In case it is unclear, I must say that my favorite all-time anime is the Monogatari series in all it’s various flavors. As the story concerns vampires for a large part of the narrative I would have to declare it the best vampire anime extant. However, to be fair it is not a traditional vampire story and so I could make the case for Shiki as certainly the second best overall vampire story and definitely the best traditional vampire story in anime.
Shiki tells the story of a small Japanese village as it is infected with the taint of the undead. The story would be very familiar to anyone who is a fan of the literary works of authors like Stephen King. His ‘Salem’s Lot missive follows very closely the story-line of Shiki. It is my desire to avoid as many spoilers as possible but I can tell you that the plot of Shiki contains all the elements of any good semi-gothic vampire tale minus the sparkling nonsense. In a very refreshing turn towards the traditional folklore, the vampires in this story do not sparkle. They are not friendly or heroic or nice in any way. They are monsters as they are intended to be. While there is a good bit of character development among the antagonists and none of the undead are one dimensional, they do behave as expected. The means of dispatching them are also traditional. They don’t like religious symbols, stakes, sunlight, or any of the accepted remedies for vampirism. In short, if you like a good, old-fashioned small-town vampire invasion you will enjoy this story.
Shiki has its share of thrills and chills. However, it relies on atmosphere and story to provide the terror rather than gore and violence. This is also rather refreshing, particularly when the medium is Japanese anime. That art form is becoming, not unlike Hollywood movies, more and more special effects and set-piece driven, rather than a story-telling medium. Shiki does an excellent job of building real suspense, which is not easy considering that we are dealing with essentially a cartoon here. In animation it can be difficult to create real tension but Shiki is more than effective. There is some gore and violence but, like all good authors, the creators realize that too much over-the-top bloodshed, especially from a cartoon, will destroy whatever narrative existing within the work.
As you can see from the image, the art is generally excellent, but is drawn in a slightly different style than the shiny almost plastic looking characters you may be used to. The colors are muted and the palate tends towards shades of red and pink. The vampires are drawn with very dark eyes and very red pupils but no one in the story seems to realize this. The music is uniformly excellent, particularly the opening theme, and the dialog is well written, if a bit stodgy. All in all, this is a well crafted animation and would be definitely worth your time to peruse. It is adapted from the manga by Ryu Fujisaki which was taken from the light novel of the same name by Fuyumi Ono. Shiki is organized into 22 episodes, over two seasons, including 2 suplmental episodes (20.5 and 21.5).+
Shiki is available from any of the following sources for legitimate viewing online.