Aug 25, 2017
TenshouYoku (All reviews)
Ah, Mushiking The legend of the Forest inhabitants, this is one of the shows that you'd wish the main fighting element actually doesn't exist at all.

Do not get me wrong - Mushiking is one of the best, if not the best show for children, for its well-written storyboard and its simple yet fascinating music, especially because it's a show for selling the Mushiking card game in 2005 and yet the director decided to play some crazy stuff with it. But the beetle element in the story is kinda off and doesn't match with the story very well, for example Mushiking itself seems to be a sort of Deus Ex Machima to get around with the big bad's own beetle and allow them to go forward. It's almost like The Big-O! where Rogers can summon the Big O anywhere from nowhere.

Story: 8 out of 10
As a children's Anime, what makes this anime really great is that the directors are not afraid of throwing something over-leagued, such as what is life about, how people view death itself, a legend-like story about life doesn't belong to this world and they must return to where they should be VS. people should live on regardless what lies beyond, which is pretty deep even for adults, despite this is supposedly for children aged less than 12. The deaths starting from extremely early on is like saying "Who told you that I am writing a children's story? SCREW YOU BOI!" and gave them the finger in the face.
Obviously, the deaths were censored (in the form of transforming into balls of light, and of course no blood at all), but you will find the deaths neither pointless nor dull. Instead it really touches the deepest part of your heart. You feel sad, sorrowful, and actually cry for the ones (including the beetles) who've deceased, and those who have to witness their death. The trick behind this is they never make it overdramatic (unlike how almost everyone is being crushed into a tin can and see how people cry like babies in Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans). The writer decided that deaths shouldn't be iron-blooded (pun intended) or flattering - its low-toned style does the work even better. And he/she is so goddamned right.
It's rare for a show to discuss death and alive, the joy of being alive and new life is born, and how should people face their lives, instead of giving up and allowing oneself to lose it, but not in the usual cliche and overly dramatic way, never mind the target audience wouldn't really comprehend the complexity of the show. The writer isn't lazy about the description of the environment and the humans (inhabitants of the forest) - Some work hard to feed themselves and maintain the condition of the forest, while some, who believed that they will transcend and live in a place where they can live happily forever as they die, gave up caring about the forest and allow it to wither and slowly die out; Some can calmly take as their beloved ones transcend into light, and there is a father who couldn't take the death of his children and created a dummy in his place, as if it is a description of our world to the fullest in the form of a fairy tale. Unlike the usual children Anime, and sadly, some of the current Anime for teenagers, it doesn't say anything right off the bat in the face - it is calm and well hidden in the story, and yet you won't miss the hidden message within it, something even current storyboards made by modern writers lacked.
The whole poetry-like atmosphere helped very well about the topic and you can easily sense the relaxing, yet the sometimes sorrowful atmosphere of characters.

The bad point about the story is, since it is made for the Mushiking card game, they make 3D beetles fighting each other, and because of the children Anime nature, there must be at least 1 fight in the story, which throws off the beat of the story and messed the flow up. Clearly, the beetle element isn't a part of the original planning.

Art: 8 out of 10
The artwork, despite it's not the usual 3A-classed anime nor heavily funded, is still very well-made, because the artists clearly knew what they are doing. Because of the poetic and fairy-tale like background of the story, they decided to make the characters look as simple as possible, which blended very well and never become out of shape with the atmosphere. The cute, simplistic linework of the protagonists not only helped the construction of this fantasy world and make them more likeable, it also makes the antagonists, which are drawn with more details stand out better, combind with their strange, out-of-place armor and skin colour.
What's slightly disturbing is that the female cast is wearing too sexy clothings, though, such as Chalk, I mean really, a jumpsuit that is super sexually suggestive?

Pamu is really cute.

Sound: 9 out of 10
Similar to the artwork side, the composers made well use of pianos and other instruments, such as the harp. Under the light-hearted smoothing and yet touching music, even sometimes the music tracks are recycled they just never seem out of pace just because how well they blend in with the environment.
The OP Ikite koso (I am alive here and now, in English) sung by a group called Kiroro, is especially tugging one's heart strings. It starts out by asking a chidren's parents how joyful they are when their child is born and what the world looked like, and cycled around being alive on this world and how life stems as they are now alive on Earth, just like how everything in this anime circled around being alive, and discover what it meant to be alive.
It's one of the perfect examples where you don't need to dump a huge amount of cash for the best composers (like Gundam Seed Destiny), but you just need to know what will make things work the best.
Sadly, most of the EDs are extraordinarily weird. Except Hikaru Stage (The stage of light) which still sounds coherent with the theme of the anime, the rest sounds overly upbeat and simply doesn't work at all with the soothing atmosphere (although it's probably done intentionally to balance out the gloomy atmosphere of the Anime, I'd say the directors made a mistake with this one). God forbid the 2nd ED which is outright crap to start with some dudes wearing weird clothes and dancing less-than-childish dances. It's totally hideous to watch at.

Characters: 8 out of 10
Although Popo is the main character, it's Pamu the one that experienced the most amount of growth, from being a quiet, all-knowing and sometimes overly cold girl into a happy, friendly person, although Popo also grew massively as he went through all the incidents in his journey.
The only thing that is really buggy is Chibi king whose true identity and why is he here is sorta Deus Ex Machima and never well-explained, and the supporting cast are like bodyguards of Pamu that doesn't serve anything otherwise.
Popo is a likable character as he never complains much, although he does falter and feel confused by things around him (especially when he witnessed death), he did not just moan or stopped working, and instead of full-out relying on Mushiking against beetles, he also worked around with the circus cast against Adder's pawns, especially when he realised summoning Mushiking will suck out the life force of the forest nearby and kill it.

Enjoyment: 10 out of 10
Nothing to say much about it, since this show never feels boring or uninteresting to watch at. Even it's not the hot-blooded type of story, it can still hook up within you and makes you go further.
While beetle fights are the most out-of-point things in the story, since they are already the largest animal in the story, their huge size makes them ultra powerful, combined with the pretty nice battle animation, still makes them individually good to watch at.

Overall: 9 out of 10
The lost point is due to the weird Big-O-ish beetle summoning and for the love of god that Samba is really screwing things over.
Despite the huge debate whenever the Anime is good or not, the creator of Gundam G-Reconguista and the Gundam franchise, Tomino Yoshiyuki said my favourite sentence as Reconguista is aired in Japan: "Children don't have to understand the anime itself throughout - they only need to "sense" it and remember something." Although Reconguista itself is sorta controversal as it is deemed way too difficult to understand even for adults, Mushiking is the one that successfully achieved the said sentence, as it still lingers within my mind and I finally understood as I grew older. It might not be extremely hardcore or something highly awe-inspiring, but it sure makes people, especially children at that age, remember the story tightly and firmly.
If you somehow can find a copy of this anime that is more than a decade (as of 2017) old, you gotta watch it and you will love it. Disregard the weird beetle element, and you got one hell of a great anime that even grown-ups should have a check of this. Childish? Sure thing, but this deceiving coat contains a really deep story that will never be outdated despite it being decades old.