Mushishi was fairly successful when it originally came out. Which seems strange if you have any familiarity with the source material. It’s a slow, thoughtful, muted, episodic anime with no action or excitement or sexy men or women. It’s just about some guy travelling from rural village to rural village in pre-industrial Japan solving their supernatural problems. It’s not until you actually watch the show that you realise why it’s been successful. Mushishi was successful for being really, really good. Yet they never made a sequel. Despite there being more manga to adapt, despite the director not being an especially busy man, despite its success and popularity. They never made more.
Until today. Well, 2 weeks ago, but who’s counting. So me and Inushinde wrote about it.
Scamp: I was a little worried going into this special that maybe my opinion of Mushishi would change and it would turn out not to be as amazing as my nostalgia remember it being. Would some of the magic be lost in the 9 years since the original and the director lose his touch and make some crap? He’s still adapting from the manga, but I’ve read the Mushishi manga and comparing it to the anime adaptation is like having someone explain a fireworks display rather than going to see it yourself. The improvements having Mushishi animated is phenomenal and brings across the strange, slightly frightening calm beauty to the whole piece in a way the manga doesn’t really have. So I was a little worried this special wouldn’t live up and in turn create anxiety for this upcoming second season (yes there’s a second season coming for those of you living under a rock, start getting hyped). Turns out all my worries were completely unfounded as this episode was as good as any Mushishi episode from the original.
Almost straight away it was back into the extraordinary power of the parts of nature we take for granted. This time the focus was specifically on the sun and just how much we take that power for granted. The moment towards the start of the episode where they had a slow montage of all these previous Mushishi characters watching the eclipse from all over the country was really quite beautiful. It’s interesting to think that an eclipse is the closest to a genuine nationwide live event you would have had before long distance instantaneous communication. Within a couple of minutes the entire country will see an eclipse at the same time. It’s like an alternate world version of the end of The Truman Show where everyone clutches their TV at the same time…it’s says something about me that my first point of reference was The Truman Show rather than something real like the moon landing or something.
Inushinde: It’s rare for a property to feel simply perfect, where the elements meld seamlessly to create something truly engaging. It’s even rarer for a property to go dormant for several years, only to resume activity with no noticeable clunk. Mushishi still excels at is in making creatures as utterly alien to our sensibilities as the mushi feel like an integral part of the world, without pulling too many narrative gymnastics to make them so. As Scamp implied, they are nature incarnate, hindering, helping, or simply existing alongside humans as their survival dictates.
While the mushi are the real focus, the series does not skimp on fleshing out the myriad of ways that humans are affected by them. Just like everything else, that practice made it to the special in one piece. Mushishi manages this by adding a unique human element to the show, in the form of a sun-aversive albino child named Hiyori. While Hiyori doesn’t steal the show, she serves as a nice counterbalance to the Hihami’s detrimental effect on the townspeople. It’s a balanced approach that doesn’t feel tacked on just for the sake of adding unnecessary moral complexity, and it serves the special well.
If the quality of this special is any indication, which it probably is since it retains the same quality as the first season, I think we can expect great things in the near future. Mushishi is just as effortlessly good as before, and this sure as hell makes it feel like it never let up for a minute.