alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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River of Light

Another quiet weekend in our household. The Gryphon took me shopping for new pants and bras (woo!) for an anniversary gift, and he made us a delicious meal on Sunday evening: Yorkshire pudding with pot roast, carrots, and a spinach salad with bacon dressing.

Last night, we watched a video I'd rented through, the first five episodes of the Japanese anime series, Mushi-Shi. I'd added it to my queue after seeing an anime music video during the screening session that got me interested in the show. Also, one of our fellow screeners said that he liked the series.

I absolutely loved this luminous, well-told series, highlighted by beautifully-drawn characters and backgrounds.

Ginko, the main character from Mushi-Shi

Mushi-Shi follows only one main character, Ginko, a "mushi master" who has learned the secrets of the primeval organisms known as "mushi," whose manifestations are often mistaken for paranormal experiences. These creatures are neither plant nor animal but resemble microorganisms. Most people can't see them, but they are everywhere: in the earth, the air, the water. According to the mythos underlying this season, those who know how to look can see a river of light running through the earth, made up of millions of mushi.

Ginko is part mystic, part scientist, carrying a wooden chest full of medicines and remedies against the troubles caused by mushi. A chain smoker with snow-white hair (a color associated with death in Japanese culture), in each episode he meets a different person in need of help. One little boy is troubled with the lonely ability to bring things to life by drawing them with his left hand. Another little girl is confined to darkness because her eyes are hypersensitive to light. Yet another man is plagued with clairvoyant dreams.

In each case, Ginko tries to ascertain the cause of the trouble and to help the afflicted person. Unlike many other such serials, he doesn't always manage to bring about a happy ending. What he can do, however, is help people to cope with the reality of what the mushi have brought.

As the director, Hiroshi Nagahama, said in the interview included on this disk, he loved the manga from which this series was made and stayed faithful to the character and the story. In fact, he even checked the storyboards against the manga, in order to make certain the animators are staying true to the spirit of the original. It was a wise instinct, since the storytelling is so strong.

Through the use of effervescent watercolor backgrounds, plus judicious use of light and ethereal music by Toshio Masuda, the series takes on an otherworldly feel. We watched the English dub and loved the voicework of Travis Willingham, who imbues Ginko with compassion and calm wisdom. Having met him in person (at Otakon 2009), where I saw him as basically an easy-going guy, I was impressed with his nuanced acting.

I also loved the opening theme, "Sore Feet" by Ally Kerr, a full version of which is used in this AMV with Byosoku 5cm images (which looks like another series I'll have to find). I'll also be buying that song, if I can find it, or the album, if I can't purchase just the song.

Since I've begun watching the anime recommended to me by friends, this is one of my absolute favorites.

Rating: ***** (5 out of 5)

A good director knows when to be faithful to the original.

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Tags: anime, food, gryphon, music, television

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