Mushishi Special: Hihamukage
Mushishi Special: The Sun-Eating Shade, a warm return to the series as we gladly include a proper second season in our 2014 lineup.
In case you guys haven’t heard of Mushishi before, it’s a 26 episode TV anime produced by Artland and aired in 2006.
WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH BECAUSE IT IS ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL It’s basically set in a world where creatures called Mushi exist. They are neutral beings close to life itself, and their interactions with humans and nature (only a select few are able to see these creatures) often lead to various phenomena occurring. The lead character of this series is a man named Ginko, a travelling Mushishi (or Mushi master) that goes around to help various people deal with the mushi, and each episode will focus on Ginko dealing with different people and different mushi.
This special episode is basically a slightly longer episode of Mushishi’s standard fare – Ginko runs into a village where a mushi called the Hihamukage blocks out the sun after a solar eclipse has taken place, causing the crops grown and thus the livelihood of the villagers to be greatly affected.
This episode follows the typical (but extremely effective) Mushishi episode structure: a mushi causing trouble for people > Ginko’s diagnosis > resolution from and by character-driven drama. Despite being a cool, emotionally detached series, it always manages to handle very human themes and emotions with great skill. It depicts a world with mushi yes, but this series is all about the human condition. This episode has an albino girl that is unable to go out into the sun come to terms with how she must help the villagers get rid of the Hihamukage despite knowing that it would lead to her being cooped up alone at home with no one to share that suffering with her.
This scenario allows the episode to touch on various themes. Seeing how Hiyori (the albino girl) is able to finally go out in the day and play in the forests and rivers is a pretty heartbreaking sight, just as seeing the villagers suffering from their inability to grow crops because of the mushi – it reminds us to not take things (freedom, or even everyday things like the light of the sun) for granted. Hiyori is finally able to be free – but she later acknowledges that this freedom comes at a cost – the suffering of the villagers, and eventually her as well, all despite her desire for someone to share and understand her suffering. This also lends to the question of the ‘needs of one vs the needs of many’, and this conflict eventually also leads to something that hits close to the heart involving Hiyori’s twin sister not affected by the sun.
The thing about Mushishi is that nothing is ever painted in a bad light. Not the humans, and certainly not the mushi. Everything and everyone are just trying to lead out their everyday lives, and this leads to clashes. This is just the icing on the cake – a smartly-created world and atmosphere for which humans and mushi interact. The visuals and sound greatly add to this wonderful atmosphere. Lighting is always used at the most apt times – to reflect the resolution of a conflict, or a struggle. Sound effects are also used to great effect, they all help you to get immersed into the world that Mushishi is trying to build. The backgrounds are beautifully done – rich, filled with green, and have a wonderful Eastern feel that really lends itself to the story Mushishi is trying to tell. The OST itself is of course top notch as well – one of the best in anime, all thanks to the genius of composer Masuda Toshio. Every track significantly improves and already well-written and directed scene. You can only get a masterpiece as the final result.
Also, for fans of the TV series, apparently some of the characters from previous episodes of the series do make cameos (although I’ve yet to finish the original TV series, I’m halfway through it but I just awarded it a 10/10 on my MAL after witnessing the masterpiece that is episode 12.), and right at the end we get an announcement for…that’s right – SEASON TWO. SEASON F*CKING TWO! With mostly the same production team and seiyuu as the TV series and this special coming later this year. 2014 is going to be a magical year, really. (And we’ve even got JJBA’s 3rd arc, Stardust Crusaders! Woo!)
Even if you’ve yet to watch Mushishi or you’re not yet done watching it like me, I think it’s safe to give this episode a try. My summary about the world above (and a little more research on Wiki or MAL’s synopsis) should give you enough info to understand what is unfolding on screen. For those that have never heard of Mushishi before, I really urge you to give it a try. It’s slow pace and cool, detached nature may not be for everyone, but trying it won’t hurt, really. It’s a non-risky proposition with great payoff. I don’t think you’ll regret it, and every episode will leave you satisfied and inspired.