Mushishi started as a manga by Urushibara Yuki. It won her a couple awards and got adapted into an anime at the end of 2005 going into 2006. The adaptation was handled by Artland, the studio behind Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Mao & Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu. Which isn’t exactly a strong track record but it’s also a small sample size. So, how does Mushishi compare to the studio’s other offerings? It’ll be very difficult for it to not be at least the second best thing I’ve seen from them.
This series doesn’t have a single over-arcing story. Rather, it’s an episodic series where we follow Ginko on his various adventures. Ginko is a mushishi, a person who studies and deals with complications caused by organisms called mushi that many people can’t even see. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work given the way eyes function but it’s a fantasy world so they can have elements like that. Each episode presents a mushi related problem. Each episode focuses on a different issue and how it gets resolved.
One thing I really appreciate about the series is that it does vary a lot. Ginko may show up right away or come later. He may investigate or he may know exactly what’s going on. He may or may not have a good solution. Things may end happily, tragically or bitter-sweetly. It creates enough variety to keep things interesting and to keep the audience invested in new situations as they come. The pacing in the individual episodes is handled very effectively as well. The atmosphere is really good and the world itself is quite intriguing. There are some episodes that are better than others but there aren’t any that are bad. All of them are good, at least. The series continually introduces new mushi which is good in that it keeps things interesting but it also leads to some of the solutions coming across as forced. Almost like Urushibara came up with the idea for the problem and wanted a specific ending for the characters who were having trouble but didn’t know how to get to it. Fortunately, there aren’t many episodes that have solutions like that but there are a few.
We only have two major reoccurring characters, Ginko and his friend Adashino. They’re both really strong characters with a good level of depth. Then we have the side characters who frequently take the focus for the individual episodes. These characters do get well fleshed out and have serviceable motivations for what they’re doing. They all have verisimilitude and that helps create investment in those scenarios. Even the less important side characters still manage to come across like actual people. I also appreciate that those characters who are put into antagonistic roles have sensible reasons behind what they’re doing and are usually acting more out of ignorance or greed than any malice.
The visuals are superb. The backgrounds are really detailed and there are some gorgeous nature scenes. The mushi are frequently visually interesting and there are some legitimately creepy moments with them. The characters also look quite good, although the way mouths are drawn can be odd.
The voice acting is really good for both the major and side characters. Nakano Yuto in particular does a superb job in the role of Ginko. The music is nicely done and suitable for the series.
There really isn’t any in this series. Some of the side characters get romance but it’s always het.
Mushishi is an excellent series. It takes a good premise and uses it to great effect. If you’re looking for an episodic series, I do recommend it. My final rating is going to be a 9/10. Next week I’ll be looking at another series I was asked to review. It’s going to be Love Hina.