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Full Series Review: Mushi-shi
Summary and Intro
Creatures called "mushi" run amok in a world similar to Meiji-era Japan (Most people wear kimonos, but the main character and a few other people wear western clothing). These creatures are not evil spirits or demons, but sometimes behave destructively. What they are is actually hard to put into words. They are beings closer to the undifferentiated life essence is in all living things. They can behave and look similar to plants, insects, worms, parasites, or something entirely unique. Most of their behavior is hard to understand and highly variable between the different kinds of mushi. But one common thread is that most of them have something to do with light and darkness.
Enter Ginko. Ginko has an unusual appearance, especially in an anime where most people look like typical Japanese people: he has silver hair, one green eye, and one eye that's gone. He travels to various small villages throughout Japan and helps people who are in some way harmed by mushi. Sometimes they can cause medical afflictions, like blindness, deafness, or even fatal disease. Some do things that are strange, but not as dangerous to humans. Mushi are morally neutral. Like any other living thing, all they want to do is survive. And, much like other living things on this planet, sometimes their survival needs enter into conflict with ours. So our protagonist is a guru and a healer, who teaches people not to fear mushi, but instead how to understand them. He fosters harmonious relationships between humans and mushi. This sometimes put him at odds with people who want to kill mushi instead.
Manga by Yuki Urushibara
Paranormal, Seinen Demographic
Sequel Series, Anime Film, Live Action Film, Anime Specials
Mushi-shi is powerful. Shows about yelling catch phrases and fighting monsters and bad guys are a dime a dozen. This is a more grown-up approach to everything. Mushi-shi is about ecology. It's about the struggle for harmony against life forms that are different and sometimes have conflicting needs. It's about how understanding can benefit both sides of a conflict. It's also about making certain important ethical decisions.
Does it have problems? Well, not every episode is particularly impactful or entertaining. Some stand out as better, and some are rather boring. The nice thing is that this show has a kind of 'mushi of the week' formula, so you don't have to watch it in order. Most episodes' plots are wrapped up by the end of the episode. The best episode is probably the one talking about Ginko's past, including showing how he got his unusual appearance.
So what you have is a richly detailed, soulful show with a lot of deep thought behind it. But, sometimes it's not that exciting, at least compared to an action shounen. But nature is not like an action shounen.