Mushishi Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 17, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2008
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."
Empty heads and floating souls, love fades fast. Like the stars, ever present though unseen. When the desire to be human is less than the pull of the other, the wedding will have a groom but no bride.
A woman bearing the mark of generations, cursed to drown in a sea of written characters. The forbidden sealed away within her body. Where tales of death abound, compassion will flourish.
A monster that can mimic the human, the shapeless taking on the form of infancy. That which is beyond our understanding can quickly learn to understand us. Therein lies the danger.
Life's inevitable end, reduced to no more than a passing moment. Loved ones forever reborn. When the mother becomes daughter and daughter mother, what of the wisdom of life eternal?
Contains episodes 19-22.
Mushishi continues to establish itself as one of the most hauntingly beautiful series out there.
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 in various shades of brown that almost make you feel tense since you don't know what could step out of it. It also provides a summary of each of the four 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 pinkish orange background. The cover is a full wraparound piece and that's the only place where the shows logo resides as it is 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 which involves the lush landscapes. 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. One more postcards also make it into this release and it's just as good as the previous ones we had as we get another picture of Ginko and the world he lives in.
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 brown. 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 interviews with the staff continue to be a strong part of the series, though it is fleshed out a bit more in a different way this time. The standards are here in the form of the clean opening and closing but a new extra ins included, courtesy of Del Rey, in which we see pages from the manga. It's kept in its original right to left pattern which is good and several pages are included that captures some of the beauty of the original artwork. The interviews do continue on this volume, though there's only one this time. This one has the series director sitting down with the team behind the coloring of the series which runs a surprisingly long twenty-seven minutes. The coloring of the series is very critical to the overall beauty of the show and getting an idea from the four people interviewed about their approach and what they put into it is certainly worth checking out if you've enjoyed the visual beauty of the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mushishi, with each and every new episode, just establishes itself as the new bar that all other series must strive to reach when it comes to this kind of genre. Many shows play in the realm of the supernatural, examining their mysteries, but the focus is almost always on those that investigate and their issues. So few shows let the characters of that particular story shine more than the lead. In Mushishi, it's the mushi and those affected that are the stars while Ginko is an observer more than anything else.
The four stories on this volume play out in similar fashion to what we've seen on the previous four volumes of the series, but that isn't a bad thing at all. The world of mushi is fascinating, as is the way people seemingly either cope with it and treat it as a natural thing, or actively try to remove the problem. The disparity in approaches is the focus of one episode where we learn about a scribe that Ginko visits on occasion. This young woman was marked from birth as the new scribe in the family line by the fact that her leg is black and useless. Within it is contained the remnants of a mushi from long ago that was a rarity in that it killed other mushi. What serves to try and eliminate this mushi is the writing down of stories about mushi and their end. The young woman spends her days using her own skills to transcribe stories as told to her by family or those that pass through.
Where the differences in approach comes in is that the elderly woman who cares for her was once a mushishi who only has tales of how she killed mushi. When the scribe, Tanyu, meets Ginko for the first time, she's fascinated by his decidedly different approach and grants him quite a lot of leeway. This works out for Ginko as it gives him access to a massive library of tales from the past which can help him in his own journey and understanding. There are dangers inherent in such libraries though and it provides for one of the most beautiful animated moments I've ever seen that involves text as a character. Similar to previous episodes that touch upon Ginko's past, this is a story that builds on the world these characters live in and establishes more of the overall mythology that gives it such a rich and detailed feeling.
When it comes to the other episodes that focus on individual mushi without a serious relationship to the overall story of Ginko, we're treated to a great deal of fun, atmosphere and general creepiness. The opening story is really fascinating as it involves a mushi that lives in the skies and drops down a "fishing line" when it needs to feed. On occasion it drags up a person who is fed upon briefly before being discarded, often where they then fall to their death. This time however, one young woman falls into a tree on the way down and survives. It's not all happiness though as part of the thread from the mushi is still tied to her hand and she begins to either fade out of sight on occasion or starts to float into the sky as she's being drawn into it. Ginko does his best to figure it all out, but the fascinating lies entirely in the young woman's situation and how people handle it.
Another really fascinating story has Ginko arriving on a small island where people aren't quite what they seem. Many people who have died seemingly come back to life after being reborn, taking on the same mannerisms and characteristics of the dead. The idea is certainly creepy however as what needs to be done is that before the person dies, they must be taken out to a small outcropping along the island and the body is dumped into an underwater ravine. Small globules then surface afterwards and they must be swallowed by a woman who will then give birth to that person again. This story revolves around a woman who has taken such a globule, but it's her mother who had died and she's basically given birth to her. The child, going by a different name, doesn't have the memories but she's taken on the look and mannerisms more and more. The island is teeming with such strangeness which Ginko finds out about as he explores the mystery of what mushi is out there.
Mushishi must be watched in a particular way, as I've discovered with previous volumes. It's a series that must be watched in silence and in the dark, preferably late at night with no distractions. On our large screen setup, the visuals really take on a fascinating life and are completely engaging when surrounded by the darkness. Colors are vivid, the atmosphere is tense in some ways and the small and subtle sounds stand out strongly when used. As soon as those opening notes kick off at the start of an episode, the magic begins, and it's why I stretch it out with just one episode a night so that each one brings me more of this fascinatingly beautiful world. Very highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Director Interview #8 - Coloring,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Manga Pages Preview
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