Mushi-shi: An Introduction

This is a repost of an older post, as I restart Watching Mushi-shi.

I’m going to be watching episodes of the Mushi-shi anime and making notes on this blog, in celebration of a holiday that begins with an M.

But first, a little bit about Mushi-shi.

The Anime

Mushi-shi‘s episodes are beautiful and slow, like the best of psychological pieces in film, always including the eerie and supernatural, as well as horror from time to time. The horror that appears is never of the gory nature—it’s more of an Alfred Hitchcock style mindfuck rather than the simple (if effective) squick of slashers. And an elegant mindfuck at that. Even the episode involving eyes. 

Let’s put it this way: I hate horror and squick easily, but I was able to watch all of Mushi-shi with fascination.

The main character, Gingko, while looking a bit like the “white-haired pretty boy” in many manga/anime series, acts much more like a Marlon Brando than a typical bishonen would. He has some anachronistic attributes as well ((The series was originally set in more modern times, then was retconn’d after issue 1 to be in Japan’s past somewhen in the Edo era.)), smokes all the time—although he has a great actual plot reason for this, rather than simply looking cool. ((Note: I have nothing against characters smoking, but sometimes it seems they smoke for no character reason at all. It’s the difference between Spider Jerusalem (partly based off Hunter S. Thompson, for goodness sakes) and… well… most characters listed here.))

And there’s that box he carries on his back. It’s so iconic, if probably uncomfortable, and that he lugs it as he travels all across rural Japan speaks volumes for his endurance. Also, I’m fascinated by its many little drawers… although some of them hold things I so do not want.

The anime version of Mushi-shi is highly faithful to the original manga. While there are 26 episodes now, it’s unlikely to go any further—unlike many manga series, this one comes to an end, although that end is not portrayed in the anime, which stops three books short. ((Sigh, I hope someone makes a season two with the rest.)) Despite stopping early, the anime comes to a beautiful close that is amazingly still faithful.

This manga and anime have both won various awards, and I saw it often on Western anime fan sites’ “Top Ten” lists for its Western air dates during 2008. Its nearly universal praise made me check this one out—and I’m glad I did. At times I need a break from the insanity of Tenchi-Muyo, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, and Samurai Champloo for this quiet and mysterious little series.

The DVDs

In the original set or six separate DVDs, each DVD contained around five episodes, with a beautiful cover—the cover is double-sided with different images on each side, so the case is clear. Each also has an informative little booklet with some of the nicest paper I’ve ever felt in these little collection.

Nowadays this has all apparently been compressed onto 4 DVDs in one set; you can buy the full series at or Barnes & Noble. I don’t know what it looks like, nor what has or hasn’t been preserved, and I feel happy that I’ve got the original set.

The Manga

I read the manga after watching the anime. It’s almost the same experience, except in black-and-white manga form, and I tend to consider it a portable version of the anime. I look forwards to the rest of the volumes not covered by the anime (8, 9, and 10) being published here in the West.

The Live-Action Movie

I haven’t watched this, but I’m quite curious about it.

The Video Game

Indeed. It’s a Nintendo DS game, and I don’t own it. You can see more information about it at, including videos of the gameplay. It’s rather endearing, although my video game experiences are limited to the Wii and Twilight Princess, so I’m unlikely to get it.