Shiki and the Setting Sun

I’m kind of tired of vampires, you guys.

At this point, they seem just generally kind of played out. They suck blood, they sometimes turn into bats, they originally meant “fear of feminine sexuality” and now mean “sexy danger.” Sexy danger is pretty cool I guess, but if you keep using vampires to be dangerously sexy, eventually the spark fades. The current wave of trashy vampire romances certainly hasn’t helped, but vampires have always had a ceiling on their resonance as long as they stuck to the old model of what vampires really are.

Fortunately, Shiki thinks vampires are something very different.


Vampires don’t have to be mysterious figures. They don’t have to be imposing, they don’t have to be icons of dangerous temptation. They could be your neighbor, or your sister, or your son. They could be the new family that moved in down the street, or the kids that stay up all night playing that awful music. You don’t have to fear someone for them to be a vampire – all you have to do is misunderstand them, or hate them. Vampires are everywhere.

Shiki takes place in Sotoba, an old town that’s slowly being taken over by vampires (or as they prefer to call themselves, “Shiki”). People are dying, people are moving away, and the original population is slowly being thinned out into a new community of hungry undead. The local doctor thinks it’s an epidemic, but it’s something both far stranger and far more mundane than that. But to understand Shiki, you have to understand Shiki’s home town. So let’s start there.

Small Town Rumors

“Sitting for lunch in a square in this town, this town that I’m new to.
New fellow from my new town sat me down, and explained it to me.
How when I spin from him I spin from myself,
The center can double the speed of the crust.
Thank you, my treacherous friends.
I’m cringing for myself when I cringe for you.”
Hello, My Treacherous Friends, OK Go

Sotoba is a small, remote village. The population is aging, the family connections are deeply laid, the customs are traditional and unwavering. The village’s very identity is connected to old customs and death – their main export is grave markers, and the main buildings we become acquainted with are the family clinic and the family shrine. The head of each of those organizations is a product of legacy – the doctor Toshio Ozaki and priest Seishin Muroi are each the sons of the previous doctor and priest. Sotoba is one of those towns where, traditionally, everyone knows everyone else. But as the story begins, we learn that the village’s children don’t see it as a comforting or inviting place. They see it as a tomb.


Megumi Shimizu is the first character we follow in Shiki, and she makes her feelings on the village clear as loudly and often as possible. She hates this place – hates the traditions, hates the remoteness, hates the lack of modern fashion and the constant judging eyes. She dreams of leaving the village, and finds solace only in things that promise novelty or escape – the city boy Natsuno Yuuki, and the strange western-style mansion that’s recently been built on the hill. In her quest to escape her stifling home, she actually stomps up the road to visit the new neighbors, hoping they’ll steal her away to a life of modernity and glamour. And for better or for worse, they pretty much do.

It’s actually somewhat ironic that Megumi, in her very self-obsessed way, ends up being the one who acts as a model neighbor, personally welcoming the new arrivals. The rest of the village certainly doesn’t. Though its citizens seem to idolize it as a model of the classic, “one big family”-style community, the cracks run deep beneath Sotoba. The town no longer exists in an age where everyone knows everyone – though people are often called by their family names, they’re just as often forgotten, and the distance between the village’s assumed nature and its actual shifting one is perfectly exemplified by the Shiki themselves.


Though characters like Yuuki’s father cherish the idea that this is a town where no one locks their doors, we do not truly live in an age where we can all trust each other. Vampire or not, you don’t necessarily know the people living down the street. Vampire or not, saying “come visit any time” requires a degree of trust society may no longer possess, and may truly never have had. The classic rules of vampire engagement – requiring an invitation to your home, forcing you to reconsider your trust of faces you’ve seen all your life – have never been more poignant than here, in a village that’s struggling to pretend it embodies an idyllic, potentially stifling past that might always have been a fantasy. As the old townies trade rumors and mock the fashion of the younger generation, a slow shift starts to take place in the makeup of Sotoba. And clinging to the past becomes even more dangerous when your threat is the future itself.

Sins of the Father

“With regard to my newborn arachnid kids,
There’s something we must discuss.
Perhaps you could sit them down, and explain how not to be saved.
Perhaps you could help me to demonstrate
How the center can keep up its sickening spin.
Thank you, my treacherous friends.
Perhaps for my children your surface will smile.”

