When things are not what they seem

A young woman rarely speaks to spare her fellow villagers from the sickness spreading in their mountain village. Huts, people, pottery etc are covered in what looks like rust. It immobilzes people and makes living a misery.

A white-haired traveler who drops by the village is astonished at the way the rest of the residents shun and treat the girl. He is more astonished when he hears her speak. Her voice sounds like metals scraping together. But unlike the others he proposes a solution. And it works.

The traveler is none other than Ginko, the protagonist of “Mushi-shi”. The title refers to what Ginko does for a living. He deals with Mushi, those creatures of varying forms that very few see but definitely affect animals and people. Several Mushi are parasitic, some kill while a few can endow people with certain abilities.

Unlike his fellow Mushi-shi (which apparently translates to master of Mushi), Ginko tries not to automatically kill the creatures unless there is no other solution to the problem.

“Mushi-shi”, which is based on a manga of the same title, is an unusual anime. There is no ending song, no main story line, no major explosions, no cutesy characters and no fanservice. What you get are Ginko’s adventures which are usually wrapped up by the end of the show. The story why he ended up with white hair and only one green eye is explained earlier in the series.

This was one of my favorites last year because of its uniqueness and the otherworldly elements it contains. You get a sense that this is reality viewed through a different lens. The characters are drawn like normal people (you won’t find rainbow-hued hair here) but they seem to exist in another time period although Ginko wears modern clothes. Many of the villages he visits are found in places like the mountains, the forests and on islands.

My father is a big fan of Akira Kurosawa and Japanese literature so I spent a considerable amount of my childhood being exposed to such works. All this blather just means that I am very comfortable with something like “Mushi-shi” and easily accepted the premise about the Mushi.

When I first started watching the series, I was strongly reminded of a book I read called, “John the Balladeer” because of the way the hero dealt with bizarre creatures in mountain settings complete with mists and weird incidents. The book chronicles the adventures of John, a wanderer with a silver-stringed guitar who helps the folks living in the Ozarks fight supernatural beings. I think Manly Wade Wellman wrote the short stories. Loved those tales.

But I digress. Don’t watch “Mushi-shi” if you need a dose of things that go kaboom or angsty teens who must save the world with the latest, greatest giant robot. But if you want to try something slow-paced almost dream-like and very different, give this show a chance. You just might like it.

The show has been licensed by Funimation but I don’t know when the release date will be.

Both the manga and the anime are popular in Japan. There’s even a live-action movie. According to Anime News Network, the film is being shown at Sundance and has drawn the interest of companies who want to distribute it outside Japan. Let’s see if that actually happens. Hope they change the English title by then because I don’t like the current English title of “Bugmaster.” Geez how terribly pedestrian and how wrong since a Mushi isn’t a bug though some may look like it.

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