I'll state this right off the bat: Mushishi is a good show. It just took me over 8 months to get through it all. Yes, it's only 26 episodes long, and quite engaging, but... Well, it's a very quiet show, and you really can't marathon it. I was averaging 1 episode every week or two for a while.
Mushishi is very much like another show that I liked (loved in fact): Kino's Journey — in fact it could be considered Kino's spiritual follow-up. They both centered around an individual who traveled around seeing new, strange and bizarre things, interacting with the locals wherever she or he went... But Kino's adventures really dove into the psyche of man, and actually had something to say. True, Mushishi's lead, Ginko, is more about understanding man's place and role in nature and the world at large (which is played up well, and pretty deep most of the time), but the parable story style of Kino led for quick viewing... Mushishi did not.
What is Mushishi about, you ponder? It's all about this wandering priest/biologist/doctor guy named Ginko, who travels Japan dealing with, and healing people who have, mushi problems. So he goes from-- What's a "mushi," you spit out like a camel with the AIDs? Ugh, fine! Mushi are creatures that exist pretty much everywhere in nature. Not everybody can see them (thank Christ for that, as they're really creepy, see-through worm-like creatures most of the time, and they usually float around or live in trees and shit), and those who can tend to have strange reactions to them (reactions that take the forms of curses, withered body parts, or even mushi-cloned devil children). Mushi aren't animal or mineral or vegetable, but supernatural creatures that are closer to the life stream than we'll ever be (they're described in the story as existing "between life and death. They're like an object and person at the same time"). And if a human accidentally crosses or gets mixed up with a mushi, well, they're pretty much boned, and a mushi master (a Mushishi, if you will, and you WILL!) must come in to save the day. As I was saying before, Ginko is one of these select few with the power to not only see the mushi, but exorcise them... Well, most of the time.
Ginko is hard core. He's a one-eyed, chain smoker who goes through, and helps others go through, some seriously serious metaphysical shit. To quote Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters, he's "seen shit that'll turn you WHITE!" And oddly enough, it truly has (at least his hair). Some of the episodes will really make you think and ponder them (episode 8 and the fog one come to mind), and some make you feel sad, but hopeful (like the episode about Ginko's past, and the one dealing with the cocoon-making maiden). Alas, some end tragically as well, but absolutely none of Mushishi's episodes end how you think they will.
Each story (and each episode is its own story onto itself, with rarely a secondary character showing up more than once) has two basic mysteries to it: What is the problem, and how will Ginko fix things once he understands them? Each mushi that Ginko comes across acts different from any previous, and so their cure, or the answer on how to send them packing is always anomalous from the previous. Some of these mysteries are brilliantly strange, but Ginko is well read, and a very quick thinker (despite the fact that he constantly looks like he just got roofied over at the Sea Wench Pub by that ugly, fat chick who wouldn't leave me alone despite my "No Fat Chicks" T-shirt and the fact that kept throwing peanuts at her all night... Or so I've heard. I mean, I wouldn't know what a roofy hangover looks like in a guy. It's not like that fat chick had any mirrors in her place when I woke up). Though, one mystery that I just can't figure out is why this appears to take place in older rural Japan (like centuries ago), but Ginko appears to be wearing loafers and modern business casual clothes. Is he really Scott Bakula in disguise?
Anyway, I love how detailed and how incredibly well painted the backgrounds are; everything is so alive and vivid, even with a lot of the episodes having a subdued palette. I liked how Ginko brought hope wherever he went, but he didn't always have all the answers that the mushi-cursed wanted, or their cures were ended with a lot more suffering than they initially caused. And the mushi are usually always just thought of as natural beings. I mean, even when the shittiest of the shitty endings happens to people just because they accidentally sneezed on an invisible mushi or something, most of the people who are cursed and damned by the critters just chalk it up to "oh well... Those craaaaaazy mushi.... Oi, my life sucks."
Ummm, was I like supposed to learn something from this shit, G? Yo, like I'm watching some of these episodes about these little ghost worms, which are eating the souls of all these poor schmucks in Japan, and like there didn't seem to be any moral or anything to get out of all this.
Now normally, holmes, I'm down with not learning a mothafuckin' thing about life, the universe, and everything while watching a porno-toon from Japan. But this time it felt... It felt like I was supposed to. Like I was supposed to gain some kind'a understanding from the shit that all those homies was goin' through episode in, episode out. And well, I guess in the end I did learn me something... Don't Ever Go To Japan. Those little demon, floating jellyfish will fuck you the hell up!
Utterly fascinating! I've seen these mushi things floating around like they own the place for years, but I had absolutely no idea that they were normal and that other people could see them as well. I mean other SPECIAL people, like me.
After studying this Mushishishi series for a while with the Rossman, I got inspired to try bold, new ways of ridding myself of all the blasted mushi from my lab (to hell with the rest of the world, I don't need any supernatural spies watching my [maybe a tad unethical] biological and social experiments and then possibly reporting to the Man).
I first tried talking to them. Nothing. Then I tried writing down my feelings about them in calligraphy. Nada. Finally I tried taking out my left eyeball (mostly out of frustration) just like that Ginky guy... Absolutely no results, and in fact they seemed to have multiplied a bit.
After all that, I then settled down to some Ghostbusters and got another interesting idea: proton packs! It took a few days to get a nuclear accelerator of my own to build one, but holy Toledo did it work! Well, it worked in the sense that I was able to utterly destroy my lab in less than 5 minutes from when I turned the beam on, but it was also a failure because it didn't eliminate even ONE mushi from the facility.
That's when I realized that what I was seeing was really just a bunch of floaters on my eyeballs caused by the second stage of cataracts and all-out ocular collapse. Lovely.