Mushi-Shi Special: Hihamukage
When an eclipse occurs, the sun remains dark in only one area, and the involvement of mushi is suspected. The mushi-shi Ginko must come and determine how to return the sun to the village before their crops die. The secret seems to be connected to a set of twin girls who live nearby, one of whom, Hiyori, who is pale and in poor health, has spent her life indoors as a result of an apparent mushi infestation that makes her wilt under the sun's rays. It becomes apparent to Ginko that Hiyori knows where to find a flower that could stop the eclipse, but she, now finally being able to wander about, is reluctant to help him.
I thought that the first Mushi-Shi anime was an absolutely lovely and beautiful series, and unsurprisingly, I was excited to see that the adaptation was getting a revival. I'm going to credit that in part to the ever-tenacious Hiroshi Nagahama, who was also responsible for getting The Flowers of Evil animated against all odds, and seems to have made a bit of a pet project out of this show as well. Indeed, it's a joy to watch this show again, especially since this particular special concentrates just about everything I liked about the original while basically fixing the minor problems that kept my enjoyment from being perfect.
Like Stig, whose review of the original you can read here, I loved Mushi-Shi but had a handful of reservations about certain episodes, including some that over-relied on human drama that the show didn't have time to fully cultivate (given its episodic nature). In part due to the extended length this special gives, and in part to what, I think, is a honing of Yuki Urushibara's style over time, that's no longer much of a problem here. This special deftly focuses on how the mushi with which Hiyori was born have affected her and her family in different ways: flashbacks show us that it has completely isolated her and left her feeling shunned, which her family and especially her sister have constantly had to deal with. Hence, when the sun has been blocked out and she can finally wander freely, it makes sense that it matters little to her that her neighbors' rice fields are dying, or that there is starvation all around her. She has never been able to wander out before, and the joy of that is as palpable to her as it is bittersweet for the audience to watch.
Indeed, while I have enjoyed some of Mushi-Shi's drama-focused episodes before, this is done well enough to outclass most of them, and it virtually never feels rushed. It's almost a given that I was going to enjoy the show's meditative musings on the role that mushi play in the world, as well as its gorgeous scenery, and luckily, neither has changed in this production (though the problem of some of the humans looking the same lingers). This episode gave me that, and it also gave me a story that I cared about and a perfect, bittersweet ending that basically embodied all I like about this show. Even some early, offhand scenes that don't have much to do with this main story add a lot, where we get plenty of beautiful shots of mushi trailing through the sky (eye candy is always good) and even some moments that gave me a very good laugh. Indeed, it's absolutely priceless to see Ginko's physician friend Adashino, who makes a cameo, being frazzled at being unable to see mushi during a storm in which everybody should be able to see them.
To be fair, I'm not sure if the changes I mention would be enough to convince someone who didn't like the original (for whatever reason) to change his or her mind. Since the production and atmosphere are virtually the same, my opinion is simply that if this had been part of the original run, it would have been one of its best episodes. Conversely, though, it's not absolutely essential that one watch the original to appreciate this, given how episodic the series is, and this honestly might be a great place to start. I was certainly happy to be watching this show again, either way.
Unless you didn't like the original, go for it; I can't recommend this strongly enough. It takes all the best of it and almost entirely gets rid of its minor problems. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: Though this is aimed at older audiences, there's relatively little that kids shouldn't see (nothing in the way of fanservice, violence, etc). The mushi do, however, affect some of the people in ways that very little kids might find frightening.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of crunchyroll.com (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Mushi-Shi Special: Hihamukage © 2014 Yuki Urushibara/KODANSHA/Aniplex Inc.
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