October 06, 2008

Mushi-shi -- episode1

I had heard good things about Mushishi from different people, so a while back I ordered the first volume of it. (Grumble, my keyboard went all wonky this aternoon and now a bunch o the keys only work intermittently. What a pain.)

It's sat around here for a long time unviewed, mostly because I found the cover picture rather repulsive. But tonight, bored, I decided to give it a try.

And the first episode really was pretty amazing. It's fundamentally an anthology series, so it's no so much like the kinds of shows I like the most. I doubt if there's any kind of series-level plot arc.

Ginko is a mushi-shi, one who can see the mushi. They are, well, not life as we know it, but they exist and some are even human shaped. It's almost like they're a parallel life system of non-substantial spirits.

They aren't necessarily antagonistic; in fact, often they are friendly. But sometimes they can be a problem. Ginko travels around Japan, with a cigarette butt hanging out of his mouth, seeking cases where mushi are causing problems and he tries to help resolve the situation, or so I understand it.

You could refer to him as a traveling exorcist, except that seriously misstates what he does.

Anyway, I enjoyed the first episode and I will watch more of it.

UPDATE: Well, for all of it having a happy ending, episode 2 is like something out of a horror movie. Yuck.

UPDATE: As to my keyboard, I'm not really sure what the problem was. I just rebooted, and now it works fine. Very strange.

UPDATE: After four episodes. This is an eerie series. I haven't decided yet whether I would classify it as "horror" but it's close. The fourth episode (dreams) I think really does qualify as horror.

It's interesting that the mushi are not portrayed as evil or malevolent. They're just unusual quasi-lifeforms whose activities can cause problems for people.

Just to remind people, some mnemonics: ep 1 was "grandmother in the woods". Ep 2 was "second eyelid and bright river". Ep 3 was "horns and ears". Ep 4 was "dreams".

And now to watch ep 5.

UPDATE: Ep 5 ("swamp") is yet another odd one. This has to be one of the most imaginative series I think I've ever seen.

I wondered if I recognized the voice of the girl with the green hair, so I looked her up. She was Punie-chan in Dai Mahou Touge, but I doubt that's the reason I recognize her voice. More likely it's because she was Prim in Divergence Eve.

I think that of the five, the first is my favorite, and I think I'm going to watch it again. But I don't feel cheated for having bought this DVD. I do think I'm curious about more.

It's coming out as a boxed set in December. Definitely on my list of things to watch for.

UPDATE: I think part of why I didn't like the second episode (girl in the dark room) was because they borrowed one of the most horrifying images from one of my least favorite series that I've reviewed, that being Key, The Metal Idol.

The first episode is gold. The "dream" episode is horrifying. The one about sound in winter is just strange. And the last one, about the swamp, is bittersweet.

I listened to the last couple of minutes of the swamp episode in English. Man, it was bad. Kira Vincent was chewing the figurative scenery with her delivery, as if every word was a life changing experience. Sheesh.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in System at 07:58 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 600 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Shame, Kira is possibly my favourite dub actress and I haven't found a bad performace from her so far (Osaka in Azumanga and Lucy/Nu in Elfen Lied are her best IMO)

Posted by: Andrew Janes at October 07, 2008 10:25 AM (WtzIR)


I certainly didn't listen to very much, but just those few lines were awful.

These days I can rarely get more than a couple of minutes into an English dub without having that reaction, though, so maybe I shouldn't be considered a fair judge of that kind of thing.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 07, 2008 11:36 AM (+rSRq)


I don’t think I have any spoilers below… I tried to stay very general in my discussion.

Mushi-shi has become one of my favorite animes.  I, at the same time, both admonish and thank fledgling otaku for leading me to this series. It is among the most addicting series I have watched.  I really hope they create a second season.
The series compares nicely to Kino's Journey as fledgling otaku points out:

- The story is metered and seldom seams rushed

- The art and visuals are top-notch with a muted color pallet.

- The interpretation of events is always left for the viewer (no beating you on the head with moral justifications)

- The story is also often told out of sequence.  What happens in one episode does not necessarily lead to the next, but was never a feeling that Ginko will be stuck repeating the same mistakes.

