Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mushi-Shi Anime Review

Complete Collection - 4 discs
625 mins. - 26 episodes
$69.98 (2008)
$49.98 (2009) Viridian
$39.98 (2010)
$29.98 (2011) S.A.V.E.
ISBN 704400051104
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Hiroshi Nagahama
Studio - Artland

Synopsis: All around us exist simple creatures called Mushi, they are in touch with the basic essence of life and are all but invisible to the naked eye.  Only people with special sensitivity to the lifestream can see them.  The Mushi come in an almost infinite variety and often have spectacular attributes which normal people would consider supernatural.  Sometimes Mushi can cause problems for humans depending on the nature of the Mushi, especially if the Mushi have a certain attribute which is adverse to humans and are in a location where they can breed [uncontrollably].  The Mushi are not consciously trying to harm people, but just following their natures (similar to insects, animals, or plants).
Ginko with Mushi scrolls and the tools of his trade
Mushi masters (called Mushi-shi) are professional tradespeople who help deal with problems arising from Mushi and also sell artifacts/remedies derived from them.  Ginko is a traveling Mushi master who spends his time investigating and treating occurrences of Mushi.  He is one of the best masters and has seen many different types of Mushi over the course of his life.  Being a Mushi master is very dangerous due to the many different types of Mushi and their strange abilities.
A young boy can see Mushi around his house
The bizarre phenomena Mushi create range from the mundane to the astonishing.  Cases Ginko investigates include a boy whose drawings come to life, a girl who cannot bear sunlight due to the Mushi living in her eyes, a man who dreams the future (but is helpless to stop it), a living swamp which moves from place to place, a village with unusually good harvests coming at the price of a villager's life, a man trapped in a bamboo forest with his family, a girl who disappeared into the sky, a family with strange children who are turning green, and the list goes on.
"Hey! Don't touch those Mushi! They're dangerous!"
Ginko himself is an odd person.  He has preternaturally white hair and a green eye due to contact with an especially dangerous Mushi.  The Mushi are drawn to him and if he stays in one place for too long they gather to potentially cause trouble.  He must constantly travel.  Throughout his adventures, Ginko treats the Mushi with respect and understanding toward their fantastic nature.
Ginko sits next to the lifestream
Pros: Great animation quality - opening sequence is particularly artful, elegantly-paced compared to other hyper-active action-based shows, soothing quality to the stories, Ginko's character and visual design is really cool, fun opening theme song (it's in English which is somewhat uncommon), slightly creepy stories and background music, Mushi are a cool idea
Mushi-Shi is filled with beautiful landscapes and scenes of nature
Cons: Episodic - no actual story conclusion, very slow-paced and languid at times, not a lot of explanations for different happenings - the annual Mushi meeting or Ginko's style of dress
"Hey! Don't swallow that Mushi! It's dangerous!"
Mike Tells It Straight: Mushi-Shi is a very soothing and mellow piece of work.  It's highly atmospheric and just the slightest bit creepy.  I found it to be entertaining and very relaxing - a good contrast to many in-your-face, action-oriented, or highly plot-driven series (I would say the direct opposite of Mushi-Shi would be Blassreiter with its confusing plot, complicated characters designs, and even-more-complicated CG enhanced fights scenes). 
Ginko encounters a town where everything is rusting,
including the people
Everything in this show was well put together and planned - from Ginko's slightly modern/outlandish (for the era) clothing, the pacing of the stories, and giving the bare minimum of explanations to keep it mysterious.  It worked to create an interesting landscape of unknown happenings related to weird creatures called Mushi.  We get snippets of Ginko's origin and plenty of room for a sequel.
The infamous "Mushi eyes" episode. Brrrrr!
While I enjoyed the series as a standalone break from the ever-churning sea of information we currently live in, many people may not share the same outlook.  Mushi-Shi is nothing if not slow-paced and episodic.  It's a bit boring if you're trying to finish the series quickly and kind of forces you to watch at its pre-designated pace.  Quite charming if you're into this sort of pacing, but agonizing if you want a faster-paced show with a definitive ending to the series.
Ginko loves telling stories about Mushi
Mushi-Shi was very well-received, winning awards in 2006 from the Tokyo Anime Awards and Tokyo International Anime Fair.  A live-action film was produced and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo (famed creator/director of Akira).  I give this series high marks for creativity and hope it gets a sequel in the near future.  Check it out if you want a nice change of pace.

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