Describing Mushishi to those who have not experienced it is almost completely impossible... and yet, here I am, furiously pounding away, struggling to say something even remotely coherent about this wonderful work.
What makes the show so difficult to write about? Well, for one thing, Mushishi is completely different from anything else that I've seen, anime or otherwise. Everything about the show, from its leisurely pace to its beautiful animation, seems to be on a separate wavelength from just about anything else out there.
The closest comparison I've heard is to Kino's Journey. Indeed, the two series' protagonists, at least, are very similar. Both are travelers. Both are detached, unbiased, and unprejudiced. Both seem content to observe their world rather than preach to it.
...and yet, the focus of the two shows is completely different. Kino's Journey focused almost exclusively on human nature. Mushishi, on the other hand, seems more intent on the very nature of life itself. Each episode is nothing more than a window into a particular aspect of existence - the miracle of birth, the melancholy of death, and every tiny detail in between.
How do humans fit into this? Well, they don't. In Kino's Journey, the people at least had control over their environment, if not themselves. In Mushishi, they are nothing more than driftwood in a raging river - nigh helpless amidst a torrent of something much larger than themselves. Despite this, they desperately cling to whatever notion of happiness they can find, to whatever life they can live. They struggle to rationalize and understand, to hurt others and be hurt, to love others and be loved. Mankind's beautiful struggle with the very forces that created it is really the heart of what Mushishi is all about.
These "forces" are embodied as mushi, and drive the show. There is not a lot of explanation as to what mushi are; all the anime says is that they exist apart from regular life. However, this is the correct approach to take; defining these almost spiritual beings in a way that the audience could readily understand would be at odds with what the show was trying to do.
A few months ago, I wrote a fairly negative review of Jigoku Shoujo where my main complaint was that the storyline was too repetitive. Ironically, Mushishi is arguably just as episodic; there are only a handful of recurring characters, and absolutely zero plot carries over from episode to episode. In each episode, Ginko, the main character, travels to a new place, comes upon something strange, and then finds a way to use mushi to explain the situation. However, rather than becoming tedious, the approach works due to the elegant simplicity and fantastic writing of each of the stories. The stories are less intellectual than Kino's Journey, but far more spiritually fulfilling.
Of course, the story isn't the only fantastic aspect of Mushishi. The animation, for one, is also a winner. For the most part, the visuals are fairly simple; aside from Ginko, the character designs are nice, but fairly forgettable. Moreover, the backgrounds are seldom spectacular - just trees, fog and the occasional village. This "regular" animation, however, serves to magnify the absolutely extraordinary look of the mushi. The anime would fail, I think, if the mushi did not look strange, mysterious and alien. Fortunately, by placing them next to a fairly normal environment, the anime pulls this off wonderfully.
The sound is perhaps even more impressive. I don't know if a lot of people are going to appreciate it, but Mushishi has the best soundtrack I've heard all year. The understated, Zen-like music works amazingly well with the anime's themes of life, death and rebirth. Additionally, the director implements the soundtrack wonderfully; rather than allow the music to interfere with the dialog (.hack//sign, anyone?), he chooses to use most of the music as a lead-in to the credits at the end of each episode. By doing this, the impression that the story has made is cemented into the viewer's mind. After an episode had concluded, I watched through the credits almost every time, doing nothing but contemplating the story and listening to the music.
The characters, with the exception of Ginko, are never developed too much. After all, there's only so much time to characterize in this kind of story structure. Still, I found myself caring for them anyway. The few details that we are given do a very good job of filling in the holes that the anime does not get around to telling us. Moreover, the characters actions in the show often speak louder than any amount of back-story could. On the other hand, the series does manage to fit in a compelling past for Ginko. As a whole, he's a likable protagonist and a strong anchor to the show.
Overall, I'll be both surprised and delighted if I see a show better than Mushishi this year. Not only is it the sleeper hit of the season, it's an instant classic that will be cherished for years to come.
In a different world, where forests dominate the landscape Ginko a wandering Mushishi travels place to place either seeking out where his services are of use, or being called on by individuals inhabiting scattered villages. Mushishi are masters over the mushi which are the most basic of life, also affecting the world profoundly though only noticed by a select few. The beautiful feel of the setting, attitude of the characters, and often the music all combines to create a great atmosphere with a strong theme of natures power and importance.
However despite all the great, and amazing things about Mushishi, it crumbles at the mention of an actual story. It is episodic, not even in the way that Ghost in the shell had ugly fillers dotted around it, or the way cowboy bebop was 85% filler, but rather all 26 episodes are completely standalone. The main character Ginko is in every episode, and there is one other character who is present in a whopping two episodes but other than that no episode has anything to do with another. Meaning even the last episode ends like the others(as in, he wanders off elsewhere) which could be said to be intentional to show his journey never ends, but if so it's not terribly impactful. Now personally I never view self contained episodes as a good thing, but I would never brand an anime bad simply on that merit. Despite the fact the episode quality doesn't dip low at any particular point the series becomes very redundant.
