Every volume of Mushi-Shi is the same in style, so if you liked the previous ones, you know what you’re getting.
What They Say
Neither Good 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'
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 is another of the interview instalments with the Director here. This one is with the four people who deal with the colouring of the series, and is an interesting watch to discover why they went with that kind of ethereal look the series takes. We also get the textless opening and ending again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mushi-Shi is a series that I wish I’d had the opportunity to review as a complete set rather than individually. Not because I think it lends itself to marathoning; quite the contrary, it’s far better taking in an episode a night to enjoy the mood. But rather I feel like each review is more and more repetitive, as there’s only so much you can talk about for the series as a whole. Each episode is quite different, and yet follows the same sort of pattern. There’s a problem, mushi are involved, and Ginko is on hand to help explain and fix it. But within each episode the magic happens, as the atmosphere created is second to none, and you can’t help but be drawn in by some great characterisation of people that will only appear for 25 minutes. In that sense, the series is a joy to behold, and this volume has four more episodes of the same.
The first episode on the disc follows a man called Seijirou who falls for the village nanny, Fuki. Seijirou has always enjoyed looking at the sky and the stars, and he and Fuki begin to spend a lot of time together. She often talks about strings that she can see hanging from the sky, but Seijirou is unable to see them himself. When Fuki decides to pull on one, she disappears right before her lover’s eyes. Gink comes on the scene, strolling through the mountains, and is followed by a woman. It turns out this is Fuki, and she has been exposed to a mushi that stops her from being seen. With Ginko’s help, they manage to work things out and the villagers that don’t believe Fuki is still around eventually come to change their minds. I quite enjoyed this story, as it was nice to witness the bond between Fuki and Seijirou and how no matter what the villagers said, Seijirou held steadfast and didn’t falter in his love for Fuki.
For the next adventure, the story switches gears from the love theme and deals with a girl who is essentially trapped in her own destiny. Tanyu is a young girl whose leg is the seal for a species of mushi that can’t be allowed to escape. Because of this, her leg is black and paralysed. She is part of a family that is destined to record texts about mushi and archive them, and when Ginko goes to find out about some other mushi he discovers Tanyu’s plight. She feels unable to escape her destiny, and her story is extremely moving. One of the nice things about this episode though is how involved Ginko becomes with her; he seems genuinely attached and while there’s nothing directly said about any attraction between the two, a bond between them is easy to see and shows a soft and gentle side of Ginko on a personal level.
Undoubtedly the most tragic and powerful episode on the disc comes next, as Ginko discovers a couple who gave birth to a child who exhibits some strange traits. Each of their subsequent children reaches a certain age and begins doing the same thing; essentially they seem like the same child. It turns out that, when the woman originally gave birth a parasitic mushi killed the child inside her and took over, and she gave birth to a green blob that eventually formed into a child. Unfortunately, as Ginko discovers as he studies the children, their lives are destined to end in tragedy and it’s sad to see. The woman is desperate to look after her children, no matter what, and even tries to kill Ginko in a moment of desperation. But something has to be done and the ending is devastating for all involved. This is exactly the kind of emotional story that Mushi-Shi excels at, having more feelings than some entire series.
In the final episode, the series covers a really interesting ethical situation, where people in a village are taken out to sea when they are about to die, where little globules take over and eventually lead to the person being reborn. In the case that Ginko sees, a woman’s mother was dying so she took her out to sea, and eventually gave birth to a child. This child ends up looking and sounding exactly like her mother, and Ginko tries to help her deal with seeing the difference between her child and her mother, as painful as it may be. The writers of Mushi-Shi often have some intriguing ways of looking and strange ethical situations and this is certainly one of them.
Once again, it’s more of the same in the fifth volume of Mushi-Shi. The four episodes on this disc are all very strong though, with two of the most emotionally poignant the series has yet presented. Each episode in this series is always guaranteed to tell a solid story entrenched in deep emotions with strong characterisation, and this is all the more evident here. With one volume left, I’ll be disappointed to see the end of the series but it has been one of the most enjoyable journeys to experience so far.
Japanese Language (5.1 & 2.0), English Language (5.1 & 2.0), English Subtitles, Director Interview #8 – Colouring, 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.