Mushi-shi: The Next Passage (part two)
Ginko is a wandering mushi-shi, someone who can see the little creatures known as mushi and who helps those affected by them. Mushi are neither good nor evil so not every encounter with them is a bad thing in the end, although none of these encounters are without their inconveniences.
As many other people have said, at some point you run out of adjectives to describe Mushi-shi and I'm beginning to have that problem. So I shall keep this review brief; this is a fantastic series which mixes the supernatural with very mundane, human lives and manages to tell so many of these stories without feeling repetitive. There are stories the end happily, like "Thread of Light", and most of the stories do end with a bittersweet ending where the characters look towards the future hopefully. The final episode, "Tree of Eternity" is a fine example here, a character has been cursed by a mushi and desperately wants to get rid of it and has very good, human reasons for wanting that. But there is a hidden blessing to this mushi and he finds some peace with it, it's amazing just how much characterization each episode manages to cram in all while feeling very deliberately and slowly paced. I do feel like the complex interactions between all of the characters make this one of the best stories of the entire series.
But this season also had more darker stories than usual, I watched the very first season of the show right before The Next Passage started and I commented on it then, but here I would say that six of the ten episodes have rather somber endings, and at least three of them seemed like true horror endings. Yet none of these stories seem unnaturally cruel or calculated to make the characters suffer (which is my biggest complaint about supernatural, American television), sometimes it's a case of sheer bad luck for the characters but oftentimes there was a deliberate choice made. Mushi-shi continues to leave innocent bystanders out of it's story which I respect, every character who is drawn in is given a chance to become more than just an idea and a chance to take a stand and make a choice about what will happen to them which is more than I can say about some series. I do wish the story had touched on Ginko a little more since, despite the fact that we hear many of his internal dialogues and his personal code of morals is very clear to the viewer, he sometimes feels more like an immortal traveler than a person, a fleeting presence while everyone else has to deal with their mundane lives and the contrast is a very stark one.
Finally, I am still completely in love with the visuals for this series. There are quite a few moments when it seems like the episode wasn't quite finished in time (with details like character faces from a distance fading in and out of view) but the backgrounds and general composition of the show were just stunning. There aren't many series where I want to buy books of the production materials but this is one of them, I would love a chance to stare at everything again. Which does make me a little sad that Aniplex is the licensor for the series in the US, for their smaller series they tend to release them on DVD only and while I don't mind that in certain cases, say Silver Spoon, for a show like this or Blast of Tempest I really want a blu-ray of it to appreciate those details as they were created. It's certainly odd to think that the screen on my phone might make the show look richer than a forthcoming DVD of the show....
Mushi-shi: The Next Passage is streaming on crunchyroll and the original series is streaming on hulu with DVDs distributed by Funimation. And, my misgivings aside, Aniplex hasn't yet announced their physical release strategy for this show, fingers crossed that the sets include the OVA from last August and the upcoming one from this summer (instead of making them their own separate releases a la the Sword Art Online holiday special).