Mushishi series has been popular enough to spawn a successful television series and movie in its native Japan. At first this seems surprising, considering that
Mushishi is an episodic tale of a man traveling the Japanese countryside encountering nearly-invisible wormy creatures. After having read some
Mushishi tales, the success of the series makes a lot more sense to me.
Yes, the basis of the
Mushishi series is the travels of Ginko, a man who is gifted with the ability to see and communicate with mushi. The mushi are small creatures with the ability to bring death and suffering, and sometimes help, to the human communities they place themselves within. They are troublesome beings, functioning as a tether between reality and deadly supernatural forces. In the episodes which make up the fourth volume in the series, the mushi's presence in people's lives allows for exploration of mortality, love, and familial obligations. The author has crafted a series of short tales in which the mushi disrupt the lives of simple villagers, leaving Ginko to explore the situation and reveal the lesson to be learned from the intrusion.
One of the most powerful vignettes in this volume is the short story 'One-Night Bridge'. When a young man's beloved dies, he is crushed. He later rediscovers her, only to learn that she is being kept 'alive' by the mushi, and should they leave her body, she will actually pass away. His sense of confusion and loss is palpable, and it is a moving experience to witness as he must make a choice that risks losing his lover forever. The story boasts extra-fantastic elements, including a bridge which only appears on certain nights. The material it is made from is a shocking surprise.
Urushibara playfully composites her artwork so that each story begins in watercolour before leading into inked pencils. This helps divide the stories up in an intuitive way. Illustrations of forests and valleys are dripping with an idyllic classic style. The author uses her dressed down art and deeply seated philosophical tales to weave a series of impacting episodes. If you want a manga to make you stop and think, this is the manga for you.