Death in a small village is always significant, even more so when people are dismembered and left like that for days.
What They Say
Living in a small village, Megumi's two main interests are classmate Natsuno Yuuki and a European-style house on a hill. One day, when her fascination with the house leads her to climb the hill, she vanishes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally a two-part novel series from Fuyumi Ono of Twelve Kingdoms fame and then adapted into an ongoing manga series, Shiki is a twenty-two episode anime series from the noitaminA block from Fuji TV. Ono has had some interesting works adapted over the years with the last one we saw being Ghost Hunt, a spiritual based piece. Shiki plays heavily in the supernatural field as well in the present day as it introduces us to a world full of disturbing little secrets.
Life in a small village is definitely difficult for a young woman in the tenth grade named Megumi. When she wants to dress up, there's no real reason to. Most of the people living there are older and the general make-up of villages these days are of those who haven't fled to the city to begin with. The dwindling lifestyle there and the allure of the big city is something that would attract most young women and Megumi is one of those. Only a few things keep her interested in the sleepy little village she lives in. One of them is a rather beautiful European style mansion that's up on the hill that she dreams of and wonders what it's like. The other is fellow classmate Yuuki, a good looking young man that she has a certain fancy for. Neither of these things make the hot August days in the village any easier to deal with.
What changes things in the village are the deaths of a young monk and a family in a nearby village that the police have come to investigate. The elderly woman died of natural causes while the other two were... dismembered. With the sound of the cicada's ever present, it's a decidedly disturbing looking scene made all the worse by the fact that with these deaths, this particular area now no longer has any residents. As the details of the deaths are revealed a little bit more, it becomes even creepier as there's several days worth of passage between a couple of the deaths, leaving it so that the old woman lived with a dead body in her presence for awhile. Shiki doesn't play like an episode of CSI but it certainly has that dark and foreboding feeling down pat from the start.
As life ends nearby, new life has come to the village in the form of the Kirishiki family that's moving into the European-style home. Highlighting how confusing and difficult it is to find places in this area, the family gets lost in their moving truck trying to find it but they eventually settle in and attract the attention of Megumi who is now disappointed that the family has just a daughter. That doesn't stop her overall curiosity about the place and the people living there though but as she approaches it she ends up disappearing for several days. The mystery remains about it though the doctor assumes it's a form of anemia that took her down and kept her out for awhile. But her disappearance and the curiosity about the new family along with her seemingly changed personality and deathly appearance is a cause for concern among her friends as she starts to drift further and further away from them.
Shiki has a really beautiful look about it with the characters are mostly angular and striking. The locale gives it a very green look since it's a countryside setting along the mountains and it has a great small town feeling about it where every little thing has an impact on everyone else. The animation is done by a studio called Daume which has done several things over the years with the most recentl release bing the Brighter Than The Dawning Blue. The company is probably more well known for its work on Petite Cossette or a host of harem-style shows from the earlier part of the decade like Please Teacher, Please Twins, DearS and Strawberry Marshmallow. They definitely follow more of their work from the Petite Cossette style here as the show has a really good sense of atmosphere and pacing as it introduces us to this sleepy little village where nothing good is bound to happen.
Like a lot of Ono's works, it's not entirely clear what the focus will be as the episode plays out, but we're teased as it progresses about what it may be and how it will all tie together. As the episode closes, things come into focus for where it'll go next but it's managed to introduce a lot of information while avoiding doing a full on info dump. Through the characters used here, we've gotten to know the lay of the land, the mystery that's just arrived in town and some of the small town personalities that likely dominate much of what goes on there. With a title of First Blood, that's definitely taken here and it opens up the rest of the series for where it will go. With the lead character coming into focus as well, this first episode offers up plenty to get interested in if you like this particular genre. It's obviously not the same but it has a similar feeling to shows like Higurashi where because it's in the mountains and in a small village, it feels more oppressive and closed in than you would expect. The atmosphere is well setup here alongside everything else and it's left me very curious about where it intends to go in the second episode, something that's obviously a good sign.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.