“once the rain stops and real tears can be shed, I will put down roots. Until then, with the rain by my side, I will continue to drift like the clouds”
Mushishi Zoku Sho continues the episodic chronicles of Ginko, the white-haired, laid back, chain-smoking, wandering ‘Mushishi’ (Loose TL: Mushi-master). For the fans of the much praised 2006 series, Zoku Sho is, in every technical and aesthetic sense, true to its predecessor. The studio behind it (Artland), and the staff is the same, and there have been no dramatic stylistic changes, making Zoku sho, except in its more enhanced visuals and polished presentation, the direct continuation of the first season in every aspect.
For those unfamiliar with this masterful adaptation of Yuki Urushibara’s seminal magnum opus, it is advisable to start with the first season because, despite the whole series being strictly episodic, Zoku Sho assumes that you are familiar with some parts and concepts of the Mushi lore, such as Komyuka (the river of life), its significance, mountain-lords, some recurring characters, and some part of the main character’s background story.
With the above mandatory preface done, I can move on to describing the series, and what the second season is about.
Mushishi is set in ‘imaginary rural Japan’ with the technology and fashion Coeval to 19th Century period. The world of Mushishi is inhabited by supernatural and otherworldly creatures called ‘Mushi’, which exist in various sizes, shapes and types (much like animals and plants); they are as important to the life cycle and ecology of the world as plants and animals. The effect of their interaction with the world and other species (humans, plants, animals) may range from neutral to potentially devastating. There are mushi that can turn the blood inside a human to milk, make cloudless rain to fall wherever their hosts travel, cause various disease/illness, or provide someone the power over life. They can be parasitic, harmless or even beneficial.
The catch is that very few people can perceive, and even fewer understand these ethereal creatures. Some of those who do become ‘Mushishi’, people who deal with Mushi. Ginko is one such person, who has dedicated his life to ‘understanding’ Mushi and help those who are affected by them. In the various episodes we see him travelling to various places, and coming across Mushi related phenomenon, which he is almost always able to handle deftly thanks to his exceptional foresight and erudite knowledge (in fact, after watching two seasons, I am thoroughly convinced that Ginko is something of a PhD on Mushi and mushi related stuff). As a man of learning, Ginko does his best to further his knowledge through research, help people, and keep the ecological balance while saving man and mushi from harming each other.
But Mushishi is about more than that. Almost every episode, despite the fantastical theme, is relatable to a diverse variety of practical real world philosophical, moral, social, or psychological dilemmas and issues. These range from coping with the loss of loved ones, a disease, failure, moral corruption, family woes, relationship breakdowns, loss of self-worth, natural disasters, man’s relationship with the environment, etc.The wisdom contained in these episodes is sometimes esoteric, and at other times, exoteric in nature.
Having said that, every viewer will perceive things from their own lens. Mushishi is not pedantic, and rises above these snippets of existentialist wisdom into the realm of profound and abstruse artistic and aesthetic depth. It transcends to themes and emotions that cannot be easily put in words.
The sparse poetic narration of Ginko and his erstwhile mentor Nui, the sublime background score composed by veteran composer Toshio Masuda, the masterful direction by Nagahama Hiroshi, the exquisite and soothing art direction with its lush, sweeping homage to nature’s beauty, Nakano Yuto’s powerful VA performance, all combine to bring alive the transcendental and minimalist piece of art that is Mushishi. The atmosphere and ambiance of the show is so strong that sometimes I almost felt like I was there, and at times felt what the characters were feeling.
That is, at least for me, Mushishi in a nutshell.
Any comparisons to the previous season may yield variable and subjective results. Many would prefer the first season, largely due to it offering a greater variety of stories, landscapes, themes and music score. Admittedly, there might be some weight to this preference. The incident fact that many of the stories in the second season have ‘parasitic’ mushis and follow a ‘problem, diagnosis, prescription’ format has also been pointed out by some. However, this point is made mute by the fact that every story is unique in some way or the other.
To sum up, Mushishi is an important milestone in anime, and easily recommendable to most anime fans.
Mushishi, a series that debuted over 8 years ago makes its return, and a surprising one at that. Beautiful is an underrated word to describe the franchise as it is much more than its natural beauty. Rather, Mushishi is a fantastic work of art, a feast of elegance to bestow upon for its storytelling. For fans familiar with season 1, the show depicts itself with an episodic format starring journeyman Ginko. Mushishi Zoku Shou (also known as Mushishi: Next Chapter) opens the door to a new saga with an mystifying adventure that will once again bring back those wonderful memories from near a decade ago.
A journey into Mushishi feels like a dream where its world captures the fantasy elements at the best with its backgrounds and ideas. The nature of the show depicts creatures known as ‘Mushi’ that causes trouble in the surface world. For a show to work out in this way, the structure of the story is built in an episodic nature. Each episode involves Ginko where he deals with a problem. These problems lingers on with ideas, power, and knowledge. With every problem in his quest also triggers more than just resolutions. It formulates ideas that invites attention with its unique and style. In fact, the feeling of Mushishi is mature. The creatures known as the ‘Mushi’ influences humans and their way of life. But the most important part of the show is that these mushi can craft a story. These stories are transformed by the very essence of the show that captures each moment with a fine degree of mystical aura. No over-the-top antics, shounen-style battles, or the ‘save the world’ trope. It is simple yet feels complex. It’s intelligent without building a labyrinth of thoughtless tropes. It’s attractive without edgy art.
