Mushishi Special: Hihamukage

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Mushishi Special: The Sun-Eating Shade, a warm return to the series as we gladly include a proper second season in our 2014 lineup. 

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Ginko is incredibly sexy.

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.

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Hiyori – our lead girl for this special episode

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.

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Hiyori’s twin sister.

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.

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Look at that lush greenery.

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.

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sidekick

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4 Responses

  1. Wanderer says:

    Some of the times when the episodes ended unhappily (for new folks, Ginko isn’t a miracle-worker: he can’t always fix everything, and sometimes Bad Things™ happened to people who got caught up in mushi-related incidents) ended up depressing me enough that I didn’t finish the series, but I tend to be very sensitive to stuff like that, so that shouldn’t be taken as an argument against watching it. It is still a very good series. If you all can handle a show where sometimes solving the issue at hand won’t always magically make everything better (and sometimes may even make things worse), because… well… life is sometimes sucky like that… then you should definitely watch this.

    And I don’t want to scare folks off: they don’t ALL turn out bad. I’d say that more often than not Ginko manages to make things better for everyone involved by the end of the episode. It’s just the cases where he wasn’t able to manage it that ended up getting to me after a while.

    • sidekick says:

      The episodes with endings that didn’t end as positively as I hoped were not ‘bad’ at all though. They stuck with me even more (the same as you), and I take it as part of the course of nature that Mushishi is trying to depict. This series isn’t exactly here to tell a story with endings that have all lose ends tied up properly. It can be open-ended, it can end in unexpected ways, but it’s part of Mushishi’s beauty too.

  2. Noc says:

    Oh Mushishi…it’s one of the few anime series I’ve deemed worthy of purchasing over the years, so news of a second season after 7 years was just as thrilling as it was surprising. I was already super happy about this one hour special, which was perfect perfect perfect- I nearly cried listening to some parts of the soundtrack again- SO EMOTIONAL. I also really loved how they had an albino girl here, and addressed some issues of albinism (aversion to sunlight) that were caused by mushi in this case. AAAAAAH GINKO IT’S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. Truly the greatest hero of all- a hero who sometimes fails, making him human and all the more loveable. Something I was reminded of while watching this episode was that many of the voice actors just speak naturally as they would in real life rather than doing cute or cool ‘anime’ voices, which is something I’ve always found to be really lovely and refreshing.

    So naturally I must encourage anime fans to take a look at Mushishi as well. Having read the manga, I can say it’s a splendid adaption that possibly even triumphs over the original source (this anime original episode included), and the only thing lacking was the adaption of the other 5 volumes! There are definitely some great moment in later chapters that I’ve been dying to see animated, so it’s time for me to sit tight and wait for April!! XD

    • sidekick says:

      I’m new to Mushishi, actually decided to start watching it about a few weeks before they announced the special :P And I must say the voice-acting in this series is near-perfect. Everyone sounds so real, and I’m really glad they always cast children to act out younger members of the cast, like they did for Hiyori and Hinata in this special. I’m about to finish the TV series, and I can’t wait for more! Probably going to see if I can purchase the DVD…my wallet is going to hate me for this.

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