Mushishi cover. In the foreground a white-haired man sits resting his elbow on his knee. In the background, the same man now standing in a forest. Round lights run through the image.

Mushishi: an ecological story with no heroes, and no villains

It’s been a while since I watched the two seasons of Mushishi, an anime produced by Artland based on the manga of the same name, created by Yuki Urushibara.

The anime takes place in an ancient Japan covered by forests and mountains, where the original nature has been little changed by man.

It consists of several stories, or tales, united by a common character: Ginko, a doctor who “cures” the changes caused by mushi.

But wait, what is a mushi?

So I don’t know. The anime also does not claim to define mushi and classify them as RPG animals. After all, nature is too diverse for us to find a perfect standard, which would only hide this diversity. The opening tells us that they are ancient creatures only seen by a few people, with no specific form. Visually, they can take the form of animals, fungi, viruses, bacteria, crystals, plants… Anything.

Not so understood by the common people, their presence alters the surrounding nature, even the human being. It is the consequences of this contact with the human being that moves the anime, which will tell us the stories of the characters, of how they react to change.

It’s not a Lovecraftian thing where people go crazy seeing something incomprehensible. In Mushishi, when people have contact with the supernatural, they belong to the supernatural. Communicating mentally with a friend, giving birth to a green-skinned child, listening to mosses, losing shade, being chased by rain, attracting windstorms are some examples. And mushi also change with this contact.

In most episodes, the consequences are seen as diseases, a parasitism. It’s up to Ginko to find a cure for the character and the people’s ignorance. What sets Ginko apart from the other doctors is that he does not intend to “kill” the parasitic mushi, but to save them as well. Even as a man, his narrative is not focused on destruction, on taking advantage of conflicts to grow like many “masculine” stories we see out there.

I would compare him to Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts, who also has a masculinity not so well regarded on screen, a masculinity focused on preservation. Maybe because both characters were created by women? Then I would be standardizing. Newt is Newt. Ginko is Ginko. Just watching to understand better.

Note: The pace of the anime is very slow, especially in the second season. It looks like a contemplative fantasy slice of life. The scenery of nature is beautiful. The stories aren’t too complex and you might even find them tedious if you don’t wait for the turning point (remember kishotenketsu’s post?). The soundtrack is smooth even in tense scenes. Relax. appease. Like nature.

If you want peace, watch Mushishi.



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Paulo Moreira

Paulo Moreira

Brazilian pharmacist in loved with History, Fantasy and Ecofiction. Author of The Blood of the Goddess. I write about nature in poems and fantasy stories.