It takes a long, long time for the characters of Shiki to realize what is happening to their town. At first, it’s considered a simple consequence of their village’s nature – it is an old town with an aging population, and the summer heat can be treacherous. As the death count rises, townsfolk murmur, but no one raises their hand and rocks the boat. The Shiki’s ability to command those they are preying on is even more powerful in a village where conformity is a virtue – one by one, citizens withdraw from society and are lost, and the old folk simply lament it as a sign of the times. Even when the evidence is insurmountable, the villagers can only parse it in terms of things they understand. Though they claim to be “rational people,” their rationality is really just a rationality of tradition – ultimately, the way they choose to combat the “plague” is with a quaint ceremonial dance. It’s appropriate that their weapon is one more element of their fatigued traditions, because the vampires of Shiki are not an unknowable, utterly foreign aggressor. The vampires of Shiki are the same villain Sotoba’s been fighting all along.


Shiki does not paint its vampires as unusually frightening, or violent, or mysterious. Some of them are all of these things, yes. But some of them are just petulant kids, or flamboyant party-throwers, or even forward-thinking parents. The Shiki aren’t an unknowable evil – they are simply the same unknowable force that frightens every passing population. They are the next generation.

Every child wishes to escape their parents’ influence in some way. Every generation “murders” the ideas, values, and culture of the last. The actual children of Shiki are unhappy – like Megumi, many of them dream of escaping their small town. They do not value its culture, and they see their parents’ world as the stagnant place that it is. But though they must kill to survive, the Shiki themselves are not monsters – they laugh and cry and build families of their own. Just like the new generation they represent, the Shiki’s culture is not simply a denial of what came before – they really do wish to create a comfortable home for themselves. As the show goes on, and the Shiki become numerous enough to actually control the village at night, we see them living out a true version of the communal fantasy the daytime village only aspires to. In the company of their peers, they are just one more community, free to be who they are. This theme has particular poignance in a country with such a sharp generational culture divide as Japan, but I think anyone can relate to the message being illustrated here. What may seem monstrous at first can reveal itself to be the mundane, human custom of someone at a distance from your own culture. And as the show’s winding conclusion reveals, that message works both ways. The “monsters” are truly as human as any of us – and we are monsters all.


As Shiki moves towards its climax, the villagers finally learn the truth of their situation. Toshio, the doctor, ultimately is forced to drag a Shiki out in front of the entire village in order to prove their nature. And when finally confronted with the truth, the village reacts like a kicked nest of hornets, their earlier passivity replaced by a manic rush to destroy the invaders. The last few episodes are a blood-drenched spectacle, with the living villagers dragging out any Shiki they can find and killing them in the streets. Both sides turn violence into routine – though earlier episodes portray the Shiki leaders as forcing new arrivals to become co-conspirators through threat and coercion, the humans end up doing just the same. The penultimate episode even makes a grim joke of this “new normal,” with the human housewives making their usual small talk and sharing tea as they dump bodies into a mass grave. Accusations of traitors lead the humans to kill their own, only drawing further attention to how arbitrary these “sides” always were. When you dehumanize the “other,” terrible things happen. And as Shiki draws to its close, what started as the natural flow of generational shift becomes a vicious war between two distant, unapproachable species.

Born in Blood

“Hello, my treacherous friends.
And thank you for joining me here tonight.
I’ve brought you all here to discuss, as I must
How pleasant it’s been, this demise.”

Shiki does not end with the two species coming to some kind of mutual understanding. It does not end with the village passing quietly into the night, replaced by a new generation of different but perfectly valid people. It ends slowly, it ends purposefully, and it ends horribly. Shiki ends in blood.


For all the show’s many thoughts on culture and community, Shiki never forgets that deep down, we are animals – and animals want to survive. When an enemy enters our territory, we fight. When we wish to promote our species, we kill. Sunako, the original Shiki, does not see anything grand or glamorous in her nature or actions – she wants to survive, and so she kills to do so. As she herself says, “Death is impartial. There is no especially terrible death.” Her words see human nature as just one of many possible natures, and her fears are based less in death than in a lack of understanding from others. The Shiki are vicious animals, but we are all vicious animals. Until we see each other as something more, we will always reveal ourselves to be the monsters we see in others.

