It's a bit difficult to write about a series that has been hailed as one of the anime industry's greats. The first season was an atmospheric work of art, an enrapturing experience that sent chills down my spine with the end of every episode. But I'm not entirely sure that Mushishi's second season has necessarily lived up to those memories. It's still an excellent anime, and while it is better than almost anything that has come out in the past few years, there's this constant sense that something - just something - is missing.
Perhaps that 'something' is the fact that the series has gone
on for a long time now and no longer feels as fresh as it did at the beginning. Maybe it's just that I've gotten older since I watched the first season and am no longer capable of feeling those same emotions again. Or maybe the staff just haven't been able to fully reproduce the magic of the first season. Even so, whatever the case may be, it turns out that Mushishi's second season, even if it is a slightly inferior Mushishi, is still one of the most pleasant experiences I've had watching an anime in quite a long time.
An interesting detail about Mushishi is how not all its stories end on a happy note. Many of them are bittersweet or flat-out depressing, which eliminates any of the predictability that often comes with storytelling. The episodes are not merely different in their content, but also deliver completely different emotions at the end of each episode, ensuring that the series never reaches the point of staleness. Mushishi always has something new to offer to its audience. And it never goes the route of preaching morals, as even its villains are deep and human enough to be empathised with. Nobody is inherently right or wrong in Mushishi; even Ginko cannot say for sure what the best path would have been.
Not surprisingly, Mushishi delivers on the atmosphere front. It is minimalistic in nature and focuses once again on quiet rural life -- the supernatural issues plaguing a modest farmer or small group of villagers -- rather than the usual city problems we have seen in so many anime before. And that's for the better, I think, as there haven't been many other anime out there that have captured rural life in the quiet, subdued way that Mushishi has. It makes you want to roam around the woods or raise a family where things are calm and peaceful, even if those thoughts are only for a fleeting moment.
There are only two minor issues I have with Mushishi's second season. First, the show focuses exclusively on mushishi incidents and the victims surrounding them and does surprisingly little with Ginko himself. The entire story is about Ginko's travels, yet at the endgame of the story, we know very little about him or his thought process. Secondly, the mushishi incidents feel far too numerous, perhaps owing to the episode count. It feels like Ginko just comes across some world-changing event every second day, which makes one wonder what he's doing in-between all the episodes. Showing those quiet moments, the moments when he's not dealing with mushishi, would be just as interesting as the supernatural.
Mushishi continues to have some of the best scenery in anime. It looks absolutely fantastic, with nearly every shot of a forest or a lake being embodied by a simple sort of beauty, similar to the wabi-sabi aesthetic in Japanese culture. The animation itself leaves some room for improvement, though, as characters will sometimes have missing faces, and the show seemingly prefers panning shots far more than movement.
It also has an incredible soundtrack, much like before. Mushishi is a master at timing its music. Often a quiet piece will start playing in the background without you even noticing, and gradually it will pick up and seamlessly lead right into the credits. Small little touches like this do a lot to enhance the emotional value of the show. And of course I would be silly to not mention the opening track, which is one of the most relaxing things I've perhaps ever heard. It is medicine for the soul.
Mushishi's second season may be a bit weaker than its first, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's disappointing. It still delivers the same mature themes and atmosphere that you'd come to expect from the series. It just doesn't carry those same awing moments of before, the ones that screamed "I'm watching a masterpiece". But I don't think that is necessarily a problem. If its greatest sin is being merely great rather than a masterpiece, then Mushishi's second offering is already leagues ahead of its competition.
I have forgotten now how I came to watch Mushishi Zoku Shou. But whatever that reason is, I surely don't regret it.
It may be appalling at first how it may seem slow-paced or even stagnant. Looking closely, we'll realize that it is this stillness and calm that give Mushishi its distinction, making it worthy to be called a masterpiece.
After all the action and drama that anime can flaunt, Mushishi gives us a refreshing retreat, a break from the hustle and bustle of trite anime antics, and presents to us its own brand of action and drama enveloped in its unique and perhaps unpredictable storytelling.
