Shiki, or Corpse Demon, is effectively the story of a village in the middle of nowhere being subjected to a mysterious string of unexplainable deaths. If you want to watch this anime and go into it 100% spoiler-free, even though this is not much of a spoiler at all, look away now.
The deaths are, of course, being caused by vampires. While they take their sweet time coming out and saying it, it's pretty obvious from a really early stage. But don't tell any of the characters that, because they don't half take their sweet time working it out. Over half the story is dedicated to watching the cast struggle to grasp something you worked out by the second episode, which is effectively this show's most crippling weakness.
Now stop. Do not comment just yet. Before you have a knee-jerk reaction to this, let me clarify my point quite firmly: No, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, think that assuming the existence of vampires to be true is a logical conclusion. Not by a long shot. However, there are several very simple logical steps they should have gone through that would have lead them to it.
The most glaring of these is shown through Shiki's focus on the medical aspects of the show. One of the few things that sets the story apart from every other vampire story is that we see the doctors dealing with all the deaths trying to work out and explain what is going on. This would be a lot more compelling if they didn't miss an obvious sign. They promptly go through every aspect of the deaths, but leave one thing out: every victim shares a pair of bitemarks on their neck. Aside from the symptoms themselves, this is the only thing that every single victim has in common. But the medical staff don't even try to explain it. On top of that, every patient died of severe anaemia, but had no rational way of losing so much blood. Except the bitemarks, the only possible explanation and a plain and simple way of putting the only two loose ends together.
Now, once again, let me clear this up: I do not think that the bitemarks shoudl have instantly made them realise vampires were behind this. But so much about it makes it clear that vampires would have crossed their minds. Even if they initially brushed it off as implausible, they would have thought of it. Instead, this thought takes a long time to occur to anyone, and when it finally does, they are bizarrely accepting of it.
But even once they do realise it, they have to spend a long, long time convincing everyone else. In troper terms, this effectively leads to the villagers Dying Like Animals from sheer stupidity. Which leads to a highly drawn-out stretch of episodes consisting of Dr. Ozaki trying to stop the villagers from essentially jumping headfirst into their own graves.
On that note, the characters of Shiki are, to put it generously, less than likeable. There is only one personality in the entire series that is simultaneously interesting and does not make you want to punch them in the face, and that is Dr. Ozaki. The remaining cast are either boring, or sociopathic for no apparent reason. There are also a small handful inbetween who are mildly interesting but very stupid. Effectively, this is both the best and worst thing about Shiki. On the one hand, the cast is utterly insufferable. On the other, they die. A lot. And it manages to be gloriously, gloriously cathartic.
It is also what makes Ozaki such an empathetic character. Ozaki is the only sane man in the entire village. And he is just as frustrated as you are at their complete lack of survival instinct. Also, despite some earlier absences of common sense, Ozaki really manages to pull out some incredibly impressive tactics. And I mean REALLY impressive.
In spite of all the show's failings, in the final act it really gets it together and does a complete 180. This leads to an incredibly impressing finale, that is nothing short of a war. It leads to the point that anyone can (and probably will) die. Sadly this is only for the last 6 episodes, and at this point it is too little, too late. While these episodes were absolutely stellar, they don't quite justify watching the previous 16 episodes.
From a technical aspect, Shiki ranks to the latter on the scale of good vs OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!. The art style is about as awful as they come. The hair on the characters is the most stupid I've ever seen. Anime, as a medium, is known for its love of stupid hair, but even among them Shiki manages to be unbelievably appalling. The sound is quite a bit better, being a user of eerie ambient music. The first OP is also quite an excellent song, excellently merged with the animation. The remaining OP/ED themes are fine, but unremarkable.
I mentioned earlier that there were three ways that Shiki attempts to stick out from the vampire crowd, the first being the medical aspects. While none of these were very well-executed, they are still interesting: The other two being that the humans vs. vampires war is portrayed as simply being two opposing forces simply trying to survive, rather than good humans vs. evil monsters... and the third, being that they focus on the angst of those forcibly turned into vampires, having to kill people they once knew to survive.
Overall, Shiki has a lot of good ideas but in the end doesn't really execute them every well. It's a mixed bag, with enough upsides to keep it watchable earlier on, and with an excellent finale. Still, it really isn't worth watching in the long run.
Animation/Graphics: No seriously, what?/10
For Fans Of: Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, Dance in the Vampire Bund