severia: (Seishin3)
severia ([personal profile] severia) wrote2016-10-02 12:43 pm

Death and Muroi Seishin

Because I'm always wondering about this man, might as well use my DW to store up some meta and analysis about him.

So. Muroi Seishin of Shiki is the most complex and complicated (ha), nuanced, shady, faulty, but also humanly fictional character I've had the pleasure of encountering. Well, not that I've read many works, and not that I've had cared to analyze other characters like I do him (to be honest).

So, there's some bias. But, in my opinion, he's just downright interesting and amusing in a lot of aspects. He's quite unlike anything else.

In a way, this post also serves to organize all my thoughts and hopefully form new necessary ones, in order to create a pretty, neat analysis.

For a start, there's always a point in everything, right? You can think of this 'point' as a summary of everything about something and how this something might play out, in the past, present, and future. This 'point' serves as a line to connect all three aspects (past, present, future) of this certain something together. It is a pattern, a conclusion, and thus the small details of this something eventually doesn't stay very far from this main point.

So, now you're wondering: What's the main point of Muroi Seishin in Shiki?

In order to answer that, I think it's necessary to find out the main point of Shiki in general first. Because all the characters will ultimately follow a similar theme.

Now, What's the main point of Shiki?

Quite a depressing thought, that. Shiki first and foremost isn't a happy story, and in fact it is a rather depressing one. Everyone and everything is spiraling down into an inferno in this work, and I'd wager that it IS meant to be exactly like that. I'd say that the main point of Shiki is death.

Death of what, you might ask?

Well, everything.

The novel opens up with Seishin's essay, the 'the village is surrounded by death' one. It's quite a dead giveaway, in my opinion. Since the village was first built it was meant to prepare for death, to care for the dead, blah blah, like Seishin wrote that Sotoba is the literal village of death. Its very name is a pun, too -- Sotoba, while its kanji (外場) means 'outer place' (to point out that it's in the middle of nowhere, which would mean away from anywhere) it's also ultimately a term for wooden grave markers, where posthumous names are written.

Not only that, Shiki is also actually a recount story. Which means, everything is a flashback (well, sans the epilogue, but that's a spoiler). Flashback of what? Flashback of how the village of Sotoba came upon its death. The prologue tells us about Sotoba village burning away, destroyed. The main story then deals with how it ever came upon such fate, as promised by the prologue. It really stands that Shiki is a story about death.

And thus, this is also a story of how Muroi Seishin came upon his death.

The thing about death is, it doesn't always mean somebody dies. Well, in the most literal sense, I mean. Philosophically, death would also mean the end of something, anything. You name it. Shiki doesn't only deal with stuffs literally. It also deals with them philosophically, especially in Seishin's arc. His is nothing but hidden meanings and metaphors and philosophies. It'd fit that 'death' for him comes in the philosophical sense more than anything. Especially because we know he doesn't die in the end.

Seishin is a person who once attempted suicide. The reason as to that, he himself admitted that he didn't know. He didn't actually sought out death. In Shiki Novel Translation 7.6 he stated that, if pressed to say anything about the matter, he'd say that he only wanted to try dying. He knew he wouldn't die just from cutting his wrist, so that's not what he sought. He just wanted to try doing it. He also thought that the meaning lied in the act itself, not in the outcome.

That's what he said. But did he tell the truth?

How do we know?

For starters, in my opinion Seishin is someone currently gripped by intense mind-blocking. This is a person who, deep down, really knows the answer to all his own issues. He just opts to lock it all away and wears the mask of ignorance. Sounds like he's very much in denial, right? Yes, I sure won't really believe someone saying he doesn't know himself really well but does a terrific job at exploring his own self through his own novels, all of which are basically his own monologues. Sure, he might need something to link it all together, but he already holds the key answers to almost everything. He just doesn't really want to admit it, probably because he doesn't want to face it.

So, he might be actually suicidal, he might also be not. His suicide attempt is a recurring theme in his own personal arc in the novel. Even if it happened more than a decade ago, it certainly still plagued his mind, because he still worked to untangle it (and along with it the true nature of people around him who didn't exactly mourn for him but their own 'idea' of him. More on that later).