Ginko, the main character, in his travels across Japan where he meets people affected by mushi, strange, ethereal creatures that coexist silently with every other living being. Interacting with different mushi has its implications and Ginko, as a mushishi, offers his help to those troubled by mushi to the best of his ability. The setting itself offers a horizon of opportunities. It is a captivating feat that each episode can be the darkest of tales reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe (Fragrant Darkness, Lingering Crimson) or even the most lighthearted of stories (Banquet at the Forest's Edge). The story fills out every edge of possibility and leaves room for even more.
The slow movement and breathtaking scenery are what absorb you and even more so when its superb musical arrangements come in to accompany it. Its masterful direction bring out the best of each scene - the deep-rooted characters, the intense emotions, the over-all mood (you'd have to take a closer look to see this). Mushishi couldn't ask for a better production.
The whole experience takes you to a time when man and nature treated each other with respect and lived together in peace and harmony. With each episode told in a way that closely resembles the fable of Aesop and the parables of Jesus coupled with its magnificent art direction, Mushishi gives us an experience evocative of the ways of Shinto and Zen embedded in classical Japanese culture.
And yet, Mushishi never tries to be grandiose and flamboyant in its ways. Its simplicity is its most favorable trait and it is in there that you will find its grandeur. "Mabaw nga kalipay" ("simple pleasure") is what we'd call it in Cebuano. It is not laden with complications and twists but that makes it all the more entertaining.
Among the anime series I'm watching this season, Mushishi Zoku Shou stands out the most and is easily one of my favorites in my limited repertoire. I would very much recommend the series to anyone and everyone, especially to those with an open mind.
Simply put, Mushishi is special. As a whole, it’s a fifty episode journey through the lives of the character, a grand slice-of-life about experiences and life lessons. It’s a unique work, because viewers don’t just watch this series; they drift slowly into its dreamy world. The origins of Mushi are mysterious, but their presence undoubtedly affects people’s lives. The focus is however, not on the Mushi, but the people who come in contact with them and how their lives are changed after their mysterious encounter. As a story, somehow nothing is complex, yet everything is meaningful, each episodes features different yet connected stories. The way
it actively expounds its themes might leave it open to accusations of being didactic, but it’s so honest in its belief of its messages, that it’s completely disarming. A lesser series would have fallen on its face with this approach, and repulsed its audience by its over-sentimentalism, but Mushishi somehow makes you embrace it. I’ll admit, I have only a bare understanding of how it has managed to achieve this. All I know is that it’ll be a long time before we see another anime quite like it.
The stories are still episodic in nature, and fairly simple, but Mushishi somehow manages to maintain an amazing amount of originality even in spite of its simplicity. Since it is presented in a way that doesn’t have an arc and just telling its story to the point, it didn’t feel rushed. Often deliberate and slow, but it sets the mood and ambience quite well. It's almost a given that I was going to enjoy the show's meditative musings on the role that mushi play in the world, as well as its gorgeous scenery, and luckily, neither has changed in this production (though the problem of some of the humans looking the same lingers). One of the most noticeable changeover is that Zoku Shou 2 looks darker and more grim to its presentation. There’s a scenes in which people is turned to grass and a kid dies through his body evaporating into thin air. That said, the first two series should be watched prior to this so the viewers could get used to its tonal shift from light to darker and grim style.
One of the greatest aspect of Mushishi is that The atmosphere and mood that it creates has a powerful effect on its storytelling. Zoku Shou is no means different. from Lucy Rose's gentle Intro "The Shiver song", the opening leads into a gently animated piece set in pastoral surroundings in the forest at the morning. And since each episodes is standalone, the characters are very well developed even into a deeper level, Ginko himself is even got development in this final series, in which tells the story when he was a child. Every episode is a lesson, but rarely do these characters have to be taught anything twice. The character development, particularly in this final series, is both rich and enriching, which makes the story a rewarding experience.
