Mushishi Vol. #4 -

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: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mushishi

Mushishi Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     December 10, 2007
Release Date: December 04, 2007

Mushishi Vol. #4
© 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?

The Review!
Ginko's life and his background gets touched upon lightly as we see more of the strange and alluring world of the mushi.

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 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.

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 done in some soft and indistinct colors that really push the quiet before the storm nature. It also provides a summary of each of the four 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 pinkish orange 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 which involves the lush landscapes. The included insert is a good booklet that retains the shows earthy tone and provides 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. Two more postcards also make it into this release and they're just as good as the first ones we had as we get images of Ginko and the world he lives in.

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 pink and red. 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 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 twenty two minutes, has the director and the music director going over how the music really influences and enhances the series. The second interview included, again with the director at the helm, is an interesting piece as it has him discussing how the opening was put together with the man who directed that sequence. It's not unusual to have a completely different person helm either the opening or endings of a series but it is rare to have a lengthy chat like this as it runs nearly twenty one minutes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Mushishi essentially glides into its second half, the series present four more tales of Ginko coming across or becoming involved with various mushi that are living their own lives. The series doesn't have any real sense of formal structure to it as an overall piece, but each episode as a standalone vignette continues to be incredibly beautiful, haunting and alluring. Every aspect of this series just resonates well, though it's not without its occasional flaw.

Of the four stories here, there are some very good ones. Of particular note is the fourth episode on here, episode eighteen, which is the only one to date which as dropped its opening sequence in order to provide more time to tell the tale. The story revolves around a young man who leaves his family and village to become an apprentice artist, only to spend quite a bit of time doing numerous menial jobs as any apprenticeship would involve. While serving the master painter well in this manner, the need to paint himself is strong and he finds himself sneaking out paints so that he can do a stunning piece of work inside the kimono that is the only reminder of his father and family. The work is accidentally seen by the master painter and that launches the young man into a career that includes a fair bit of fame.

What's unique about the story is that the first painting he does, that of the mountains of his village, is the central focus of the story as it's being told by a merchant trying to sell it to Ginko. Within that painting, there are moments where you can see smoke coming from it as if there's something alive inside of it. Ginko's drawn to this since he can sense some mushi in it and we start to see the tale told both through the merchant and what he knows but also from the perspective of the young man as his career takes off and he finds out what kind of price he has to pay for it. Mushishi really shines in these kinds of episodes where the beauty of the landscape is central, and the painting of the mountain and the various screens that he does are incredibly lush and detailed. These small things, big to the story of course, really give the entire show such an incredible presence.

Another story that proves to be fascinating for an altogether different reason is episode seventeen. This one has Ginko returning to a place where something critical for mushishi's reside. One of the methods of keeping in contact with others that they use is through pupa made of two threads, through which messages can be passed along. Over time these pupa tend to fall apart and the messages aren't as clear so they need to be replaced, something that Ginko finds himself in the position of needing to do. This has him returning to the young woman who learned the process under a master monk. The story of these pupa and their origins aren't clearly given, but the mystery of them is explored as twin sisters Aya and Ito learn the trade from the old man when they were just ten years old.

The uro, the mushi that are used to bind these pupas together, have a natural dark side to them like just about most other mushi. Their usefulness is patently obvious but you have to be extremely careful in using them. In the residence where the old man teaches them about the uro, he tells them that you can never close a door all the way as the uro will take that as a way to seal off that area and hide away, leading to another place. Living with the uro can be done, as the master is certainly old and has never had a problem, but when dealing with children it can be both good and bad. It doesn't take long for one of the sisters to accidentally be swept away which turns the other to wanting to find her. That desire over the years draws Ginko at long last to try and help her, but more so to point out how useless the endeavor is. The general eeriness of the uro is fascinating enough and the world that Ginko steps into with Aya is even more so, which leads to this storyline really ratcheting up the creepy factor while still keeping you glued to the screen.

If there's anything that continues to bother me about the series, it's that the character designs sometimes come across as too familiar. When several stories deal with children, such as in the ten age range, they tend to look the same from story to story. The boy in the first episode on this volume reminds me the same as the one from the first episode and a couple of other stories. The same can be said of the numerous young women, be their sisters or mothers, spread across the series. There's a fairly consistent look to them in terms of clothing which isn't a problem, but in actual facial character design they all feel eerily similar. At times, it almost feels like we're watching a particular story re-interpreted multiple times. It's a small concern, and one that really doesn't affect the series negatively, but when watching much of the series in relatively short fashion like this release, it's a bit more obvious and slightly distracting.

In Summary:
Mushishi is a series that definitely needs to be viewed at the right time. It can't be watched with a lot of noise around, distractions or other events. It's best viewed in the dead of night, with the lights off and full focus on the visuals and sounds that come from it. Each episode, while familiar in its own way, stands out as some very creative and engaging material. The stories slowly unfold and even if they're familiar and obvious where it will go, there are often enough small twists to really keep you engaged in it. Mushishi has been a real surprise overall considering I felt indifferent towards the manga. The visuals, the characters and the stories all combine together into a great work that needs more and more attention. Very recommended.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Japanese Staff Interviews

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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