Ultimately, the Shiki do not take over Sotoba. The old generation “wins,” and wipes out the “contamination.” But you cannot stop history from turning, and in their attempts to turn back the clock, the human villagers of Sotoba end up losing both their humanity and their village. The children of Shiki, the next generation, fare little better. The star-crossed lovers choose not to kill, and are killed just the same. The children who wanted to leave the village die, and those who swore to protect Sunako as an icon of eternal youth and a unified society die as well. Megumi never gets to go to her city. Toshio destroys the town his father loved. There are no true victors in Shiki. There was never anything to be won.


In the end, the character who most fully represents Shiki would have to be the reluctant priest, Seishun Muroi. He’s the one who names them, after all – though he is known as the priest within that stifling village, his true passion is fiction, and it is for that passion that Sunako seeks him out in the first place. Seishun names the Shiki because he understands them. Though he initially dreamed of leaving the village, he ended up ceding to the wishes of the older generation, and hating himself for it. He even attempted to kill himself, and though he failed in that attempt, he ends up living to see the village he hated destroy itself as he survives, carrying Sunako into the future.

The truth of Sunako’s survival isn’t really considered good or bad in Shiki. It just is. The crimes of the old generation repeat themselves in the new – each generation commits violence, each promotes conformity within its ranks, each dehumanizes outsiders. In the end, the commonalities that unite us may be better illustrated through our worst instincts than through our charity – but Shiki presents many good people as well, and Shiki does not moralize. As Seishun drives into the sunset and Sotoba burns in the distance, Toshio’s final question of what he really accomplished seems to adopt more universality than he intended. Some things change, some things stay the same. The new may be stymied, may be hunted, may be scattered and scorned. But time rushes on.



That seems like kind of a fatalistic place to end, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true – Shiki does not have a happy ending. But given the weight of the questions it’s dealing with, a happy ending would probably just be a happy lie for this show. People are often predisposed to distrust each other. People do force others to adopt cultural roles that comfort them. If there is hope to be found in the big picture, Shiki sees it as something far distant, something perhaps unattainable for a species that replaces itself and never settles into a cultural stasis. But there is always hope in individuals.

For all of the terrible things Shiki’s characters do, for all of the ways they misunderstand and villainize each other, we ultimately come to understand each and every one of their actions. To the audience, they are not monsters – to the audience, they are flawed people in difficult circumstances who make good and bad choices just like anyone else. In the end, perhaps the very sadness of Shiki’s ending is the hope it can offer. If it didn’t make us feel, it wouldn’t prove we can feel, can come to understand people who start off so strange and distant. Megumi doesn’t perform one compassionate action in the entire course of Shiki, but she’s still a perfectly reasonable, relatable human being, and it was actually physically painful for me to go back and gather images from her final scene. The punch of Shiki’s ending is proof that we’re better than Shiki might lead us to believe.


We need stories like Shiki. Cautionary tales, stories of past actions gone terribly wrong. The younger generation will always find its own identity, and that’s natural and human. But even though Shiki’s elders twist reverence for tradition into something stifling and corrupt, learning from the mistakes of the past is the only way to take steps forward. The death of Sotoba is a terrible thing, but if Shiki’s survivors can learn from it, then its death will grant it an immortality of its own. It’s no surprise that Sotoba’s residents were proud of their village’s heritage, proud of the grave markers that gave it its identity. Nothing represents the natural passage of human nature quite so poignantly as a marker of those who have passed, made to be honored by those who remain. We must be willing to move forward, to accept death and change and the shift of culture. But we must also be willing to look back, to remember what we’ve learned, and to find meaning and humanity in those left behind.

36 thoughts on “Shiki and the Setting Sun

  1. [specific spoilers for the latter half of Shiki]

    Its curious that you use that title, because it reminds me of a particular scene in episode 20.5, on the first sunrise of the purging, when Nao looks on at the rising sun with horror. It struck me as a very meaningful symbol; the Shiki were a people wracked by a persistent sense of having been abandoned by God, and severe social guilt. They were also polar opposites to humans – sunrise to one was sunset to another.

