“The glow from the light in a house during the winter is a welcome sight to creatures, beasts, mushi and humans alike.”
Mushi are spiritual life forms that are neither plants nor animals nor microorganisms and are invisible to most humans. They have no specific reason for their existence and very little data is available on them. Although they are mostly passive, certain mushi are dangerous to humans. Mushishi (or mushi master, however you’d like to call it) are experts on mushi who travel across the country researching these mysterious creatures.
Before I go into the story, let me start off by saying that the concept of mushi and their existence is brilliant. The mushi world the characters live in is spellbinding and you feel yourself being drawn into their mysterious and beautiful world. To make the viewer believe in the existence of supernatural creatures to this extent is a feat that only Pokemon has managed to achieve.
The story of Mushishi is very simple – Every episode, Ginko goes to a new village, where he sees *a person who is suffering from an illness caused by a mushi and decides to help the victim. Although all 26 episodes of this show follow the same format, it never gets boring or tiresome at any point as each episode deals with a new kind of mushi, which are intriguing to say the least. While some mushi just cause mild deafness, some mushi rip the soul out of the victim’s body. And it is up to Ginko to restore them back to normal. Although the storyline is deceptively simple, the treatment of the theme makes it gripping. Watching a doctor trying to find a cure for an unknown disease has never been this entertaining. While some cases are slow paced and have a detective-like feel to them, some are action-packed and exciting. As the series progresses, the problems get more complex and the atmosphere becomes darker. But I’ll get to that later. The way normal human sickness symptoms are linked with mushi is really well thought out.
Mushishi is an episodic anime that consists of a set of short stories and can be watched in any random order and it would all still make sense. Each of the stories is derived from Japanese folk tales and therefore has a significant amount of detail attached to them. The plot twists and turns unpredictably and there is never a dull or predictable moment in any of the 26 episodes. Just when you think you figured out what was going on, a revelation is made out of the blue and this shatters the crux of your speculations.
The animation is stunning to say the least. Mushishi features some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. The forests and mountains are done artfully and create picturesque sceneries of rural and sub-urban Japan. The animation quality improves greatly as the show progresses. The characters look very realistic, a bit bland though. The village folk fit perfectly and they all look just how they should be. The mushi look very cool and have a spiritual aura and an unearthly feel to them. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful the art is.
The music takes you on an absorbing journey throughout, the oriental instrumentals adding to the charm – another success story by Toshio Masuda. Every single track is soulful, absorbing and soothing. Every episode has a different ED. And each of them is done well. The OP is an English song called “The Sore Feet Song” and is a charming piece, with a breezy acoustic guitar strumming in the background to the pleasant vocals of Ally Kerr. The background score does a wonderful job in setting the mood.
One other thing the audio department can be really proud of is the sound effects. The wings fluttering, snow crunching, crickets chirping, leaves rustling, waves crashing and every minute sound is done to perfection. Hell, it is so detailed that you can hear the change the voice in the characters when they are talking outside and when they are talking inside an empty room, where it echoes. The voice acting is subtle and not overdone anywhere. I would recommend both the dub and the sub as they are both excellent.
The characters in each episode are completely different, with the sole exception of Ginko. Since the characters are all villagers, they are depicted as simple illiterate farmers. In each village, there are a new set of characters, each with their own voice actors. The cast list is nearly endless because of this. Ginko’s doctor friend appears in a couple of episodes and the voice of Nui can be heard during the opening and closing narrations.
Ginko is a very simple character. He is a very friendly and likeable person. Although not hesitant to put his life on the line for saving a patient, he is a very calm and composed (sometimes laidback) guy who has a certain teacher/professor air about him, probably because all mushi masters are basically scientists. The show does go into his past, but rarely.
Almost episodes/arcs have a bittersweet ending, which is never loose-ended in any way. Each episode also has a satirical message, which is pretty deep and goes unnoticed unless you completely grasp the situation the characters are in. Once you manage to understand the underlying meaning of the episodes, you will find yourself marveling at the creativity and subtlety with which it was handled. The quality of the episodes remains consistent till the end.
The feel of the show is outstanding. Since the events that take place affect only rural and middle-class Japanese, the viewer gets a wonderful insight into real Japanese culture and tradition. It even focuses on certain delicate topics such as forced arrange marriage and social exclusion. You feel yourself drifting along these tiny villages and getting a taste of their lives. While the series starts out as Ginko dealing with minor illnesses, you see him handling extremely dangerous ones in the later episodes. The already atmospheric show becomes darker and at times you feel yourself being engulfed by the power of the mushi.
The ending of the series is not climatic in the least, but then again, you don’t watch Tom & Jerry hoping to find out whether Tom really catches Jerry do you? That being said, the episodic and slow paced nature of the show might not appeal to everyone. This is not for those who expect a trite thriller that gets your adrenaline pumping while moving towards a catastrophic culmination or a fairy tale slowly travelling towards the much awaited poetic justice. It is a journey in which you are a fellow traveler along with the mushi, mushishi and the villagers. Your experiences may not be spectacular but may linger and leave a long lasting image in your mind. If you liked Kino’s Journey, Natsume Yuujinchou or Haibane Renmei, then you can’t go wrong with this show.
[ THE WRAP-UP ]
Mushishi is one of the most unique anime out there. With an exceptionally original concept and a definitive atmosphere to it, this one is a real show-stopper. Having only one character appearing consistently in every episode, things never get repetitive. The show follows the definition of the word ‘episodic’ to the T and maintains the quality of the episodes throughout. The animation is superb and features some of the best artwork I have ever seen. The soundtrack is filled with oriental tracks that is soul stirring and the sound effects deserve special credit. It does a wonderful job in setting the mood. The OP and the EDs are fantastic as well. Once again, the formula of ‘realistic approach to a supernatural concept’ is applied and fits like a glove. Each episode is the kind of short story that you want to curl up with during a rainy afternoon or a lazy Sunday. Overall, Mushishi is the kind of anime that I would pick up after a couple of years and fall in love with it all over again. There really is no reason that this anime deserves anything less than a 10.
~As always, feedback of any form is appreciated. Thanks you for your time ^^ ! ~