Mushishi Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 03, 2008
Release Date: Monday, February 18, 2008
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.
Mushi-Shi hits the half-way point and serves up more relaxing adventures that focus on the characters, and we get an origin story for Ginko as well.
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.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for Mushi-Shi is very good on the whole, and looks quite good upscaled. 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.
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the front cover of this disc features Ginko prominently, in another 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.
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.
There are a couple more interview instalments with the Director here. The first is with the Sound Director, talking about his work on the show. The second is slightly shorter but in the same vein, with the Shooting 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)
There are few series that give off such a relaxing and atmospheric air as Mushi-Shi, and yet with each episode it continues to ooze its own sense of style that many other shows lack. It continues to focus solely on the characters, moving Ginko from story to story, each structured in much the same way, with nothing really in the way of an ongoing story. The format is simple; Ginko travels from village to village to help people solve various mysteries or strange happenings that are caused by mushi. The episodes take on a serene, almost spiritual feeling, as the music and visuals combine to give you a taste of something different.
So it goes without saying that if you like your anime chock-full of action and adventure, heavy-hitting and excitement, or you've just seen a few episodes and disliked them, then there's nothing in this third volume of the series that will ever do anything to convince you that you'll like it, so there's no point in bothering. But for those of us who like something that breaks from the norm, the four episodes here serve up some interesting stories.
As with the previous volumes, your enjoyment will likely hinge on how drawn in you are to the story. For me, the first episode kind of failed to provide that kind of hook. It revolves around a group of villagers asking Ginko for help in finding their resident mushi-shi, who has become the master of a mountain. Ginko helps them track down what is going on and sure enough, a mushi is behind his absence at a time when the villagers need him. I'm not really sure what it was about this episode that left me feeling a bit unattached and uninterested, but something about it didn't click with me.
Any fears that may have popped up about whether the show might suddenly it a terminal decline were summarily erased with the next episode, which explains how Ginko came to lose his eye and embarked on his journey as a mushi-shi. As a young boy, Ginko lost his mother in a mudslide while travelling with her, and encounters a one-eyed woman named Nui, who helps him with his injured leg and takes care of him, telling him all about the mushi she can see. As the young Ginko (then called Yoki) spends time with Nui, he learns more about what the mushi can do and some of the dangers they can represent.
It's always great to see origins of characters, especially those shrouded in mystery like Ginko, so this episode was really welcome and raised the bar for what I would come to expect from the series as it continues. When you realise as it goes along that it's actually the story of Ginko unfolding before our eyes, you'd be hard-pressed to not feel some attachment to him and want to see him come out good in the end.
The next episode isn't quite on the same level, but presents an interesting story of its own. This time Ginko has been asked to come to a village to see a girl called Hana, by her mother. She recently tried to run away from the village with her boyfriend Zen, but fell off a bridge and since then she hasn't been the same. Ginko's interactions with Zen as he comes to figure out the true nature of the situation are the highlight, as is Hana's mother's with her attitude towards Zen given what has happened, and his wanting to prolong her life rather than remove the mushi from her.
In the final episode, Ginko is lost in a bamboo forest and meets Kisuke, who tells him that he's been trapped in the same forest for three years. After a deep conversation, Ginko insists he should be able to leave and eventually does find his way out. When he returns to the village, he hears several stories and rumours about Kisuke and the girl he is stuck in there with, and soon realises that a mushi will be at work. Although the episode's outcome is quite obvious, it's still intriguing to watch it unravel, especially to see how the two main characters react to what they find out.
There's no doubt that the production of the show is a big draw, as it builds the atmosphere to what it is. The animation is certainly nothing extravagant but does its job, rather it's the character designs and production design that give the show a unique look, and the intricate music only adds to the overall style the show has.
Mushi-Shi continues to be atmospheric, character-centric and intriguing. If you're not into that kind of thing, then this is a show that you'll really get nothing from, because the more you get invested in it, the bigger return you get. It's very slow-moving and not the sort of show you'd expect to do well at retail, but it really deserves to because it's another one of those series that's a diamond in the rough.
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),Director Interview #4 - Sound Direction,Director Interview #5 - Shooting Direction,Textless Songs
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Philips DVP 5980 region free DVD player upscaling to 1080p via HDMI, 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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2