The small, isolated village of Sotoba is having a very unusual summer. A strange and fatal illness spreads through the population, affecting young and old alike. The only common factors between the patients are anaemic symptoms, a rapid decline and aberrations found in the departed’s blood. Toshio Ozaki, head doctor at the tiny local hospital, suspects a medical epidemic, though every test he conducts and every hypothesis he puts forward is quashed by the next death. Meanwhile, teenager Natsuno Yuuki feels constrained by the sleepy farming community and longs to leave but his dreams turn to nightmares as he finds himself stalked by apparitions and unsettling presences in the woods outside his parents’ home. Could the recently relocated Kirishiki family, having taken up residence in the long-abandoned Kanemasa Mansion that overlooks Sotoba, have something to do with the mysterious occurrences plaguing the town?
Shiki – meaning ‘corpse demon’ – first appeared in novel form in 1998, from the pen of Fuyumi Ono, whose career as a novelist is noted for a strong predilection towards horror. Her earliest work includes Mephisto and Waltz, Green Home Spirits, and the ‘Evil Spirits’ series, which eventually developed into Ghost Hunt. That series focused on a supernatural detective agency, debunking the macabre situations they find themselves in as much as often as they find something truly horrific. Given the investigative nature of that series, it’s perhaps no surprise that Ono is married to detective novelist Yukito Ayatsuji, each author showing signs of their partner’s writing styles in their own works. Spanning five prose volumes, Shiki’s chilling saga was later adapted into manga, with artwork by Hoshin Engi’s Ryu Fujisaki, before veteran director Tetsuro Amino headed up the animated adaptation for studio Daube.
Much like Ono’s work on Ghost Hunt, Shiki’s strength lies in its varied cast. While Ozaki and Yuuki emerge as the lead characters, the inhabitants of Sotoba each get their time in the spotlight, displaying their idiosyncrasies and personal backstories. Fish-out-of-water Megumi, another teenager desperate to move to the big city but worshipping Yuuki from afar; priest Seishin Muroi, a part-time novelist who takes a personal interest in the string of deaths; Sunako Kirishiki, young daughter of the new family in town, with an aversion to sunlight and a fascination with Muroi’s writings – all have an important role to play in the story as it plays out. Amino gives viewers enough time with characters to become engaged in their lives, before putting them through a series of often-ghastly events.
Creating a genuine sense of horror in animation is difficult, and it is a credit to Ono’s dark imagination that so many of her works transition to the small screen in a way that still manages to give viewers chills. The slow-burn approach is key, each episode adding to the creeping darkness of the series’ whole, with flashes of disturbing imagery that linger in the mind long after they’ve left the screen.
Find out what’s haunting Sotoba village for yourself in the first collection of Shiki – although you may want to keep the lights on....
Shiki the Complete Series is available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment on 3rd June.
THEIR SURVIVAL MEANS YOUR DEATH! As citizens of a secluded village die off in alarming numbers, the head doctor tries desperately to save them - but his efforts are in vain. Panic and disillusionment run rampant as loved ones’ corpses rise from the grave with an insatiable thirst for human blood. Haunting and hallucinogenic, Shiki stares into the hearts of both the hunter and the hunted - and blurs the line between man and monster.
Matt Kamen is your guide to the world of Fairy Tail!
Welcome to Earthland, where magic runs rampant and professional wizards sell their talents to the highest bidder! Populated by all kinds of mystical creatures, it’s a place of wonder but also one filled with peril.
Mystic action abounds in the second thrilling collection of Fairy Tail, as flame-spewing Natsu, ice-mage Gray, summoner Lucy and the rest of the gang take on sorcerous threats across the world of Earthland. The series is based on the long running manga by Hiro Mashima, and as the anime closes in on its 150th episode in Japan, it’s clearly shaping up to be the next Naruto or Bleach, delivering ongoing adventure to a devoted audience. Unlike a certain orange ninja or black-garbed grim reaper though, Fairy Tail’s roots do not lie in the pages of the famous Weekly Shonen Jump anthology.
It’s been said that two’s company, three’s a crowd. But for Japanese electro-pop duo AIRI and Koshiro, two is more than enough to party – to MAGIC PARTY! At least if the cutesy name of the pair’s musical project is to be believed.
Unlike a number of the bands featured on the Manga UK blog, W-inds haven’t had much of a history with anime tie-ins despite their massive success. In fact, in 14 years they’ve only ever done two anime themes; their first in Akira Amano’s Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, and more recently with Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail, where their 29th single Be as One became its sixth ending.
Jasper Sharp reviews a book-length collection on the “God of Manga”
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Animation for the old... there's only one way to settle this... FIGHT!
Wrinkles is a new grown-up Spanish animated film about elderly people in a care home. Hang on a bit, that can’t be right. Animation and the elderly; they’re two things which have nothing to do with each other. Well, except for...
Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth? Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!
When is it okay for a real-life disaster to become entertainment?
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Mamoru Oshii’s unashamedly esoteric sequel to his earlier global crossover Ghost in the Shell lent the most credibility to claims for anime as ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’, when it became the first animated film from Japan to be entered in competition at Cannes.
Tom Smith on the newest numero-enchanted musicians
It may sound odd to English ears, but 7!!’s choice of pronunciation makes sense (well, a tiny bit of sense) when put into the context of where the band grew up; Okinawa. It’s an area that’s closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan, and one that’s had a heavy US military presence since the Second World War. These factors, among plenty of others, have had an affect on the cultural evolution of the islands, and one of the most evident examples can be found in local popular music scene.
The game Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is rolling out as a digital download across multiple platforms. This month it becomes available on the Nintendo 3DS and Amazon, following launches on the Wii U, iPad, iPhone and Steam.
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