The latest volume of Mushi-Shi continues with the slow-moving, character-centric stories.
What They Say
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'.
15. Pretense Of Spring
16. Sunrise Serpent
17. Pickers Of Empty Cocoons
18. Clothes That Embrace The Mountain
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.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
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 Music Director, talking about his work on the show. The second is slightly shorter but in the same vein, discussing the direction of the opening. 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)
Mushi-Shi is one of those shows that is both easy to write about and not. With each episode being self-contained, there’s no real ongoing story to discuss, but they are all filled with some rich characterisation. The simplest way of summing this show up is that if you’ve liked the previous three volumes, then this one is simply more of the same, and in this case, it’s not a bad thing.
The first episode on this disc sees Ginko wandering about, and asks to stay at a woman called Suzu’s house. Her younger brother, Miharu, is able to see these little creatures that no one else can. Ginko tells her that Miharu can see mushi, and she reveals that one day he had disappeared into the snowy mountains and was thought lost in the blizzards for a long time. Then, one day in spring, he mysteriously returned home. Not long after Ginko arrives, and begins teaching Miharu about mushi, the child falls into a deep sleep again; he apparently hibernates through winter until spring returns. But this spring he does not wake up, so Ginko takes a trip into the mountains to try and find out what Miharu saw. Though the episode’s resolution is rather predictable, with the butterfly’s effect coming a mile off, the characterisation is what shines through once again, as we get to see Ginko’s different ways of interacting in certain situations, and Suzu’s almost mother-like relationship with Miharu is well told.
In the second episode on the disc, the family theme continues to be strong as Ginko takes a boat ride along the river, and is asked by a boy called Kaji to help his mother regain her lost memories. When Ginko finds out that the woman is having trouble sleeping, and can only remember certain things, he wonders if a mushi may be at work. It turns out that Kaji’s mother is able to remember every day things like how to cook rice, her husband and her son, she forgets everything else, even things like what a sneeze is. Ginko soon sees that she is inhabited by a serpent-like mushi that is eating away at certain memories, unable to get the everyday ones so far, but in time it will consume her completely.
The story then takes something of a twist, as there is nothing Ginko can do. Time passes and the woman goes in search of her husband with Kaji, but it only leads to heartbreak as she learns the truth of where he has really been for so long. This was probably my favourite episode on the disc, again in part because of the raw family emotions on display. It was extremely sad to see Kaji and his mother faced with the father spending time with another family, and that is a great credit to the writers who manage to get you emotionally invested in the characters in such a short amount of time. The other thing I found intriguing, and noticed throughout this volume, is the passing of time. It’s especially noticeable in this episode but as we watch Ginko’s journey, so much time seems to pass by, from seasons coming and going to him leaving for a year or more before returning, it adds to the whole atmosphere of the show and the ethereal nature of it.
In the next episode, Ginko receives a letter meant for someone else, and old friend, and so he goes to visit her. But the woman, Aya, is still obsessing over finding her sister who was lost years ago. It’s another sad, family story, as we see Aya and her sister when they were younger, care-free and adventurous and keen to learn, only to see heartbreak on Aya’s side when she feels responsible for her sister’s sudden disappearance into the cocoon. While her guilt was what drove the episode, the only slight problem I had with it was the slight ridiculousness of the cocoon idea, and how it’s used to transport things. It’s perfectly within the show’s bounds, for sure, but it did seem a bit silly. The final episode was one that showed the price of fame, as a boy leaves his family to become a famous artist, recognised around the country, but in doing so becomes an outcast of his village. It’s another episode that ends up in sadness, but again contains strong characterisation and a story with a message.
This volume of Mushi-Shi is simply more of the same, which means a slow-moving, ethereal atmosphere overall and some enjoyable individual episodes, each with great characterisation and telling a solid story with some message or moral in a short space of time. It’s certainly not a show for everyone but if you’re happy to watch it an episode at a time, it’s hard not to be charmed. This is certainly a show I’d recommend for something a bit different.
Japanese Language (5.1 & 2.0), English Language (5.1 & 2.0), English Subtitles, Director Interview #6, Music Direction, Director Interview #7, Opening Direction, Textless Songs
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player (upscaling DVDs to 1080p via HDMI), Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.