Striking The Right Note: Mushishi

This one is kinda hard to talk about.

Not because it’s bad, or that the series itself is bad, but because there’s not a lot to say. It’s one of those where the merits are pretty obvious. You’d think that’d make it easy, but, well, it kinda doesn’t.

Eh. I talked my ass off about Ergo Proxy last week. I’m due an easy one.

For those that don’t know, Mushishi is an episodic series that follows the story of Ginko, a self described Mushi master, as he encounters various peoples and helps them with their problems. If you tossed in the walking away music from the end of Bill Bixby’s Incredible Hulk series, you’d almost have Mushishi.

So what the hell is a Mushi? Well, in the world of Mushishi, a Mushi is sort of like a living organism, lower on the ladder of evolution than everything else, which displays what most people would call supernatural abilities. According to Ginko, they are completely natural, but because they are so rare, and basically amount to little more than really large bacteria, most people have simply forgotten how to actually see them.

Most of the time, this is fine. Now and then, though, Mushi and humans interact in unpredictable ways. When that happens, he steps in and helps both the humans and the Mushi.

The series has no overarching plot of any kind, but is pretty renowned for being a very soft, gentle, easy going show. There’s a relaxing aspect to Mushishi, which is where most of the love it gets comes from. Even when it gets scary, which it does from time to time, Ginko’s calm demeanor makes you feel like everything is going to be fine. It helps that it always is.

Now, it would have been easy to do something typical with the opening credits on a show like this. Lots of images of Ginko just walking around, or talking to people would have been the obvious way to go. Some Japanese pop song would have played, giving you a bit of a buzz, and that would have been that.

In a sign that the creative folks working on Mushishi really got what the show was about, they decided to do something different.

There is no actual imagery in the opening credits. Just slowly shifting blotches that look like a forest out of focus. Cool, soothing greens that move in a manner that is relaxing, unhurried, and eases you into being in that same state. It’s almost a bit like hypnosis, really.

I’m sure there’s a name for it, I just don’t know what it is. Whatever the psychiatric community calls it when they show you soothing images to help you relax. This is that.

The real winning choice here is the song. “The Sore Feet Song”, by Ally Kerr, is a smooth, slightly folksy piece that fits the mood perfectly. Not just of the opening images, but of the show itself. They could almost have an instrumental version of this playing in the background through the whole show, and it’d be fitting.

Most shows try to get you hyped for the episode. Mushishi tries to lull you.

 

By the by, it worked. So well in fact that when they finally got around to making a second season, they promptly did almost the exact same thing. I’m assuming they took so long because they all ended up taking a really long nap after watching the fruits of their labor.

The biggest difference with the second season opening is that it contains no actual animation at all, which is a really bold choice to make for an anime. That, and they swapped out the song for “Shiver” by Lucy Rose.

Jut as easy, gentle and folksy. These guys still get it.

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6 thoughts on “Striking The Right Note: Mushishi

  1. Mushshi is kind of the ultimate relaxing anime watch. I’m not normally a fan of shows without any kind of overarching plot but this story with a different experience and encounter each episode really worked and it is just so visually compelling that you get drawn straight into it and it doesn’t let go. You are right about the music lulling you and it really sets the languid tone for the series.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is just about the most relaxing thing ever. I remember watching it for the first time, and just walking away from it feeling so calm and happy. It’s one of those rare shows that only comes along once in a while, where all the elements just fit together perfectly.

      Another thing I enjoyed about it was that in the English dub, Ginko is voiced by Travis Willingham, who voiced Roy Mustang in FMA. I’m a huge fan of Travis, and he really nailed that sort of calming, relaxed demeanor of Ginko that keeps even the most extreme cases of Mushi from really being scary. It’s one of those great examples of a dub being done right.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Have never heard of this series before, but I really enjoyed the two tunes you have included, especially the second one. I have been watching a lot of action anime series, lately, so after I have concluded the two shows I am currently watching, it is time to switch to something that is a bit more relaxing for a change. A few months ago, I watched Orange, which I loved. This has gotten my interest. Thank you for sharing this, well written and very interesting post 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mushishi is definitely worth a watch, though it will be a very different experience coming off action shows. I’ve seen it occasionally referred to as the anime equivalent of drinking a cup of chamomile tea and while smoking a joint.

      Which is not that far from being accurate. It’s super mellow.

      When you get the time, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Mushishi is one of my favorite anime because it does something so well that is so rarely done. Where most stories rely on tension, Mushishi relies on a calm look at the world, a slow look that helps you see the beauty, not just in the image, but in the nature of it.
    I think Kino’s Journey tries to do something similar, but the otherworldly Mushishi, and the water color animation style, really lend themselves well to this relaxing story that doesn’t really believe in firm borders or edges.

    Like

    1. Absolutely. It’s that whole almost ephemeral quality that it has that makes it so engaging. Kind of like a dream that was captured on film. As you said, others have tried to do similar, by there really isn’t anything that’s managed to do it so well as this has.

      Liked by 1 person

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