The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide Mushi-shi (Sequel Series)
Review: After eight years, critical darling and niche-of-a-niche fan favorite Mushi-Shi is back with more warmly melancholy episodes, and it's as if the show never ended at all. Side note: returning fans should definitely check out the 40-minute special released earlier this year (and also listed as "episode 1" on Crunchyroll, confusingly,) if they've been holding out before this continuation began. It's one of the best Mushi-Shi vignettes on its own, and also full of satisfying callbacks that may affect how this second season plays out. Different note: Mushi-Shi may be an episodic series, but new viewers should not start off with this second season, as it is largely framed to be meaningful only to those already familiar with Ginko and the world of the mushi. The episode's "audience identification character" is weirdly a reverse audience ID character because instead of his ignorance mirroring our own as we learn about the world, the episode is written as if you already know all about mushi and are charmed by and wary of his ignorance as his story unfolds. Start with season one instead, and see if it tickles your fancy.
For those already familiar with the show, Artland's stunning visual and aural presentation is back full force, bathing the viewer in a gorgeous landscape teeming with wonder and sometimes a little fear, as the mushi reflect all the simple carnality of nature and its relationship with mankind. Mushi master and series protagonist Ginko takes a backseat to a young sake brewer named Rokusuke who has unwittingly distilled a liquid a lot like kouki and is thus mistaken for a mushi master when he stumbles on their nighttime picnic. The result is a nice marriage of familiar ideas, callbacks to the very first episodes, and a re-introduction to just what makes Mushi-Shi so special.
If you want to get lost in the mellow splendors and horrors of nature with just a little magic mixed in, Mushi-Shi is right up your alley, and this is the perfect time to wallow in those first 26 episodes and slide right on through to the highly anticipated new season. It's not for all tastes, but it's a work of true excellence, meditation, and beauty.
Mushi-Shi (sequel series) is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.
Rating: 4.5 (of 5)
Of the numerous franchises getting new anime installments this season, this one was, by a light year, the least expected; series that haven't had new animated material in eight years, and don't have a high level of lingering popularity, almost never earn them, especially when they're works at the most extreme fringe of mainstream or otaku viewing interests. But somehow this one got one, which gives it a chance to expose its peculiar style to a whole new class of viewers.
All those who watched any part of the original series should need to know is that the first episode of the new one is done in exactly the same style in every respect; it is almost like the original series never ended, or someone left a few episodes laying around to be broadcast at a (much) later date. For newcomers, Mushi-Shi is something totally different than anything else airing this season: a mature, very low-key tale about mushi, spiritlike creatures which are the essence of life but can sometimes have adverse effects on people who encounter them.
Mushi-Shi are essentially mushi wranglers, individuals who travel the land dealing with mushi-related issues, albeit in a very naturalistic sense. There is no flash or pop, no exorcisms or dramatic battles, to be found here; these are stories about gentle (but not necessarily harmless) wonder and the ways that the lives of ordinary folk can cross with the mystical. Character designs have a distinctive style which little resembles other series, settings are beautifully detailed, music and acting are muted (but by no means ineffective), the mushi are simple-looking but still fascinating creations of light, and the flow of the stories has a subdued grace that some viewers will undoubtedly find painfully slow and boring. In fact, the original series tended to provoke extreme reactions; people either loved it or were bored out of their minds by it. Based on the first episode, this installment looks no different.
I haven't mentioned the story details because they are largely irrelevant compared to the style, and the series is usually episodic anyway. For the record, though, this tale is one of a brewer's son who encounters mushi and a gathering of Mushi-Shi – including, of course, our old pal Ginko – in his efforts to duplicate a special golden sake his father once made. It has every bit the feel and tone that fans have come to expect, and will not disappoint.
Mushi-Shi (sequel series) is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: Normally I wouldn't write a preview for a sequel about which there is nothing new to say. But it has been nearly a decade since the original Mushi-Shi came out. And, more importantly, I cannot pass up a chance to promote what is, to my mind, one of the few genuine works of art to emerge from the industry. That said, there is nothing new to say. Like any of the haunting, deeply human tales of the original Mushi-Shi, this episode is a standalone story of humans brushing up against the supernatural ecology of the mushi. Here a sake brewer remembers a tale told by his father of a wooded gathering where strange folk served him sublime, glowing sake. Years later the brewer, having perfected the brew his father sought to replicate, stumbles across the same gathering.
The gathering is a meeting of Mushi-Shi, which teaches us a little about the peripatetic profession and its practitioners—as well as a little about Ginko, our reticent protagonist. Like all Mushi-Shi episodes, this one spins a beautifully economical, emotionally textured tale—startling in its human depth given its short running time. And like all Mushi-Shi episodes it reaches deep inside, stirring up the elemental wonder of the wild and the unknown—the magic of raw nature in all its unknowable glory. It's probably the closest, barring perhaps Haibane Renmei, that I can get to a spiritual experience in anime. It helps, of course, if you're a sucker for wild spaces and ecology in general, but it's not a prerequisite. Not all sequel series can bottle the lightning that their originals did, but Next Chapter does. The moment the spare opening opens, the years fall away and you're back, watching for the first time.
Mushi-Shi (sequel series) is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
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