However there are minor thing that fairly bugged me with Zoku Shou as a whole, while the visuals are nice and crisp. It seems too flashy, even in one episode when the darkest moment happens. Though it is quite understandable considering how far improved animation comparing to when it first come out in 2005, but still I think it lessened the atmosphere quite a bit. As for the animation it is fairly consistent. The characters are drawn even more expressionate than ever, especially as the show rounds the last turn to the finishing line. Even some early, offhand scenes that don't have much to do with this main story add a lot, where we get plenty of beautiful shots of mushi trailing through the sky (eye candy is always good). As a show based off such nature set in rural japan, of course the background is the highlight of the art. Whether it is the lavish forests, organic swaps, and frosty mountains paints, the background is so lust and vivid while everything is overflowing with color and appears to be an incredible series of paintings brought to life.
One of the greater boons about Mushishi has always been that its observations about itself are always full of wonder, but never really goes completely overboard with its romanticism. This has been true for the most part, but if I was asked to pick one flash, then that would be this final season. What I mean by that is that despite the fact that every visual is shot with purpose in order to convey a message through horror means and every individual story is conflict-driven, the messages/themes are starting to become too simplistic; it focusing too much on the characters’ problems and not enough on why I should care about said problems with the only difference being that it’s set in the Mushishi world. Some people have different criteria for how a character should be interesting or why we should care about said problems. I think I can understand it a little. But then, I thought the show more than made up for it with the rest of the episodes anyway, by keeping up a steady -- not to mention impressive -- pace for the rest of its runtime.
Despite complain I said above the next chapter of Mushishi is still great. The anime as a whole is easily one of the greenest show I have ever seen, though we will occasionally see Ginko wander through some of the most spectacular rainfalss I've seen in anime. If the series isn't impressing you with its animation or its eyecatching background (which did not will quite happen), it reels you in with its story. Interesting and simple without crossing over into convoluted territory. Overall Zoku Shou is a very good addition to the Mushishi’s anime franchise.
Anime is an expressive form of art in its own way. It's a medium that utilizes audiovisuals in accompaniment with a script in order to bring a story to life. Sometimes this "art" is used as a vehicle to service self-indulgent shows, and other times it's used for something that's worth its salt. Regardless of the quality of the title, or the effort on the part of the creators, what remains true is that in some way or another, they can all be considered "art". Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder after all, and as long as an individual finds
something to be aesthetically appealing, whether that be a visual experience with plot or a visual experience with "plot", that's all that really matters at the end of the day.
But sometimes among the clutter, you'll stumble across titles that take it a step further, it doesn't simply use audiovisuals as a tool to compensate for whatever is written, but rather, it embodies both breathtaking audiovisuals and proper storytelling to become something far loftier. It reaches an equilibrium unobtainable by many that strive for it. Finding a delicate balance that's almost ethereal in quality, something that needs to be experienced to fully grasp and appreciate. And to many in the community, one such title that has reached that benchmark in terms of quality is with little dispute, the anime Mushishi.
While all anime could be considered "art" in its own way, Mushishi itself is like a master canvas brought to life; it's art personified. The elegance and control in which it carries itself is both awe-inspiring and inviting. It doesn't take long before you're sucked into the universe of Mushishi, with vignettes of lush color and soothing imagery that quickly breathes life into its folklore and characters living in it. Everything feels organic, undisturbed by human tampering, it's a feeling that can't quite be described by words alone.
Following Ginko, our protagonist, we find ourselves back on a journey that feels unwavering to the current anime climate that surrounds it. Almost a full decade after its first 2005 anime run, Mushishi shows no sign of compromise, containing the same dense melancholic atmosphere and simplistic, yet universal messages that made it a household name among anime fans, to begin with. Just this fact alone is impressive, given the market's current need to produce more self-indulgent works. Any fan of the first season will be more than satisfied with this follow-up. You could even inter-splice the episodes from both seasons and not notice any change in terms of quality, outside of a more pristine art and animation of course.
