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.