Nothing ever happens in the village of Sotoba. In fact, it is viewed as nothing more than a hick town by its most outgoing and fashionable resident, Megumi Shimizu. She wants nothing more than to live in the city, far away from the villagers and their outdated ways of thinking. So when a new European-style house is built on a hill in the village, Megumi believes its residents must be cultured and refined, so she decides to pay them a visit.
However, Megumi doesn't return home that night. After a grueling search, she is found the next day, weak and anemic, with strange bite marks on her. But Megumi is just the first victim in what will soon become an epidemic in Sotoba as the bodies start piling up. The village doctor Toshio Ozaki, along with the priest Seishin Muroi, the loner Natsuno Yuuki, and the Tanaka siblings Kaori and Akira, begin investigating the strange deaths. But the answer to their predicament may be more than any of them can handle, for soon the dead could outnumber the living.
This review contains medium SPOILERS: I will give away the premise that is established after about two volumes. Basically, I am going to tell you what "Shiki" means. No less and no more.
However, I think that this being a mystery manga, you may enjoy going into it as blind as you will. If that's the case for you then do avoid reading this review (any sort of information on the manga for that matter); go ahead and give it a try!
Shiki is one of those works which demonstrate beautifully how a concept that seems old and uninteresting can be revived to make for a refreshing
setting. When the village of "Sotoba" is haunted by mysterious deaths everybody seems clueless concerning the origin of the proclaimed epidemic. Only a few individuals have the bravery and recklessness to dare think it could be the "Okiagari" - later named Shiki - causing the calamity. These so-called Okiagari are people who were once dead but have risen and are thereon blessed to live forever but cursed to feed on human blood.
This premise alongside with each characters motivations is what drives the plot. What keeps the story so lively is the excellent writing. Each chapter will focus on one particular character. And although these tales appear to exist independently of each other, they slowly begin to intertwine. Another good feature of the storytelling is that, as a reader you are never given the complete picture. Leaving you in the dark for most of its duration the manga makes for a very suspenseful read.
The concept which this manga is centred around (vampirism) comes across as ever so fresh. That's because Shiki takes a surprisingly serious approach to the theme having its characters deal with many of its social and moral consequences. As the Okiagari are not simply used as a setup for an action or a horror story but are treated like the dilemma that they really represent, everything becomes that much more believable as well as thought-provoking. The story is rich in allegories and all sorts of symbolisms relating to questions of justice, ethics, human nature and many more.
In this turmoil of justice and injustice, compassion and instincts, survivability and principles, each (main) character has his or her own point of view. Some of them more clear-cut than others.
The good thing about the cast is that it's big and it's rather diverse.
But while it is the convictions of the key characters that push the plot, these lead characters themselves do not undergo as much development as one could have expected. Especially considering the complete 180° (or is it 360°?) shift that the plot with its various twists achieves.
Even though the themes and topics are all there, sometimes one might wish that a particular point of view (say the moralist's, the nihilist's, the speciesism's) be a little more openly expressed by a specific character. It's oftentimes you contemplating, not the characters.
If their contentual expression may be lacking at times, the characters' visual appearance certainly doesn't. The art style is something to get used to with very spikey hair and largely exaggerated facial and bodily traits. I think that the general art style is probably subject to taste but if you keep an open mind I definitely think you too will appreciate the great variety that it offers. If anything, I think it adds to the feeling of the manga.
In the end, what sets Shiki apart from other series of the supernatural genre is the commitment to explore the actual implications of a pop fiction topic. This story is executed candidly, brutely and without any sort of melodrama whatsoever. There are next to no comedic moments in Shiki, instead numerous shocking, moving and memorable ones.
Although in my opnion the (very) end makes the symbolism a bit too amiguous the rest of the series is an absolute treat. Even if you will be left alone to do so don't miss the chance to ponder over what is means to be a Okiagari, or a human being or both.
The Host. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Lord of the Flies. Take all these three novels/movies, twist it to make it darker and more complex, and there you have it. The manga, Shiki, is born.
