Shikabane Hime: Aka – 01
Shikabane Hime: Aka opens up in the middle of the night at Seizora Temple some time in the past. A young Ōri Kagami is having a hard time catching some winks at the Buddhist orphanage he lives in and tosses and turns on his futon. He wakes up to a cat that snuck in via an open window and seemingly utters his name with a disembodied voice.
Troubled, Ōri shambles off in search of help, but happens to come across the body of a schoolgirl who is covered in various injuries. She doesn’t respond to Ōri, and upon closer inspection he realizes that she’s passed away.
Suddenly, he hides behind a statue as a group of monks barges into the room. One of them, a Keisei Tagami, lays hands on the dead girl and brings her head to his chest in an embrace. Through some strange magic, a spiritual force known as “En,” the girl is revived and she apologizes to Keisei. Ōri is left in complete awe at the miracle.
Fast forward some time into the future, and a group of police investigators is buzzsawing their way through a chainlocked door. Feeling their way through the dark interior, all three men suddenly find themselves on an indoor set bathed in a purple light. At the middle of the set is a couch on which a mysterious leather-clad man is seated. The police go on to interrogate the stranger about his involvement in the disappearance of a handful of young women. However in typical crazy psycho fashion, the man goes on to reveal his languid vampiric countenance to the police before flinging himself off the balcony behind him and to the ground below…
We return to the orphanage from the beginning of the story with Keisei having some fun at the expense of the orphans he’s charged with. A few moments later it’s revealed to be Ōri’s last day at Seizora as it seems from now on he’ll be attending an outside school. Not too long after seeing Ōri off, Keisei hears his cell ring. Furthermore somewhere across town, the girl whom we saw resurrected at the beginning of the episode hears her phone ring as well. Curiously enough, the camera stops to focus on a mysterious photograph that appears to have the girl, at a much younger age, with which seems to be the rest of her family burned out of the frame.
The then focus shifts to Keisei and the undead schoolgirl as they discuss the particulars of the case, such as the missing women. They are both elements of an organization known as the Kougonshuu, which combats supernatural threats to humanity. As they talk, the events that followed the creep’s jump earlier are revealed to the viewers. Apparently the suspect did splat onto the paved road below, however he did’t stay down for very long to the dismay of the onlooking cops. To force everyone to crap their pants even more, the man reveals himself to be a shapeshifting vampire by turning into a humanoid mass of bats and proceeding to massacre everyone in sight before fleeing the scene.
The Kougonshuu set up shop in some kind of tenement block as they wait for word from their undead schoolgirl associate. They chose to stake out the location due to a report that a policewoman had gone missing in the area. Unfortunately for her, she ran into the vampire terrorizing the city and had her blood sucked before help could arrive.
Now somewhere deep in the heart of the building, the undead schoolgirl faces off against not only the vampire responsible for the disappearances but his harem of victims who’ve been reanimated to do his bidding. The vampire reveals himself to be a “Shikabane” and moves to attack our heroine personally. Despite her appearances, the schoolgirl deftly dodges his advance and retaliates with a pair of compact submachine guns strapped to her waist. The hail of gunfire momentarily stops the Shikabane in its tracks, before it decides to shed its human form in favor of its more monstrous one.
An explosion rocks the building and the monks rush out onto the street in time to see the Shikabane lift off in flight carrying not only its harem of victims, but his opponent as well. After a few seconds of struggling, she eventually frees her hand enough to turn a gun onto her captor. However, while she succeeds in freeing herself from the Shikabane, she ends up plummeting to the ground below…
Meanwhile, Ōri, who had returned to the Seizora Temple for a few more things happens to be nearby just as our heroine craters into the ground. He immediately recognizes her as the dead schoolgirl he saw come back to life that fateful night and finds that she is dead once more. In an effort to revive her, Ōri brings her to his chest as Keisei did.
As this is all going on, the girl begins to have a nightmare in which she’s hidden herself in some kind of closet. There are demons just outside the door that appear to be looking for her, and eventually they succeed in sniffing her out. Of the ones that breach the door she pays special attention to one that carries a wicked tattoo of what seems to be the Little Dipper constellation on his tongue. Before the dream can play out further, she snaps out of the nightmare and is revived in Ōri’s arms.
Keisei arrives nearby on a scooter and calls out to the girl, Makina, who then gets on as the two drive off together. They regroup as they ride to a building that the other monks have flagged as where the Shikabane and his harem have landed. Makina rushes up the stairs ahead of Keisei and confronts the Shikabane alone. Surprised at her having avoided her apparent demise, the Shikabane stands flat-footed as Makina launches a full assault.
In defense of their master, the Shikabane’s underlings throw themselves in front of Makina and eventually manage to tie her up when Keisei arrives as backup. With her back now being watched, Makina dives headlong into the Shikabane with both guns blazing.
She eventually tackles him into the neon sign on the rooftop. This not only fries the baddie into a crisp, but incapacitates him as Makina continues her onslaught while the two fall clear into the street.
Ōri, having narrowly escaped being crushed like a bug (he somehow found himself near the building where Makina smoked the Shikabane), eventually finds his way to his new apartment. Inside he finds his friends from school passed out having waited for his arrival.
On the other hand, Makina arrives back at her place and showers off, once more revealing the deep scars she’s earned in countless battles very much like the one she emerged from only a few moments before…
Wow, okay so that was some Shikabane Hime: Aka… It certainly didn’t seem to have the high budget that first episodes tend to have and it really didn’t do well in terms of grabbing and immersing me into the plot. What we have here is essentially a Buffy the Vampire Slayer anime that for the most part forgoes an inane high school backdrop, but really doesn’t have a strong cast of characters to compensate. For starters, the juxtaposition of Ōri and Makina as the lead characters of the show is jarring. On one hand, you get the bumbling, non-powered, personable goof whose humanity serves as the perfect foil for what we have on the other hand: a withdrawn girl who’s unnatural existence is calling her’s into question. Aside from their awkward boy-holds-girl, girl-slaps-boy moment near the end of the episode, there hasn’t been much in the way of noticeable chemistry here. God forbid we have yet another tsundere show on our hands here to go along with the permeance of thinly veiled necrophilia, but hell it’s Gainax so you can expect just about any card to be up their sleeve.
Additionally, I was going into this show expecting tons of kill ’em all action and… instead I got jokester priests stealing breakfast sausages from children? The manga certainly lived up to that billing, well from the first volume anyway, and I was expecting this anime to be a straight adaptation of the original source material. Instead, we get some kind of new rebooted take on Makina’s exploits as the Shikabane Hime and a lot of the bloody and scary bits have been excised from the first episode. I sincerely hope a change is in the works for the rest of Gainax’s tenure on this project as I’d like to see them flex more of the action scene-animating muscle they’ve shown recently before turning the reins over to feel for Shikabane Hime: Kuro next year.