(... and characters in general, but that's another matter.) It appears the anime tries to draw the Shiki in a sympathetic light and, as a Troper mentioned below, a Shiki Heaven might not be so terrible a goal; who doesn't want to live in a place where they are not called a monster simply for living as their nature dictates? It was also nice to have Tatsumi give me a reason to care about Sunako: "She's beautiful because she struggles [against her fate]." Unfortunately, it was too little too late, and by then I'd already written off most of the Shiki as unrepentant murderers who have succumbed to their most primal desires in the most terrible way. What pushes me over the edge, though, is that the anime wants so hard for me to feel some sort of emotional dilemma, but the way the Shiki are characterized makes me wish I was right there with Toshio and Ookawa. Hell, it was cathartic when Megumi and Masao died the way they did. Similarly, I have never felt more angry at someone for surviving the mass extermination of the members of their dysfunctional little family and/or race, take your pick.
Very true. Some Shiki were genuinely sympathetic; Tohru and Ritsuko, for instance. The massacre of the Shiki near the end gave them massive woobie points, but not enough to erase an entire series worth of murder and, in some cases, infanticide. Sunako getting away scot free at the end was a sheer wall banger.
This troper would like to disagree - Nao, for instance, was portrayed as thoroughly sympathetic from the start, and her motives for and absolute guilt at attacking her family made her the only character this troper was sad to see die. Her death in 20.5 is particularly horrifying through it. It's true that many of the Shiki are portrayed as unsympathetic, but so are the majority of the villagers. This troper rooted for individual characters rather than any given side at any time, and all the people I sympathized with died. Towards the end, I just didn't care any more, and I think the point of the series was partially this: No one is right, no one is sympathetic; human nature drives both sides to unbelievable acts of cruelty they see as necessary to survive. While you may have rooted for a side at the start, at the end you just develop a sort of PTSD, and are nearly unable to root for anyone, let alone a side. This troper just felt hollow inside at the end.
Scot free? She's lost everyone she ever cared about apart from Muroi. And however good her relationship is with him, he's ultimately a guy she only just met, as opposed to the people she considered her family. Maybe less than she deserved, depending on how you view her overall, but still not "scot free" by any stretch of the imagination.
As unfortunate as it is for her that most of the people she loved died, she is immortal and has the opportunity to acquire new loved ones, whereas the hundreds (if not more, Sunako implies that she has single-handedly killed more people than anybody else, although that sounds a little exaggerated) of innocent people who were murdered under her orders do not have the same opportunity she does.
So? When a pet dies, do you simply shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh well, I can get another dog/cat/whatever"? No, you're saddened by it. It may not be the end of the world for you, and if you're a horrible person it might still be less than you deserve, but it's still not nothing. And Sunako's lost rather more than pets here. The bottom line is, whether or not you believed it amounted to what she deserved, she received punishment; she didn't get away "scot free".
On the other hand, one can argue that two major points of the series are firstly that even seeming monsters can and usually do have sympathetic sides (Sunako in a nutshell, and also why we spend the entire first episode focused on Megumi, who will later become one of the most psychotic and dangerous characters, eventually coming full circle with what would some people (this troper included) think of as quite a sympathetic death for its sheer brutality); and secondly that one side very rarely has a monopoly on right and morality. In which case, presenting the Shiki as awful murderers at first is very necessary precisely because it is to be subverted later on: "Oh, you thought these guys were monsters and the clear villains? Yeah, well, turns out they're not all that bad, and moreover the other side can be monsters as well. Guess it's a Crapsack World after all, huh?"
'Shiki Need to Kill to Survive'
Okay, so Sunako's plan is to turn the village into Shiki Heaven. Naturally, since only about half of those killed by the Shiki rise from the dead, it's going to result in a number of unavoidable deaths. But the notion that Shiki have to kill just to survive? It's pure bullcrap. Shiki can only drink about a cupful of blood a night, and the victims only develop anemia after the second bite. This is confirmed in-series. Tohru and Sunako's insistence that Shiki need to kill to survive makes no sense because they could just feed from different people every night. There doesn't seem to be any morality shift when a person becomes a Shiki, so why the insistence on killing?
They have a fixation of feeding on the same people until the end, but that might just be Sunako's request to repopulate the place. 'we kill humans to eat' isn't much of a stretch once they become your natural prey, too. She's had enough time to develop on it, and Tohru did kill his best friend.
That still makes no sense. Tohru killed Yuuki mostly because he was coerced by Tatsuki and the Kirishikis. The whole 'natural prey' explanation that is beloved of so much vampire fiction is also fundamentally flawed, since it's still essentially killing another sentient being once you get down to it. Tohru claims that Shiki begin killing because they realise that nobody will ever punish them for it, but that's only really believable in the older Shiki like Sunako and the total psychos like Megumi. It's basically all just an excuse Sunako made up so she'd feel better about herself.
On the whole 'natural prey' thing: what, so the only thing that makes killing animals for food fine is that, essentially, they're worse than you? Like it or not, sapient beings or not, humans in most vampire literature are the vampires' natural prey, and the only way to condemn them for feeding on humans is to argue that they ought to go extinct as a race - which you can do, but you have to argue it with the magnitude of that undertaking in mind. On the latter part: you'd be surprised how quickly certain norms can vanish as a situation changes. Bear in mind that in this case newly-raised Shiki also have the pressure of conforming to their new society on them - it's not really that surprising, unless you take a fairly idealistic view of humanity's basic nature, that most of them, after perhaps some initial resistance, actually adapt to their new nature (and the interpretation of it propagated by the Kirishikis) fairly completely. And to return to the fixation hypothesis, this is actually credible - it's worth noting that the only Shiki in the whole series we see resisting the urge to 'finish the job' with a particular human is Tohru, universal nice guy being made to feed on his best friend; he's not an ideal counter-example.
