Mushishi Vol. #1 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • 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.
  • MSRP: 29.99/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mushishi

Mushishi Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     August 02, 2007
Release Date: July 31, 2007

Mushishi Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

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 stories of the Mushi and the people they effect are all linked together by a traveling Mushi-shi, or "Mushi Master," who seeks rare Mushi sightings and uses his shaman-like knowledge of Mushi to help the effected people. What are the Mushi and what do they want?

Contains episodes 1-5.

The Review!
Telling a series of standalone tales about a man who investigates creatures called Mushi, Mushishi is a fascinating look into a strange world hidden from our eyes.

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, particularly in the second episode where doors open and you can see the digital aspect all the more. The show is pretty light when it comes to high motion sequences and outside of one during the beginning of the first episode it holds up well. The blocking during the early scene with Ginko running through the forest could have used a lot more attention. 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.

FUNimation has again gone with a slipcover for the release where the design of it isn't reflected on the actual keepcase cover. 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 kept to earthy brown tones and 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 second Japanese volume, Mushishi has a great look to it with the keepcase as it features no logos and just the character artwork of Ginko against a snowy scene. 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, with one dealing with the second episode and the other with the first episode. Included in the keepcase are a pair of really nice paper pieces. The first is a postcard of a poster that I wish FUNimation would put out as it's a great white piece with Ginko walking in the snow. The second piece is a great booklet that retains the shows earthy tone and provides details by the series director and 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 it as the static image is so heavily laden with blues. 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 first volume of the series is rather laden with extras that are fairly entertaining to watch. The first is a lengthy twenty-minute piece with a discussion between the director and the voice actor for Ginko. The two talk about the process and what they put into the show and the Yuuto covers what it's like to do his first lead performance in a series where he's also the only recurring character. There is also a separate interview session with the director which was done at the same time and this one runs just under twenty minutes as well and shows what he went through with the series in its early stages and what went into keeping it faithful to the original. Rounding it out is a three minute studio tour that shows the office where the Artland animators worked on the program and there is also the clean opening and closing sequences. Add in a dozen or so trailers for other shows and there's about an hours worth of supplemental material in addition to the five episodes on the disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Yuki Urushibara, Mushishi is a twenty-six episode series that plays out in episodic format for the first five episodes at least. With similarity in visual style to parts of Princess Mononoke and Kamichu!, the show revolves around a Mushi-shi who unearths mysteries related to the Mushi, a form of life that is generally invisible to the human eye. Through these stories, the lead character is often relegated to the background as it lets the characters of that story tell the tale.

The series is one that involves tales of the fantastic but taken to a smaller level. Ginko, the only recurring character in the series, is a traveling Mushi-shi. His search for more mysteries of the Mushi allows him to explore all corners of the country and at the same time build up a knowledge of the immense variety of Mushi as well as compiling a list of treatments. Ginko's story isn't told much in these first five episodes but there are glimpses as to what's led him to the life he lives now. For the most part, it's intent on showing him interacting with the characters in the individual stories, sometimes as a detective and healer and other times as little more than an observer. Ginko has a quiet and thoughtful presence to him that keeps him from being the center of attention and that allows for him to move seamlessly throughout different stories without seeming like he's dominating any of it.

Each of the episodes on the first volume covers a different tale which involve different mushi themselves. There are elements that cross over between stories, but they're generally tied to Ginko himself in how each of the tales changes him and his knowledge of the mushi. The opening episode has him discovering a boy who has the ability to create life from the drawings he makes with his left hand. There is a great mystery about this power itself but a very different mystery that's actually being researched here as there is someone or something protecting him from in between two worlds. One of the results from this episode is covered later on when Ginko is trying to trade some of the items he's acquired with someone whose services he requires to understand another mystery.

The five stories here are all quite engaging as they play out, be it a boy who can create life, a girl whose eyes have been eaten by darkness or a swamp that's on a journey who happens to have picked up a drowning girl along the way. There are several layers to each of the tales that gets explored and through its slow pacing, creeping music and lush visuals it's all beautifully done. Though the show may be more relaxing than it should be, its atmosphere is just as much a recurring character as Ginko is. With it being so episodic and focused on short but fascinating tales, it doesn't lend itself to a lot of discussion in the details but rather in the larger sense. Ginko's role as both a detective and observer is one that allows the viewer to take everything in without judgment while working to understand the mystery and how to treat it, both for the people involved as well as for the mushi involved.

Having read the first volume of the manga that Del Rey released, I wasn't sure how well this would translate as the manga simply didn't grab me. The anime version appears to be very faithful to the original, something that's shown in the extras as well. The transition to animation has made it a far more engaging property as the beauty of the locales really heightens the mood. Combining that with the wonderful musical score attached to it and some excellent voice acting in the Japanese cast, Mushishi kept my attention rapt for the five episodes whereas the manga had me looking for something else to do after each storyline. The visuals for this are just lush, beautiful pieces of artwork in the backgrounds that give it such an incredible presence. There are a lot of greens used throughout this due to its connection with nature and it makes a huge impact on the presentation of the show. This is one of the most faithful manga to anime adaptations that I can recall and it pays off handsomely.

In Summary:
Mushishi is a series that's very much one that won't appeal across a wide spectrum but it is a very engaging and beautifully animated title. The production values are high across the board and the attention to detail in capturing what made the manga entertaining to audiences is well retained. FUNimation's release of the series brings about a good chunk of episodes and some very fun extras that make this a great value. Mushishi is filled with atmosphere and a fascinating stories about the creatures known as mushi. Though there is a certain familiarity to all of it as other series in the genre play out the same way, it's the way its told that lets it stand above many others. With some really breathtaking designs and animation at times, this is a series that really captures its audience's imagination. Very recommended.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Director Interview,Voice Actor Interview,Studio Tour,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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.


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