Mushishi Zoku Shou 10 (Part 1 END)

Depths of Winter 「冬の底」

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We’ve come to the last episode in the first part of Mushishi Zoku Shou and it’s down to just Ginko and… a turtle mountain lord. As per always, Mushishi delivers a subtle, zen and gentle episode but this time more than before, it’s so so quiet. Masuda Toshio really has his work cut out for him in providing the soundtrack to this very very quiet last episode.Winter is coming to an end and Spring ought to follow. Ginko notes that the mushi will start to stir and because he naturally attracts them, he builds himself a shelter and burns mushi tobacco in hopes of staving them off. Very handy to be able to build a make-shift shelter in the middle of the woods in winter. He wakes up expecting Spring and that the hungry mushi will have woken up and moved on. Instead, it’s still winter (I quite liked that moment of self-doubt in Ginko, one can never be too humble) even though the other mountains are into the full swing of Spring. Ginko realises he’s been sealed in this mountain by the turtle, in the mountain lord’s bid to let the mountain recuperate from Autumn’s typhoon season. This week’s mushi – oroshibue (winter mountain wind whistle) drives/blows Ginko into a marsh where he seemingly hibernates among all the other creatures. He can breathe underwater and the bubbling kouki made the scene feel so warm, as though paralleling the embrace of a child in a mother’s womb.

When Ginko returns to the surface, Spring has arrived and the last of his kouki is gone. Winter was prolonged because the oroshibue needed strength to move away from the mountain. Hence, it used the kouki to draw enough strength for it to return to its flock as it moves north together. It dawns on him that he’s been used by the turtle as a means of protecting his mountain and its inhabitants, returning Spring once again, saving the mountain from death’s door. All’s well ends well though.

I wouldn’t like to have been used. But if I realise (as I do now) as what Ginko realises, that the mountain lord was willing to go to extreme measures to do what he can to save the mountain then ok, maybe I won’t mind so much. I mean, it’s not as though the turtle could actually speak me his intentions and ask nicely… and that’s the crux of Mushishi. I think of it as an illustration of the (zen) way of life that the production team and mangaka want to impart on viewers. Mushi are not real, they do not exist in our world. But people are and so are the relationships between them. Does it matter if one was used by another in the manner we see in this last episode, if in hindsight we see that the other party had good reasons? When is a reason ever really good? Should it even matter that we’re used in the first place? Perhaps not. In a way, Ginko teaches us to be selfless and independent, doing good without asking for much or anything in return because we should do good for its own sake.

I was apprehensive of the use of silence this week. It’s usually used in 2 ways – to create a suspense or eerie effect in horror movies and to effect tranquility in a peaceful scene, although the absence of even some bird chirping does emphasise how quiet things are. I don’t remember when was the last time an anime employed such a long scene of sheer silence lasting at least 1.5 mins. Or maybe Mushishi was counting on both effects here seeing as how Ginko was sort of in peril. Either way, I like how Mushishi takes chances and delivers on them.

All the background art are so far gorgeous this season; it’s been a real treat to watch. We’ve had sceneries of the beach, the sea, mountains, sakura, rain and snow. This final episode’s winter is different from ep 3 we saw before, being more brown compared to the previous which was tinged blue with sadness like the episode’s theme. That’s Mushishi for you. Everything really gels together to create a masterclass in anime production.

Part 2 returns in Fall 2014 (fingers crossed it really does because part 1 had minor production timing issues). This may be the end of Part 1 of Mushishi Zoku Shou but as with Spring, it’s another beginning.

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