Animals aren't sapient. They are not sentient in the same way humans are; certainly some are more intelligent than others, but in the end it should be clear that humans cannot be equated with mere livestock. In some cases of vampire literature, the act of drinking blood is unavoidably fatal, and in that case there is far more leeway. However, in Shiki this is clearly not the case. You say that new Shiki are pressured into conforming, and that's clearly true, but think; who is the cause of that pressure? Who dictates the rules of the new Shiki society? That's right, Sunako. Sunako, who after being a Shiki for however many centuries should know better than anyone that they don't have to kill to survive.
"It should be clear"? What exactly about sapience means that its possessors cannot be livestock of any sort? Just that they're too clever to be used like that? Seems like a pretty lousy justification from a moral point of view. As for Sunako, she was abandoned by the world. She has her reasons. Does this absolve her of all guilt? No. But the point is, her situation, and thus the situation of the other shiki, is quite understandable. Just casually pronouncing that "she should know better" is rather callous and myopic. Again: this is not to say you have to believe she's right or not a villain. Just that her rationale is understandable; that she's an Anti-Villain.
Yes, it should be clear. When you kill an animal, it's not much different from destroying a machine. But when you kill a human, you're killing a sentient, self-aware being. She really ought to know better. Even if she was abandoned by the world, she never needed to kill anyone. A trip to a blood bank or switching victims after the first bite would have been enough. The second option would have also been less conspicuous. Her actions were foolish and amoral; her justifications were faulty and stupid.
You're missing the point. It's not 'animals are sapient, just like humans' (although arguably some, such as the more intelligent apes - well, other than Homo sapiens sapiens ourselves, that is - are in fact), it's 'animals may not be sapient, but why does that mean killing them is so much more excusable than killing humans?'. It's still the taking of a life; the English language distinguishes between 'killing' and 'destroying', not 'the killing of a human' and 'the termination of existence of a non-human entity'. Sure, you can argue that all living things are just complex machines of a non-human origin, but then, so are human beings - we just happen to have a bit more processing power than other creatures. Anyway, more importantly, what's so self-evident about the immorality of killing a self-aware being that makes it different to such a degree from killing a non-self-aware animal? Is it that a self-aware being is similar to you? But shiki are different from humans. Where you say 'self-awareness', they could just as easily say 'immortality'. The uncomfortable bottom line is that no morality is self-evident or objective; you set down certain axioms and work from there. Those axioms come from nothing more than intuition. Now, whilst everyone has the same intuition, that's fine; but if someone comes along with an honestly different intuition of the basic principles, you don't really have any moral right to say that they're wrong; you can just say 'I feel differently' and, if they threaten you, defend yourself.
As for Sunako's plan being stupid, that's a different matter. It depends a little on whether, as some suspect, the shiki have physiological compulsion to feed on the same victim until that victim dies. If not, then it's true, it would be fairly easy and much less conspicuous to have a rule against feeding on victims enough to kill them; if they do, on the other hand, then that makes things a lot more difficult. Still, either way, there is another factor: Sunako made it quite clear that she's sick of living in the figurative shadows as well as the literal ones. She wanted a place for her and her family and people to call their own. That's understandable. The measures she had to go to may well have been too far, but it's still a very understandable desire.
Sunakos plan being stupid is actually pointed out in the manga by none other than Tatsumi who knew it could never succeed.
'Seishin may not really be on the Shiki's side'
While Seishin is against violence, he may not necessarily completely agree with the Shiki. When humans are bitten, the Shiki can control them. Seishin was conflicted and confused about who was right and who was wrong, and Sunako and Tatsumi (Possibly others, I don't remember.) bit him, and controlled him to be on their side. (I do think that, even if he hadn't been bitten, he would've stayed a conflicted neutral, helping either side out when the time came.)
Isn't this better suited to WMG than to Headscratchers?
This one may not be that important, but... do Garlic and Holy Water work against Shiki? We've seen other things used against them like holy symbols, but never holy water or garlic. Natsuno even asked "Do other things work, like Garlic or Holy Water?" But of course Tohru never gave an answer.
Do holy symbols work against Jinrou? We never see Jinrou slowed down by the weaknesses of standard shiki. For that matter, we never saw the "invitation restriction" used against Natsuno or Tatsumi.
Tatsumi does ask Natsuno's dad for permission to enter his house after Natsuno returns as a Jinrou.
What happens if you don't invite a vampire/Shiki inside, but you leave the body of someone who's about to rise in your home? I'm pretty sure the shiki were welcomed into Toshio's home by Toshio's wife by the time she rose, so what would happen if they weren't welcome? Would the person not rise until their corpse was removed from the building?
Actually, no. By the time the shiki started entering the clinic, Kyoko was still alive. It was her inviting Tatsumi in that enabled it, not her dying and rising up.
That's exactly what I said. She invited Tatsumi in, thus the Shiki were allowed to enter the clinic. As such, her rising up was because Shiki were allowed in the clinic due to her invitation. You're missing the point. The question was "What would happen if Shiki weren't allowed in a building, but a body that was due to rise up was left in a building where Shiki weren't invited into?"