Studio: Artland Inc.
Director: Hiroshi Nagahama
I’m surprised how many votes Mushishi has gotten in the poll for next semester’s anime! It really is an interesting show and I’m glad so many people in the club know about it already. I watched Mushishi a long time ago as a kid and thought about reviewing it now to give it the credit it deserves.
The story takes place in 19th century Japan and is centered on a traveling man named Ginko who serves the profession of a mushi master (mushi-shi in Japanese), one who observes mushi and aids people who are experiencing problems with them. Mushi are primitive, unicellular-like organisms that take on a variety of shapes and abilities. They are abundant in all places, yet unobservable by all, with the exception of the mushi masters. They cause supernatural phenomena such as strange diseases, illusions, and the granting of unnatural—and oftentimes undesirable—abilities to people.
The only major recurring character is Ginko. In addition, there is no overarching plot: each episode is a fully contained story, usually dealing with a single type of mushi, its interactions with people, and Ginko’s experiences with attempting to reconcile human and mushi needs. The show is very mellow and philosophical in tone. It is best described as a food-for-thought anime, focusing on simple plots that have deep and thoughtful meanings and implications.
INTERPRETATIONS AND OPINIONS
Mushishi is about what we can’t observe and how it affects us. It directs its attention to broad themes such as the extent of human perception of the natural world and the inherent danger and beauty of nature. It is very pure in its stylistic approach, containing simple characters, settings, and music that are often derived from or inspired by 19th century Japanese culture and lifestyle. Its focus on themes and the structure of its episodes creates an interesting philosophical undertone to the show, in which each episode is like a parable, providing a lesson for the viewer to consider. For that reason, Mushishi is a very thought-provoking show, truly the first of such animes I had ever encountered as a kid. For example, in one episode, there is a mushi that is carried by the sound of one’s voice that causes rust-like rashes to appear on objects, so that the girl afflicted with the mushi will no longer speak out of fear and embarrassment. Another episode features a plant-like mushi that grows to mimic the appearance and function of human beings, which serves as the child of two elderly parents who are unknown of their son’s true nature. But the mushi aren’t the only creatures in the show that deserve attention. Ginko himself is a man shrouded in obscurity: he speaks few words and bears a mysterious past, yet is a knowledgeable, assuring, and venerable person, seeking only to help others that suffer and to study the mushi; these qualities make him a highly intriguing character. In all, Mushishi is an excellent show with a lot of creative thought and effort behind it that conveys a unique and intellectually stimulating experience.
I would recommend this show to anyone, really. Mushishi is a very enriching anime that provides a break from the stresses of life to consider some interesting connections between humans and nature. Because of its structure, the episodes do not have to be watched all at once or in sequential order. Actually, I would encourage you not to watch multiple episodes at a time without reflecting on each one a bit, to consider their deeper implications.
Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.