What is like a plant and like an animal, but neither? What is a mirage, but also physical? The answer is mushi.
Mushi are a third type of being. They are not plants, they are not animals, but a little of both. Few people can see these creatures, and even fewer of these become Mushishi — wanderers who protect the balance between mushi and humans. It is best to think of them as wandering healers who are both in tune with humans and mushi. The mangaka often bases the mushi after folk lore and superstitions. By borrowing from such lore we get creatures who have evolved and ripened for countless generations before being used in this work.
Our story focuses on a particular mushishi, Genko, who is very unique even among the mushishi. Genko believes mushi also are just living beings, like humans, and both need to be saved. He also attracts mushi where ever he goes. This attraction the mushi feel with him was due to a run-in with a rare and powerful mushi when he was a child. In this incident, Genko was engulfed by this all consuming darkness and had to sacrifice an eye to the mushi for his escape. Now not only does he attract mushi, forcing him to be constantly on the move, but he also has some handy powers. He can now see in the dark and has part of this darkness replacing his eye. This darkness was useful for one of the stories. Each story is a chapter and the entire manga is episodic.
I absolutely love the art of this manga. I can’t describe exactly what makes me like this particular art work. I think it is the overall style of the drawings. The occasional page done entirely in brush and the mangaka’s way of drawing faces, among other things, all add up to create a feeling, which greatly matches the work’s tone. The artwork feels old which compliment’s the mushi’s ancient origins.
I also particularly love the plot. Sure the manga is episodic, but each chapter has a unique story that could stand alone if necessary. The worst part of this manga is also its strong point. The manga has no chapter dividers so you can’t say, “Oh, I will just stop after one more chapter”. By the time the chapter ends you are already reading the next chapter and engulfed in that one too. This is one manga that I had the utmost difficulty putting down.
Mushishi won the Excellence Prize in the 2003 Japanese Media Arts Festival and the Kodansha Manga Award in 2006.
GO Rating: 5/5