In the end, Mushi-shi never tries to imitate Kino's and instead takes the viewer along different paths.  Example: Kino's Journey seams to center around the notion that the act of being an observer will always change what is being observed.  In Mushi-shi, however, Ginko aims to interact with the situation.
I guess the best description I can offer of the show is that it is not a show that will drag you along.  It seams to prefer to entice you into its realm.  There is a back-story, though it is only hinted and teased at throughout most of the series.  There are a few nice "a-ha" episodes in the series that will reward you for paying attention to those hints.
I think what I loved most about the series is relaxing, almost meditative, pace of the storytelling.  You have to allow the story to engulf you.  At no point did I feel that I was cheated, forced or tricked to move on with the story, yet I had to see more.  It is almost as if this is the anime version of a hot tub, calling you to soak in it and get lost in its depths.

Posted by: Bear at October 07, 2008 09:15 PM (Eyz06)

4 On another subject: It’s a shame you are down on the English dub, I quite enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I have never been able to truly rap myself into the subbed version of any anime.  It may be due to my slight tendency toward dyslexia or how I have a difficult time reading and speaking at the same time.  (Any time I am forced to speak in front of people, I have to virtually memorize my presentation.  If I try to use anything more than very basic notes, I start to stutter and stammer like a frick’n fool.)  Often subs just completely ruin an anime for me.  I felt so cheated by Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.  There was far too much gorgeous visual input and depth to the story for me to keep up with the sub on the bottom of the screen.  Well, depth might be an improper assessment to some.  What I saw as interesting meta-physical (meta-philosophical?) ideas have been reviewed as techno-babble junk from others.

Posted by: Bear at October 07, 2008 09:16 PM (Eyz06)


It’s a shame you are down on the English dub, I quite enjoyed it.

Different people like different things. I prefer to listen to the original Japanese because it means I'm experiencing the show the way the director intended it to be experienced, or at least as close as a gaijin can.

Also, though I'm only a dilettante, I've gotten to the point where I can understand at least a little bit of what they say in Japanese, and I can pick out things that don't translate well: unusual use of honorifics, or inappropriate use of politeness levels, and even the occasional untranslatable joke. I've even picked out puns once or twice.

But I don't condemn anyone who prefers dubs.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 07, 2008 10:49 PM (+rSRq)

6 Point taken and I concur.

Looking back, I guess I was diverted on a side rant.  I've heard before that some suggest sub-only releases as a cure for the anime downturn.  That would totally cripple my enjoyment of the media, at least until I can learn Japanese.  (which I keep toying with as a side project... if only Rosetta Stone wasn't so darn expensive.)  I wish I could enjoy subs more.  It would be interesting to figure out how the voices were chosen for the characters since when I have explored the Japanese tracks the voices seem misplaced/miscast to my ears of tin.

It is an odd predicament.  If I watch anything subbed, I am constantly rewinding to figure out what what just pasted across the screen.  All of this while I normally have no trouble reading.  In high school I burned through Red October in three nights alone and did the same with several other books.  For some reason, though, I cannot read-watch or read-speak at the same time.  The mind is a weird piece of wetware...

(yeah, insomnia sucks too...)

Posted by: Bear at October 07, 2008 11:09 PM (Eyz06)

7 You can sometimes find Rosetta Stone sets on eBay cheap.  I got the whole German set for $150.
Be advised even the whole Japanese set won't take you far towards understanding anime Japanese, though.

Posted by: Toren at October 07, 2008 11:24 PM (jtIJf)


I've heard before that some suggest sub-only releases as a cure for the anime downturn.

You read that here, at the very least.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 07, 2008 11:38 PM (+rSRq)

9 Rosetta Stone is a good tool for ear training and learning basic vocabulary, kana, and kanji. They like to claim each level is equivalent to a year of classes, but while I can say that going through all of Level 1 and half of Level 2 made my first year of college Japanese easier, I couldn't have successfully tested out of even the first quarter. I was simply better prepared to learn the material.

Basically, pure immersion only works if you have someone available to correct your errors and mistaken assumptions. RS is a set of drills that each have one correct answer; in a real immersion experience, students apply the patterns they've learned to make new sentences and find out if they work.

Rosetta Stone is worthwhile for someone who can't get into a community-college Japanese class, and is a useful supplement for someone who can. The price has gone up quite a bit since I bought it, and they've made their copy-protection more annoying and laptop-unfriendly, so if I were to do it again, I'd probably get a monthly subscription instead. The material is good, and it's extremely useful to have professionally-recorded natives speaking phrases that you understand at a reasonable speed.

[looking at their web site, I see that they've now made those recordings available on CD as an optional supplement. I just transcoded their audio files to MP3 and put them on my iPod, which gave me something to listen to on the way to work]


Posted by: J Greely at October 08, 2008 07:28 AM (2XtN5)

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