Mushishi, written and drawn by Yuki Urushibara is full of mystery, fantasy and the supernatural. The story takes place in an imaginary time between the 1900s in Japan. Unlike the real world, Japan in this time is still a closed country to the rest of the world. In this imaginary world there are theses species called Mushi, that populate the surrounding world. Mushi are invisible to the average human and can vary in sizes(some as small as cells). They can act like viruses(not literally) and infect the host. In doing so they cause great suffering and its up to a Mushishi to cure the host of Mushi.
The plot in Mushishi can be quite slow throughout the story. This can be a downside if you enjoy a fast progressing story but in Mushishi its a big plus. The fact that it approaches a Folktale way of story telling makes its slow progressing plot outstanding. I felt like I was reading some Cowboy Bebop because of its episodic format and slow pace. The story does progress in a chronological way but each chapter is so well written they can be their own standalone story. Anyways, in this story we follow a man named Ginko(a Mushishi) who specializes in Mushi. He travels village to village and encounters a lot of new patients along the way.
Each new chapter is like another story in Mushishi. Not one story is alike the other and its not always a happy ending. Some stories are happy and joyful, while others can be tragic, bittersweet and down right impossible. Every patient is a new challenge and not every ends up happy. Some have had the Mushi attached to their life for years. The Mushi can do strange things to how they can precieve life so you can’t expect Ginko to be able to sever that and leave the patient happy. Still, Ginko needs to fix these problems because they cause problems not only to themselves but to the other villagers. Mushis eat off of the living like plants, animals, humans and even their emotions or senses, so its a necessity to remove and contain them.
When it comes to character development, Yuki did an amazing job in Mushishi. Unlike many series out there, Ginko, while the protagonist, isn’t the main character. Instead each chapter hes a side character as the story focuses on the patients more than him. So despite the fact that each chapter is somewhat episodic, Mushishi still has outstanding characters in each chapter. Each new patient Ginko meets is always the main focus of the story. Yuki develops their personality and gives background details about their past and present. Even the villagers are tended to, although theres not much detail put in each villager. You will get a firm grasp on how the Mushi caused distress and fear in each villager. Meanwhile in some cases the villagers even worship the what the Mushi bring about in their patients.
As for Ginko’s, hes an amazing protagonist in Mushishi. Ginko is not your usual all you can do hero. Hes not a perfect character and he can make mistakes. While being a Mushishi he really shows, through his actions, that hes almost like a doctor. They make mistakes and cant always diagnose properly but their ultimate goal is in fact to help others. Meanwhile with his perplexing character, Ginkos background is not revealed as much because hes not the topic of the chapters. Instead Yuki reveals his background only through Ginkos interactions with other characters. Its done in a good way, its not hindering the story or never feels forced. Its just Ginko giving little bits of information to his patients because he too is just like them. Hes gone through what they have and he can understand them. Bringing them closer to trusting each other.
The art in Mushishi is amazing, almost like a picture book. With such great attention to detail of the background. Mushishi can be amazing to just look at. Along with the background, Yuki’s imagination really did wonders on the Mushi. With a lot of variety and creativity, the Mushi look otherworldly. It works really well with theme of the story, the folktale like way of story telling. Makes you feel like your peering into another gentle majestic world full of life.
With all of this taken into account, Mushishi lives up to its prestige given by its readers. Its a great story with amazing art and an outstanding story. So if your looking for a slow progressing story with more of a focus with history and supernatural where not everyone is a winner. Mushishi might just be what your looking for.