I remained as spellbound during the third disc of Mushi-shi as I did for the firsttwo. Isn’t it around this point in the lifecycle (as it were) of mostany anime series that things begin to drop off? Not here. This show isinexhaustibly fascinating.
In my earlier reviews for thisseries, I mentioned how this is a story about an ecosystem—about thecycle of life and death within a world. The closest thing we have to aprotagonist in the show, the wandering and taciturn mushi-masternamed Ginko, has been quite deliberately kept at arm’s length from us.The show wasn’t really about his personality, but about the world hewalked through and did his best to understand and help people copewith.
xfuni=59Or so it seemed, anyway. With the third disc Mushi-shi delvesa little more deeply into Ginko himself—how he came to be like this,and why he makes the decisions he does. The second episode on the disc(#12 total) deals with explicitly Ginko’s origins. His name was onceYoki, and his family was killed in a landslide which he barelysurvived. A woman named Nui, herself a mushi-shi, takes Ginko in(however tentatively) and educates him about the mushi in the forestaround them—especially the mushi that dwell in the pond and cause thefish there to only have one eye. Yoki himself has seen mushi on andoff, never quite certain if they were real or simply his imagination,but what he sees in that place he soon finds impossible to ignore—andthe more he learns about why Nui is in that particular forest (and nearthat particular pond), the more he is compelled to dig until all ofNui’s secrets are revealed.
That revelation marks him for life,and by the end of the episode we now have some inkling about why Ginkowanders as well. It’s not just that mushi follow him and make troublefor others, but for him to put down roots means to develop attachmentsto that many more things that can be lost. (Moreover, from that pointon in the show, every time we look at Ginko we wonder if his cigarettesand low-hanging white forelocks are meant to be a kind of homage to hismentor.)
The third volume of Mushi-shi gives us the first in-depth hints so far into Ginko's past, and also into what makes him truly tick.
Theother episodes are no less wonderful, even if they are entirely in themold of the show as we came to know and love it to begin with. “TheSleeping Mountain” places Ginko near a mountain where another mushi-shiis reputed to be living but has recently gone missing. Ginko is able touse the mushi themselves as a kind of extension of his nervous systemto find him, but the man he finds has deeply questionable plans for themushi aggregate that entwines the whole of the mountain. He wants tocontrol what he finds there (even if his intentions are good), butGinko knows all too well something as primal as the mushi can only betapped into, not employed so selfishly. The way this episode comes fullcircle—especially through the opening and closing shots—underscoressomething else I love about the show as a whole: how it finds beauty ineverything it sees.
“One-Night Bridge” involves a girl who fellfrom a chasm-spanning rope bridge years ago and somehow survived, butis now strangely soulless and distant. Ginko correctly guesses the girlhas been infected by a mushi—a rope-like mushi that, notcoincidentally, also creates a bridge that spans the chasm one nightevery several years. The girl was planning to run away with a young manand lead what she believed to be a happier life with him, and the youngman has felt increasingly guilty about what he engendered. What hecannot accept, however, is that the girl he loved simply does not existanymore, and that he has been laboring under a dangerous delusion.
In“Inside the Cage,” Ginko finds himself trapped in a strange forest thatseems to lead those who venture in there around in circles. It’s amushi-trap, and what’s more Ginko finds a man and his wife and childwho have become ensnared. Worse, it falls to Ginko to explain to theman that his child is the result of an unnatural union between his wifeand a mushi in the form of a bamboo tree.
The more I watch this show, the more I realize just how timid anduncreative many anime are—how they’re willing to settle for violenceand phony spectacle instead of showing us something really new and original. Mushi-shi shows us something new and original, not just once but again and again, and I cannot say that for any other show now running.