Mushishi Review & Characters – Life at Its Purest Form


  • Episodes : 26
  • Genre : Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Slice of Life, Seinen, Supernatural
  • Airing Date :Oct 2005 – June 2006
  • Producers : Artland, Delphi Sound, FUNimation Entertainment, Marvelous Entertainment

Mushishi Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

"Say these four fingers are animals, and my thumb is a plant. Man is here, furthest away from the heart, at the tip of the middle finger. The lower you are on the hand, the more primitive you become. If you trace them, the veins all converge around the wrist... Up the arm, past the shoulder, and here are the Mushi, or as others call them, the Midorimono." - Ginko

Based on Yuki Urushibara's award-winning manga, Mushishi takes place in an alternate reality, where strange creatures called "mushi" exist. Like all living things, mushi try to survive in their world, and inadvertently cause trouble for humans in the process. When this happens, the titular mushishi ("mushi master") Ginko steps in.

Ginko travels from one Japanese village to another, advising people on the best way to deal with mushi. Sometimes, it's simply a matter of giving medicine to the beleaguered person. Other times, things are more complicated, because the person doesn't believe that mushi exist (not everyone can see them), or because the mushi has too tight a grip on that person's life. Occasionally, Ginko encounters a mushi unfamiliar to him, but thanks to his innate curiosity and passion for his job, he always figures them out eventually.

Who does Mushishi cater to?

Mushishi is an iyashikei anime; that is, it's meant to have a calming effect on the viewer. If you're looking for explosions, giant robots, and jaw-dropping fight scenes, there's none of that here. But if you want well-crafted stories, simple yet imaginative worldbuilding, and a gentle, empathetic view on humanity, Mushishi definitely delivers. This is also a good show to watch if you're looking for a mixture of Japanese folklore, "whodunit" plot, and well-written character studies.

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

There's a reason this is number 1 on our list of Top 10 Philosophical Anime. Mushishi has that rare ability to make you think about life, without being ham-fisted about it. Through the interactions between Ginko, the villagers, and the mushi, you gain a new perspective on love, loss, friendship, parenthood and other important topics we often take for granted.

Also, if you're looking for stunning art and gorgeous music, Mushishi doesn't disappoint either. The picturesque backgrounds will take your breath away, while the unique music for each episode's end credits will make you want to sit back, relax and reflect on life.

Watching Mushishi is like eating mochi: It's better to consume it bit by bit, rather than swallow it whole. Since every episode is self-contained, you can watch one episode per day, and still feel like you're getting a complete story every time. Hey, at least you'll enjoy the Mushishi experience for a little while longer, right?

Mushishi Main Characters List

Mushishi is unusual in that it has loads and loads of characters, but only a handful appear more than once throughout the entire series. With the exception of Tanyuu, who shows up in only one episode but is still important to the plot (more on this later), only the recurring characters are listed here.

Ginko

Voice Actor :Nakano, Yuto

Ginko is the titular mushishi, and the only character present in all 26 episodes. Unlike other mushishi, he doesn't exterminate "bugs" outright. Instead, he empathizes with the mushi and the person afflicted by the mushi, and always tries to find a way to help both survive. He's usually pretty chill on the job, except when his client tries to do something reckless (like committing suicide) or when a human turns into a mushi.

As a mushishi, Ginko has extensive knowledge of, and passion for, mushi. Also, he's a "mushi magnet", so he always smokes a special cigarette to keep them away, and never stays at any one place for long.

Adashino

Voice Actor :Ueda, Yuji

Adashino is a village doctor to whom Ginko sells items that have been, or are, touched by mushi. Adashino loves these items so much, that he occasionally gets in trouble for them. He has a sort-of best friends relationship with Ginko, and is beloved by the children of his village. He also serves as a source of comic relief, especially when he bickers with Ginko over the price and type of goods he wants to buy.

Tanyuu Karibusa

Voice Actor :Tsuzurahara, Miyu

Although she appears in only one episode, Tanyuu is vital to Ginko's job. That's because she writes a lot about mushi, so she can seal away the forbidden mushi that has blackened and crippled her right leg.

At first, she's not too fond of mushishi, since they only tell stories of mushi extermination. This changes when she meets Ginko, who has the same empathetic attitude towards mushi as she does. It's implied that they have a more-than-professional relationship, though your mileage may vary on that.


Contains Spoilers

Mushishi Review

Warning: Uber-fangirling ahead.

