there are a lot of wasted ink spilled on why it is okay to justify crapping on a show with only the first, second or all three of the first three episodes. To be honest I don’t care; fact remains you are making a call with just (at most) three episodes, and I’m hoping your wager is equally tempered with how you’re rolling your odds against the other 9 or whatever episodes that you haven’t seen yet. That’s not my business, anyway. However I think the equal if not much stronger argument can be made with the last, next-to-last, or three episodes from the end (or any 1-3 episodes in the middle, for that matter). Some shows, rather, really need to end on a strong note in order to have a shot at being “good.” I’m thinking we have at least a couple this season, for various reasons.

Take Another for starters. [I totally picked it first so I can avoid making another pun.] It is more or less a classic Hollywood-styled and paced horror anime. It’s also the kind of horror anime that wants to play the entire spectrum of happy and sad scares. Its final-destination-esqe deaths are one of the biggest booms. I can’t help but to compare it with Angel Beats. I think all the Angel Beats naysayers would have had a great time if the cast in that show actually died in those comedic ways. Too bad they were already dead.

Anyway. I think a show like Another really, really needs to end on a strong note. It’s that sort of poetic/thematic redemption that can make or break a show where it bankais on all the emotional chips it built up over the season. So it had to end well. Or else all that emotional ride comes crashing down, and people will leave the theater with a bad impression. I’d say it’s because this precise thing that made Shiki at all a bearable show (I didn’t think it was very good, except for the climax and the end), so I have high hopes, given how it’s written by the woman’s husband.

The other big one riding on the end is Lagrange ~ The Flower of Rin-ne. Technically Lag-Rin (or Kamojo or w/e) is a Fate/Zero-style hack–it is doing just the first half this season and I’m assuming it’ll get a break and resume in the summer. But for people to care about this show, it has to go all-in with this ending. This week’s build-up was beyond expectation in terms of quality, so hopefully we’ll go into the break with some positive feeling about this show, despite how it really tried to squander all that good will by its lackadaisical character development.

Not as dire as the previous two, but the romantic throwback Ano Natsu de Matteru also needs a very strong ending. The biggest reason why would be that it already has expended most of its chips; it may be safe to say the emotional climax has come and gone. What remains is largely people’s expired expectations. If it were to merely meet these low hanging fruits it would have made the show unremarkable on its own. But given how people lowered those expectations it is precisely the time to strike. It would be easy to surprise us with something clever when we’re least expecting it. I think a car chase is a good beginning to the end! Actually, given how close Natsumachi is to filmmaking in general, I’m not going to be surprised if it makes a real push at the end. It would be a pleasant thing.

Among these, however, the show that really, really needs a good ending is Guilty Crown. It hasn’t quite lost the audience it picked up from the very beginning, but it’s beginning to thin. We’ve had a good run of the show as a joke but if it can’t cap the dramatic climatic turns that this high-energy, high-budget formula has typically provided in times past, it will soon be forgotten. Maybe it’ll get as much creds as Star Driver?

As for what I’m watching…that might be it. Or at least I’ve come to expect these handful, for better or worse. I guess if a show is really dire I probably wouldn’t think a great ending could do much for it, so maybe there is something to be said about that.

Shiki and Satisfaction

Shiki was one of the two shows I wanted to marathon from the last season. It’s particularly notable to me for its lineage, being another anime adaptation of Fuyumi Ono’s works. Yea, I liked Twelve Kingdoms, and no, I passed on Ghost Hunt, too. Now that I’ve watched it as it’s almost all out and all done, hopefully I can put it down as fast as I’ve finished it. Naturally, minor spoilers are ahead.

In terms of genre, I think Ono writes for a horror-for-girls kind of thing in Shiki. In some ways that makes sense in Shiki, there are some pretty obvious elements where it feels natural to graft BL things onto them. I think typical for a girl-focused/mainstream work, also, there is a lot of strong poetic justice plays. There is a theme about retribution, divine, natural or man-influenced. Also I wonder how would anyone get the abandoned by God thing without knowing Cain and Able’s story.

Anyway, I don’t have a lot to say about Shiki except that during the whole build-up to the gruesome end to the series, I was being fed lines and after lines of how these vampire people are more people than vampires. And this happened not only as plot material, but as some kind of thematic element. I thought it was trying to speak a message that is about sympathy. In the end I realize it wasn’t the case. It was more a message about doing the right thing that is laced with sympathy. Shiki’s justice is swift and poetic; I can’t really say much bad things about that.

The problem is I have few good things to say about Shiki. Seishin’s plight as a human being might be the only angle, but I don’t quite get it in that ultimately his kindness lead to the death of those who probably didn’t deserve to die. Remember: Cain is the transgressor! In as much part of that become a purified, if meaningless, struggle against and for selfishness, it is just a little too calculated.

Speaking of calculated, Natsuno is clearly Able. In fact his circumstantial werewolfing is kind of a huge break, making him pretty much the victim the entire way through the show. It’s kind of nice to see the guy who was mean as the guy who is doing the right thing, for a change. A foil for Megumi for sure. I guess revenge is okay if they’re a bunch of undead bad guys?

Character analysis aside, Shiki just didn’t deliver enough. It got to a point where it is campy, and it just didn’t mix with all these serious characters. Well I should say, there were all these comical characters not contributing much to the overall impact of the series. There were some turning points in the plot where satisfaction, pity and other things they wanted to solicit just didn’t really come out of me. I guess there were a couple “Don’t invite them in!” or “Don’t open that window!” moments where it worked out okay, but I didn’t watch in a group where that dynamics was present to make the effect enjoyable.

I suppose after all is said and done I can understand why some people thought this was an anime-of-the-year caliber show, but to me it’s just your average Toradora-7/10 kind of fare. And that is being really generous, largely on the account of its production values.

Lastly, whoever edits Shiki’s Wikipedia entry should be slapped around a bit for putting major spoilers in the character descriptions, as it is in-line with the main article. Oh well, maybe you won’t believe it’s true.