    Fantastic show. Glad you watched it.

    • Both the rising and setting sun are imbued with all sorts of meaning in this show. For the title, I’m more using it as a stand-in for the end of an era. The setting sun represents the rise of the Shiki both practically and culturally.

  2. Great piece about a show that got to me like no other.

    The one thing I have to throw in here is: Fuck Muroi. Yes, I understand all the things you said, but in the end Muroi felt to me like someone who was just happy he found a fan of his art. Someone to treat him like an intellectual peer as opposed to some small village priest. And once he found that fan, he refused to let her go, even at the price of having his own innocent mother get her skull caved in, and at the price of causing more Sotobas in the future. At least Ozaki’s horrific action, had they succeeded entirely, would have preventing such an even from ever recurring elsewhere.

    In any case this show isn’t nearly touted enough as one of the very best and most disturbing horror anime out there. The word “horror” being very appropriate here because I still think back on it with horror. Especially the scene you describe where they’re having small talk during the purge as they methodically drag the Shiki out of that storm drain and stake them. It bothers me just thinking about those scenes.

    • Don’t all Ozakis think they are performing the necessary actions that will “finally bring about a peaceful society”? Personally, I see Muroi’s mistake being, if anything, that he didn’t possess the courage to break away from his society in the first place. If he’d embraced his real identity and not submitted to the will of the village, he’d have avoided this situation altogether. But of course, one of the points of the show is that it is incredibly hard to break away from the expectations your entire world places on you.

      • What you say is true, but I think our difference in perspective here is mostly the result of micro-macro. While you speak of “all Ozakis”, I am speaking of this specific Ozaki, and while you speak of people breaking away from the expectations of the world around them, I am specifically talking about Seishin Muroi’s personal choices as an individual.

        It is true that a lot of art uses the characters and situations to convey a greater message (this one being no exception), but I think it is important to not ignore the actual events depicted. So while you make a sweeping generalization about all Ozakis that is essentially true, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Shiki DO feed on humans for their survival, and that kept unchecked, they would continue to do so to other humans. They said so themselves by refusing to drink the blood of humans without killing them (the analogy was “you don’t eat a pig sliver by sliver” which is true, but what about milk or eggs? I felt it a weak argument). So while other Ozakis may be making the wrong choice, this Ozaki didn’t. Stopping the Shiki was the right thing to do. To use a juvenile schoolyard justification defense: They started it. Sotoba wasn’t built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Plymouth rock did not land on the Shiki. They landed on Plymouth rock, and the natives were none too pleased with their trinkets and anthrax blankets. The Shiki as a metaphor for Western imperialism (hey, it works. They did build a European castle, didn’t they? haha)

        • I actually think the broad moral principle applies to this situation as well. You say it yourself that the Shiki’s justification for actually killing humans is weak – honestly, it seems fundamentally more based in Sunako’s personal desire to create a society where she is not hated than anything more practical. Meaning that, in the absence of a hardline leader and a social structure that uses threats and coercion to enforce its philosophy, a compromise probably could be reached with the Shiki. Meaning that simply revealing their existence in some broader way, or capturing many of them and forcing some kind of negotiation, could actually result in meaningful change without necessitating wiping out every one of them.

  3. What impresses me most about Shiki is its ability to coherently unfold the events of the story through numerous perspectives and times. Certainly there are people of ranked importance at the center of it all, but we actually see how the Shiki infestation affects the entire village community, from various family circumstances, lowly individuals, and obscure businesses. That’s how the show effectively paints broad, damning brush strokes about humanity’s nature; we can’t single out a few bad instigators to cop blame on but have to look at ourselves and ask, “How would we act any differently in their circumstances?” Perhaps we wouldn’t be any different at all, but maybe we can take this lesson and build a more resilient community not just in crisis, but in idle times of relative security as well.

    Tatami Galaxy, Mononoke, Honey and Clover, and Shiki: The four most inventive, compelling, and thoroughly cohesive series, beginning to end, in Noitamina’s history. There have been many very, very good cartoons from that programming block in its short time, but those four are at the head of the class.

