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Manga Moveable Feast: Mushishi, an overview

filed under , 30 April 2010, 11:20 by

From the Publisher:

Shortly after life emerged from the primordial ooze, deadly creatures—mushi—came into terrifying being. They still exist and wreak havoc in the world today. One man with a sardonic smile has the knowledge and skill to save those plagued by mushi.

They Have Existed Since The Dawn Of Time

Some live in the deep darkness behind your eyelids. Some eat silence. Some thoughtlessly kill. Some simply drive men mad. Shortly after life emerged from the primordial ooze, these deadly creatures, mushi, came into terrifying being. And they still exist and wreak havoc in the world today. Ginko, a young man with a sardonic smile, has the knowledge and skill to save those plagued by mushi… perhaps.

Mushishi is a 10 volume manga series from Yuki Urushibara, who has also written at least one manga short-story collection and is the author of the new ongoing series, Suiiki, which started in November of 2009. Both Mushishi and Suiiki are serialized in Kodansha’s Afternoon. Mushishi won an Excellence Prize at the 2003 Japan Media Arts Festival and the 2006 Kodansha Manga Award.

There is a 26-episode anime adaptation by the Artland studio, which ran Oct. ’05 to June ’06 (and which has been licensed and released in the US and Canada by Funimation [flash site]) and a live-action movie, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, originally released 24 March 2007 — and also released in the US by Funimation as a subtitled DVD, which came out Aug. 2009.

[though no official word was found on the Funimation site, a listing on RightStuf points to a new re-release of the Viridian Collection Edition of the full Mushishi anime for just $40 MSRP, timed for early June in advance of the Del Rey release of the vols. 8-10 omnibus in July.]

Mushishi is an episodic manga, and what passes for an ongoing plot are the reveals of the past of our enigmatic protagonist Ginko, the Mushishi or mushi-master of the title. Each chapter is largely self-contained, with a problem presented to Ginko by whatever local mushi might be evident, and then a conclusion: but not always a ‘cure’ or solution. Sometimes the only way to deal with mushi is to find the proper balance, or to more fully accept them; sometimes there isn’t a happy ending, because there can’t be a happy ending.

This mix of conflict and acceptance, redemption and tragedy — and the thick layer of mystical, elemental, primeval mushi that exist just beneath the surface — combined with the dreamlike qualities of the story and the seemingly never-ending series of small, isolated Japanese villages — and the timelessness of the setting (Ginko seems a modern man perpetually wandering a pre-1900 Japanese wilderness) — and it all adds up to a manga that hits emotional notes and spurs intellectual reflection in the reader.

It’s about as far from shojo sparkles and shonen tournaments as we can get.

Not that it’s perfect. In an upcoming series of diary posts (reviewing a volume a week, give or take) I’ll be critically re-reading each volume in turn and I’ll be quite happy to pick nits and to point to flaws. But taken as a whole, Urushibara’s Mushishi is a magical world to get lost in, for an hour or two. Also, each chapter stands alone, so it’s easy to dip in-and-out, say, during lunch breaks or while commuting on the train.

I’m taking the Mushishi MMF as an opportunity; a starting point, not a way to post my final thoughts on the series — and this is only natural, as the series hasn’t ended yet. And depending on how long it takes me to post the seven weekly volume reviews, I might even closely run up into a review of an ARC of vols. 8-10, provided Del Rey can get those out in advance of the 27 July release date.

More than 2 years ago I wrote a review of volume 1. — I’m trying not to think about it much, lest it colour the new review (or about how much I think I’ve improved as a blogger & writer since them) but it does count as record of my introduction to the series.


The April Manga Moveable Feast is hosted by Ed Sizemore at Manga Worth Reading. Please check out the review index posted there for other views on Mushishi.


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