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Mushi-shi
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 10/22/2007

Synopsis:
Imperceptible to most humans, mushi are creatures best described as things born from the life force of the planet that, more or less, simply exist.  Their only purpose in life is their survival, and while they may not be inherently good or evil, some of them cause humans a great deal of misfortune.  That is where Ginko, a mushi-shi or mushi master, comes in.  Using his vast knowledge and experience, he must figure out cures and remedies for the people he encounters with extraordinary mushi problems.  However, while they may view him as their savior, success is in no way assured.  From saving a young girl’s eyes to finding and stopping an ink stone from killing those who use it, Ginko does the best he can to help.     

Review:
Mushi-Shi is a series that has been receiving a great deal of praise as of late.  Similar to Requiem from the Darkness in its setup, the series chronicles the travels of a man named Ginko, as he wanders the country trying to help people with mushi troubles.  Effectively a mix between the supernatural/fantasy aspect of a world in which mushi exist and the mystery and intrigue presented by each stories dilemma, Mushi-Shi establishes itself as a very different beast from your standard anime series.                  

Different in the sense that it actually has no underlying plot, nor does it have any multi-episode story arcs.  Being a 26 episode series, it has 26 standalone episodes that are almost completely unrelated to each other.  One could practically watch this series completely backwards and not miss a beat.  This creates an interesting dynamic for the series though, for it must fit every individual story into a 20 minute time frame and completely flesh out all the characters involved, their motives and resolve any and all conflicts.  This is a profound difference compared to other series, because while they may have standalone episodes, they are usually going to have an underlying plot, multi-episode story arcs, and some sort of finale that ties things together.  So Mushi-Shi, by design, has effectively shot itself in the foot by limiting its stories to such time constraints and by not having any sort of underlying story to tie them together.  It feels like you’re watching 26 filler episodes of a much longer series.  Now even this could have been saved by some awe-inspiring stories that make you forget they aren’t interrelated or driving you towards an end result, but the key words here are “could have been saved” sadly.

The problem with Mushi-Shi’s stories' lies in their similarity, execution, and overall entertainment.  Aside from two episodes which focus on Ginko’s past, every other episode is a new story about a mushi causing problems and Ginko trying to figure out a solution.  Watching an episode of Mushi-Shi is like watching the same play over and over, each time, however, you have different performers and a slightly different execution, but the end result is still the same.  Just about every episode in Mushi-Shi has the same exact formula, with varying happy or sad endings.  Even this wouldn’t have been so bad, if the episodes themselves weren’t so unexciting.  Mushi-Shi has a decidedly and complete lack of any action or suspense; it relies completely on the mystery brought about by each episode's problem and the unique solution Ginko is sometimes able to come up with.  Now to be fair, taken individually, the stories aren’t half bad.  They are well written, and the ideas and concepts behind them are interesting enough, but again, taken as a whole, they are all just too similar and too uneventful for a full season.  If Mushi-Shi had been 5 episodes long they could have pulled this off, but 26 is just complete and utter overkill.  With every progressive episode I watched, I liked Mushi-Shi less.   

Continuing on with how Mushi-Shi differs from other typical series, out of all 26 episodes it has only 2 characters that appear in more than one episode.  Aside from Ginko, who appears in them all, his friend Adashino, who is a collector of any and all things related to mushi, appears in a total of 3.  This makes it difficult to really connect with any characters other than Ginko, given the short amount of screen time they receive.  This also means that if you dislike Ginko, who is honestly hard not to like, that in and of itself may kill this series for you.

So while the stories may not interest me and characters may be plentiful but short lived, the animation is certainly beautiful.  With flowing landscapes and a smooth crispness, there is little to fault, except for the character designs that is.  Aside from Ginko, the other characters are often indiscernibly similar in design.  Going from one episode to the next, I kept thinking the person from the last episode was back, only to find it was someone new that looked exactly the same.  This may have been because of the lack of facial detail, or because they were going for a more “realistic” look with people not having any distinguishing features, but it didn’t really work for me and threw me for a loop a number of times.

Mushi-Shi, given all the episodes are standalone, has one of the largest lists of voice actors of any 26 episode series out there.  Even with so many different seiyuu performing individual one shot roles, the Japanese dub succeeds at being as high-quality as one would expect.  Now, I saw Mushi-Shi before it was released in the states, so I have had only a brief sampling of the English dub so far.  I can honestly say that from what I have heard the English dub is quite good and I can only hope they will be able to continue with this level of quality as the series continues to introduce new characters with new voice actors.

Complementing the quality achieved by both dubs, the music in Mushi-Shi is another stellar technical aspect of this series.  More subdued than accentuated, the music is a wonderful complement to the leisurely tempo of the stories.  The opening song, "The Sore Feet Song" by Ally Kerr, is a perfect indicator of the overall feel of the show.  A laid back traveling song with a hint of sadness to it, exemplifies the life of Ginko in its truest sense.    

When I first heard of Mushi-Shi I thought it was going to be a series I really enjoyed.  I went in wanting to like it, trying to like it, but after the 5th episode my hope started to fade and I gave into the fact that it really wasn’t my cup of tea.  However, Mushi-Shi is such a unique series that it seems to have transcended genre barriers and has become universally loved by all types of anime fans.  So I would say that anyone who is slightly interested in the series should go and check it out, even though I personally didn’t like it.

Miscellaneous:
Mushi-Shi is currently licensed and is being distributed by Funimation, while its manga counterpart is currently being released in the US by Del Rey.

Screenshots
Mushi-shi
Mushi-shi
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Review Title:
Mushi-shi
Alternative Titles:
Mushishi
Type:
TV
Episodes:
26
Duration:
650 Minutes
General Rating:
3 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2005-2006
Suitable For:
Teens
Genres:
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy,
Mystery, Supernatural
Noir
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2. The Abashiri Family
3. Devadasy
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