    • Yeah, this show’s cross-section of characters really does work wonders in giving its story a great deal of universality. Not only is the cast scattered across all levels of its society, they’re also extremely variable in their own personal ethics and empathy. It’d be easier if the “most selfless” characters were the ones presenting a moral perspective – but the only people who really approach that status are Ritsuko and Tohru, and we’re instead left with the murkier and far more true reality of many people making a wide variety of decisions for their own reasons.

  4. I always found Muroi’s final line “god is silent for all of us, so there is no sin” particularly haunting, as it emphasises the idea that there is no such thing as a rigidly defined morality in the world at large. No one person can go through their lives without transgressing into moral grey areas, and rather than condemning them, their questionable actions need to be understood if a compromise is to be reached.

    • Yep. There’s no black and white here. I really like how many of the Shiki are actually just selfish, petulant teens and young adults – not only does that illustrate how easily this kind of conflict applies to real-world culture divides, but it also makes for a much more true depiction of how this situation would actually play out. There are selfish and hateful people on all sides, but that doesn’t make them inhuman.

      • What about the fact they must use humans as food and kill them habitually. I’m sure if cows become self aware they would see us as monsters. But most of us who aren’t vegetarians wouldn’t protest against eating meat.

        • Both of these sides are self aware. Preying on humans in unconscionable, but that doesn’t justify murdering all of them in response. The show saying “as animals we fight to defend our territory” isn’t a moral justification for that behavior, it’s a grim fact the show is illustrating to show how no one’s really in the right here. “They started it” does not justify genocide.

      • Genocide is hardly rationally justified but we’re dealing with human beings. For example, what the Wehrmacht did on the eastern front in WWII to the Russians were horrific. So when the Soviet Union eventually pushed the Germans back into German proper, the retributions levied on the German civilians was terrible. Yet very few people At The Time! had any sympathy for the Germans. Murder can hardly ever be morally justified but we do in our legal system (assuming you’re American). Justified in the way that different murders have different penalties. Yes I agree with you that genocide doesn’t warrant counter-genocide, but I can also see why those people who suffered would want revenge. Are they right? Probably not. Is that going to solve anything? No. But to the victim, equal force is already justified.

  5. “The current wave of trashy vampire romances certainly hasn’t helped, but vampires have always kind of had a ceiling on their resonance as long as they stuck to the old model of what vampires really are.” Funny you should say that since I believe the original novels Shiki was based on were written in the 90s or the early 2000s (by the same lady who also wrote Ghost Hunt and, for weird trivia, is married to the guy who wrote Another, so if they ever have a kid they will be the greatest horror writer who ever lived).
    And, this you’ll probably find more interesting, but Muroi was actually the main character in the original novels instead of being the “supporting character who becomes more important” here in the anime, I remember seeing a lot of fans of the show just waiting for him to kick the bucket and all I could think was “guys, if he was originally the main character then there’s no way he’s dying here”

    • People actually thought Muroi was just gonna die halfway through? The entire show is built up as a contrast between how he and Ozaki each respond to the outbreak! People how you so crazy.

      It actually makes total sense that he’s the main character of the novels, as well. Ozaki’s the biggest vehicle for the show’s narrative momentum, but Muroi’s clearly the vehicle for its themes, meaning much of the novels would probably have to take place from his perspective.

  6. The problem is that the Shiki are very much monsters. I understand the symbolism you were able to draw from this but the fact that the Shiki kill and turn humans into monsters makes them nonredeemable. I was all the way with the actions of the villagers to the point that when Megumi’s horrific death scene came around, I was kind of numb to it. Only when reading about you talking about it made me think how pitiable it was when she was pleading for her life. Perhaps it does say something about me as a person but if you ever played Metro 2033, the phrase would I understood the most was “If it’s hostile, kill it”.

    • By that same notion, humans are also thus unredeemable. Food is food and predators are predators; that’s the message Shiki sends.

      • Well I think it’s more of the notion that we protect our own. Which is very much the whole idea that we react violently to what we perceive as threats whether they deserve them or not. My point is that in this specific instance we should act on our human instincts and treat the Shiki as non-humans because they murder humans on a mass level. Yes to the Shiki we are food and them eating us is natural. But it does’t mean we shouldn’t protect ourselves. If a community in the tundra is menaced by wolf attacks, them defending themselves is reasonable.

