Mushi-Shi is a series that had been floating around the edges of my awareness for a long time it seemed, and one I finally sought out specifically only last year.
As part of my research I looked at blogs and posts from various sites that discussed the show as ‘underrated’ and it seems that over the years, Mushi-Shi has grown a lot more popular in western fandom. So much so that I think it’s no longer underappreciated and overlooked but instead it appears in more lists without the word ‘underrated’ attached at all, which is awesome.
And maybe I’m putting too much stock in what I’ve found online, but I think even before the second series was produced, that the popularity of Mushi-Shi was climbing steadily. And I’m obviously more than happy to recommend Ginko’s travels to nearly anyone reading this… that is, unless you have a hard time with episodic storytelling. However, if you dig that structure then you can also enjoy a beautiful, at times really pastoral and poetic series to go with those self-contained plots.
Mushi-Shi is full of fable-like episodes that seem to draw on equal parts Japanese folklore and creator Yuki Urushibara’s fantastic imagination, exploring the lives of regular and remarkable people in an almost-Edo-period-setting that includes lots of supernatural elements mixed in with the natural world.
For a change today I want to try a couple of different things, nothing drastic, but here’s five things I wanted to highlight, ranging from fairly micro-level to bigger picture stuff:
- I hope Yūto Nakano, Ginko’s voice actor, is getting heaps of work, because I think a lot of his performance; it’s both calm and commanding. Superb change of pace if you’ve been on a shounen binge, for instance.
- In terms of our hero’s costume you’ll notice that it’s almost anachronistic… but it is an alternate Japan, not a historical one. The obvious effect that choice has for me is that the coat really helps Ginko stand out – it’s a brilliant piece of costuming when most other people dress reasonably similar from village to village, yet it’s still unassuming which suits him so well (a quick comparison is below).
- I’ve read reviews here and there that bemoan a ‘lack of character development’ in Mushi-Shi but I think that’s not a fair assessment of a series that often plays out like Detective Fiction. In such mysteries, the crimes/stories/settings change but the main character doesn’t because that’s not the purpose of an episodic show. Instead, I’d argue that Ginko has to appear ‘fully formed’ and stay stable, stay as much ‘himself’ as possible in order to help connect the episodes and add that extra cohesive element to the viewing experience.
- Mushi-Shi is at times quite sombre, which isn’t to say it’s depressing but on the other hand, not every story has a happy – or sometimes even a completely happy ending, and so some fans tend to space out their viewing, and I certainly found that I watched it at a similar pace.
- Finally, I think it’s possible that you won’t always be able to predict the way Ginko solves some of the problems he faces, which is a real gift in storytelling of any type.
Okay, so there’s that section sorted – and I wish I had more to say about Mushi-Shi actually. I perhaps don’t because, like a lot of well-known favourites out there, it feels impossible for me to add much in the way of new analysis or discussion. Even so, I found that I had to include my thoughts anyway, that’s what the blog is for, right? 😀
Some storylines and characters will stand out more than others for different folks, a bit like an anthology really, but here’s my favourite five episodes to finish off this write-up:
- 2 – The Light in the Eyelids
- 5 – The Travelling Swamp
- 12 – One-Eyed Fish
- 20 – A Sea of Ink
- 22 – The Sea Shrine
Okay, make that my 7 favourite episodes perhaps:
- 4 – The Alley Through the Pillow
- 17 – Picking Empty Cocoons