Vampires have gotten a bad rap lately.
First and foremost, we've got that "Twishite Saga" crap trying to pass off as good writing. And then we've got the movies, which are even worse. (Though I must say, props to Kristen Stewart for managing to portray only one facial expression for the whole series.) There are those "Vampire Diaries" books which started out okay, but which are now just "Twishite" with a less funny name.
Even anime! "Vampire Knight" is by no means an awful manga/anime combo, but it's far from great and isn't doing the horror genre surrounding vampires any good.
Then comes along "Shiki," another glimmer of hope for the vampire genre.
Story: Thank goodness, no love triangle (and no Bella Swan! This is sounding better and better every minute!), but there is a kind of romance. Well, first we hear people calling for a girl who's gone missing. Then we go back to see a sleepy little village (no, people, it's not Hinamizawa; get your anime straight!) where no one cares about looks. Is this important? Uh... anyway, we see a girl who obviously knows about appearances. Said girl is Shimizu Megumi, and since she shows up a lot, she has to be the main character. Mmm... hmm. Megumi starts telling the viewer how much she <3 the sexy/hot/incredible/smart/funny/amazing/wonderful/FREAKING EMOTIONLESS boy by the name of Yuuki Natsuno. Natsuno finds the stalker Megumi annoying (it makes sense; the girl watches him in his room EDWARD CULLEN) and shoos away her love. Megumi is, apparently, dauntless, and she goes on her merry way and ends up at the cool mansion overlooking the village. She feels all weird so... fast forward to the villagers finding Megumi injured on the forest floor.
The town doctor, Ozaki Toshio, does everything in his power to save her, but, alas, Megumi dies. Natsuno feels little pity, but starts feeling like Megumi is still stalking him (it's creepier in the anime; I suck at descriptions), so he sleeps at his friends house. Soon, of course, Megumi bites his friend, and then people start dying left and right. Toshio suspects an epidemic, and notices marks on victims and odd blood problems, so he investigates. (Of course, screw the idea of anything happening because of those creepy eccentric new people in town!)
This series raises the question of who was righteous--the villagers or the shiki? It's not as obvious as it sounds, and it's actually very thought-provoking and such.
DAY-UM I suck at descriptions. Because, really, it's one hell of an engaging story.
Animation: The art of "Shiki" is weird. Pointy chins (and I mean REALLY pointy) and gravity defying, rainbow hair make for some crazy character designs. But putting the chin sharpeners and cement/hairspray aside, the art grows on you. The character designs ARE imaginative and, at times, unintentionally hilarious. The dark eyes are unsettling and the red dots in them are effective. The pictures of decaying bodies and festering flesh are gruesome and disturbing. However, background art is fine but looks kind of average. Animation fluctuates, but is, for the most part, good enough.
Sound: The first OP of Shiki should be on everyone's favorite anime OP list--it sure as hell is on mine. The second OP and the ED are great, too, but pale in comparison. The OST range from creepy and cool ("Pendulum") to generic. All the insert sounds are great and deserve no or very few complaints. Voice acting (in Japanese; I have never listened to the English dub) is varied. Natsuno is emotionless through 76.3% of the show, and he's not a difficult character to act. Toshio and the monk, Muroi-san, have a nice dynamic and all. Sunako-chan must be one hell of a character to act, and her seiyuu gives her the right unsettling feel. Everyone else is good or better, too.
Characters: Some characters make stupid/or unrealistic decisions at times, which bites (pun not intended), but I won't mention that individually.
(Sorry about the "list"-type picture; most images are of single or few characters.) This listing goes from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Characters: Yasumori Nao; Shimizu Megumi; Tanaka Akira; Muroi Seishin; Yuuki Natsuno; [insert synonym for whore HERE] Kirishiki Chizuru; Yano Kanami; I'm not sure, sorry; Tanaka Kaori; Mutou Tohru; Kirishiki Tatsumi; Ozaki Toshio; Kunihiro Ritsuko; Murasako Masao.
(By the way, not all of these characters are main, hence my not knowing bottom-left-kid's name.)
Yuuki Natsuno: He's initially not the main character, but it's pretty damn obvious by the end that he is. He is probably the first person to become paranoid, but there isn't anything particularly interesting about him for most of the series. (Not extended in order to keep spoilers at bay.)
Ozaki Toshio: The kindhearted and caring doctor of the village, he wants to find out what is wrong. His dedication is touching and all, but (SPOILER ALERT, MAYBE?) his descent into insanity is basically five minutes, so it's less effective, in my opinion. (IF THAT WAS A SPOILER, IT'S GONE NOW.)
Muroi Seishin: The best friend of Toshio through, what, 80% of the series? Monks are supposed to be kind and helpful, and he is. But the spoiler risk is high, so I should probably move on.
Shimizu Megumi: At the start of the series, SHE is the main character, not pretty boy. But after her death, she was demoted. So that I can describe her without actually putting in effort (sorry), has anyone heard the song "Rotten Girl, Grotesque Romance (Stalker)" by Hatsune Miku? If you haven't, here it is:
(Fullscreen it, maybe.) This is her in a nutshell. Seriously.
Tanaka Kaori and Tanaka Akira: Kaori is the best friend of Megumi (uh... actually, Kaori THINKS she is the best friend of Megumi). Akira is Kaori's brother, and try to help Natsuno in discovering what happened and stopping it. They're actually pretty important.
The Kirishikis: Neither the father nor Sunako are shown, but this is the new family which moves into that fancy aforementioned mansion. Basic rundown of the family is as follows: The father is second fiddle to the villagers in his wife's eyes, the mother is (as I said before) a slut, Tatsumi is awesome (somehow...) and wears the best outfits in the entire series, and poor little Sunako-chan is... Sunako-chan. You can go find out for yourself.
Please don't make me mention anyone else. But, in summation, everyone handles the situation differently and, I'd say, kind of realistically. Some people are boring, some are interesting, some are annoying and some are cookie-cutter.
Overall: I marathoned this series easily; it's that engaging. A classic story of survival which certainly does the vampire and horror genres justice. It's ending is fitting, the special episodes have something to do with the series, and it is a legitimate recommendation.
Move over, "Vampire Knight." You're not the only vampire anime out there.
Note: I did change my scores of this anime. Sorry about that. ^__^