      • Well, sure, the ‘if it’s hostile, kill it’ is the mindset of the villager’s when they figure out what’s going on. However the shows opinion is that by thinking this way, no understandings are reached, nothing is accomplished, no one wins, the sacrifices made on both sides were in vain, and that conflict, no matter how justifiable the reason, ends in death and destruction.

        There are more ways to defend ourselves than blindly slaughtering ‘the other’.

      • I agree. Looking back rationally and trying to see what would an alternative solution may be is ideal. But you have to understand that humans living at the moment don’t have that luxury. An immediate reaction to an immediate threat has been a human response from the beginning of time to now. The reason this still exists is because it saves lives. Yes humans and Shiki’s may reach an understanding, but that seems like a long shot and people might die in the meantime. I’m just saying I understand the villager’s actions and in reality it’s how most humans would react to this kind of existential threat. Traditions survive not as an irrational enigma but because it’s based on logical instructions passed down.

      • Yes, that’s one of the great things about this show. The villagers and the Shiki did react realistically to their situations, and I can’t think of one character whom I didn’t sympathise with to some degree, be they Shiki or human- thing is, in narratives, a character having realistic motivations does not make them a character who is ‘in the right’ and ultimately the show condemns the realistic reactions in the form of a cautionary tale, because the show’s themes are about real things despite featuring the unreal vampires. Fighting back against Shiki saves human lives now, but not in the long run.
        We can either learn to understand and negotiate with ‘the other’ before the conflicts start or we can wait until both sides have already been slaughtered to reflect upon our actions. I mean, the show can’t teach the entire world such lessons single handedly, of course, but it is trying to help.

        And yes, the wisdom of tradition honed over countless generations can exist for very sensible, logical reasons. However, in an ever changing and uncertain world, these traditions can also changed, replaced, or abolished for equally sensible reasons.

      • Yes, but if the whole idea is that what had happened between the humans and Shiki isn’t right, then I think the idea that it wasn’t wrong can also be made. The statement that Mouri said that there wasn’t sin is applied to Sunako but also to the humans. Yes negotiation is a method but what happens when negotiations are useless. Worse yet what happens when you agree to negotiations but get shafted in the end (as the the Germans after WWI). The scary thing I thought was that Shiki does justify what the humans did in response to the vampires because it showed us that it was a understandable reaction. Justify doesn’t mean right, but reasonable. It’s an interesting idea because I felt the message taken away from Shiki wasn’t that negotiation was the solution. But sometimes things are so bad there isn’t a real “solution” and that’s a tragedy of the human condition.

    • You were seriously on board with the humans responding by murdering every single one of the Shiki, instead of capturing any of them, or negotiating, or anything?

      Jeez. To me, that just seems like a kind of frightening demonstration of exactly the elements of human nature Shiki is worried about. The show explicitly demonstrates to us that many of the Shiki are unhappy with their situation, and coerced into it. I can’t see any justification for killing them all beyond “I want to live and thus they must die” – obviously the Shiki killing people is also unacceptable, but not even engaging with the possibility of another solution seems crazy to me.

      • I’m saying that as human beings the way we have dealt with these real threats have always been with force. It’s hard to think up of examples where extreme friction have co-existed with each other without some kind of boiling point. I agree that yes it’s better to have an enlightened view to dealing with things we don’t understand. That was the very theme of Metro 2033. But in reality most people wouldn’t put themselves in the chance of danger. I’m just saying I understand the villager’s reactions and how things could of ended the way it did. Human emotions in dealing with these extreme shocks (what the Shiki had to do to survive) usually is expressed with extreme actions. It is easy now when we are not under these stresses to condemn them for their actions but at the moment the irrational can seem rational (because of extreme human emotions). I’m just saying I can see how if I was caught up with all of this as a human under attack by the Shiki, I could of acted the way I did. I think most people would.

