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: 29.98
- Running time: 125
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Mushishi
Mushishi Vol. #2
By Chris Beveridge
September 12, 2007
Release Date: September 11, 2007
What They Say
They are neither plants nor animals. They differ from other forms of life such as the micro-organisms and the fungi. Instead they resemble the primeval body of life and are generally known as "Mushi". Their existence and appearance are unknown to many and only a limited number of humans are aware of them. Ginko is a "Mushi-shi" who travels around to investigate and find out more about the "Mushi". In the process, he also lends a helping hand to people who face problems with supernatural occurrences which may be related to the "Mushi".The Review!
Ginko continues to drift about Japan as he comes across numerous mushi which cause all sorts of fascinating issues.Audio:
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.Video:
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.Packaging:
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 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 brown background. 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. Both pieces deal with scenes from episodes on this volume. The included insert 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.Menu:
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.Extras:
The extras continue to be solid here for those that are interested in the creative side of the process. The standards are here in the form of the clean opening and closing but it's the interviews that really hold your attention. The first one, which runs about fifteen minutes, has the director and the man behind the character design and illustration direction for the series. They have a good discussion about what went into translating the original works to this format and how they worked hard to keep the designs and details accurate. The other interview included, again with the director at the helm, involves a fourteen minute interview session with the series art director. Similar to the previous interview, it covers a lot of what went into the design and how they worked on it from pre-production to the end.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first installment of Mushishi was quite the surprise, especially since I came away from the original manga with a rather lukewarm feeling. The standalone stories came to life in a far more interesting manner in animated form that each of the stories just held my attention completely. With no eye-catches or other distractions once the episode started, it felt like watching a very short form movie as the mystery of a particular mushi was explored.
Similar to the first volume, the five episodes on this one provide an array of stories that has Ginko walking through them, sometimes more involved than others. Instances do occur where he's at as much risk as those dealing first hand with the mushi and those tend to be a good bit more exciting. But even when it has him more in an observational role, Ginko's presence brings a certain kind of quiet confidence and stability to what's usually a strange and unpredictable situation. The way that people continually get involved with the mushi, some of which know full well what kind of dangers are present, gives the series plenty of ground to cover without being repetitive.
When looking at the five stories here, it's hard to really pull out a couple of favorites among them. They all offer something different and fascinating to watch and none of them had me bored or uninterested. The opening tale was one that centered around a young woman, one of many across a few generations, that seemingly died every day only to revive the next. The island on which she lives was given something of a miracle status because of it and a community seeking medical help grew there over time. Ginko is brought in to help figure out what's really going on and the mushi involved in it has some interesting effects to it. What's far more interesting though is that number of people that are truly affected and the way that they find that they rather prefer being in the thrall of the mushi.
Another intriguing story revolves around a man in search of a rainbow. Just before he was born, his father came across the end of a rainbow and touched it, which then caused the rainbow to form around and in him in various ways. Over time it eventually moved on, but whenever it rained or got close to raining, he'd wander out into world in search of the rainbow through a compulsion of sorts. Now that his father is laying weak and dehydrated, longing for the rainbows still, the son has gone off in search of the rainbow to bring back both to help his father and to prove that he wasn't crazy. Ginko hears the tale and offers to help since he's taking a break from things. The story progresses in a lazy fashion but it really draws you in. The rainbows in particular are particularly vibrant when we start to get more about what's really going on and it really sets the episode apart from other ones with its vibrancy and fancy.
The other three tales on the volume all cover equally interesting stories, be it an auspicious tooth that some people seem to have which helps to ensure a bountiful harvest or a cloudlike mushi that has been suspended in an inkstone. The mushi are constantly central characters in all of these mysteries but it's the way they seemingly blend so perfectly into nature, a part of nature itself, that adds a level of disturbing realism to all of it. Each of the creatures has an existence that works within the balance of nature itself, but they're usually dangerous only when taken into context with humanity. There are plenty of analogues to things we see in our own world that work the same way, on a smaller scale of course, but it's the similarities that tie it all together. Though pure fantasy, it's presented in such a compelling way that you can imagine much of this actually happening with little trouble.In Summary:
Though you can watch Mushishi all at once and soak up five episodes of mushi goodness, this is a series that really needs to be watched late at night, in the dark, one episode at a time. The stories are ones that you need to experience by yourself just before you go to sleep, letting them linger in your mind and really sink in. Taking in the episodes one a night, you really appreciate just how much goes into each individual tale and just how much atmosphere is conveyed here without heavy pretension. It's usually obvious where the show is going to end up, but the journey there is done in such a fascinating and captivating manner that you can't help but to get involved. This is wonderful material, the kind that can cross fandoms and draw in new people. Very highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,clean Closing,Director Interviews
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.