For example at one point one episode is about someone who's eyesight is failing which wasn't fantastic but wouldn't have been so bad if the following episode wasn't about another child who's hearing had vanished. Furthermore you essentially know the outcome of every episode before it begins. Ginko arrives at a new location and observes something strange, or alternatively, something strange happens and then Ginko arrives. Ginko promptly discovers how to solve the issue and does so, often ending on a melancholy note. Some could like this relaxed redundancy but it really doesn't do much, and though there are a few very beautiful messages, sometimes can go episodes without a good moment.
In it's defense Mushishi never tries to be more than it is, or really tries much at all. It is simply a peek at a beautiful and different world, that is done in all the wrong ways.
The animation of Mushishi is top knotch. The kind of animation I would love to see in a better series. It depicts a world where nature exists over humans, and they are a small, scattered part of it that comes and goes without nature noticing. It is implied the world is undergoing some corruption at humanities hands, and really shows there could be many mysteries in the land. Character animation is not bad, but not the series strong point. Mushi are basic but them and other magical aspects are handled very nicely as well.
Voice acting aside(which is basic but varied) Mushishi is awesome in this department. From the very suitable opening song which really sets the chilled out mood, to the various sounds of nature the audio really sets the mood alongside the great animation. The variety of voice actors is good too, considering we meet many characters during Ginko's journey.
In a word, unimportant. All the kids could be another kid, any adult could be another adult. Really Ginko is the only memorable character, being slightly funny and appearing different, and even he doesn't come close to measuring up to mostly any main character. As I mentioned before only one character is ever in more than one episode, and even then they are only in two, leaving no room for character development(as Ginko is hardly a main character, but rather a means to move things along so he never develops). It's a shame, a more hearty cast could have done wonders for this series, but instead it subsists off of it's animation and feel, as there is literally nothing but the few redeeming qualities about Ginko giving this category any points.
Mushishi is the most dissapointing anime ever, no that does not mean the worst, it simply means it had such unrealized potential. The world it takes place in is really quite interesting, and could have well been the gronds for a fantastic, even if refined and relaxed, story to unfold, but rather it succumbed to redundancy. Yes you should watch Mushishi, any one episode of it, and you will have essentially seen them all. At the end of the day, many people defend Mushishi by saying it's not about Ginko, or the Mushi(which are often turn offs to viewers), but rather it is about the people in the world. Well I find that's hardly the truth because more often than not the only thing that defines them are the Mushi that ail them. It's really about the world and nature, which doesn't need the 26 episodes of self contained episodes to be enjoyed.
Amazing anime for the soul, the atmosphere is amazing and there are a lot of meaningfull storys within each episode.
The anime is very unique, offering both wisdom and life lessons to the viewers, our main character Ginko, is the only real person with a backstory and development which is very deep and tragic.
This anime may not be for everyone due to it's slow pace and lack of action, but for anyone who wants an anime which actually means somthing espeically if you are tired, exhausted or want somthing to relax to, then it's an amazing treat.
Give it a try, it could be your favourite anime, but you'll never know otherwise.
Mushishi is a very unique and beautiful series that requires the viewer to give to the series itself to fully appreciate it. Lacking intense action, fanservice or a massive cast of characters Mushishi takes a rather more slower paced approach to its story centering around Ginko, a Mushishi or Mushi Master who wanders from place to place researching Mushi, life that is neither plant or animal and is the purest form of life.
Mushishi is an episodic series with only Ginko and Mushi reoccuring in each episode. Most episodes are extremely melancholic stories of humans interactions with Mushi and their subsequent issues that ensue. Like humanity, Mushi will do anything to survive which makes the complication for every episode. Ginko who is a Mushi master solves the problems between Mushi and Humanity through his knowledge of Mushi.
The animation for Mushishi is very beautiful, especially the establishing shots of scenery. Due to its lack of fast paced action, Mushishi doesn't require fast animation, allowing animation that's very pleasing to stare at for a brief amount of time. One of the biggest criticisms I would have though is the similarities of animation with facial design. Most people in Mushishi appear the same which can lose the lasting impact that each episode has on the viewer.
The soundtrack to Mushishi is quite good, highlighting to the tone of the show very well. The opening song is very good as well but is too positive and upbeat for the melanholic vibe of the show itself.
With the style that Mushishi has, the only character that is recurring is Ginko with everyone else only appearing once or twice. Thankfully, Ginko is a character with enough depth and personality to support the show itself with his interactions with other once-appearing characters.
Mushishi is an excellent show that discusses human society within the environment and the human condition. Ultimately, Mushishi is a series that will impact deeply on viewers that stop and think about each and every episode. Marathoning Mushishi is a bad idea and will likely lose most of its meaning behind each episode and should be watched overtime.
People that I would recommend this anime for:
People that i would not recommend this anime for:
Mushishi has the all-too-rare feature of a *likable* protagonist - clever, reasonable, and well intentioned - as opposed to the blind, grating perseverance that most cheesy leads display. That alone is enough to make a show fun and watchable, but combine that with a cohesive and fairly unique aesthetic, a few motifs that they don't beat us over the head with, good animation and, gasp, good writing, mushishi is elevated to the highest ranks of quality in my estimation.
If you like Mushishi, try house of five leaves. It's a bit slow, but like mushishi does no more and no less than what it intends.