It took me a year, but I finally finished Mushishi. A year, because I hit a major stumbling block in the form of episode 4, which all but left me a depressed wreck after viewing it. In hindsight, I’ve probably overreacted about it, but still, OUCH. Many months later, I decided to skip to episode 20 (Tanyuu) to see the hopeful aspect of the show. It did not disappoint.
Mushishi is very unique, in the sense that it’s one of the simplest shows I’ve seen, but can be enjoyed in many layers.
Ten or fifteen years from now, when someone asks you to show them an anime, you’ll show them Mushishi completely without embarassment, and they’ll be able to appreciate the art and beauty of it (they might not enjoy it, but they’ll see its worth).
One thing I noticed about every episode is that there’s always at least one person who’s scarred. Physically, mentally, emotionally, it doesn’t matter–Even Ginko himself is no exception. The sense of loss is prevalent throughout the show. The only real question is how the characters cope up with it. Sometimes they succumb, sometimes they struggle. Mushishi flatters nothing, not even humanity. It is what makes it special.
While Mushi have a knack for inflicting grief on poor humans, Ginko maintains that Mushi are just trying to live as much as we are, too. This is what sets Ginko apart from other Mushishi. Instead of outright exterminating the problematic Mushi, Ginko takes a roundabout path. He wants to cure people of their Mushi problems, but tries hard not to harm the Mushi themselves more than he needs to. The results are not always favorable. Sometimes he manages to save only one side. Sometimes he saves no one, because the person is beyond help, or the cure is worse than the illness itself. This kind of variation kept me from getting bored with the show, because the outcome isn’t always a happy one, but there were enough bittersweet endings to make me grin like a stupid fanboy by the end.
Another intriguing aspect of Ginko is that he’s always on the move, walking throughout the lands. (Small wonder the OP is called The Sore Feet Song.) In the world of Mushishi, the villages are separated by vast mountains, forests and seas. It’s a dangerous world out there, and Ginko travels with a certainty that he’d probably fall into a hole somewhere and die, or get eaten by dangerous Mushi. Just the very act of returning to visit his numerous patients in a few months or so is astounding, considering that Ginko merely walks to get around places, supplemented by the occasional boat ride. That’s some serious dedication.
The only problem I have with the show is its weight. I can never watch more than three episodes in one sitting, and by the third I’d be collapsing under the gravity of the previous two. Nothing’s stopping you from marathoning the show, but I preferred to enjoy it bit by bit. Because, after all, Ginko goes at his own pace, one patient at a time, and all the better to digest each episode.