Mushishi Vol. #6 -

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. #6

By Chris Beveridge     February 29, 2008
Release Date: February 26, 2008

Mushishi Vol. #6
© 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."

Sound without source, for the voice is frozen. A consuming illness that cannot be seen. The sweet tones of childhood will damn those closest, but within the sacred smoke, her tale will be told.

A new species discovered. Decisions made in arrogance and fear. The flames of the dead will find succor in the heat of the living. Life will be undone. Light the fires; darkness is coming.

A world touched by four senses, until the filth becomes overwhelming. A gaze across the distance, across past, present and future. Eyes closed against the onslaught; eyes closed to all but truth.

Three paths will meet for a time on the mountain, to roam and relish and learn the lessons there to be learned. Three paths will separate, yet even time cannot erase where the foot has tread.

Contains episodes 23-26.

The Review!
Mushishi draws to a close in much the same way as most episodes within the series, quietly, gently and with a real sense of beauty and wonder.

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 and it’s less of an issue with this volume as some new authoring practices have hit it and bitrates are generally higher than usual.

The slipcover front has the artwork of Ginko as seen from the back 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 in various shades of brown that almost make you feel tense since you don't know what could step out of it. 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 tan background. The cover is a full wraparound piece and that's the only place where the shows logo resides as it is 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. One more postcard also make it into this release and it's just as good as the previous ones we had as we get another picture 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 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.

Mushishi continues to have some really interesting extras included with each volume. The standards are here with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are certainly haunting enough and welcome to have even on the final volume. In addition to that we get a couple of other pieces. Following in the tradition of past extras, there's a great little production site tour that showcases the environment in which the show was made and all the little details that go into the actual production side of it. These are usually done more with big budget films like Ghibli titles but I love seeing them and this one is no exception. Also included is a new actor and director commentary for those that enjoy them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mushishi draws to a close with its last four episodes and it’s incredibly bittersweet. While the manga series is still ongoing, it’s a series that’s moving at a snails pace so it’s not like we can expect a lot more out of that anytime soon overall. These last four episodes of the anime incarnation are quite simply just as beautiful and haunting as the first twenty-two episodes we’ve seen. Mushishi has really managed to be a surprise considering how bland I felt the first volume of the manga was when I read it awhile ago.

Mushishi doesn’t stray from what makes it such a good show. While the previous volume gave us some fascinating material that deals with the overall mythos of the world of mushi, this one gets right back to what makes it all so much fun. The discovery of the mushi, seeing how they interact with the world in each particular instance and trying to minimize it or extract it completely is still very much the core of the experience. The four stories here really do capitalize well on having gone through so much and almost having it down to a seamless science that just hits every note right. While not every story is as enrapturing as some of the best out there, and this does feel a bit weaker after the previous volume, it’s only weak in comparison to itself. Mushishi is just one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in this genre.

Each story is a favorite in its own way here but some stand out more than others. The opening tale is a haunting one as it introduces us to a girl who has kept silent for years because the belief is that her voice causes illnesses in the village. Only she can see the “rust” that covers people and slowly causes them to ache and hurt. The disease is getting worse in the eyes of the villagers but they can’t pin everything on her just yet so there’s an uncomfortable sense between them all. When Ginko comes into the village after seeing the rust and works to discover how to handle it. Like other stories, it’s how the little threads come together and the way everyone reacts that ties it together so well. When you bring in the visuals, the pacing and the haunting feeling that much of it has, even a weak story can be amazing.

My favorite of the volume comes with episode twenty-five as we’re introduced to a young woman named Yahagi who has quite the curse and boon. Born without sight, her father had spent a good deal of time early on in trying to come up with a way to help his daughter. His method was by acquiring an eye that has a mushi in it that can provide anyone with vision. She ends up getting her vision back quickly but it eventually comes with an amazing price. While she starts off simply by falling in love with the world she’s never seen before, she eventually starts to see the futures of people around her. Even worse is that she can’t actually make a difference in any of the events as what she sees actually comes true no matter what she tries. And then when she can’t even get away from it by closing her eyes, she starts to see all over the land and it overwhelms her. When she comes across Ginko, she tries to set things right in her life so that she can move on but Ginko can’t exactly let that happen.

The only criticism that I can really level at the show is one that almost feels unwarranted in some ways. As we’ve seen through the course of the series, there are a number of stories where Ginko is a bit player at best and doesn’t even show up on screen for awhile. In the middle of the series this isn’t much of a big deal but when it happens in the last episode you almost feel a little bit cheated. That story revolves around two boys who live on a mountain where a light vein is located. The first thirteen minutes of the episode revolve around them and their growing understanding of each other and the situation on the mountain itself. It’s not until things begin to change at that point that Ginko simply wanders into their location and gets involved like he usually does. The story itself is decent enough but without Ginko to give it that extra weight and a bit more of a nod towards the mushi it feels fairly weak.

Mushishi’s beauty is still one of its strongest aspects and the creative staff have really made this setting come alive. The soft colors, the mists that move through it and the manner in which small areas move to give it life are just fantastic. The world that Ginko and the mushi live in is one that feels incredibly rich and alive, one where you really do feel like it all could just happen like we’re seeing it. A slight step to the left and you’d be inside that world. After watching so many of the extras with the creative staff and seeing the approach they took in adapting the original works the series takes on an even more impressive feeling. It’s cliché to say that the world and setting is a character within a show but it’s very true with Mushishi as this world is far more alive in a realistic manner than those that really do take place within reality.

In Summary:
Mushishi has been one of the best shows I've seen in the last few years. Using what is really a very simple idea while setting it up in a story of the week format could have led to something banal and uninteresting. Yet Mushishi has instead become one of the most beautiful shows I've seen. Everything in it simply comes alive in a way that's almost magical and highly captivating. From the lush backgrounds to the simple yet strong character designs, Mushishi draws you in like a mushi would and keeps you enraptured by all of it. There are few series that I really believe need to be watched in a certain way but Mushishi is one that has to be done an episode at a time and late at night in the dark. With a very quiet soundtrack to it, each story envelopes you in this way which only heightens the experience. Mushishi is a series not to be missed.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Director Interview #9, Actor/Director Commentary

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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