Mushishi Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008
Release Date: Monday, November 19, 2007



What They Say
Mushi are neither plants nor animals, instead they resemble the primeval substances of life. Few humans are actually aware of their existence and among them is Ginko, a 'Mushi-shi' who travels around investigating them. In the course of his research he aids those plagued by supernatural phenomenon caused by the Mushi.


The Review!
The latest volume of Mushi-Shi provides more laid-back, sombre stories in the same way as the first disc.

Audio:
I listened to the English stereo track for my main review, and I noticed no technical problems with it. It's a pretty standard stereo mix that uses the two channels to provide atmosphere through the sound effects and music, with dialogue mostly central. It has to be mentioned that the dub is excellent as well. Not only does it stick closely to the Japanese track, but the performances are nailed, especially Travis Willingham who is outstanding as Ginko, nailing his tone and attitude brilliantly. I spot-checked the Japanese stereo track and didn't notice any technical problems with it either, and from what I heard the Japanese performances were excellent as well.

Video:
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for Mushi-Shi is very good on the whole. The distinctive art style comes across well with little in the way of artefacts, especially since there is not a great deal of movement or action at the best of times. Though there is a little bit of blocking in really dark scenes, it's forgivable given how the show often changes its style from bright day to dark night, and in general it looks very good.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

Packaging:
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the front cover of this disc features Ginko smoking prominently, in quite a subdued looking cover. The show's logo is down the left side, both in English and Japanese. The back cover features several screenshots, plus some nice descriptions of the episodes and the show, in the style of the next episode previews. The extras are clearly listed and the technical details, while not in a grid, are all bunched together clearly at the bottom. The inside cover features a sombre image of a forest. This is definitely a cover I appreciate for its simplicity and style.

Menu:
The menu takes a simple approach similar to the cover, with the main menu featuring the cover image with all the selections and the show's logo in the middle. Sub-menus are all static with screenshots for the backgrounds of them, and different music plays over all the menus. Given how simple they are, access times are really fast and problem free.

Extras:
There are a couple more interview instalments with the Director here. The first is with the Character designer, talking about his take on the show, that runs just under 15 minutes. The second is slightly shorter but in the same vein, with the Art Director. We also get the usual textless openings and endings to round things out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you happened to pick up the first volume of Mushi-Shi and didn't like it, then you just as well stop reading this review now because one thing is certain, you won't like this volume (or the rest of the series, I'm sure) either. But if you didn't give it a try, or enjoyed the first volume, I'd definitely encourage picking this up, because for me, Mushi-Shi is one of the crown jewels in current anime releases.

The episodes on this volume are again all individual stories, with the first seeing Ginko drawn to an island by a man who wants him to save a girl. She has apparently become a "living god", and has begun performing miracles. She's not the first in the island's history though, and over time there has always been one, but then they die and are replaced by another. Naturally, with Ginko there you know that there will be more to it than that, and sure enough there's a mushi at work, and it is down to him to sort it out. Slow-moving like all the other episodes, this is an enjoyable piece with Nagi's love for, and involvement with, Akoya a particular highlight.

Then Ginko comes across a man who is looking for a rainbow, and says his father used to change personality when it rained, and used to be found on the streets by random people or wandering back home wondering what had happened. Apparently the father used to be fascinated by rainbows, and when Ginko finds out he tells the son of the existence of a mushi that is essentially a little rainbow. And in the next episode, Ginko meets a man who lost his wife at sea, apparently to see snakes. Sure enough, Ginko thinks the sea snakes might be related to another strain of mushi.

It's the next episode that was one of my favourites on the disc, with Ginko coming across a town that has yielded a great crop this year. Surprised, Ginko investigates, and finds out that the townspeople believe it is due to them giving someone in exchange, essentially as a sacrifice every year. Ginko's not convinced by all this and goes to find the village chief, only to discover something more sinister afoot. This is a great example of the kind of story that Mushi-Shi does best; it deals with a very adult theme in the way the villagers are being sacrificed, but there is hope in the belief of everyone that things will get better. Likewise, even knowing what Saishi has done, you can't help but realise that he was actually doing it for the needs of the many, a fair reason, even if his actions were deplorable.

In the final episode on the disc, a group of children are inflicted with an extreme cold having touched an inkstone. With Ginko passing by, he identifies the stone as containing a mushi, and tracks down the stone's creator. Her fiancée had died shortly after touching the stone, and so Ginko takes her back to the town so she can see what has happened and help cure it.

All the episodes on this volume follow the standard formula of the show, in that they present a self-contained story that generally begins with Ginko finding out about an incident that involves mushi in some way, discovering the cause or problem, and helping solve it. But despite being somewhat formulaic, there's a certain magic about it all that is hard to ignore. The stories themselves are often more rich than entire story arcs in other, lesser shows, and the characters tend to be very well fleshed out as well.

The production of the show continues to be a huge draw as well. Though there's not a great deal of action so not a whole lot of intricate animation, the backgrounds and character designs are a huge draw. Everything has a magnificent look about it, almost magical at times, while the simple look of the characters compliments it really well. The show just always looks interesting, and gives even more reason to pay attention.

In Summary:
Mushi-Shi is a show that oozes atmosphere from every pore. It's slow-moving, relaxed nature will no doubt put a lot of people off, and as a result it's probably not selling brilliantly. But it really does deserve to, because the creators have managed to craft such a rich world, and present intricate and well-crafted stories in each episode, such that it just becomes mesmerising. It certainly comes highly recommended from me; this is one of the best shows you will find at the moment.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),Director Interview #2 - Character Designer,Director Interview #3 - Art Director,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mushishi