Seriously, though: If this show has any flaws, I'm pretty sure you can count them on one hand. Everything – from the visuals to the sound to the characterization – is just right. Although most of the cast are one-episode wonders, you can't help but root for them, because they all show different facets of what it means to be human.

On the other hand, the character design isn't much to write home about. All the men have the same basic face, and so do the women and children. But I think that's a deliberate artistic decision, since we're supposed to put ourselves in their shoes, and giving them distinct faces would take away from that. (Or maybe they just had budget issues. Just kidding!)

As for Ginko himself, he's an awesome main character in his own way. He's neither an idiot hero who needs to learn how to be strong, nor an overpowered beast who needs to learn how to be human. He's simply Ginko, a mushishi who happens to treat mushi better than his peers do, and genuinely cares about helping people.

The only gripe I have with him is that no one comments about his unusual appearance at all. Considering that everyone else looks like a typical, pre-Meiji era(?) villager, this is particularly jarring. But eh: I love him anyway.

You could argue that the stories are formulaic: Person gets afflicted with mushi, Person asks for Ginko's help, Ginko answers the call, Person may or may not get a happy ending. But they're all well-executed, and you're always kept wondering "What will Ginko do now?", so this isn't really an issue.

I also love how each episode can stand on its own. You can re-shuffle most of the middle episodes, and you can still get a good grip on the story. However, you wouldn't want to miss episodes 1, 2, 5, 12, 17, 20 and 26, since they all explain important things. Like, where did the mushi come from? How do they work? Where did Ginko come from? How does he know so much about mushi, and how does he gather requests from all over Japan?

Lastly, there's the music. Ally Kerr's "The Sore Feet Song" fits the overall mood of the anime perfectly: Mellow, if a little dark in places (I stole ten thousand pounds, ten thousand pounds to see you/I robbed convenient stores coz I thought they'd make it easier/I lived off rats and toads, and I starved for you/I fought off giant bears and I killed them too). As for the ending songs, it's hard to choose a favorite. They're all so good, darn it!

Okay, without further ado, let's get on to the highlights:

1. The Mushi

Ah, the Mushi. They're the proverbial centerpiece of this show. They're the grease to this show's wheels, the steam to the steamship, the... Well, you get the idea.

Their name roughly translates to "bug", though that's not what they are, exactly. As you can see in the picture above, they come in all shapes and sizes. Many of them are quite harmless, but others can cause illness and even death. They're not really malicious; just trying to survive.

2. The Koumyaku (a.k.a. The River of Light)

Don't let the koumyaku's appearance fool you. It's actually a group of baby mushi, flowing throughout the world and bringing life energy wherever it goes. Only those who can see mushi, and those who've opened their "second eyelid", can see the koumyaku. That's actually a good thing, considering how the koumyaku blinds whoever stares at it for too long.

3. Nui

Nui was Ginko's mentor, whose first and last appearance was in the episode "One-Eyed Fish". She saved Ginko (who was then called "Yoki"), when the latter was injured in a landslide that killed his mother. She taught him everything she knew about mushi, including the reason for her appearance: As a result of overexposure to a mushi called "Ginko", she lost one eye, her hair turned white, and her remaining eye turned green.

When she was swallowed up by another mushi called "Tokoyami", Yoki tried to save her, but ended up getting exposed to the Ginko instead. By the time he recovered, he had transformed into the character we know today, and the only name he could remember was "Ginko".


Mushishi is unlike any other series you've ever seen before. Combining all the good aspects of the slice of life, supernatural and mystery genres, it takes you into a world that's guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.

Regardless of your preference, give this one a try. It will be the best 26 episodes you've ever seen. (Or not. Hey, we all have our favorite cups of tea.)

If you liked this series, you'll be happy to know that it has a sequel called "Mushishi Zoku Shou" ("Mushishi: Next Passage"), made up of 20 episodes. You also want to check out the two specials, Hihamukage ("The Shadow That Devours the Sun") and Odoro no Michi ("Path of Thorns"). There's also a live-action movie, though the quality of that one doesn't really live up to the original, IMO

Issa M.

Writer

Author: Issa M.

Issa is a pen-wielding mercenary by day, and an anime fangirl by night. She might seem anti-social at first, but she's actually quite friendly once you get to know her. Also, she's learned to like Google+ after getting locked out of her own Twitter account for some mysterious reason, so say hello to her there!

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