Hello again, anime fans and followers! We’re back today with the second episode of Shiki! This is part of the collab between Moya and me; if you missed the previous two installments, they are here and here. 🙂
This week, I’m particularly grateful to Moya for her contribution, inasmuch as her laptop was running out of juice and her charger was unavailable!
The death toll rises to ten. The major focus of this episode, Second Decay, is the doctor and his struggle to figure out what the cause of so many deaths is. All the dead show the same symptoms, moving from a slight daze and being tired to a sudden collapse and then death over the course of about four days. Meanwhile, the boy Yuuki gets the feeling that Megumi is somehow still around, and the rest of the town tries to come to terms with their friends and family dying.
Confession time: After watching this episode, I was so intrigued that I kept going all the way through episode nine in one sitting! I’ll try to write this without any spoilers for what is to come!
Megumi’s death is not the first one attributable to the vampires, but it is the first that we focus on to any great degree and the first of someone who is very young. I don’t know if there is any significance in this fact, but the date of her death—August 15th—is the Catholic feast of the Assumption. On this day the Catholic Church commemorates its belief that Jesus’ mother Mary, shortly after her death, was raised physically back to life and taken to Heaven. Is there a parallel here with Megumi coming back as a vampire? Normally I’d say “no” since they come from two very different cultures; but the prevalence of Western references in Shiki suggests at least the possibility that this is an intentional link. Many people have written on the parallels between Stoker’s Dracula and the Catholic Eucharist, so the precedent of linking vampire literature to Catholicism is there.
Moya: I didn’t know about the Catholic Assumption, but it’s an interesting take on the date! That makes Megumi some sort of holy figure that seems to contrast with the first impression we get of her. The anime does bring up dates a lot. What I did notice is that beside every date, there’s a short phrase that indicates whether the day is a good day (vaguely comparable to daily horoscopes in newspapers in the West). Most dates we get in the anime come with warnings of “unlucky” or “not suitable for any activities,” though there are a couple that are lucky as well. I can’t really see a pattern so far. I have a calendar that has those (that also tell you what you should and shouldn’t do), and we call it the “bossy calendar” at home.
Primes: I did not notice the fortune statements! Thanks for pointing those out. Re the Assumption, I didn’t mean to imply that Megumi was a holy figure (although that would be an intriguing take, and I’ll give it some thought). It’s more of an inversion, ‘parody’, or allusion, if it’s anything at all. In the original Dracula, the vampire’s selfish drinking of others’ blood stands in contrast to Jesus’ selfless giving of his blood to others; and I thought maybe there was something similar going on here.
Another, clearer, parallel with the original Dracula novel is the use of medical terminology. In Dracula, there’s a lot of discussion and description given in terms of Victorian understandings of health and medicine. Similarly, in this episode of Shiki, we start off with a torrent of medical terminology from the doctor, from the first scene as he tries to make sense of Megumi’s sudden death through the rest of the episode as he continues to seek for answers. Anemia—in two different varieties—and epidemic are just two of the terms that have technical medical definitions and get a lot of screen time.
However, while in Dracula the technical terms continue through the story, at the end of this episode there’s a shift. The doctor and his collaborators—a monk and a government office worker—have been throwing around words like “epidemic”, “symptoms”, “infection”, and so on. Then the doctor says, “I will find out what it is that is killing villagers for sure. I’m not gonna let it trample on my village anymore!” The two terms “killing” and “trample” change the nature of the discourse entirely: While we might talk of a disease “killing”, it’s not a technical term; and to speak of an illness “trampling” cannot literally be true—it can only be a metaphor. Indeed, “trampling a village” brings to mind mythical images like Godzilla—that is, images of monsters. The shift in vocabulary from the technical to the mythic reveals both the transformation happening to the doctor—his fight is becoming more personal, not just professional, and he intuits that there is something more than natural going on—and signals a shift in the feeling of the story for us viewers, because poetic metaphors have more emotional power than technical vocabulary. (Unless you get off on reading medical dictionaries, in which case you do you. I’m not judging.)
Moya: That battle declaration from the doctor (I think of it as that) made him my favourite character in the anime for a long time. The technical terms do stop earlier than I first expected, though like in Dracula, modern approaches definitely still come in handy.
Primes: I can see that! The doctor in Shiki definitely takes the lead role, as opposed to Dracula where he’s an important secondary figure. By contrast, the most religious figure in Dracula is Van Helsing, who very much drives the action, while in Shiki the monk is a main character but not as central to the action as the doctor.
The intuitive element crops up again moments later. After the doctor’s declaration, we switch to Yuuki who has taken to closing his window again. He’s not sure why he’s doing it, and he even asks himself the reason. The question is left unanswered as the episode closes. Both he and the doctor don’t know what is going on, but they give evidence of being aware that the stories they are consciously telling themselves no longer fit the situation…
We’ll be back soon!