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Mushishi is about all sort of things, but if I had to sum it up to a single word, it would surely be subtlety. No anime I've seen does so much with such grace as Mushishi. Modestly presenting its wit, almost every episode is conceptually rich and visually fascinating. To animate is to impart life, and in all its acumen, Mushishi, heading beyond standards, creates its own type of life. Everything revolves around extremely simple beings, yet it's beyond astonishing how imaginative is the Mushi's flora and fauna.
Beforehand I'd like to make clear that I love chatting about this show, so if you disagree with anything I say or are skeptical about it, please come and ask, I'd love to discuss and learn more. Without further ado, let's take a look at this masterpiece.
The first thing that struck me hard in the first episode of Mushishi, right after the opening, was the scene where a hieroglyph mushi escapes from the house and flies towards Ginko, the white-haired protagonist. At the moment I thought to myself 'he'll catch the mushi' and so he did, but not in the way I thought he would. When you're so hardly used to anime, your predictions are often based on what should occur rather than what could occur. Yes, Ginko catches the mushi, but first, he misses. It's something so common yet so rare to see in anime. People missing targets at first just so they hit them next. Why is that? Probably because producers think the way we think about what they produce. When you get into the head of your consumer you're able of conveying things in the way they expect them to happen or the opposite, but rarely I see around creators not caring that much about our expectations of little and irrelevant events. People usually think there is little to no thought put into certain stuff that is rather almost unseen, but I personally think it is of extreme importance to pay attention, for it is in things made by the author for the author where lies the truth of their intentions.
The scene is authentic and human. It reproduces a common mistake rarely seen in anime at all but that exists in everyday life. At that moment I realized how mature Mushishi would be, by ignoring the audience's preconceptions of reality and going for the author's authentic view of it. I know it can sound extremely pretentious, but it's what I genuinely feel about this show, and that's only one scene. There are countless others that moved me in ways I feel most people weren't moved by. But delving a bit into its maturity, one important characteristic often associated with such concept is dealing with the consequences of one's actions. The writer of Mushishi isn't afraid of consequences and in every story about life itself, the counterpart of it is also present. Death plays a huge role in Mushishi and several characters have to face this consequence of life itself and several decisions that accompany it. It's only natural that you, as an author, have to assume responsibility for your actions as such, and once you determine clear conditions you can't go back, otherwise it'll come off as intellectual dishonesty. However, in the same way the narrative is mature enough to handle Death, it isn't immature enough to overuse it in order to appear dense and dark. Death isn't a tool to facilitate writing, it's a tool, period. A good writer will make good use of it, a bad one will not.
Another thing that conveys this maturity is the way Ginko is presented. Ginko is a human in all of which humanity is based. What are humans? Well, I don't know. They are so complex as individuals I'd rather say what they are not: easily understood. Ginko isn't an easily understood character and he's mysterious to the very end, just like most of us are to those who are outside our perspective. Hell, most of us don't know ourselves that well. But what makes Ginko that special? The way he presents himself towards both humanity and the mushi, and also the way he doesn't boast about his own presentation. Mushishi as a whole is a show that doesn't boast in any way or form whatsoever, and so does its protagonist. Why? Because it doesn't need to. If it did without necessity, it would come off as inexperienced writing and even offensive by disbelieving in viewers' capacity of realizing things for themselves. Commendable indeed. But how's Ginko presented again? Surely he is NOT presented as a white Knight promptly ready to save humanity from mushi because mushi are disturbing the order of things. Not at all, for mushi are part of the order of things. Mushi are, just like humans, part of life. There is no fight, there is only balance. Mushi aren't inherently negative, neither are humans. He protects mushi in the same way he protects humans, or doesn't, since protection can become violent, at any rate, depending on the situation. So many situations, so many people and so many mushi. A complex web of circumstances that determine what decision to take and undermine Ginko's will of jumping to conclusions. Ginko is a postmodern man: he is skeptical, he is adaptable, he is concerned yet distant for it's often the most rewarding way of approaching problems.
Ginko is also human for his warm side. He is a very empathetic individual and, despite being so professional and used to his job as a Mushi-shi, is extremely concerned and respectful towards others' issues. He won't treat his patients coldly, which is why a strong interpersonal connection is always established by the end of every episode, positively or negatively. Not all endings are happy, but in all cases, Ginko is never absent of spirit and care for people around him. He also has his inner desire of belonging to a place, despite his condition which doesn't allow so. It's tragic yet poetic that he has to establish these interpersonal connections all the time, since, without them, he'd feel totally alone. He goes back to his patients once in a while, revisits places, but he can never stay for too long, for his and others' dismay. This is perfectly showcased in an episode where he helps a lady and her little brother, and he sort of deceives himself into the idea of staying as much as he can because he sees in the little boy his younger self, and the lady sees in him a helpful and fundamental figure for the family. Everything was wonderful, but the reality strikes strongly and dismisses everything forcing Ginko to depart once again on his lonely journey.
The presentation in Mushishi is all subtle, soft, and beautiful. Everything is what it needs to be without excess. It's so humble and yet superb that's impressive, almost like if the author was so aware of her own writing capacity that she was able of executing it perfectly by the right means. The anime has a very captivating atmosphere and perhaps one of the most beautifully designed landscapes ever put in an anime series. Miyazaki levels of river and forest quality. The soundtrack is eerily involving, which made me feel instant nostalgia and captivated me to heart.
There is so much to this anime it's impressive by that alone. One single episode is able of conveying things most series wouldn't in dozens of episodes, and still, not obviously, but rather subtly. Not all episodes are masterpieces, not all episodes are as conceptually and visually rich as others, but as a whole, Mushishi leaves little to nothing to be desired. So all I can ask is: please, watch it. Seriously, it's a friendly totally unassuming request. I just want a fellow Mushishi lover to share my thoughts with and feel good about myself for exposing people to such a masterful piece of writing. If this helps at least one person to know Mushishi I'm happy enough. That's it, have a nice day.
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