Category Archives: Mushishi

Looking at Anime in More Ways than One

I’ve been swamped with work lately, and the Burning Crusade makes it even more difficult to put in some quality think time about this whole deal, let along writing it. I have some ideas floating around that I failed to write down, but just as well ideas that I did. Like that excuse that I just wrote down about work and gaming.

Sort of to bounce off on the Futakoi Alternative bad rap: just as we all hate to be bored while watching anime as a way to entertain ourselves, we hate it when the anime “goes out of bound”. In saying so I’m trying construct a framework to explain how I see anime–that I put on different hats watching different shows.

I’ll go through some example to explain.

Tweeny Witches. This is a curious little show that is full of visual flare and in a way it oozes a lot of “coolness.” But like Studio 4C’s shorts you have to take them straight on. In some sense you can live without the subtext and background information that the equally visceral Satoshi Kon works live within, but unlike those things Tweeny Witches is asking its viewer to be ready for it, rather than trying to ease you into it more casually. As 9-minute TV episodes, it might be kind of hard to do that.

OTOH, a thing like Paprika, because it is a feature film, means its viewers enter it with the mindset of “it’s a film.” They are not only prepared, the format itself demands a tight, timely package of the full narrative experience. You don’t need a hook as much as a serialized publication would. You’re truly looking for an experience.

It’s an entirely different thing than Zero no Tsukaima. I don’t even know if just calling both “anime” reveals all there is that the two share–the basic, medium-sensitive natures of the shows. Perhaps in a greater, “modern visual cultural” context they are together like Jessica Simpson and Colin Powell are both widely-recognized names in American culture. A rigorous dissection quickly reduces Zero as a parade of troupes hung on the skeleton of a simple yet charming juvenile high-fantasy. And because this is so, it is easy to enjoy and require little effort otherwise.

A little more can be said of something closely related, Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu. What it has over Zero is rather unclear once deconstructed. Perhaps the best way to distinguish the two is in the hype and in the production quality: not only in the animation but in the direction, acting, and thoughtfulness to details. It goes farther to bring you more than just the same, tried tale using the same tried devices, even if it does that for a good bit. Perhaps the “Kyon order” of the story is its greatest blessing.

And there is more. Mushishi was a big thing for me. It’s a well-crafted show (although still using some common troupes, despite unusual for an anime) because it manages to package something very good around a form that I normally dislike in a way that I do like. The catch here is that while you can enjoy Mushishi as casual enjoyment, you have to be in the mood, so to speak. To me what makes Mushishi special, aside from the production value and submergence, is what it actually is–a consistent unfolding of themes upon human imperfection resulting from a lack of understanding, but ultimately bound by the ties that makes men and women who they are. Still, what is troublesome is the unwrapping–for the longest time I cannot just sit down and watch this show, even amply prepared.

I wondered why. I think aside from my own personal nitpickery and strangeness, I felt I just had to be in a certain state of mind, with a certain amount of empathy mixed with apathy. A show like Black Lagoon did well for me because it works both when I am emo-blue as well as when I’m cackling with glee. The show itself is a mix of many different things, and while the inconsistency can be a bit off-putting for someone looking for just one thing, it manages to deliver plenty of, well, a lot.

On the flip side is Futakoi Alternative. To make no mistake, it has great production values. However it’s also a little dry, it suffers from having too little spanned across too much time. The direction is also more fitting of a film format even if it took advantage of the serialized, TV format in some of the episodes, to deliver that slice-of-life feel. A lot of the show worked, but a lot of it didn’t either. It gave us a variety of things, but I don’t know if those things worked well together.

Just like some shows are seasonal, some are equally best-tasted when you’re in the right state of mind. For some, it may means until they’re old and tired; some when fresh and not jaded. Others still just needs to have a fresh day to look forward to, or with the right company.

Ginko, on the Mushi “Weeaboo”

With the licensing of Mushishi manga and anime, a slightly successful trend of animation in the west continues. Invariably when introducing people to Mushishi, comparisons are to be made with Kino’s Journey and other, episodic exhibits of theme and aloof travelers. The limited success of these shows here and there bodes well for this sub-genre’s vitality. Certainly if others to follow are of the caliber of Mushishi, I think we all are going to welcome them in open arms.

The magic of the show is subtle. But somewhere, somehow Mushishi accomplishes for me in what others have failed: that kept me entertained from start to finish.

It’s a bug. Sure, the anime doesn’t really explain how Ginko’s western wear play magic to the new viewer in setting their expectation of a fusion of settings. This is just another part of the whole experience of seeing the worldview-shattering introduction that later plays on the subtle heart strings in exploration of Ginko’s own story.

But unlike Kino (and like others like it), Mushishi has a more sustained theme going on. The traditional Japanese setting, the elegant yet thankfully fleeting reliance on character archetypes to get the story across drives the tone of each Mushi-struck heartstring from one episode to the next. It’s like playing Okami. Well, okay, maybe not, but the appeal may be the same.

And thus, the Weeaboo takes root in the space between the two halves of the brain, summoning from the twisting nether strange sensations that elate its host yet slowly reducing its host into a gaggling fanboy/fangirl. Sadly, such is not my condition after finishing watching all of it just yesterday; perhaps it’s just latent?

Post-script: sometimes the Weeaboo takes shape of a pair of thigh-highs. Prescription: finishing watching Kanon 2006, and Mushishi. I guess that means I won’t be cured for another 2 months?!

Welcoming 2007 with Love, in Pieces

No, this is not a Hidamari Sketch post, but it’s partly about that.

What’s heartfelt about Hidamari Sketch and its companion & competitor Manabi Straight is the honest appeal to something much more simple. No longer are we so concerned and focused on superficial but simply on what happens. Granted, we’re served up the same stuff, but it’s a zany one-two knockout combo. While still the jury is out on both of them and if these carry long-term sustainability, I feel they’ve gotten to the stage where finally they realize how to push the puni/moe concept.

Confession: I’ve been watching Mushishi lately, trying to catch up. It started in 2005, so I’ve had a long time to do that. It’s a good way to bring in the new year, especially since some of the episodes are very seasonal :)

And no one told me it has one of the best lolitwincest episode ever! It’s very funny and touching at the same time. If it had some irony at the end it’d be almost O Henry-like. Sigh, that would be all that took to get me watching on the get go, once I knew what kind of thing Mushishi is.

PS. Watch Catblue Dynamite if you get a chance!