The plot itself isn't very original. However, what makes Shiki unique is the flow of the story and its characters. The beginning starts out a little slow in order to add suspense and mystery to the story. However, mystery isn't one the strongest point of this manga. What is truly amazing is how the chapters are often told in various perspectives. The chapters aren't necessarily episodic, but
every few chapters or so are told in the perspective of one of the supporting characters. This helps add definition to the characters and allows the readers to understand the characters more and what they are going through. Although the general plot may seem simplistic at a glance, Shiki is much more complex. Readers will be astonished at how dark and primitive human nature can be, how fragile humans are as they begin to de-evolve, and how complex "good" and "bad" really are. The lines between good and evil, right and wrong are blurred within Shiki and readers are left wondering, who is truly "right" in the end...if there is one. The ending is generally satisfying as there are no plot holes or mysteries left unsolved. Nevertheless, the survival and deaths of certain characters will undoubtedly upset readers who felt close to those characters.
The art is fairly unique and actually quite fitting for this type of horror story. The fact that the colors used are generally black, white, and gray contribute to how terrifying the situation is within the village. The mangaka successfully added to the mood of this story with his art. The style adds quite a haunting effect to the story. The backgrounds are realistic, whereas the character designs are more memorable. The shading and the backgrounds flow together to bring focus onto the characters. The way the characters look and how they are dressed are used to bring attention to their personalities and their reactions to their current situation. Readers will find that how the characters look fit perfectly to how they act. Each character looks unique and memorable in their own way so that readers won't have any trouble confusing one of them with another.
All the members of the village will be introduced at the beginning of the story. The numerous characters introduced will bewilder and confuse the reader at first, but soon the major characters will come into play and the confusion will dissipate. The main characters and many of the supporting characters have detailed personalities and the chapters that revolve around the supporting characters help create definition to those characters. Given their situation, the characters acted realistically. The various responses from the villagers to their situation reveal how people will act in many different ways, depending on who they are and how their personalities were developed. The antagonists were also given depth as their backgrounds and motivations were explored in the later chapters. In general, the characters were well made and overall memorable.
Many readers will find the beginning slow and slightly tiresome, but as they continue to read Shiki and unravel the mystery, action and trouble are discovered and readers will not be disappointed to have read Shiki. Personally, I enjoyed this series because of the depth in the plot, the character development, and the exploration of human nature in this manga. The complexity of Shiki will definitely have readers remembering it in the future and the topics on human nature involved in the plot would make a good discussion among readers.
Shiki is a wonderful manga that will leave readers reflecting on human nature and good vs. evil for hours on end. There is absolutely no doubt that those who have read Shiki will enjoy it and want to recommend it to others.
The premise of the story is intriguing and rather refreshing. The story has a certain draw to it that kept me reading chapter after chapter. Unfortunately, the characters destroy any suspension of disbelief I had. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered such an entirely retarded cast of characters. I feel the story could have ended in 10 chapters if only the characters had a minimal IQ of 80. The characters are rather bland with limited development, but not completely uninteresting. For example, the bond between Natsuno and Tooru was fun to read about. It’s a tragedy that it wasn’t further explored though. So
many characters were introduced, then killed off without elaboration that 95% o f the cast was forgettable. The main characters suffer an overabundance of tropes and lack depth. The art is passable, but won’t win any awards/ At times, the characters’ bodies are so elongated that you wonder if the artist drew this while laying down. Overall the manga felt shallow and predictable with a few redeeming qualities. 6/10
Man, this is my favorite manga of all time. It is by far not the best written, the most insightful, nor the best drawn. However, it is the only manga that has duped me before I dumped it, and it is also the manga of my favorite character and my most hated character!
Now I must confess, I don't really feel anything when I read. I can tear up a little at sad parts and laugh at funny parts, but it's not powerful emotion. Even in Berserk, at the betrayal's climax, I was like, "meh, this dude is so ungrateful."
But boy, oh boy, Shiki is
brilliant. Fuckin' awesome. I felt elation. I felt rage! The story takes you on a journey, through stupidity, to imminent extinction due to stupidity, to the most satisfying death I've ever read about, then to a fuckin' party, then at the finale, to the greatest betrayal--of the author, against you. And you never would have seen it coming, unless you actually stopped and thought about the symbolism but no one does at gory! action! death! scenes, so you can't even chuck the book away before the author nabs you. Because it ends right there.
Anyways, I don't really think it's spoilers to go ahead and say I'm a die-hard Toshio fan, and sometimes I surprise myself with my unfounded vicious hate of the Shiki. Then, I have to step back and think, hmmm, why do we have such great potential for cruelty and disgust? What about fear robs us of our compassion, our reason, our apathy? And then I reflect upon myself...but not really 'cause Toshio is my favorite character w00t Abraham Lincoln, vampire slayer