Mushishi Vol. #1 (also w/starter set) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Revelation Films
  • MSRP: £15.99/£21.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mushishi

Mushishi Vol. #1 (also w/starter set)

By Dani Moure     November 28, 2007
Release Date: October 22, 2007


Mushishi Vol. #1 (also w/starter set)
© Revelation Films


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!
It’s been a while since we’ve had a really laid-back, slow-paced show like this, but Mushi-Shi is a rare gem in the current mountain of releases.

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. The distinctive art style comes across well with little in the way of artefacts. 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, and there’s also a tagline at the top proclaiming the volume is “featuring the voice of Vic Mignogna”, who has done many roles including Fullmetal Alchemist but bizarrely only voices one character in this show in one episode (so a bit mis-leading). 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 several in-depth extras here. The first is what seems to be number one in the series of interviews with the Director, this one focussing on Ginko and featuring his voice actor. They discuss various aspects of the show and it runs about 20 minutes. Then there’s another director interview, this time him going solo, talking about the origins of the show, and it runs in about 20 minutes. Then we get a three minute tour of the production studio as well as the usual textless openings and endings.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Straight off the bat it has to be said that Mushi-Shi is definitely not a show that will be to everyone’s tastes. If you like your plot fast-paced, your action sooner rather than not at all or a huge cast of cute girls, look elsewhere now. Because Mushi-Shi has none of that. If you’re still with us, then be prepared for a show that might just surprise you like it did me.

It’s been some time since we’ve had a show with a really laid-back, sombre feel to it; the closest I can think of to Mushi-Shi in terms of style and tone is Kino’s Journey and that was released several years ago. It’s a shame because often such shows are the diamonds in the rough, especially given the glut of mediocrity and similar-minded shows that have been turning up for a while now. Thankfully Mushi-Shi is here to fill that void and, judging by its first volume, it will stand alongside the best of them.

The story is simple and straight-forward, with the show being more about the theme than any over-arching plot. Ginko is a mushi-shi (or mushi master, depending on what language you’re listening in); a man who knows pretty much everything there is to know about the little creatures known as mushi. They are said to be “life in its purest form”, neither good nor evil, and they come in all sorts of varieties and are invisible to most normal people. The show essentially follows Ginko as he travels around visiting different towns investigating different cases of strange illnesses and diseases, and more often than not they all lead back to the presence of mushi.

The first episode typifies what the series becomes, as Ginko meets a young boy who has lived in solitude since his grandmother’s death. Anything he draws with his left hand comes to life, but his grandmother could never see the results, and so she had bandaged it up. It ends up being the presence of mushi in his hand and they need to be flushed out, and the spirit of the boy’s grandmother is also around to watch over him. The remaining four episodes play out in much the same way, with some strange case or event leading Ginko to look deeper into it and find the presence of a mushi, and eventually either extract it or leave it well alone, depending on the situation.

So it obviously sounds quite boring, and indeed it would be extremely repetitive to just list what happens in each of the episodes one by one, because they all take the same format. And at this point you’d be forgiven in wondering why I spent some time raving about the show at the start of the review. Well, the simple fact is that Mushi-Shi is all about atmosphere, and buckets of it. It has its own sense of style, from the subliminal-like music to the watercolour look of the scenery with the use of a lot of pastel colours contrasted with darker ones, depending on the scene.

Even down to the tone of how the characters speak, it’s all relaxed and gentle (and the lead actors on both tracks nailed the feel of the show perfectly) and sets the mood perfectly for an enjoyable episode where you’ll find out a little more about the mushi and their origins, and more likely than not be introduced to a new type of them as well. It’s the sombre, laid-back feeling that makes the show stand out, and it even reaches to Ginko himself. While we know very little about him other than his expertise on the mushi, he seems to carry quite a burden with him and his mood and way of carrying himself acts as another extension of the show’s atmosphere.

With little in the way of a regular supporting cast (in fact, unless some characters re-appear down the line there plain isn’t one), Ginko carries the show well, and it’s his past that provides one of the hooks to come back for more. But more than anything, it’s just that this show is so relaxing to watch it’s almost ethereal, and each individual episode has a character that you can invest in that Ginko will get behind and help out. Explaining what makes the show work so well is difficult, which is why you really need to try it out for yourself.

In Summary:
The worst thing about Mushi-Shi is that it will probably sell terribly, befalling the same fate as similar series, which is a crying, crying shame because this is a show that really deserves to do well. It’s well-crafted, tightly plotted and simply captivating in a way that few shows are nowadays. I was almost mesmerised whilst watching it and that is not a bad thing at all. If there’s any justice it will buck the trends and sell bucket loads; I’ll certainly give it a huge recommendation after an excellent opening volume.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),Director Interview #1 – Ginko,Interview with the Director,Production Studio Tour,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.

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