Mushishi is an anime based on a manga series of the same name by Yuki Urushibara. It is a pretty unique anime series in that it is an episodic anthology, which means that each anime has completely different character, setting, and story. The only exception is Ginko and some other characters where only the former will appear in each episode. We will see whether it’s any good right below!
The basic premise is basically about the existence of Mushi during this unknown period of Japan. Mushi is a form of ethereal creatures that are neither plants nor animals. It possesses different forms and abilities which affects its own surrounding and the people. Ginko, our main character, is a Mushishi, a mushi expert and whose body is unique as it attracts mushi easily. In each episode, Ginko will have to deal with the problems that mushi cause to other people through his own methods.
Mushishi employs a dark subdued tone that encapsulates its world in a very earthy yet ethereal ways. Perhaps its due to the mushi which inhabits this world that creates such a mysterious atmosphere and mood in each episode. The art for the characters are fairly simplistic and you would have quite a hard time telling apart some of them. However, the environment art is top notch and filled with details. Each background becomes the focal point of each scene, rendering each of them a great artwork in its own right. The dark subdues colours mask the mysterious aura that sets the tone of the story, but it also contains some form of life that makes the place seems alive.
Animation wise, there are not much actions in each episode, but everything is smooth flowing and looks natural. Mushishi is not famous for its animation, but for its magical touch of fusing simple animations into great pieces of artwork.
There are different characters for each episode due to its anthology nature, thus, only Ginko, our main character, will be discussed here. Ginko is actually an anomaly in his own world. As the series takes place in an ancient Japan, all of the other characters wear traditional Japanese clothing like yukata etc. However, only Ginko wears something resembling a Western T-shirt and jacket. Also, he smokes a cigarette, something that is not found in the setting era. The series never bothers to explain much about Ginko’s past except a few flashbacks. His history is unknown and this creates a contrast between him and his own world and other people. I like the way that Ginko himself is typically a quiet guy that has a laid-back personality, much like his own surrounding that is surrounded by Mushi. Though, he has a serious side and a kind heart to both the humans and mushis. His sense of morality is pretty grey, as he sometimes helps the human against mushi and other times he will care more for the mushi themselves. In a way, his job requires him to destroy mushi that harms the people, yet he also knows that the mushi is not doing it on purpose and just do what they do to survive. This made Ginko a sort of middleman whose job requirement contrasts with his own personality and morality.
The story for each episode is most simplistic in its nature. Most of the time, it focuses on victims that suffer from the influence of their surrounding mushi. Often, this causes some unexplainable accidents or events to occur of which Ginko will have to use his ways to save them. However, Mushishi is not a series of hunting monsters or something similar. The Mushi is depicted as the rawest and purest life forms. Everything that happened is the result of the food and life cycle. Ginko once explains to a victim that it is neither theirs nor the Mushi’s fault, it’s just that both of them are trying to survive in this world and that their actions influence one another in unexpected ways. The story tells us to respect the life forms and to understand that life among living beings will always bring out conflict, but we must never blame them as this is part of Life. It is a pretty deep story that makes you think philosophically indirectly and in a subdued manner.
The music employed are masterpieces! Some of the music is almost like a unique fusion of Zen meditation and natural sounds with traditional Japanese music. It encapsulates the special atmosphere of Mushishi’s world that is so unlike other anime series. Each piece of music contains several emotions and yet it also contains none of them. I find it hard to explain these forms of music, as it creates an impactful moment in the most indirect ways. All I can say is, the combination of the music with the animations and art style creates a very mystifying form that I have ever seen. No other animes are able to achieve this form of a zen-like masterpiece, that makes you appreciate both of life’s complexity and simplicity.