(This was supposed to be posted last night, but after trick-or-treating with my kids – dressed up as the Wild Wild Pussycats from My Hero Academia, no less – I fell asleep.)
It’s Halloween, and what better way to commemorate the day than with Shiki, one of the best horror anime of all time?! Back when Moya and I started, I optimistically noted that if I posted consistently, we’d be wrapping up our analysis by Halloween. Well, life being what it is, we’re barely a third of the way through the series! So, lots more fun to come! Come with us as we turn to episode 7, “Killing Spirit”.
Moya: Happy Halloween, people! After some five years, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I can no longer go trick-or-treating and must stay home and hand out candy. In my bitterness, I’ve consumed 10-20% of the candy meant to be handed out, mwahaha… Ahem, anyways.
Primes: Hehe! Hey, here’s an appropriate joke for the occasion.
Q: If George Washington were alive today, what would he be doing?
A: Clawing desperately at the inside of his coffin!
Moya: R.I.P… Mr. Washington.
Primes: Ok ok, that’s rather macabre, but what would Halloween be without a bit of dark humor? Anyway, the joke is apropos, because practically the first scene is of Masao waking up in his own tomb. Masao, you’ll recall, is the social incompetent who got assaulted by the vampire librarian… and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Anyway, while he freaks out, we get a bit of a flashback to the days shortly before he died.
Moya: The stuff Masao goes through definitely is tough, and it is quite easy to overlook that. I’m never really sure if Shiki tries to caricaturize Masao and make us all laugh at his lameness or if we should really be sympathizing with him more. Obviously, it has to be a bit of both, but man! I do admit that I laughed at Masao when he got blasted out of Tohru’s house after Tohru’s death, as well as when he gets bullied by Shiki Megumi later on. Masao has a comical appearance and voice, and many of these scenes seem to come with laughter cues. At the same time, his lonely death was dreadful to watch. Perhaps you can say that the anime succeeds in making us feel deeply uncomfortable for wanting to laugh at a victimized Masao. We’re not so much better than the villagers, are we?
Primes: It’s honestly a bit hard to watch: It’s the story of a young person basically helpless in an abusive relationship. Masao was on good terms with the librarian, trusted him; and then finds himself betrayed. His “friend” assaults him, tells him to keep quiet about it, and returns regularly to repeat the abuse; Masao wants to reach out to his family—he’s afraid and lonely—but psychologically is unable to do so. He also doesn’t want to cooperate with the abuser, but feels helpless to do otherwise. This is all a pretty standard pattern for abuse.
The same pattern continues with Masao’s reviving. Shortly after he awakens, he’s rescued/exhumed by the vampire with the blue pointy hair. The vamp first flatters him—he’s “special” because he came back to life—and then promises to be his friend. Masao is overcome with joy, which turns sour a moment later when he is told to drink human blood, and threatened with death (again) if he does not cooperate. Abuse leaves its victims vulnerable to subsequent abuse by others: Deprived of real friendship and healthy relationships, the victim is all too willing to accept false and unhealthy ones to satisfy the human need for these things.
Moya: I remember someone saying that “community” = “come-unity.” False etymology, but it’s a little interesting to think about. In the case of Tatsumi’s manipulation of others, I almost feel like his need to “control and mistreat” others is for the very purpose of upholding a sense of unity. Why is this the only way to keep the Shiki community alive (well, if we can call them “alive” at all), and what of the human community?
Primes: My reaction to Masao was different but complementary to yours. Where you found him funny, I found him annoying—which, again, is what the villagers seemed to feel towards him much of the time.
As for the community, we’re social creatures. We’re mammals, we’re hard-wired for society and relationships—yes, even the most introverted among us! But that natural drive to bond with others can be corrupted and misused to control and mistreat people. And if that were the only society available to you, would you not choose it over the fear and danger of being truly alone?
Wait, does that mean I identify with the vampires? Ok, I’m sufficiently creeped out for this session.
Keep the lights on tonight, folks, and don’t let any strangers in…