How tempting it is to tell people to skip my review of Mushi-shi Vol. 4and just urge them to go buy it. If you want to see the most thoughtfuland beautiful anime out on the market right now, this is it. You won’tsee things crashing into each other or a hero wielding a weapon ofincredible strength, because that’s not what this series is about. Youwill, however, see more real wonder and mystery than you’ll find in anyten other shows.
I mentioned that in Volume 3we saw a number of things that clued us in a little more as to thenature of Ginko’s own history, and how he came to be a mushi-master. Volume 4expands the scope of the story, too, but in a slightly differentdirection: instead of seeing the mushi as a problem to be solved,there’s more of a sense that sometimes there is no “solution.”Sometimes the problem is one of human expectations and need; sometimesthe mushi are just catalysts for calamities that cannot be undone butsimply have to be accepted as they are. In fact, the only really“conventional” episode for this volume is the first one, where a girlworries about the possible consequences when her brother manifests theability to see mushi—mushi that can disrupt the very flow of theseasons. xfuni=59The whole notion that sometimes there’s just nothing to be done about things (shikata ga nai,a common sentiment in Japanese life) comes to the fore most painfullyin episode 16, where a young man discovers his mother’s become a hostfor a mushi that eats her memories. This episode works as an allegoryfor the ravages of Alzheimer’s, an illness that destroys the psychewhere others only ravage the body. Ginko knows what’s wrong, but alsoknows that there is no practical solution: the only thing to do mightbe to just take each day as it comes, and put away any expectations fora cure.
Ginko's worried that a boy's ability to see mushi may disrupt more than just his own life.
The same goes for episode 17, where a young woman loses her twinsister to a mushi and has lived in the years ever since tortured by theforlorn hope that someone, somehow, might be able to find her. Thisepisode shows, quite cleverly, how the mushi can be used as a way tosend messages across great distances—but as always, to use mushientails great risk. And once again Ginko is put in the unenviableposition of having to tell someone that there is no hope, that the onlything to do is to put aside the past and soldier on.
The last episode plays like a classic Asian fable, in which ayoung artist strives to achieve something only to find that everythinghe was laboring for has already been destroyed. There’s no immediateconnection to the world of mushi at first, but then it’s revealed in awraparound story involving Ginko and the artist’s jacket. The ultimateexplanation is somewhat arch but still fascinating, and fits well withthe overall logic of the series where the explanation for somethingalso has the moral of the story wrapped around it.
Mushi-shi is going to rank as one of the best newreleases of 2007. I was sure of that from the beginning, and now I’mfour times as sure. I’ve known people who resisted shows like thisbecause they were “boring”—because they’d been so conditioned by othershows where something must smack you in the face every tenseconds, where things have to blow up or catch fire for there to“something happening.” That to me is like going out into a meadow infull flower and complaining that there’s nothing to see.