External Movie Reviews: Mushi-shi Vol. #6

A show this good should not have to end.

And yet here we are at the sixth and final disc of Mushi-shi,as beautiful and original an anime as any I could ever dare to ask for,and I feel downright glum knowing there’s no more after this. There isthe manga, courtesy of Del Rey, which I’ll be getting around toreviewing before too much longer, but this series works so well asanime, is so lush and evocative, I fear reading the manga is going tofeel like a step down.

Don’t expect anything like a real climax, though. The final disc of Mushi-shidoes not bring anything to a definitive end, because this series hasnever been about definitive beginnings and endings in the first place.It’s about the flow of life itself, which doesn’t start or concludeanywhere but is simply something you dip into and out of as your timeon earth allows. I was worried the show would devolve into amanufactured conflict with some great enemy—maybe a sinistermushi-master who’s creating an army to do his bidding, etc.—butthankfully, nothing of the kind happens.


Mushi-shi hasn’t been about plot, anyway, but it has been atleast incrementally about character—specifically, Ginko, the itinerant“mushi master” who’s the focus of the show. He has made it his life’sbusiness to learn as much as he can about these curious,quasi-supernatural beings called mushi and how they affect andare affected by human life. And one of the biggest things he’s learnedis that sometimes there are no easy solutions, no “cures” for whatmight ail us—not unless the cycle of existence itself is an illness.

Thefurther we go into the show, the more this conceit comes to the fore,along with a fairly strong but never heavy-handed ecological message.Mankind can live in harmony with his world and make good use of it, butonly so long as he doesn’t act out of arrogance. The main episode thistime around that deals with this idea, “The Journey to the Field ofFire,” shows Ginko meeting with another (female) mushi master anddisagreeing with her about the best way to deal with a mushi unsealedfrom a rock and now infesting an entire patch of farmland. Her approachis to burn it, but Ginko realizes this will only create more problemsthan it solves—and indeed, it does. The female master’s huge storehouseof mushi-related information doesn’t help her; she’s blinded by hercertainty that her solution is best.

(C) Yuki Urushibara / KODANSHA/MUSHI-SHI Partnership.
The "Guardian".

Two other episodes deal with another constant theme, the way mushichange human life. In “The Sound of Rust,” a mushi infects a girl’svoice and causes the sound of her speech to spread a strangefungus-like rot on everything (and everyone) in earshot; in “Eye ofFortune, Eye of Misfortune,” a mushi grants a blind girl sight but atthe cost of her being able to see far more than society can deal with.With Ginko’s help she’s able to achieve something like peace, but atthe cost of her eyesight once more—although, by then, she’s been livingwithout it for so long that it’s not much of a loss. Thevery last episode, “The Sound of Footsteps on the Grass,” tracks backin time to Ginko’s youth, but at first has nothing to do with himdirectly; instead, it gives us a village with a waterfall and a mushiwithin it—the “Guardian,” as he’s called—that looks like a catfish withgrass growing from its gills. Two young boys—one a villager, the otherpart of a wandering mushi-shi troupe—are divided by circumstance, theirlives shaped (and reshaped) by the influence of both mushi and humanactivity. One of the members of the troupe is a young Ginko, and yearslater he re-forges a connection, however tentative, between the two ofthem. No big crashing revelations, because none are needed: there’sjust the sense that life will continue, as it always has, and as italways does. It’s probably the most fitting way to end a series thisthoughtful and mind-expanding, and it leaves the door open for thepossibility of more episodes in the future. One can hope.
Aside from being gorgeous to look at and elegantly unhurried, Mushi-shiis one of the few shows out there that embodies its intentions. Itdoesn’t try to inject false excitement into what’s going on; it doesn’tmanufacture conflicts that don’t really need to be there; it just showsus what we need to see and lets us make up our own minds. The realwonder of it is that it has been like that all the way down the line.This was one of the best releases for all of 2007, and it may well turnout to be one of the best for all of 2008 as well.

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the categories External Movie Reviews, Movies, published on 2009/06/27 20:29.

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