But despite the fact that this follow-up season technically reaches the same heights as the first, there's just a sense of something being absent. This isn't to say this season wasn't a great sequel, but rather that there was an element that the first had that didn't seem to transfer quite as well. It's a missing ingredient, an "aha" moment that seemed to have been lost in translation. This could be a result of the novelty of the mushi and their mysterious functions growing less intriguing after seeing it play out numerous times or the result of the second season being stuck with less impactful storylines. Either way, there was a slight disconnect to be found. But don't let that deter you, as this bit of grievance only comes as a result of comparing what I consider being "the lesser of both greats"; by comparison to almost everything else produced around it, Mushishi still stands tall, reaching the apex of visual storytelling.
One of Mushishi's strongest suits is its ability to never take sides in any conflict. It presents the story as is, and like the mushi that populates the universe of the show, everything is treated as simply occurrences outside of malice or forced circumstances. Mushishi doesn't paint anything in black and white, it's a show that constantly dabbles in the gray. It's aware that life isn't as simplistic as either good or bad, but is usually a matter of incidents that pan out to whatever end result. It doesn't wrap things up in a tidy little bow, but like everything else, life in the world of Mushishi simply moves on, uninterrupted by the personal struggles of man and creatures alike. This unspoken understanding is what makes the case by case basis of each episode of Mushishi to feel so engrossing. You never know the outcome, there's no predictable line of thought; like nature itself, every outcome isn't determined by whatever is the most favorable conclusion.
But outside of the show's strong writing, the prominent feature of Mushishi that initially draws in the audience is without question the breathtaking scenery and haunting musical selection. Whether you like Mushishi or not, it cannot be denied that this title's prowess for crafting dense atmosphere is almost unrivaled. The blend of rich visuals and coaxing auditory cues brings forth a strong sense of pathos and satisfaction to whoever is consumed into the lore of its universe. Mushishi isn't simply something you watch, it's something you experience.
The opening song "Shiver" by Lucy Rose is perhaps one of anime's most tranquil and transcending musical intros. It embodies everything Mushishi stands for in the brief 1:30 seconds it takes to lead us into any given episode. Capped off by the musical outros that transitioned with a seamless quality, and you have yourself a complete package. This doesn't even touch upon the gorgeous soundtrack, which was comprised of traditional Japanese instruments; from the softly plucked strings of the Kugo harp, to the less common handpan bell that interweaves to create walls of textured sound. The music is simply therapeutic.
There are many instances throughout the show where no word of dialogue is uttered, but instead, leaves only long sweeping vistas of nature to keep the audience entranced in its world. Not many shows can boast that ability. It's even elevated further when the music slowly chimes in without even bringing attention to itself. It's these moments where Mushishi shines the brightest; these moments of uninterrupted serenity. Moments that hold onto you long after the credits roll, leaving an almost sticky and instantaneous feeling of nostalgia.
There are very few shows I will ever proclaim as a masterpiece with total conviction, and Mushishi is one of them. It's a title that never ceases to amaze me, both in its simplicity and beauty. To me, it's simply a work that has transcended the medium altogether and has become something far more significant as a result. It's an all time favorite and one I look forward to revisiting in the future.
Mushishi isn't great for any complex philosophical pondering or sociological observations; what makes Mushishi so great is that it doesn't try to impress the viewer by subjecting some kind birthright of importance. It doesn't draw attention to itself, it isn't an ostentatious try-hard screaming at the top of its lungs for a chance at the limelight. It simply shows what it has to offer and leaves it upon the viewer to take the initiative in exploring its layers. There's a zen-like quality that sweeps into every crevice of this anime, and those willing to give it the time and patience will surely find something worthwhile tucked between the fold of its layers.
This article will count down the top 20 anime of 2014, as decided by the users on MAL. There are fan favorites, surprise snubs and even hidden gems. Feeling nostalgic? Get ready for a blast from the past... and yes, by past I mean last year.