Ghostly, primordial beings known as Mushi continue to cause mysterious changes in the lives of humans. The travelling Mushishi, Ginko, persists in trying to set right the strange and unsettling situations he encounters. Time loops, living shadows, and telepathy are among the overt effects of interference from Mushi, but more subtle symptoms that take years to be noticed also rouse Ginko's concern as he passes from village to village. Through circumstance, Ginko has become an arbiter, determining which Mushi are blessings and which are curses. But the lines that he seeks to draw are subjective. Some of his patients would rather exercise their new powers until they are utterly consumed by them; others desperately strive to rid themselves of afflictions which are in fact protecting their lives from devastation. Those who cross paths with Mushi must learn to accept seemingly impossible consequences for their actions, and heal wounds they did not know they had. Otherwise, they risk meeting with fates beyond their comprehension. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
It’s a bit difficult to write about a series that has been hailed as one of the anime industry’s greats. The first season was an atmospheric work of art, an enrapturing experience that sent chills down my spine with the end of every episode. But I’m not entirely sure that Mushishi’s second season has necessarily lived up to those memories. It’s still an excellent anime, and while it is better than almost anything that has come out in the past few years, there’s this constant sense that something – just something – is missing.
Perhaps that ‘something’ is the fact that the series has gone on for a long time now and no longer feels as fresh as it did at the beginning. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten older since I watched the first season and am no longer capable of feeling those same emotions again. Or maybe the staff just haven’t been able to fully reproduce the magic of the first season. Even so, whatever the case may be, it turns out that Mushishi’s second season, even if it is a slightly inferior Mushishi, is still one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had watching an anime in quite a long time.
An interesting detail about Mushishi is how not all its stories end on a happy note. Many of them are bittersweet or flat-out depressing, which eliminates any of the predictability that often comes with storytelling. The episodes are not merely different in their content, but also deliver completely different emotions at the end of each episode, ensuring that the series never reaches the point of staleness. Mushishi always has something new to offer to its audience. And it never goes the route of preaching morals, as even its villains are deep and human enough to be empathised with. Nobody is inherently right or wrong in Mushishi; even Ginko cannot say for sure what the best path would have been.
Not surprisingly, Mushishi delivers on the atmosphere front. It is minimalistic in nature and focuses once again on quiet rural life — the supernatural issues plaguing a modest farmer or small group of villagers — rather than the usual city problems we have seen in so many anime before. And that’s for the better, I think, as there haven’t been many other anime out there that have captured rural life in the quiet, subdued way that Mushishi has. It makes you want to roam around the woods or raise a family where things are calm and peaceful, even if those thoughts are only for a fleeting moment.
There are only two minor issues I have with Mushishi’s second season. First, the show focuses exclusively on mushishi incidents and the victims surrounding them and does surprisingly little with Ginko himself. The entire story is about Ginko’s travels, yet at the endgame of the story, we know very little about him or his thought process. Secondly, the mushishi incidents feel far too numerous, perhaps owing to the episode count. It feels like Ginko just comes across some world-changing event every second day, which makes one wonder what he’s doing in-between all the episodes. Showing those quiet moments, the moments when he’s not dealing with mushishi, would be just as interesting as the supernatural.
Mushishi continues to have some of the best scenery in anime. It looks absolutely fantastic, with nearly every shot of a forest or a lake being embodied by a simple sort of beauty, similar to the wabi-sabi aesthetic in Japanese culture. The animation itself leaves some room for improvement, though, as characters will sometimes have missing faces, and the show seemingly prefers panning shots far more than movement.
It also has an incredible soundtrack, much like before. Mushishi is a master at timing its music. Often a quiet piece will start playing in the background without you even noticing, and gradually it will pick up and seamlessly lead right into the credits. Small little touches like this do a lot to enhance the emotional value of the show. And of course I would be silly to not mention the opening track, which is one of the most relaxing things I’ve perhaps ever heard. It is medicine for the soul.
Mushishi’s second season may be a bit weaker than its first, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s disappointing. It still delivers the same mature themes and atmosphere that you’d come to expect from the series. It just doesn’t carry those same awing moments of before, the ones that screamed “I’m watching a masterpiece”. But I don’t think that is necessarily a problem. If its greatest sin is being merely great rather than a masterpiece, then Mushishi’s second offering is already leagues ahead of its competition.