The entire countryside comes to a halt midday to witness a rare solar eclipse that is rumored to allow the average person to see Mushi. Unable to avert their gaze, the air is full of awe and wonder—but those who know the Mushi are preparing for the eclipse's aftermath.
Based on a prediction from Tanyuu Karibusa, the cursed recorder, Mushishi Ginko finds himself in a very unlucky farming village. Immediately following the solar eclipse, a strange black cloud begins to gather in the sky and blocks the sun once more. Suspecting it to be the work of a Mushi known as Hihami, Ginko seeks to liberate the village from perpetual darkness. However, it seems that not all of the villagers are eager to return to the light.
Nearly a decade later, the anime industry has seen a sequel to the beloved Mushishi adaptation. It's rare enough for any anime to receive a sequel, but after eight long years? Did anyone expect there to ever be more Ginko on-screen? I certainly did not. But it seems Ginko's absence has not made him any more weary than before.
Mushishi: Hihamukage, the first instalment in a larger second season, details Ginko's experience in a village approaching disaster. The sun in the surrounding area has been been blocked by a Mushi, creating eternal darkness and a scarcity of food. With the winter around the corner, total
annihilation seems inevitable.
Making matters worse, one of the village's children has run away from home. As her disease makes any source of sunlight hazardous to her skin, she is kept inside by her father for protection. Always. She is not allowed to leave the house-- not even to interact with other villagers. She resents her father for keeping her locked in a personal hell, and she resents her sister, too, for living the life she could not have. When the sun is mysteriously blocked, she takes the opportunity to finally see the outside world. She does not care if her family is worried. She simply wants to live.
Hihamukage is immediately recognisable for its tense and melancholic atmosphere. It is not the story itself that stands out (although it's just fine), but the mood. Mushishi has always been a series about mood. It is less about making you ponder and more about making you feel. It achieves this through subtlety rather than through ghosts and monsters and long walks through abandoned hospitals. Ginko and those he meets behave rationally. They are flawed people, certainly, but their motives are always justified. It does not need axe-wielding murderers and sharp, piercing sounds to unsettle you. Mushishi holds itself to a higher standard than that.
If there is anything to take issue with, it might be the stubbornness of the run-away girl. She is not a likeable character in the least. She treats her father like garbage without ever trying to understand his motives (what else could he do in this situation?) and throws insults upon her sister merely out of childish jealousy. But isn't that how it should be? She's a young, broken child who is afraid of the world around her. She doesn't know how to behave like a normal girl because she was never raised as one. She can't pretend to be happy when she is clearly hurting inside. The characters in Mushishi are designed as humans rather than as plot-devices. If there is any character to be given more than a moment of screen-time, they will become fully developed, three-dimensional characters by the end of the episode. Mushishi does not add anything without meaning. It is focused in its simplicity.
What about Ginko, then? He is as he's always been. He tells people directly when they are being foolish and states the facts without regard for the listener's emotions. He is kind-hearted but not motivated solely out of a kind-heartedness. Dealing with Mushi is Ginko's job-- not an altruistic desire to better the lives of everyone he meets. There is a lot of maturity to Ginko's character, especially when the majority of anime protagonists fall into the dichotomy of either 'selfless saint' or 'anti-hero'.
Hihamukage is visually appealing. It may not have the budget of a big film, but it never really needed such a thing in the first place. The background artwork is beautiful even in the apocalyptic darkness and the eclipse looks absolutely terrifying. The only major problem with the visuals is that there many scenes with the characters' faces drawn blank. It seems very out-of-place for an anime that pays so much attention to detail. There is also a lack of animation, with regular panning shots and still-frames, but perhaps that is simply a way to intensify the mood.
Mushishi is known for its stellar soundtrack, and Hihamukage does not disappoint in that regard. There's a very mystical, perhaps even dream-like quality to the music. It is also only used during the important scenes (with ambient sound or silence occupying the rest), which serves well to make each track effective and meaningful. Many times an anime will have either no noticeable music or too much of it, with loud, turgid orchestral pieces stealing the audience's attention (Shingeki no Kyojin, I'm looking at you). Mushishi strikes a nice balance. It is confident with itself but never pompous.
Any fan of Mushishi will find plenty to enjoy with Hihamukage. But how does it compare to the main series? Is it better? Is it worse? ... Does it even really matter? There's enough satisfaction in simply seeing Ginko's adventures once again. A protagonist so well-written could make even the mediocre seem brilliant. If Hihamukage is any indication, Ginko's return looks to be a strong one.
