Mushi-shi: Volume Two
Remaining a strong work in atmosphere and ambience, volume two in the Mushi-shi series, containing episodes six through ten, portrays five more stories revolving around the strange creatures called mushi and their impact on human lives, with Ginko leading the way as our guide and informant to their strange world.
There’s little to say about an overarching plot or progression of character development from one episode to another; Mushi-shi continues as an episodic series, portraying the lives of those affected by the strange mushi in differing ways, all neatly self-contained within the twenty minutes each installment provides. The structure and pacing of is notably impressive; not a single one left me feeling that it had been rushed or its resolution unsatisfying. And despite all this, there is a strong feeling of thematic unity running through the series; almost as though each episode serves as a mirror to bending the same light in differing ways.
The visual focus, channeled through the device of the mushi, continues to be on the wonders of nature–the mushi manifest as a brilliant rainbow that entrances a character’s mind for the remainder of his life; a patch of sweet-smelling flowers obscured within a cave, or a heavy fog that swallows people above the sea. The art direction is still incredible–it’s very easy to get lost within this vividly portrayed world, revolving around simple life and the simple, yet magnificent beauty surrounding us.
Episode nine in particular was an interesting change of pace–not so much a focus on the mushi themselves but on the capabilities of the mushi-shi and the responsibilities they carry. Ginko’s character really shines in this episode as he reacts to the choices of others, eventually making a fairly drastic choice of his own in response by the end. Also interesting on a larger scope was Ginko’s blunt statement about the consequences of those who would abuse the mushi for their ends, and the emphasis on accepting responsibility and causality for the sacrifices one makes during their lives. A well-intentioned young man’s actions in trying to save his beloved in episode six ultimately has the opposite effect, but a sense of peace and understanding nonetheless pervades as the credits close on that particular chapter.
The resolutions of the episodes in general tend to be bittersweet in that way, not quite willing to hand us the easiest answer and with an obvious expectation on the part of the viewer to reflect a little on what they’ve just seen. More than from human to mushi, it’s the connection between humans that are the focus here–a man to the memory of his lost wife, a head priest overseeing his struggling village, a confused son to an obsessed father. Though the premises of some of the incidents seems similar–two episodes on this disc feature religion as a misleading figure, using the mushi to their advantage–the nuances of portrayal differ sharply enough to heighten the feeling that this is a worldly, self-assured show more about humanity than passing judgment on any particular human.
The English language track is consistent with the quality of the first volume and the general quality of the show. Travis Willingham continues to turn in a strong performance as Ginko and the actors for the supporting cast do an excellent job in maintaining the ambience and emotion of each scene. Thoroughly enjoyable no matter what language you’re watching it in; either way, it serves as a strong supplement to the beautiful visuals.
Visual and audio quality had no notable faults and carried the imagery of the show itself more than adequately. The main feature of the extras is a half hour’s worth of interviews with the the men in charge of character design and art direction, done in a fairly laidback style but fairly interesting to watch nonetheless. The show’s reverence for the original manga and its focus on visual artistry continues to come through here.
Mushi-shi is a work that’s easy to tell from one episode whether it’s for you or not; those who enjoyed the first volume will find nothing to complain about in the second. Still, due to its storytelling style, it’s easy to pick up at virtually any point. Watching is a relaxing, almost therapeutic experience not found in many anime; these episodes are as highly recommended as the first five.
Overall Rating: 9.5