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sweettalkeress in twilight_sucks

Anime Rec: "Shiki"- The Anti-Twilight

Attention, all you horror/monster buffs! Are you sick and tired of the Twilight series and its spinoffs and imitators wimpifying your precious vampires and werewolves? Have I got the show for you!

Kickass XD

This here's a vampire anime called “Shiki.” And it's awesome! It's a vampire show that's mostly subversive in how straight it plays the old vampire legends—all of them. In this show, vampires live in an old, ancestral castle, can't go out in the daylight, can't cross running water, can't get into a house unless invited, and can be repelled by crosses or really any religious or good-luck charm of special significance. The only thing that can kill them (besides sunlight) is a stake through the heart. And the only, only thing they can drink is the blood of humans.

Of course, these weaknesses don't mean “Shiki” vampires are weak or stupid or easy to defeat. They're a serious, credible threat, largely because the residents of the small village the vampires prey on don't know about these weaknesses. They'll want to be friendly and invite the vampires inside their homes, and the fact that the vampires can act charming and polite (or sometimes just really persistent) makes them easy targets. These vampires have logical weaknesses and logical barriers which they logically overcome (or not), and isn't that a hundred times better than Twilight's “no weaknesses at all BECAUSE I SAID SO” Sparklepires?

Which brings us to characters. “Shiki” has loads of characters, and they run the gamut from floating under the radar in the background to barely tolerable to so engaging they glue your eyes to the screen every time—though where exactly any given character falls on that scale tends to change because “Shiki” characters actually undergo character development. You know, that thing you're supposed to do to characters that Stephanie Meyer probably can't even spell, much less use properly? Of course, even the most obnoxious characters in “Shiki” are still better than anything Twilight ever has to offer. And unlike in Twilight, where becoming a vampire only makes people into even bigger douchebags than they already were, in “Shiki” there's at least a few characters who get a whole bunch less annoying and/or more interesting after they turn into vampires. Chew on that!

So I heard you like werewolves? Well... they aren't really the focus of the story. However, there is at least one werewolf-like creature among the cast (you can tell because he's got ear-like projections growing out of his hair, which may or may not be actual ears, and a great sense of smell). His name is Tatsumi and he's the servant slash possible son of the vampire family who originally takes up residence in the ancient castle. And I can tell you now: he's not a doormat, he's not a rapist, and he's not a pedophile. What he is, though, is one of the most engaging and effective villains I've seen in some time, effortlessly swinging between being friendly and solicitous and showing his true self as a ruthless, sadistic jerk who rules the villagers-turned-vampires with an iron fist. Oh, and did I mention he's hot? Jake n' pals have nothing on this guy!

“Shiki” is a smart show. If Twilight is the idiot slacker kid who barely made it through high school because she wasted her time watching porn, then “Shiki” is that student who's constantly on principal's honor roll. The valedictorian of the school, if you will. The main powerful agents in “Shiki” are of an intellectual bent—there's a doctor named Ozaki on the one hand and a monk (who's also a novelist) named Seishin on the other. Which means, we get actual scientific study of the vampires and the effects they have on people—courtesy of Ozaki—and a philosophical look at how to approach the vampires as a result of Seishin's musings. The villains are also highly cunning and genuinely threatening, not at all like the rainy-day antagonists from the Twilight franchise.

So, yeah—you can turn on “Shiki” and drift into a blissful haze where Twilight can't reach and vampires are awesome and scary and interesting. But that doesn't mean that “Shiki” has nothing in common with Twilight—it just handles everything better!