Do not take anything for granted, not even life itself. This simple yet profound message is splendidly conveyed by another episode of the calming drug called "Mushishi". What an adventure this series has been; watching Ginko investigating various mushi species in a clever but always comprehensible way, not only curing every human in need of help whatever their origin, but also depicting the essence of life.
An anime not for everyone, to say the least, but certainly for anyone who wants to shed light on human mysteries. Ginko as our protagonist, being the most sincere and suave guy you could probably imagine, doesn't miss a chance
to research the nature of the mushi. In this special "Hihamukage", he comes into a village which suffers from an unnatural darkness caused by an eternal eclipse. How is this possible and are there any mushi involved in this perilous situation caused by the missing sunlight? Ginko knows that you can't take anything for granted, therefore he has to do two things: convince the people of his earnest actions and restore the state being thought of as granted, where there's enough sunlight for life to flourish. The story is as innovative as it has been the whole series along, and the mystery stays on a level for itself.
It's also a delight to see that the side characters aren't only there for being treated, but in the case of two quite different sisters also illustrate the correlation between humans and mushi and therefore nature itself.
Mushishi takes place inside lush landscapes full of life and bizarre sounds. Upon entering a calm state, the viewer will find themselves immersing right into this vast universe where humans live an uncomplicated yet fierce life. The smooth soundtrack expresses everything it is supposed to and invigorates the general mood in a positive way.
If you are a fan of the series, there's no reason to miss this beautiful special. Ginko hasn't lost anything of his awesomeness and the world is shown as mysterious as ever. Definitely a pleasure for the senses and a formidable way to promote the upcoming sequel.
2006 marks the last airing of Mushishi, a small journey within a rural Shinto-inspired Japan. It is, in essence, about harmony—emanating the struggle for humans to find balance in their lives and to attain kiyome ("purity") among the cycles of nature. Prospects of a sequel have been teased for a while now, and as time passed, hopeful fans were beginning to lose faith. Now, 8 years later, studio Artland and director Hiroshi Nagahama relaunch the series with a one hour-long Mushishi episode, entitled "Hihamukage" ("Sun-Eating Shade").
Hihamukage is in tone with the original season, with a spiritual phenomenon kindling discord, followed by a diagnosis by the
mushishi Ginko, and then character-driven drama bringing about resolution. In this case, the mushi "hihamukage" is cosmic in scale, blocking all sunlight and causing crops to wither and die. Hiyori, a young albino girl unable to stay under sunlight, must come to terms with her condition in order to save the village. The format is a consistent model that heaves a rhythm to Mushishi's plot: we can recognize and predict the story's end, but we always treasure the means by which Mushishi arrives there.
Mushishi is based all on naturality; there is nothing malicious, nothing violent or overtly sinister, nothing but the link between humans and nature as they coalesce and work in tandem to solve conflicts. Villagers are depicted to be unperturbed by all this (at first), routinely harvesting farmlands and going about their daily lives. It is by a change's subtle effect that these activities come undone, having a much larger impact than if it were spurred spontaneously. The eerie yet serene aura of the hihamukage awes both character and viewer. Characters from previous episodes witness the eclipse as well, making a discreet cameo which will not fail to please the fans.
As the sun is blocked by the hihamukage, Hiyori realizes her newfound freedom to waltz around the village without a worry for her condition. Simply walking around, crossing the river, and splashing water as fish pass is exciting for Hiyori. There is something to be said about the joy of freedoms we take for granted. However, she too realizes this about the sun; it is vital to the well-being of the villagers and her family despite her protest for others to feel her suffering. Hiyori must learn to accept this fact, and the drama while she confronts it is nothing short of exemplary.
Part of what lends to this is the atmosphere, ranging from its lagging camera, its setting, its sounds, and its colors. Void silence assaults key moments in order to render them more impactful. Strings, loosely structured "clinks" and "clanks", place emphasis not on the sound or the visuals, but the moment of the scene, to immerse you into Mushishi's rich world and observe it in the eyes of the characters. The landscapes are resplendent in sea-green grasses, but they are laid bare onto the blander browns of the farmlands and villages when the hihamukage ruins the land. The lighting is suggestive; visual actions such as Hiyori lying in darkness remain symbolic of an inner turmoil. Florescent white flowers make the climax all that more meaningful when the villagers destroy them, shoveling their way to the hihamukage's root. Its exposure to the sun removes the darkness once again.