Despite the show being set up as an episodic show, I do recommend fans to check out the first season first as well as the special that debuted earlier in 2014. This way, you can familiarize with the style of Mushishi and what it has to offer with its dynamics. There’s much to build off with that style which illustrates more than just artwork. The flagship behind the idea of the show is to adapt its themes and presents it to viewers to familiarize with the story. There’s no need to build on that in a story arc since each episode focuses specifically on such ideas. And even so, these stories are memorable for their themes that people can familiarize. Hatred, regret, despair, vengeance, solitude, greed, among others are just a few to name. It touches upon the nature of humanity in a fantasy realm to bring about fantastic stories. Ever heard of natural instincts? Mushishi will evoke that to a level beyond normalcy through its imaginative presentation.
The world setting of Mushishi is perhaps one most fans of the previous season are familiar of. Even after all these years, it’s still memorable and feel nostalgic by Mushishi’s delivery. The lavish forests, organic swaps, and frosty mountains paints a dream – a theater of decorative ecology. As a show based off such nature, it’s appreciable to see how that functions with fantasy ideas. Namely, the environment has a mystical atmosphere to itself stretching beyond the boundaries of normalcy. Then, there are the characters involved in them that Ginko meets during his quest. But Ginko is a unique and complex character because he seeks knowledge, not power. Every episode, he gets himself involved with a problem and formulates a solution. These resolutions usually has a bittersweet ending but also invites a degree of relief. As mushi is mysterious to the core, Ginko uses his own knowledge to match these challenges by thought.
As the brainchild behind the concept, Yuki Urushibara deserves praise for her work. The show is adapted from the manga of the same name. The second season covers from volume 6-9 to create legends to not be forgotten. Her concepts are captivating because it’s intelligently written with a surreal feeling. It’s distinctive that classifies itself as a rarity of the generation. 22 minutes each episode is all it takes to grab your attention with its nature. While sitting back, you’ll almost feel like you’re part of the world traveling along with Ginko on his quest. The rewards to reap is more than just enjoyment but an acknowledgement of the show’s concepts. Ginko is also a quiet man that people will find unique in a fashion to match the show’s style. At the same time though, he isn’t just there to solve problems but also to learn. Similarly, learning from this show isn’t like taking a biology class. Rather than grasping on the ideas to memorize them, Mushishi creates understanding. There’s no right or wrong answer as mushi and humans are a part in the same world. Rather than delivering a gruesome war or dominance for survival, both species seeks to live on their own terms. But make no mistake, the show doesn’t follow a game concept where survival is the fittest. Instead, its strength lies in the mystery engineered by an amalgamation of intelligence.
Perhaps the show is too honest to itself, in particular with its world and premise. Ginko in particular is a man of mystery but we find out the complexity of his character through his many journeys. A lackluster concept involves the exploration of his backgrounds in this season as well as people he met in the past. A refreshment to the original season will perhaps remedy this for fans who are on an urge to get a deeper grasp of his character. But even so, the pure of the stories transits with elegance and characters to tell a story; stories of knowledge, thought, artistry beyond the scope of physical attractiveness.
Speaking of art, Mushishi sets the bar high with its comeback. Even after all these years, the show still stands out as a magnificent piece of art. Feast your eyes on the very nature of the show with its alluring backgrounds. Each mushi also has distinctive designs to offer diversity. On the other hand, Ginko looks simple without too much to go on besides his noticeable silver hair and stoic expressions. Yet, it triggers the very mystery thought that Mushishi brings. At the same time, most of the characters are standard and matches their settings with simple clothing. The show’s setting doesn’t possess the technology of a futuristic world nor a historical age where wars are fought for supremacy. What it does have is the simple yet effective natural strength of its fantasy world. I give the animation studio Artland for their effective style of presenting such a world, one that is charming and captures every moment in respect. There’s an old saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. This show’s art is an epitome of that.
Soundtrack also comes together as a prowess to its thought-provoking story. The soft and quiet OST offers credibility with its world with the mushi and animals. As humans, each character’s voice has a solemn yet realistic mannerism. Similarly, the soundtrack has a sense of hollowness with eerie rhythm. With its good balance, Mushishi achieves its goal of capturing what fans want – soundtrack to bring the stories from fantasy to life. Although some of Ginko’s dialogues may feel monotonous at times, it still stands out to reflect his character. The soundtrack also invites emotional appeal for each story seeks an imagery of imaginations based off its world with its narratives. Furthermore, the OP song "Shiver" by Lucy Rose reflects a tone of beauty beyond words. You’ll have to listen to it to believe it.
Even after all these years, the Mushishi franchise still stands out as a dazzling piece of work, one that is most welcoming with the strength of its characters and story. It’s more than just an adventurous folklore or some quest to accomplish a goal. Rather, it offers intelligence and craftsmanship of human themes in a fantasy world. Despite the series being episodic and only structured with 10 episodes, they each have its own unique dynamics to bring about its focus. Its creativity and unique world will offer an experience just like its previous season, one that will be remembered for generations to come.