I’ve been meaning to watch this anime for over 5 years and now that I finally have I can say there’s a reason why it has a special place in few people’s recommendations lists. It’s unique, but not in an exciting or thrilling way, more in that the story-telling generally has a thick melancholic atmosphere. Every episode is standalone and each have a kind of drama of the week formula where the Mushi or the information introduced about them in the episodes happens to be the drama’s cause. Because of these elements and certain other reasons, I wouldn’t say this anime is for everyone.
Despite what a lot of reviewers led me to believe before I watched this series, Mushi aren’t ghosts or spirits but the more primal forms of life both unseen and unheard of by the average Joe in the anime’s developing Japanese setting. Despite saying they aren’t spirits they really did remind me of the forest spirits from Princess Mononoke. However, just because they are mostly unnoticed by the people this doesn’t mean the Mushi can’t have dire and fatal consequences for who they effect. There are those who have studied these things enough to help the people afflicted by them. They are known as Mushi Masters and with their knowledge of the Mushi they act as the equivalent of mystic investigators and healers or spiritual doctors in this world.
The strongest aspect of the show is Ginko, the main and only consistent character throughout the series. Ginko is the definition of the wandering mystic and being cursed with the condition of drawing Mushi to him made for very good reason to why this is, Mushi being the cause of major problems when gathered together in one place. Through his journeys he encounters many different people afflicted by Mushi in both positive and negative ways. The fact that we generally only see these people once gives the world the feel that it’s a lot bigger than in your average anime. It’s also a good method of learning of the different Mushi and he tries to help the people afflicted by them to either get rid of them or cohabitate with them whenever possible.
The amount of different Mushi and the different ways they interfere with people’s lives each have a kind of poetic irony to them. Many of the times the people hurt by them brought the Mushi upon themselves from something they desired, something they suffered through in the past and won’t let go or simply just have an unfortunate family lineage. This is another reason this anime is unique; not all of the episodes have happy endings and, with each of them being standalone, we don’t see those in them getting better later on either. This links to what I said about the Mushi Masters being like doctors. Sometimes, like in severe cancer patients, there are just times when nothing can be done besides helping the ones suffering through it to continue on until their ends.
The animation is very decent, the lush rural environments and olden Japanese settings is all beautifully done. The character designs rather reminds me of mundane versions of Fullmetal Alchemist; Brotherhood and the Mushi themselves are done in CGI but in a way that gives them an almost alien quality. The music is very calming and slow paced, perfect for the times of sadness and awe shown in the stories, and there are a lot of stories told in this anime. The skin tones really fit with the rural Japanese setting as only Ginko has pale skin and hair from an occurrence in his past. My only complaint is that it lacks an overarching story, so, besides some backstory we get on Ginko, we really have no sense of an overall progression besides what’s in the episodes themselves. This adds to overall slow atmosphere of the show, giving it a dream-like quality.
In conclusion I would say it’s a pretty good series but it’s not for everyone, I think it’s not even really aimed at someone like me who likes a overarching story in their anime. Still, I can see it’s attraction to the anime community and I’m probably going to watch the new season that will be out and dubbed soon. I warn you this anime is very calm, some might even call it boring. It’s not a comedy and it’s not an action, and it has barely any excitement and little to no encompassing story besides the travels of Ginko himself. But when you’ve been watching anime for as long as I have, it’s nice to stumble upon something different from time to time.