Mushishi Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, October 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007
What They Say
Neither good nor evil, they are life in its purest form. Vulgar and strange, they have inspired fear in humans since the dawn of time and have, over the ages, come to be known as "mushi."
The traveler caught in mountain's shadow; divine beast killed by one for the sake of another. As human assumes the role of a god, sacrifice balanced by salvation. Honorable death invited in the night.
A woman old before her time, a boy abandoned to the fates. A bond of things unseen. Naive desire to salvage lost hope will instead ensure a curse's survival, the first step upon a long and lonely path.
A young girl fleeing the future will find her means of escape. A body embraced, the sun's warmth false hope that life persists within. A bridge providing passage in one direction of travel only.
The progeny of a bamboo thicket, the bane of a neighboring village. Childhood friendship blind to fear repaid by one forever cursed. Love first selfish without intent begets an end far from desired.
Contains episodes 11-14.
Between more stories of the strange and beautiful mushi, we learn the origins of Ginko and how he came to really be who he is now.
The series is presented in a standard bilingual format with a pair of rather standard stereo mixes. Mushishi doesn't exactly stand out as a series that demands a full 5.1 mix and FUNimation has chosen to not go that route with an original mix this time. Both of the stereo mixes included on the disc are done in a good 256 kbps encoding that works well for what the series has to present. A lot of it is dialogue but also some golden silence that's tweaked by subtle sounds in the background and a haunting but beautiful score. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The look of this show is an interesting one in that it's filled with so many greens and other dark colors which leads to almost every scene having a standout aspect to it. The backgrounds are stunning pieces most of the time and with the show having so many still moments to it they come across beautifully. Where the show falters is in the dark sequences, particularly when there are some elements of light crossing into it. Interiors tend to show a lot of noise in particular. The show is pretty light when it comes to high motion sequences but there are a few of them here and there and that's where some mild artifacting tends to show. Like many FUNimation discs, the average bitrate continues to be in the fours and fives. With five episodes here and three extras that run almost another hour, it's little surprise.
The slipcover front has the artwork of Ginko with the series logo written down the side and it has a very different feel due to the paper stock. The back of the slipcover is done in some soft and indistinct colors that really push the quiet before the storm nature. It also provides a summary of each of the five episodes along with numerous shots from the show that are very striking looking. The discs features are clearly listed as is the usual scrunched up bottom portion with the production credits and technical grid. Using the artwork from the Japanese volume, Mushishi has a solid feel to it as the keepcase features no logos and just the character artwork of Ginko against the indistinct purplish background. The cover is a full wraparound piece and that's the only place where the shows logo resides as it's small and along the bottom. The reverse side of the cover has two separate pieces, though they overlap each other. Both pieces deal with scenes from episodes on this volume. The included insert is a good booklet that retains the shows earthy tone and provides a look at the characters and mushi within these episodes. The material used is just perfect for the content of the series and fits great.
The menu design for the series utilizes the same artwork as the front cover and manages to have a very different feel to it without the influence of the paper stock. The colors are incredibly rich and vibrant yet they don't overpower even as it uses the various shades of purple and blue. Ginko is off along the right side while the left side features the small piece of artwork as seen on the booklet cover and is just above the navigation strip. A bit of good instrumental music plays to it which sets the mood just right. Access times are solid and navigating about the menu is easy enough even if language and angle selection is poor. The disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The extras continue to be solid here for those that are interested in the creative side of the process. The standards are here in the form of the clean opening and closing but it's the interviews that really hold your attention. The first one, which runs about nineteen minutes, has the director and the sound director together having another amusing talk about how the show has been designed. The second interview included, again with the director at the helm, is the longest one so far as it involves two of the film directors and a technical advisor in a twenty-five minute piece that goes over the direction that was taken in getting the show onto the screen the way they wanted. Though it does have some of the standard fluff and minor self-mocking moments, those interested in how this comes together will love an extra like this..
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mushishi drifts lazily past its halfway mark but that's one of the shows real strengths. With a strong sense of atmosphere and pacing wrapped in formula, it's able to tell a tale in exactly the right way to evoke both wonder and fear. While having the show as a series of standalone pieces could be problematic, Mushishi avoids having repetitious moments within the formula that takes you out of the story. Avoiding the use of certain scenes in every episode alone goes a long way towards lessening that issue.
The four stories on this volume continue with the same kind of fascinating tales where Ginko finds himself coming into contact with places that are afflicted by mushi in different ways. As we learn from him across numerous episodes, he draws mushi to him but he's also drawn to them as well. Plenty of this feeling comes from the way the show is structured as every episode has a new encounter, but the sense that Ginko's life doesn't resonate much when he's not involved with a mushi is rather strong. It would certainly be interesting to see him in a setting where he's not dealing with mushi but just the normal issues of living, but the real meat continues to be his touching upon this third rail of life.
Mushishi tends to gravitate more to the smaller and more personal stories that involve the mushi and this volume is no exception. There is a slight tease however as the first episode shows us a mountain with a giant hole in it. The bookend parts of the episode have these kinds of big moments that the locals not involved will notice but the rest of it is focused on the characters. And that's the story of a mushishi who himself has taken on a role of the guardian of the mountain. The mushi that expresses the mountains will have used him, willingly, as the previous guardian was killed by one of the villagers. The villagers have prospered since the mushishi took over but he's been missing at a time when he normally gets involved with them. Naturally, Ginko shows up along the way and unravels the mystery behind the transition and how it will be resolved.
The exposure to another mushishi is welcome since it helps to show that to some extent they're all wanderers and travelers but for different reasons. Finding one that wants to settle down feels like they're an exception to the rule. Through the first half of the series we've seen the interactions that Ginko has with people and we've gotten a glimpse to his own past when it comes to his missing eye. But his true origins, how he really started to understand all of this and where he comes from, is finally explored. Ginko as a young boy who has lost his mother while the two of them travel together is the method used to get him to meet up with a mysterious woman in the woods. Hair white as snow and missing an eye, she helps him out as he hurt his foot and is unable to walk well enough to leave. His time there exposes him to what she's gone through in losing her entire village but it also exposes him to the reality of mushi and their slippery tendrils.
While this doesn't show his journey to become who he is today, it is the first steps on the road that define him. The transition from what seems to be a normal boy who can see some mushi to one who is intimately involved with them radically alters how his life will play out. These moments aren't clear at first as to who is who and where it will go, especially since the appearance of the woman, Nui, could be taken in so many ways. In fact, at first glance, it simply seemed like Ginko had gone into an isolationist mode and just let his hair grow out. When you get used to someone with a single green eye, you only think of that as them when you see a character like that.
While Mushishi doesn't break any real new ground here, it continues to dazzle and delight with such stories of small yet intense moments. A huge part of Mushishi's appeal is in its atmosphere which is tied heavily to the beautiful animation and laid back pacing. There are urgent moments and they stand out all the more because of how the bulk of each episode plays out. These episodes are in a way more of the same as the first two volumes but that is purely a positive in this regard as those stories won me over handily and made me a fan. With a bit more background in Ginko now and more of his travels, Mushishi is only getting more and more interesting. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Sound Direction Interview,Film Direction Interview
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: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2