All kidding aside, Sunako in a box is pretty much a visual representation of the surprising delight this show gave me this season. It has become one of my favorites from both the Summer and Fall, and I am both pleased and sorry to see the end.
For the first episode, I remember distinctly thinking, “Oh god, not another typical vampire story.” With the Twilight-hype, all the YA vampire lust novels, and the continual popularity of vampire animes, I wasn’t sure what new could be done with the genre that would actually capture my interest. Shiki proved itself exemplary on all accounts. The idea is simple: vampires and some servant werewolves have come to the little town of Sotoba to take over and create the first vampire town. The first thing that signals change are the names; instead of vampires, we have “shiki,” and instead of werewolves, there are “jinrou.” More twists that makes this show are all the different sub-plots (this goes in line with my later discussion on characters). I was concerned for all the different smaller stories just as much as with the greater problem. Very little about Shiki is black and white. If at one point I sympathize with the plight of the humans, the next instant I find myself egging on the actions of the shiki. The climactic end fits the otherness of this show completely. There’s nothing I hate more than an intense story like this having an impossible happy ending slapped on for audience relief. Shiki properly ends in despair and almost absolute loss.
I found the characters of the show to be the most well done aspects. There were characters I despised, loved, and had mixed feelings about. Very few actually kept their initial impressions.
Lead by Toshio Ozaki, the fight of the humans for survival is sympathetic and I side with them for a good half of the show. This sympathy takes a turn after I see the difficulties shiki face (exemplified by Tohru), and the horrific end to Toshio’s wife, Kyouko. After the shiki have been revealed to the humans, the humans’ retaliation seems extreme and genocidal. I know, myself as a human, that I should naturally want the shiki’s elimination, but the attention to detail on the humans’ faces as they give into bloodlust and kill not only shiki, but humans whom they find suspicious for aiding and abetting, seems instead a one-sided intent on killing an entire species, regardless of reason or explanation.
Again, as mentioned above, my allegiance against the shiki changes midway through the show. Tohru is the first shiki who I honestly feel bad about. As much as I screamed at Natsuno to ignore his father and put up defenses, I still understood his acceptance and desire to retain his friendship with Tohru. The next shiki who really pushed my thinking was Ritsuko. She represents everything pure and forgiving. As a human, she thinks solely about helping others. As a shiki, she thinks solely about not hurting others. Her selfless actions before and after her change show that the shiki are not soulless beings, but entities who retain their memories, identities, and at times, feelings.
Sunako is another interesting shiki. Although we are given her history mid-way through, I don’t begin to side with her until the very end when she’s hiding in the basement with Seishin. Her fear and pain for the loss of her peers are genuine. Perhaps I’m swayed by her little girl appearance, but the connection she and Seishin share really moves the last few episodes of Shiki. I could probably write a whole analytical essay on the identity of Sunako, with her warring senses of self as both a god-fearing believer and as a god-deserted shiki.
These werewolves escape my understanding the most, and any little clarification I have didn’t come until the very end with the dialogue between Natsuno and Tatsumi, and Tatsumi and Seishin. Yes, the jinrou are superior to the shiki in every imaginable way. Yet, Tatsumi’s desire to serve regardless of this fact speaks volumes of the devotion he has for Sunako. The rarity of a jinrou’s birth makes them all the more fascinating…well, and the fact that Natsuno makes a pretty damn hot jinrou :p
The art of Shiki struck me as odd in the first episode, but I really started to like it the more episodes that I saw. The dark colors, mixed with the strangely colorful hair styles and clothing, really fit the clash of cultures. The shiki/jinrou who constantly move through time and space have more eccentric appearances. The humans, for the most part, share the same drab earthy colors of their hometown. Some of the few exceptions to this are Megumi, who makes for a perfect shiki, and Natsuno, a graceful jinrou.
Shiki‘s music is similar to the art, in its haunting melodies and eerie echoes. A large part of the tension that I felt came from the music and sound effects.
I have never read the light novel, but after watching the anime, I’m definitely putting it on the plan-to-read list. Overall: 9/10