As one of the vampires in “Shiki” explicates, when Shikiverse vampires, any Shikiverse vampires, are confronted with blood, they get the overwhelming, painful urge to drink it. However, in “Shiki” this is repeatedly shown, with vampires feasting on their friends and family because that's just who has blood at the time, and we don't get characters like Bella in Twilight who can resist the appeal of human blood because she's a Mary Sue. And in “Shiki,” the implications of this happening to people who used to be human are actually addressed! There's even dialogue about this in at least one episode, where a character tries to convince a newborn vampire that a vampire drinking human blood is no different from humans killing and eating animals. And the newborn vampire doesn't want to do it, despite the fact that as a human he'd been a self-absorbed attention whore who hated everyone and everything and (possibly) didn't even care that his nephew (who was only eight or nine years old) got eaten by vampires. It's only after he's confronted with blood and bodies that he snaps. Some vampires in “Shiki” are never really okay with drinking human blood, though they adjust because they're vampires and they have to do it. Compare that to the obnoxious Twilightverse vamps, who turn into vampires and then (for the most part) gleefully skip off to eat people, all while loudly decrying humans as stupid animals (which some vampires in "Shiki" seem to do as well, but there it's not treated as a good thing).

But that's another thing that Twilight and “Shiki” have in common—the vampires who used to be human still retain their old personalities, and most of their own thoughts and feelings, despite now being vampires. In “Shiki,” this is used to address the philosophical question of whether or not killing them is okay. In Twilight? The vampires are the only ones who matter, and never mind what the human audience might think of having to identify with blood-sucking monsters who treat them with nothing but contempt. Of course, it helps that Shikiverse vampires actually seem to have human friends and family, at least at first; and this is played for its emotional worth, often quite successfully (of particular note is a scene in which a vampire daughter kills her human mother-in-law, in the hopes that she'll come back as a vampire too).

Let's see... both Twilightverse vampires and Shikiverse vampires are rich? Except that in “Shiki” this only applies to a small proportion of the vampires and there's a definite hierarchy, which shapes the dynamics of the story. The first “Shiki” vampires to arrive are wealthy aristocrats, and every vampire they turn becomes their common servant. And unlike in Twilight, they don't just spend their money for the sake of spending money—the young girl of the family, Sunako, uses her money to buy Seishin's books, thus influencing their interactions and development—again. No materialist fantasy here.

Both Twilightverse and Shikiverse vampires have red eyes? Actually, the eyes of Shikiverse vampires, while they're almost always red, can look like just about anything. The only thing that's consistent is that they're not like the eyes of those not vampires—and they're red.

But there's one way in which “Shiki” does differ from Twilight and from most other vampire material out these days. In “Shiki” the vampires aren't necessarily sexualized in any way. Some of them aren't even good-looking—a character in “Shiki” who was unattractive as a human won't suddenly become attractive upon turning. There are a couple vampires who wear sexy outfits, but one of them wore sexy outfits to begin with, and it seems like the most flagrantly sexy vampires do it deliberately. Vampires in “Shiki” bite characters whom they have no romantic interest in—such as little kids or their own family members.

While we're at it, you'll be happy to know that unlike the superpowered Cullens, vampires in “Shiki” don't have vastly superior physical capabilities to humans. There's very little that a Shikiverse vampire can do that a human couldn't do—though it seems like they can levitate, for instance; and that they don't die naturally. A couple of scenes suggest that vampires in “Shiki” can't even dig their way out of their own graves by themselves—someone else has to dig them up! So for once, the playing field is actually leveled, and the story is more realistic and tense because of it.

It bears saying, if you're going to watch “Shiki,” that there are bits, particularly in the later episodes, that get quite gory and grimdark. But that's what you want, isn't it? You want a story where vampires are the scary blood-suckers of old and there's a struggle between them and the humans to survive; not the fangirl sextoys Twilight would have you believe they are. And that's what “Shiki” is. It's taking vampires back to basics and combining them with some fascinating and engaging character interactions and development, both from the human and vampire characters, as well as some scenes that succeed in making you feel strong emotions at times. It's just a no-bullshit, good fucking vampire series. What more could you ask for?

So, yeah. “Shiki” is awesome. If you don't feel like going to the store and don't mind commercials you'll be happy to know that you can find the entire season on Hulu, in both Japanese and English. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out! XD