A lot of popular anime series tend to focus on either action or romance and relationships, with much emphasis being put on epic battles or awkward characters trying to impress the object of their affection. In a completely different class entirely is an anime with very little focus on either of these these. Mushishi presents a re-imagined Japan in a time that never quite existed, in which the main character is Ginko who happens to be a wandering Mushi-shi (more about that later).
Ginko is an interesting character because unlike most anime protagonists, he has no epic quest, no angst-filled psyche, and is just generally a very laid-back guy. His unique appearance and anachronistic dress sense also set him apart. The story follows him as he wanders from village to village, helping out locals with their mushi-related problems. Just what is a mushi? The word means “bug”, but in the series the mushi are more ethereal and slightly paranormal creatures that Ginko describes as being some of the nearest organisms to pure life. They are generally small and harmless, although sometimes they can interfere with human life – which is where Ginko comes in, using his knowledge of mushi to alleviate the negative effects that the mushi might cause. The story is simplistic and episodic in nature, with generally one type of mushi being the focus of each episode. With all the different type of mushi and the effects they have on the people in question, this means that there is always something new for Ginko to resolve. Other than a couple of episodes which explore Ginko’s past, that’s really all there is to it for the plot.
While this might seem a little dull for a 26-episode anime show, there is action in the form of scenes in which Ginko is in a particularly dangerous mushi-related situation. This is nicely balanced with the more soothing scenes, and never overdone or played just to make the series more exciting. More important to the appeal of the show is the art. Everything about this anime is gorgeous, from the surprisingly beautiful minimalism of a small green sake cup to the shots of village roofs in which even the tiny weeds growing in the guttering is visible. It’s also worth mentioning Masuda Toshio’s work on the soundtrack, which seems to perfectly fit with every scene and really deepens the mood of the whole series.
Of course, it’s not a show for everyone. While many will appreciate the artistry involved in the production of such an anime, if you have a thirst for more romance or faster-paced action it might be better to give it a miss. If you’re looking for something to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, however, I really recommend that you check Mushishi out. It’s been both subbed and dubbed – personally, I prefer the sub as it seems to fit better with the setting and general feel, and Travis Willingham as Ginko sounds at times a little too emotional for the character of a laid-back wandering scholar-type who doesn’t get involved unless there is a real need to.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Should you choose to watch the series, I hope you like it as much as I did.