Episodic plots aren’t for everyone, and I can’t say that I prefer it over continual plotlines. Nevertheless, Mushishi definitely worked its charm on me. Mushishi is a slow and quiet show. Each episode follows the life of someone who has strayed from normalcy after coming into contact with a “mushi” – an insect-like life form that is often parasitic and brings its host handicaps or unnatural powers. In every episode, Ginko the “mushishi” solves or observes cases involving the mushi. The stories tend to be loosely based on traditional Japanese folklore, with a twist that comes from Ginko’s fairly scientific approach to everything.
While I enjoyed most episodes in the show, there are certain episodes that I definitely liked more than others. Here is an overview of my favorite episodes in season 1 (the better season, I think).
EVERYTHING BELOW IS SPOILER-FREE.
EP2: Light of the Eyelid
A girl loses her sight after developing abnormal sensitivity towards light over half a year. Confined in a shed with only her best friend to visit her, she communicates with an unknown, one-eyed man every night in an odd vision of a glowing river. This episode also contains what is possibly the most grotesque scene out of the two seasons (Well, I promised to leave out the spoilers). Nothing you wouldn’t be able to get over though – Mushishi thankfully isn’t that kind of show.
EP4: Pillow Pathway
This episode unfolds in reverse chronology. A man who has prophetic dreams is persuaded into taking medicine to stop the unnatural dreaming in case of horrible consequences. Yet, the village suffers from unpredicted natural disasters after that, and the man, plagued by guilt, decides to go back to dreaming again… It’s simply one of the most tragic episodes. Oedipus Rex type of tragic.
EP5: The Travelling Swamp
Ginko repeatedly runs into a girl who has begun to fuse with a “swamp” that changes locations by itself. The girl becomes emotionally attached to the swamp after journeying with it in escape from a traumatic experience. The ED theme to this episode also happens to be my favorite from the season.
EP6: Those Who Inhale the Dew
A boy tries to save his childhood friend from the fate of performing as a prophet with no human consciousness in her family cult. She grows old each dawn, but restores her youth by morning. The episode raises some interesting questions about time and the pace at which humans live. How would an insect with the lifespan of a day adjust to the lifespan of a human, who carries the weight of yesterday’s memories into each new day?
EP12: One-Eyed Fish
This is the crucial episode that tells the story of Ginko’s past – the only glimpse into it that we get in the season. In fact, it is the only instance of us getting insight into something Ginko doesn’t even have access to. The boy Yoki, injured in the forest, is adopted by the mushishi Nui, who has lost an eye and gained another green one due to exposure to two peculiar species of mushi, one of them known as “Ginko”. Nui raises Yoki with her knowledge as a mushishi.
EP13: One-Night Bridge
After a failed attempt to elope, during which Zen’s girlfriend Hana fell down a bridge and returned as a shell of her formal self, Zen has been visiting a puppet-like Hana for three years. The bridge appears for a single night each time, but those who cross can never turn back. After Ginko’s arrival, Zen has new hopes of curing Hana and later encounters another chance of crossing the bridge.
EP14: Inside the Cage
A man cannot find his way out of a bamboo forest ever since his encounter with the “bamboo child” – a girl whose father was supposedly a white bamboo tree. He eventually settles in the forest with the bamboo girl, Setsu, and helps continue the unusual family line by marrying her. Until Ginko comes, anyways.
EP15: The Pretense of Spring
Ginko takes shelter in the home of a pair of siblings during winter, but investigates the area after being told by the younger brother that there is a patch of spring in the woods where animals fall asleep if they approach. I really love the idea of a fake spring in the middle of winter – so many wonderful fairy tales start out this way. Mild spoiler alert: Ginko gets an admirer in this episode and it’s all super cute.
EP19: String from the Sky
Ginko helps a girl realize that she’s gone missing and can’t be seen by normal humans ever since grabbing onto a string dangling from the sky (I love how clueless she is). She now has to figure out how to stay on the ground for long enough without drifting upwards, in order to stay with the man she loves. Or rather, it’s her boyfriend who has to figure out how to get his girlfriend to stop floating to the ceiling all the time. #relationshipproblems
EP22: Shrine in the Sea
Ginko investigates a village in which the dying are rowed to an island, where they’ll be reborn again into the same family and grow to have the exact same appearance and personality. This one’s got a neat concept, and the ending isn’t exactly as tragic as the some of the others.
EP25: Eye of Fortune, Eye of Misfortune
Akane sings songs of mushi encounters told to her by her mushishi father. She herself has the interesting story that involves receiving a mushi-infested pair of eyes that causes her to see the futures of everyone other than herself. The condition becomes more extreme each day, to the point where she can’t stop seeing through the walls of her house even with her eyes closed. I just love how Mushishi has stories that deal with each aspect of the senses. Sight has already been given three episodes of focus so far, and I don’t really mind getting more of it.
So that’s it for now, I’ll see if I’ll do one for Zoku Shou in the future. I like people-drama more than nature, so that explains most of the episodes I picked. So…go and watch some Mushishi, everyone! I find that the cold season gloom is great for this kind of show. It’s a soothing experience, trust me.