  7. Though the essay speaks of the generational divide metaphor, and vampires have long represented the other in literature, like anon and neontaster, I always wonder a little about where these metaphors break down in the practical sense. This isn’t a X-men situation, where mutant powers usually don’t require a physical sacrifice from others for survival of the mutant, and mutants that do use their powers to hurt others are cast as in the wrong.

    I recently watched a movie called Warm Bodies, which is a heartwarming story about how love was able to revitalize the sentience and humanity in zombies, and thus they were able to re-integrate into society as just slightly stiffer and paler humans.
    But one giant dangling thread left in the movie is a conversation where a human asks a zombie if the consumption of humans is required for survival for zombies, and he answers yes. While an alternative is positted, (zombies will eat anything with a heartbeat) the movie epilogue does gloss over what the re-integrated zombies will do for eating functions, and how that may affect societal limitations upon them.
    Similarly, True Blood is fascinating as a world where vampires are kind of accepted into the human world. They only revealed themselves after the eating issue was resolved by the development of synthetic blood, but even then, they lack many legal human rights and have their own independent political organization, hidden from most human knowledge.

    The Shiki’s claims to want to simply establish a home are weakened by their continued secrecy and preying upon humans without their consent. (As neontaster points out, it’s not so different from the justifications any invading force spouts.) The “get off of my lawn” metaphor breaks down a little when the said metaphor can and do kill and control you against your will. A better comparison would be we have responded to technology after the Snowden reveals.
    If we were looking for a relatively peaceful integration, the Shiki would have to be public and up front about their abilities and feeding requirements, and if a synthetic alternative is impossible, then some sort of volunteer feeding/turning system can be put into place. Yet even in such a world, the humans are still shouldering all of the price, with the only advantages the Shiki can offer coming from the insight of old age, or the advantages of becoming a vampire. “Feed them or be them” could never work as a peaceful society in the long run.

    So despite the thematic implications of “the old should not stay stagnant and fear the new” being valid and solid, practically, the onus is entirely on the Shiki, as the ones with the power, in the same way America, as the current world hegemon, has to struggle with how it levies its power internationally for good, without becoming a colonising or interfering asshole.

    • Yeah, the question definitely becomes more interesting when you posit that the Shiki have to feed on and kill people to survive. The show doesn’t make the question this difficult – one of the Shiki directly states that they just kill humans because they’ve completely dehumanized them, and so the problem here could be resolved as long as the Shiki aren’t subject to the whims of leaders who have already instated a culture of death.

      I don’t really think the ultimate answer changes in that case, though – as you say, it would require the creation of a voluntary feeding system of some kind, and it’s not necessarily sustainable, but the answer still isn’t “murder every Shiki.” I guess the specifics of the situation would dictate the specifics of the solution.

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  9. There’s just one thing that I didn’t get. What would the Shiki do if they took over the entire village?

    They mentioned having the “City Corps” to kidnap people in the city, but how would they become self-sustainable?

    Their need for blood would stop? Or would they have to continue their nomadic existence, as they would always need more humans to prey. This really disturbs me, because if they mentioned that, then the Shiki genocide would be even more justifiable.

  10. The thing that disturbed me the most was how they missed the point of what would the Shiki do if they took over the entire village. Would their thirst for blood be gone? Or would they have to keep moving, now in larger numbers, to larger communities, preying on an even larger number of humans?

    Having an existence that cannot be self-sustained (without turning Humans literally into cattle), was their genocide justifiable?

    • When two opposing forces in this case species are at odds….. There would only be one victor and the other vanguished. The shikis are small in numbers thus the need for subtlety over a much larger human population. But if their plan succeed and their ranks grew total dominance over the humans is inevitable. Just like our ancestors dominate other animals and treat them now as nothing more than source of food. But the shiki plan is bound to fail as humans will eventually find out their plan and proceed to exterminate them with their superiority in numbers

  11. Well put up summary and comments. Their are no villains or heroes in this series only victims…. victims tragically locked in the game of survival. Humans may have always pride itself to rise above all other creations through their so called civilizations but deep down we have always been caged in our animalistic instincts to survive, propogate and dominate. Freedom from our basic instincts are merely a dream, a sham to think we are that different from other species. …..