The manner in which Mushishi explicates its lush universe is also in tune with its storytelling: calm, unhurried inspection of the initial surroundings, followed by an omen that marks misfortune. Mystical and strange-looking, the mushi are inscrutable creatures bearing a likeness to folkloristic legends. Part of what makes the mushi so intriguing are all the diverse habitats that they live in. There is something familiar about every legend and every story, but they are different in such a way that they shock you; they confound you, and most of all, they inspire you.
Among other purposes, Hihamukage is an excellent addition to garner excitement for the new season. Artland and Nagahama have preserved the essential aspects of the series, and fans—whether old or new—will be astonished by the work's subtleties. Mushishi's relaunch will not be one to forget.
Watching Mushishi is not just a mystifying experience but one that you will remember by for its atmosphere of exquisite presentation. Through understanding, Mushishi presents problems but also solutions in which main protagonist Ginko solves throughout his journey. As a journeyman, Ginko takes on the road once again in this special OVA that chronicles his expedition.
Mushishi Special: Hihamukage is a special OVA that adapts a two-chapter manga released in the Afternoon magazine. The OVA itself runs for about 45 minutes and once again takes on that mystifying theme with an elegant atmosphere. If memory serves correctly, the last time Mushishi aired on TV was over
7 years ago. There was no mention of a possible sequel or continuation of the series in any way or form. However, now fans have hope for what’s to come. Mushishi OVA returns to remind fans of the manga and anime just why the show holds itself together and earned praise among its community.
The storytelling format of Mushishi is similar to its original. Most episodes stands out as standalone but often incorporates a variety of themes to tie itself together. These blends in both humanity and supernatural to fuse them together as a presentation of rarity. By rarity, I mean it as a tales involving ‘mushi’, supernatural beings as physical manifestations that causes issues in its perspective world. While most folktales involving such a style of storytelling focuses on defeating them through violence or warfare, Mushishi executes it in a way that is unique with its style.
Ginko returns as a main male protagonist and a driving force of each story from the original series. He may look normal but he possesses the abnormal ability to see mushi. Their presence remains invisible to humans but Ginko is able to not only see them but understand them on a deeper level. And rather than trying to directly engage them in a form of combat or meaningless violence, Ginko often solves them with his own intellect. By understanding the problem Ginko is able to form solutions to achieve the best results. The problem in this OVA involves an eclipse taking place in a village that threatens to cover its land in darkness. It’s a problem that Ginko and its inhabitants must solve. And unsurprisingly enough, mushi is involved as the core of its conflict. As conflicts in Mushishi often includes supernatural themes, it’s interesting to see how humans deal with the otherworldly. Characters collaborate with unity and deals with this in a style that is naturalistic and refreshing.
As natural as the show itself can be, it can be dragged in some ways with its dialogues. The tone itself still retains its natural elegance however. On another note, it’s also refreshing to see a reoccurrence of other characters from the original season. It brings back that feeling of nostalgia from over half a decade ago when the show was on air. It’s not just that however but also the fact that Ginko’s character blends a line between fiction and reality that forms a connection with its viewers. The problem itself seems otherworldly but can also feel so real with the humans being part of the story. Narratives aren’t easy to tell with elegance but Mushishi has proved that otherwise with its feelings expressed in human ways. These include but are not limited to frustration, angry, envy, sorrow, and relief. It ties the foundation of its franchise together and formulates an experience like no other.
The artwork is majestic with a natural feeling to its presentation. The landscape is lavish with rich details to express nature in both a real and fictional way with the coloring. There’s a sense of style that also brings Mushishi to life with the way character moves and feels. Ginko himself is designed to look like how he was before from the original series with his trademark silver hair and indifferent outlook. The eclipse itself symbolizes a feeling of despair but also also hope as prospered by its rays of light.
Music and soundtrack wise, Mushishi retains its melodramatic tone. The OST is smooth and maintains its posture in a structure of beauty. Personification is well symbolized thanks to its presentation with the soundtrack as well because of its nature. The feelings of various characters and their dialogues spoken also gives off a variety of feelings. Ginko’s voice retains his calm nature and indifferent manner.
What Mushishi brings is not just a narrative of dealing with problems but reflecting its imagery with its unique style. It lusters with feelings but also connects human and supernatural problems together in a sense of appreciation. I appreciated this OVA as a way of reminding fans that Mushishi is still holding itself strong. With the upcoming new sequel announced to air in the Spring of 2014, Mushishi will show the world once again why it deserves its recognition.