Mushi-shi (Live Action) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, October 02, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The layer of life that goes unseen is displayed to the few that can see it, the Mushi-shi.

What They Say
A man, afflicted with the gift of seeing strange natural spirits called Mushi, travels the countryside ridding people of these ancient, troublesome forces. He is haunted by the childhood events that turned him into a Mushi-Shi, or Mushi Master, and struggles with the realization that the very same Mushi that changed him could now be controlling an old mentor and wrecking havoc on the natural world.

The Review!
Audio:
Mushishi makes out well in the audio department as it has the original Japanese 5.1 language mix and the English 5.1 adaptation, both of which are encoded at 448kbps. The show has some good moments where it uses this to good effect, but for the most part Mushishi is all about atmosphere and quiet dialogue. Those elements are well played here as dialogue is clear throughout, even when spoken in whispers. Placement is just right and there are several moments where the depth of what’s going on is clearly delivered. We only skimmed the English adaptation since dubs of live action films feel wrong, but both language tracks appear to be problem free and without any distortions or dropouts.

Video:
Originally in theaters in early 2007, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The film is one with a strong intentional visual design to it where there are many hazy and fuzzy moments filled with grain, especially when doing exterior shots and most especially of long views of the mountains and other locations. Interior shots tend to have a dark look to them, particularly with the lighting done by fire, but there are some very clean moments as well which look good. The feature conveys a lot of atmosphere by this design and while it may not be the kind of pristine picture a lot of people would like, it fits very well for the film itself.

Packaging:
Mushishi isn’t  show that sells itself easily by its packaging and this movie is no exception as it has an upwards shot of Ginko as he walks through the forest. The character and is look is distinctive, more so for Japanese fans, but what it presents here is a soothing feeling surrounded by the edges with darkness. There is some good plugs for the places the film has been shown along the top that adds to its stature a bit for those that care about such things. The back cover has a bit more creepiness factor to it with shots from the film along the middle and underneath the brief summary of the premise about the film. The discs features are clearly listed and the bottom third of the cover is given over to the production credits and technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover even though it’s in a clear keepcase which simply looks a little off.

Menu:
The menus for the film are really quite nice as it uses some very appealing elements that are tied together very nicely with the instrumental music. The main menu has a scene from the film with a calm Ginko walking through the forest where there are a lot of deep greens but also a lot of darkness around him. The windowboxing on the sides has text and artwork that are from scrolls that are relevant in the film itself. The navigation is simple and straightforward with quick loading submenus and natural movements. Language selection is a breeze though I continue to be disappointed that FUNimation’s menus don’t read our players language presets.

Extras:
Mushi-shi features a decent selection of extras that will please fans of the film. The irst one is a nearly ten minute series of deleted and extended scenes which flesh out the film a bit more but definitely wouldn’t have slowed it down a bit more which would not have been good. A neat but short extras is a five minute video piece on the premiere of the film when it was shown in Italy and how they were curious to see how it would be viewed by other cultures since it’s a very Japanese film. Also included is the original trailer for the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mushi-shi has had an interesting history that culminates, at least for now, with this feature. Originally a ten volume manga series that ran for just under ten years, it was adapted into an anime series first that ran for twenty-six episodes in 2005 and 2006 and then this live action film that came out in early 2007. Yuki Urushibara’s characters, setting and overall design translates well from medium to medium and in a way transcends the medium as it is far more about atmosphere than anything else. The film adaptation captures a lot of the other two mediums quite well, but I found it to be the weakest of the three overall.

Mushi-shi takes us back quite a few years to a simpler time in Japan, a time when it’s getting close to when electricity will start showing up more and Japan may light up at night the same as it does during the day. The film follows the life of a gray haired young man named Ginko who travels across the land as a medicine man. He’s no ordinary medicine man though as he’s a rare breed known as a mushi-shi. He treats people who have been afflicted by mushi, strange and beautiful supernatural creatures that exist outside the view of most men. These creatures, essentially a supernatural level of insects, are varied and generally not all that threatening to people, but there are some that are more difficult. Most people never notice them nor are affected by them, but as conditions in the environment change, they can become involved directly.

Much like the previous adaptations, Mushi-shi focuses on the various small stories that make up the larger fabric. The core storyline that runs through it focuses on Ginko himself, a man with one eye who has become part of the mushi through his meeting with a woman named Nui when he was a child. Caught in a mudslide and losing his mother, he ended up coming across Nui in the woods where she was without an eye herself and her hair was completely gray at such a young age. Acting as a mild surrogate mother until he healed, she tried to send him away from the lake where the mushi live. Mushi that have changed her over time and would change him as well. Circumstances go poorly here for young Ginko and before he realizes what’s truly happening, he’s lost an eye himself but has avoided falling into the same trap she did.

The back story is mixed into events told in the present as we see Ginko traveling about and performing healing measures on various people as well as clearing out mushi from various locations. There are ties that become more apparent as time goes on and when Ginko comes across Tanyu, a woman who is part of a long history of recordkeeping of the world of the mushi. The small healings he does are quite engaging as they show the variety of mushi that exist in the world as well as the way that they interact with mankind in less than obvious ways. Blindness that comes across as a simple aspect but also far more engaging pieces like the traveling rainbow or the mushi that take shape of words and cause all manner of problems for Ginko. Much like the world at large, everything is tied together in the world of Mushi-shi and these stories illustrate that in a very engaging manner.

The production side of Mushi-shi is quite strong as the film is written and directed by anime and manga legend Katsuhiro Otomo. He captures the overall mood pretty well with it and has chosen some of the better stories from the manga to tell that blend in very well with the structure of the film. There’s always the desire to see certain chapters brought into the film that weren’t, but his choices I think showcase the beauty and danger of the mushi as well as making the focus on Ginko appropriate. The other thing that works in its favor is the actor for Ginko with Joe Odagiri. He’s certainly got the look for the part and he plays it just right for this adaptation with a slightly disconnected feeling but one that is searching for more of a connection to the world. With mushi being drawn to him, he can’t exactly settle down, but he has that feeling like he wants something more out of life if he can remember more of his past before he become one with the mushi. Odagiri has that near-innocence and wonder to him with what he sees and that goes a long way towards making him own the role.

In Summary:
Mushi-shi does a very good job of adapting the original source material into a soothing and atmospheric movie that captures everything that it should. Otomo has a good sense of direction and pacing for it, the style is just right if a bit underplayed with the mushi and Odagiri nails the role of Ginko. That said, it’s not my favorite version of the material by any stretch. In fact, I far prefer the anime over the original manga which left me feeling rather disinterested in it. The anime for me is given more time to explore the wonders, allows for more quiet thoughtful moments that reflect Ginko and his approach to the world of mushi and puts Ginko more into the proper role that he should have – that of an observer. In the film, because a hefty chunk focuses on how he came to be who he is and the results of it in the finale, removes that observer role significantly. It’s all well done but it’s not the Ginko that I’ve been familiar with. This is certainly worth seeing and owning for fans of the other versions of it and anything that gets a bit more money back into the hands of the original creator is good in my eyes. But for my money, the TV series will be long remembered for its haunting and atmospheric moments while this movie will be forgotten over time.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Premiere Event, Original Trailer

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 131
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mushishi