Wow, I don't even know where to begin. A note for all of you abotu to read this, please read the following paragraph before ditching this anime.
I am a 21 year old man, who enjoys Anime on a mostly technical stand-point. I like my dialogue well translated (subbed), I like my story lines to be literary sound, and I like my characters to be dynamic. That being said, Shiki is the greatest title I've seen all year.
The greatest part of Shiki is not what is presented at face value (which is a gorey, depressing story of vampire rebellion, and later genocide against them,) but rather the dakr undertones that appear throughout the series.
Story: 9 out of 10
The storyline is fantastic. Why you may ask, because it's a total sleeper. The first 4 episodes are dull, seemingly slice-of-life (or well, a dreary anti Slice-of-life I suppose), and the main antagonists of the story aren't even mentioned until episode 5 or so. The antagonists being "shiki", otherwise known as vampires.
Let me be the first to tell you that there is NO sparkling skin or inter-species erotica here. Shiki is a VERY depressing, very gruesome play on the vampire story. Honestly, the only annoying part of the translation at all, is that the introduction of "Jinrou" (a subspecies of vampire) ruins the fun of the original story a little bit. However, it is not enough to ruin the series as a whole.
The story sets off with Megumi, an adorable high school girl who hates the stagnancy of her village, and just wants to get out. She quickly becomes sick (vampired! kachow!), and the storyline switches over to Yuuki for a few episodes. After he becomes sick, it passes to another character, and the storyline sort of goes like this.
To some, this would be annoying, as it never gives you a specific character to follow, but I on the other hand like it all the more for that very reason. It gives you a wonderfully clever look at different perspectives during the entire show, and even helps the end message sink in. Once the show is over, you'll understand it was less about vampires, and more so a message about how quick humans are to become "monsters" themselves during a crises.
Animation: 9 out of 10
Animation is a solid 9 from my point of view. The style is a little childish at times (Seriously... the big white haired dudes eyebrows and mustache fly off his face for like 2 feet... geez), but this all just adds contrast to how brutally violent, and dark the series turns out to be.
Besides the style choice, it is still wonderfully animated, and besides for a few scenes that play background noise, and a single picture appears on the screen (easy way of saving money during animation), the animation is flawless.
Sound: 8 out of 10
The sound of Shiki is a good aspect to me. Being a "horror" anime at times, whenever their are screams, or sound effects for murder instruments, it chilld my bones, and made me feel a little queasy at a few points (such as the doctor testing on his wife). I don't have the technical know-how to grade sound to much degree, but the voice acting and music were both well placed.
Characters: 7 out of 10
Characters was a very hard category for me to score. Although I loved all the characters as a whole, the storyline goes much to fast for you to particularly follow, or "become" any of the characters. Sunako was my favorite, because although the oldest vampire, she still carried some child-like qualities her vampire body showed.
Yuuki makes a weird sort of "anti-hero" in that he does fight for good, but only on a sort of selfish level, and in a very arrogant, and distant way. The Dr becomes the main character later on in the series, and you sort of lose feeling with him because of how stressed he is. He becomes so broken down, that you just feel bad following his character.
Overall, all the characters helped paint a masterpiece of an anime, and no single character was a deal-breaker for me. I just wish that I could have gotten to know the characters a little more.
Overall: 9 out of 10
Overall, I think I've made it clear that I really enjoyed this series, and I am not a vampire fan. I do not read any of the Twilight, or Ann Rice books. I don't even like the Underworld series to be honest. All those taken into thought, I still really enjoyed Shiki for the dark messages about humanity it portrayed.
The ending episodes, the humans almost go crazy with bloodlust for the vampires, and in their minds, it is justified because they are defending themselves. This however, contradicts themselves, being that the vampires themselves are just killing to survive. When the question is asked why are the vampires any different, the humans just ignore it, and continue to kill anything that stands in their way.
I was astounded to see such a adult thought-process in a series I initially almost dropped because of the art style, and the "vampire" storyline. I am honestly glad that I sat through it, and I hope you do the same!