Seishin explored his suicide attempt through his newest novel project, Shiki, more precisely through the pair of brothers known only as 'he' (彼, kare) and 'little brother' (弟, otouto). His novel depicts a story of a man who murdered his younger brother based on an unknown impulse, and throughout the story he's trying to find out why he murdered the kind, benevolent, younger brother all the while traversing through wasteland as a cursed being because he murdered him. He's also being haunted by his younger brother who rose up as a Shiki (屍鬼, Corpse Demon) when night comes, though his younger brother seems to hold no grudge against him. As it happens, this term is also used as the title of his novel, and also as the title of this very novel.

As it turns out, it doesn't take much wondering to find out that the pair of brothers are actually the portrayal of himself. He's both the cursed older brother, a murderer, and the kind little brother, whom he murdered. The animanga also pointed this out nearing their ending. The novel translation hasn't reached that far yet, but I'd be deeply surprised if it turns out different.

What does it all mean, then, to his story arc, and to his own 'death'?

From how the novel is written, while both brothers are portrayal of his own self, the older brother is the one he explores himself through, while the younger brother seems to remain some background figure who's only known as 'kind' and 'good' (basically a model citizen). It's safe then to assume that the older brother is his actual self. As it also stands that the younger brother is also himself, you're wondering then, what part of Seishin does he portray?

Yes. It's probably the 'good heir to the mountain temple' part, who's actually nothing more than a mask.

It also fits nicely with his own arc, particularly when he first attempted suicide and how his parents and the rest of the temple folks and the Yasumori couple judged him really harshly for doing it. The problem is, they didn't actually care that Seishin tried to kill himself. They only cared that Seishin tried to kill the heir of the mountain temple, tried to take away their beloved from them. But do they have any regards towards who Seishin really is and his desires? No. The same way the older brother is judged harshly by the dwellers of the Hill for murdering his little brother whom they all loved.

For what reason the older brother murdered his little brother then? For what reason Seishin tried to kill himself, then? It's not as if the older brother hated his little brother (it's not as if Seishin hated his own self-portrayal (himself)). The older brother had pointed it out that he couldn't live without his little brother, that he couldn't be accepted by the other dwellers of the Hill if his little brother wasn't there because he served as this bridge between him and the Hill (Seishin couldn't live in the village except as an heir to the mountain temple, because the village couldn't accept his real self beyond that). Just like how the older brother is so dependent upon his little brother, Seishin is also dependent on this mask. Without the little brother (if Seishin doesn't fulfill his role as a heir to the mountain temple), the older brother (Seishin) couldn't live and be accepted into the order/Hill (Sotoba).

Murdering his little brother (killing his own self, cutting ties with the village) costed the older brother/Seishin dearly, so why did he do this still?

I'd say that, even if he isn't exactly suicidal in the most literal sense of word, he's very self-destructive it seems to me like he wishes for death.

As his writing in 3.13.4 had pointed out, it was because he was tired of it all, to put it crudely. He was tired of, as I see it, living in the Hill/being in Sotoba while he knew he wouldn't be accepted. He was tired of asking why and why he couldn't be accepted while living there only as a shadow, so he cut all his ties to it, dooming himself to a life of an exile, endlessly traversing through the wasteland as an outcast (dooming himself to a life of a complete despair), which is way, way more torturous than living as a shadow in the Hill/Sotoba but preferable because this is the end of his struggles and endless questions -- yes, this complete despair is.

3.13.4 also stated that it would mean complete abandonment of his own self and identity, everything that made him him. Because what made him him is also himself as an heir to the mountain temple, and cutting away that part of him would also mean cutting away other parts of himself, too, because when one lost any means of connecting with the world it would also mean losing oneself. He was the one who killed, and he was also the one being killed.

Thus, that was death.





Sidenotes: I think Seishin's intense mind-blocking was broken by his transformation into a Jinrou. When he was still a human, it would still be fairly easy to think he's still part of the village. Would still be easy to deny that no, the village doesn't accept him, because he's still one of their kind. Would still be easy to avoid facing reality. But when he transformed into something else and lost his identity as a human? It's as if his cutting ties was finally sealed for real, and thus he's forfeited his claim to the human world/Sotoba, because he's now a monster.

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