  12. Good article, with a very balanced view on the different sides of the story. Like you said, every person is perfectly understandable in their motives. However, I disagree when you suggest that there could have been some kind of compromise. Even if the Shiki don’t really need to kill to survive (which I’m not sure about), they always seem to end up killing their victims, so as long as they live, they’re a threat to humanity. So yes, I kind of think the only thing the villagers could really do that would ensure their survival was “kill every Shiki”.

    Ultimately, it’s a matter of perspective, though. If the Shiki need to kill humans to survive, you can’t really condemn them for it. So both sides are justified in killing each other, in my opinion.

    Another thing I’d like to bring to your attention is the novel “The Plague” by Albert Camus. I thought it was very similar to this anime, since both are about a doctor fighting a plague (which in the book is a “real” plague that’s a metaphor for the Nazi occupation of France! – in the anime it’s literal vampires) in an isolated village. The similarities are quite astounding:

    Both works draw their horror mainly from the fact that the village is completely isolated. In the end, the plague is defeated, but the doctor sees both his best friend and his wife die and he wonders what the point of his fight was. The doctor itself is practially-minded and his friend is more philosophical. You also have a character that gets happier as the plague progresses, since he was an outcast before and now that doesn’t matter anymore – if you are a fan of Shiki you should read it.

  13. You mentioned in your review that “the character who most fully represents Shiki would have to be the reluctant priest, Seishun Muroi,” though I do wonder about that. Muroi struck me as something more, or at least different, by the end.

    As you pointed out, the Shiki and the villagers of Sotoba are not fundamentally so different. Both of them are merely human communities that happen to be at odds with each other. Sunako, though she may have felt “abandoned by God,” never stopped believing in him in her heart, and in this she is exactly the same as the villagers. In the beginning of the series she justifies her killing by comparing humans to cattle, but by the time the climax rolls around I think it’s pretty clear that she’s far from guilt-free about all the lives she’s taken, and this guilt pushes her to the point that she’s willing to commit suicide. She fears loneliness and judgment, she yearns for community and acceptance, and her entire plan for the Shiki revolves around simply recreating the village of Sotoba, only populated by Shiki instead of people.

    I am not sure Muroi shares her sentiments at all. The aspect of the series I found the most compelling involved the little dark fantasy fragments scattered throughout the series, in which we see glimpses of Muroi’s unfinished “Cain and Abel” story, which of course serves as a metaphor for his own personal conflict. The younger brother of the allegory, who lived and served upon the Hill of God, represented all the stifling traditions of the village that Muroi found so odious. The elder brother, symbolic of Muroi’s hatred and his desire to be free, murders the younger brother and escapes the Hill.

    If Muroi’s conversion into a Shiki was merely representative of his “switching sides,” so to speak, and changing his allegiance from human to Shiki, he would not have truly escaped the Hill of God. Like Sunako, he would still be stuck on the Hill, only now there’s a different label on it. By the end of the story I get the feeling that Muroi’s gone full-blown existentialist; when he speaks of “God,” and how “no God judges you,” I get the feeling that he is using God as a metaphor for communal mores, traditions, rules, etc. in general. Muroi is telling Sunako that she can be free, that she need not feel abandoned by a God whose laws cannot even apply to her unless she lets them. I have no idea what kind of shenanigans Muroi intends to get up to with Sunako after fleeing Sotoba, but I really cannot envision him attempting another village conversion and recreating yet another ordered society around himself, when he went to so much trouble to get away in the first place.

    Even when he was still human, Muroi was more…enlightened than either the Shiki or the villagers of Sotoba. He recognized the similarities between the two groups and the fact that they both shared a fundamental humanity. He was the one who balked at Ozaki’s killing of and experimentation on Shiki. And yet, once he became Shiki himself (or rather, Jinrou, which may be symbolically important), he committed murder without hesitation in order to save Sunako, by burying a meat cleaver in that giant bearded guy’s head. I do not think that this act of killing represented a philosophical step backward for Muroi, from his enlightened standpoint back into the sort of “us versus them” tribalism that he previously eschewed. It is more likely that he has moved into a new direction entirely, one in which he feels no moral laws can bind him, no matter their source.

    Great blog, by the way. I really enjoy reading your write-ups and analyses and stuff.

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