I’m admittedly a stubborn TV watcher. Because in the age of being able to binge everything, to avoid TV binge overload – as totally real scientists call it – you gotta be a little picky about the shows you choose to spend hours (and hours) with. But after watching just the first couple of episodes of the manga-turned-anime Mushishi, I was 100% hooked.
With the show coming into our lives in 2005, Mushishi isn’t new. But because it’s managed to fly a bit under the radar, it’s new to many viewers. It started as a serial manga created by Yuki Urushibara (yay female creator!) back in 1999, when it was printed in various publications until 2008. The chapters were gathered up and put together as a full manga, and the show was adapted into a TV show.
The world of Mushishi is infested with ancient creatures called ‘mushi’, which are sort of like supernatural parasites that look like anything from tiny glowy neurons, to stick bugs the size of trees. While mushi are invisible to most people, they have serious effects on the physical world and humans; effects that often tread the line between science and the supernatural.
The show follows mushi Master – or a ‘Mushishi’ – Ginko, who is one of the few people who can actually see Mushi. As he travels all around what is a hybrid of 18th and 19th century Japan, he helps people ailing from mushi-related afflictions and solves mushi-related phenomenon in towns throughout the land, making discovering new mushi his life’s mission. Because let’s be real, who wouldn’t?
As someone who doesn’t watch a ton of anime, I can say that this is a show anime lovers and newbies alike will enjoy. And if you’re an art nerd and a science nerd, Mushishi is right up your alley. Many of the effects that mushi have (*puts on nerd glasses*) can be seen as a metaphor and ‘explanation’ for many very real diseases and parasites.
And the physical design of mushi is also based in science, often resembling microscopic plankton and copepods, bacteria, cells, and creatures like hagfish (see that first image in this piece!) Mushi are incorporated in the world as a very believable, spirit-like entities with biological explanations.
Science nerding out aside, the best part about Mushishi is the art that brings the show and its world to life. Every backdrop, every shot of scenery and environment, every frame, is stunningly beautiful. And the mushi themselves range from beautifully grotesque to beautifully, well, beautiful, many of them giving off a soft bioluminescent glow.
Even the way the mushi present themselves can be beautiful. In the episode A Sea of Writings, for example, mushi take the form of lines of writing that flow over a woman’s skin. And as they move towards her fingers, she can drag her finger across parchment and leave the mushi there as sentences that make up a story.
The artwork, paced animation, and Ginko’s (sometimes too) chill demeanor make this show crazy relaxing to sit back and binge on. I totally recommend sitting back and letting Mushishi take you on a visually stunning journey.
There’s no overarching storyline, so you can jump through episodes. But I recommend watching it from the beginning to better understand types of Mushi and Ginko’s backstory. Here are a few of my personal favorite episodes in season 1:
- The Green Seat – First episode!
- Tender Horns – the third episode and the one that got me hooked. A boy sprouts tiny horns just like his mother did…just before she mysteriously died.
- The Traveling Swamp – Ginko investigates a mysterious green-haired girl and a swamp that somehow travels the land.
- One-Eyed Fish – Ginko’s origin story!
- A Sea of Writings – Ginko comes across a girl suffering from a ‘curse’ that has plagued her whole family and is, of course, caused by mushi (as a writer, I’m a little biased towards this one.)
- Cotton Changeling – SUPER creepy, think Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
- A Shrine in the Sea – One of the most beautiful episodes.