There are few anime that I recommend that everyone should watch. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.
Built deeply in mythology and philosophy, the story follows a Mushi Master by the name of Ginko who travels around investigating and helping those who are affected by Mushi, which are described as the “purest form of life”.
The difference between Mushi-shi and many other animes of this day is it’s incredible storytelling. The series is episodic, with only a few characters other than Ginko appearing throughout the series, and each episode takes on a different form of Mushi. The Mushi are beings that co-exist with humans, but many times they cause harm and sometimes destruction for those affected by it. But as Ginko points out, they are simply trying to live like we are, who are we to harm them?
And this leads to the central theme of Mushi-shi; What is life and what is our place in it? Throughout the 26 episode first season, we are brought to so many different regions, villages, and climates, wondering what we will encounter next. And isn’t life just like that? No matter what point of life we are at, there are always hardships that we must face, pasts we must move on from, and people that we will be affected by. Are we driven by some all mighty presence, or are we simply just moving along with it?
That’s another thing about the series, in its drive to get us to reflect upon the theme of each episode, the mood changes from episode to episode. Episodes such as “The Pillow Pathway” are incredibly grim with a story that revolves around a man whose dreams come true and how he eventually ends up handling the Mushi that affect him, but there are other episodes such as “Inside the Cage” which ends on a slightly more positive note, as the story of a man and his wife and child who cannot leave their forest home is resolved. Overall though, the series holds a very heavy feeling when you watch it, since it’s not meant to just be viewed and then quickly moved on from. You are required to think, required to examine the role of the Mushi and the reaction that many people have from it.
Mushi-shi deals with real life problems in a very surreal and mystical way. Watching through Mushi-shi the first time, I was struck with how much I wanted to discuss each episode after I watched one. Sitting there with my boyfriend, we found ourselves diving into incredibly personal topics; how one responds to loss, death, or how change can be one of the most terrifying things you go through. The Mushi enter the lives of many people, and when they leave many claim to have a sense of emptiness, and everyone can relate to that one sentiment. When you have something that impacts you in such a strong and powerful way, parting can be the most difficult thing you do. Seeing how the people react to the exit of the Mushi from their lives with either despair or hope and move on from their essentially destroyed life leads one to reflect upon how they themselves would deal with such a strong loss. Do we move on and try to pick up the pieces, or do we return to the thing that is familiar and comforting, terrified of what life is without it?
Along with the beautiful stories that Mushi-shi provides, the animation is absolutely stunning. Bathed in earth tones, the series ties itself in the nature and humanity of the people it follows and the places that they live in. The series weaves the lives of the Mushi and humans together beautifully, and when the Mushi appear in the episode their designs are absolutely gorgeous; terrifying and foreboding, but gorgeous and tied with human anatomy and nature with incredible ease. Season 2 is currently airing and the feel is still the same from the first season. While the first series came out almost 10 years ago, the animation style is faithful to the original, and the story telling hasn’t suffered in any way. Watching the first four episodes of this season I was instantly reminded of why I love this series so much, especially in “The Warbling Sea Shell,” where I felt my heart drop in my chest at the end scene. The animation and the response of the family affected by Mushi was beautiful, and I cannot wait for the series to continue.
Mushi-shi is a series that everyone can relate to. If you are looking for action or comedy you won’t find it here, but the series is so important that I have to compel you to view it. Never have I found a series (over all mediums) that approaches the difficulties of life in such a profound and impactful way. People from all walks of life can relate to this series, and it’s a series that you can stop watching for awhile, come back to, and haven’t missed or forgotten a thing.
I highly recommend watching this, and finding someone you can discuss it with. Mushi-shi is a series that sucks you in and forces you to look at yourself and your values, and we need more shows like that. We need to be challenged on our preconceived ideas of right or wrong.
Season Two, titled Mushishi Zoku Shou, can be found currently streaming on Crunchyroll, while season 1 is available on both Funimation and Hulu as the original or dubbed version.