If you have read my previous reviews, you know that I had some problems with how loud anime usually are. How so many characters feel the need to scream all the time, for the music to switch around, for everything to be so up-in-your-face. Even the calm shows, the serious ones, would just annoy me all the time cause everyone kept acting like fucking buffoon. And like I said in my Neon Genesis Evangelion review, I wanted to change that. I wanted to watch more shows that I actually enjoyed and not ones that I had to tell myself that I did. So after Eva, I had a few shows that I wanted to watch. Welcome to the NHK, Ergo Proxy, FLCL, Xavier Renegade Angel (not an anime, but I don’t just watch anime you weebs), but there was one that I had been on my watchlist for a long ass time. One that I kept pushing up, one that I decided to not push up anymore. That being Mushi-shi, one of the most relaxing shows of all time.
Mushi-shi is set in a japan infested with spirit-like beings called mushi. Some can see them, some can’t, and one of the people that can is called Ginko who lives off helping people who are having problems with these mushi. Whether it is hive-minded babies or wandering swamps, he can help. Or hopefully at least…
But because Ginko tends to attract mushi, he is forced to wander around Japan, exploring this new wonderful world. And that’s what makes the show great in my opinion. The show follows an episodic structure, meaning that every episode has a story separate to the other, only sharing the mushi and Ginko himself. This means that we never really get to know any characters except for Ginko. I have heard that people found this to be bothersome, which I think is a fair point. But on the other point, I think this is what makes Ginko such a sympathetic character.
Ginko is a very laid-back character, with a character design fitting that perfectly, but there’s also something so sad about him. Having to move around all the time makes it hard to make connections to people. He has a disconnection to the real world, so he has to look to the other-dimensional to find the familiarity that everyone needs. And I think making you sympathize with a character through writing is a good thing but making it so the basic structure of a show makes you do so is something really impressive. So while I may agree that I felt a disconnect to the world since I never really felt anything for any other character than Ginko, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. And that’s the reason why I think the episodic structure works so well. Having an overarching story with big themes and deep character developments is good and all but I have always found it interesting when a show doesn’t need that to make something great. To show someone the daily life of a person with no real order and to give that person so much character for it.
There are other reasons why I think the structure works well. The way that every episode start so undramatically and how they end so mysteriously which makes you think of your own continuation. But it’s the way that it makes you sympathize with Ginko that makes it so special. Cause I wouldn’t really say that any of the individual stories are all that great. While they have some interesting ideas and visuals, I never found them very thought-provoking or memorable. And that’s a theme with this show. While one episode might not be fantastic, in the context of the whole show it becomes great. An example of this is the mushi themselves. Aside from Ginko, the mushi are the only things that glue the show together. And while I don’t think any of the individual mushi shown in the series are that interesting, the way that the whole mushi concept works I find so much more than that. And what makes them that is their description.
The Mushi are described in a lot of different ways. Neither plant or animal, in between being dead and alive, in between Ying and Yang. So what does it mean to be between death and life? What does it mean to be between the Ying and Yang of life? What does it mean to be? And that’s what makes the show so thought-provoking in the end. It doesn’t really feel like they set out to make you question what it means to be alive, or what it means to be a plant. it doesn’t try to make you think about yourself but does so by making you think about something else. It’s reminiscent of how I believe a certain character (or characters) in Made in Abyss makes you think about what it means to be human while not really setting out to make you think about what it means to be human. I think that’s a really interesting way of conveying a theme, by making the fact that you are thinking about it convey that theme.
Again, there are other reasons why I think the Mushi are so interesting, partly because they aren’t really written as a force of evil but just existing. But that’s what makes them so great. They convey something by not really conveying it.
There are other factors as to why this show is so good of course, the music feels like a combination of BotW’s calm atmosphere and Hollow Knights feeling of exploration (Though, it isn’t as good as either of them), the dullness of life contrasting with the fantasticalness of the mushi being shown with colors. But in the end, it’s the episodic structure and the mushi themselves that makes the show what it is. It’s the simple becoming something great. It’s the emergence of life.
In the end, Mushi-shi isn’t a show that I think I’ll think about every day like I do with movies like Your Name and The Social Network or tv-shows like Bojack Horseman. Even though I’ve argued why Mushi-shi’s forgettable stories are good, it may be the reason why I won’t think of it all the time like other anime. In a way it is pointless. It didn’t change me, and it didn’t change Ginko. But isn’t that the most human thing ever, the pointlessness of life?