“The world is filled with life unknown to man.” Sorry, I apologize for starting this off with a possible existential crisis, but Mushishi is all about learning about the world around us; the seen and the unseen. In Mushishi, simple ailments that could easily be described as a cold or allergy could actually be a mushi inhabiting your body and causing the symptoms. Don’t be mad at the usually invisible creatures though, they’re just as us; they’re here to survive and live alongside us. They’re rarely out to hurt anyone; they’re just doing what they must to exist. Luckily Mushishi (mushi masters) exist, and Mushishi is focused on one particular Mushishi: Ginko. This white-haired wanderer is one of the strongest characters you’ve likely never thought to give a shot. Don’t let his presence or looks fool you, he could save your life with his infinite knowledge of mushi.
Mushi can come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re often hidden to the naked eye, most people will never see them. But they affect the world in ways you could never imagine, and it’s Ginko’s job to traverse the world and solve any issues and problems caused by them. Again, they’re not bad, but occasionally they can create more than inhospitable conditions for villagers and people and must be found to restore balance. This is where the beauty of Mushishi shines, in its storytelling. Every episode is a standalone story focused on a specific mushi and specific interaction with Ginko. You learn about the world, the mushi, and Ginko, all in 21 minutes. While I typically stray away from shows with no over-arching plot, I was hooked on Mushishi after just one episode. I quickly consumed as much of Ginko’s journey as I could, and although not every tale is as memorable as the last, each one is unique enough for everyone. You may like one episode better than another person, and that person may like another episode better than you. Mushishi just has that ability to pull you in and touch people in that way.
If I had to share my favorite three episodes of the series they would be as follows: Episode 2 “The Light of the Eyelid”, Episode 9 “The Heavy Seed”, and finally (the prologue episode) number 12 “One-Eyed Fish”. All three are perfect for not only how they can tell a moving tale in a scant 21 minutes, but are almost essential episodes to watch to really understand the world of Mushishi. Episode 2 focuses on a young girl’s blindness struggles after being infected via a mushi, but rather than become downtrodden and complacent, she manages to survive and still live a full life. Her determination at such a young age despite everything that’s happened to her is so damned commendable, and heartbreaking.
“The Heavy Seed” is probably my favorite of the series entirely, mainly due to its relatively mature subject matter. In a village with a surprisingly strong harvest while surrounding villages struggle, Ginko thinks something’s odd, and it gets more odd as his learns more about the village’s history. Not to spoil the plot too much, but essentially it asks the old adage: do you hurt one to save many? What’s one’s life to a hundred, or a thousand? It’s pretty chilling stuff! The last on the list “One-Eyed Fish” is the foreword, Ginko’s backstory. While that may seem like a spoiler when you first start watching the episode, if you’ve been watching the series carefully up to this point, you’ll see the ‘twist’ coming. Ginko’s childhood wasn’t tragic, nor was it regular, but in this episode specifically, we see how Ginko’s hair becomes white, and why he strives to be a mushishi.
They’re three stellar episodes in an already terrific series. But what good is an anime if the soundtrack and voice acting isn’t any good? Well, worry not my friends as Mushishi stands robust on both fronts. Yes, even the English dubbing is bearable! In fact, with shows with heavy dialogue, I prefer English dubbing, because a lot of the times I find myself focusing too much on reading subs that I miss the visuals of the series. And Mushishi is a visual wonderland at times, so just relax and take in the sights and sounds found within. Of course, the ever amazing Toshio Masuda (Naruto, Excel Saga) was behind the composition of Mushishi’s OST, and it’s amazing how he’s made such a subtle show shine through his music. There’s never a wasted note, and it’s so politely used and inserted that it’s all perfect. The acting and music are some of the most necessarily-restrained jobs done, that it’s hard to not talk about how well done they are.
Mushshi is nearing its second season’s premiere here very soon in April, but in the meantime you have a live-action film, a brand new OVA (Tokubetsu-hen: Hihamukage), and a manga series to engage yourself in if you need more. There’s so much to Mushishi’s world that I can’t wait to take it all in, but it’s not a series you needn’t rush through or take in as fast as possible. It’s a slow-paced series, and can be handled at a reduced pace, but it can be hard. I found myself saying ‘just one more episode, just one more episode’ and then I’d watch 3 hours in one sitting. It’s that inviting, it’s that invoking, and it’s just that remarkable. You may reduce the score if you need constant action or less talking in your shows, but this is a show you watch that gets you out of your comfort zone. Mushishi is a show you should be watching, and I know I’ll be sure to do so again very soon!