Mushishi takes a break for now with a sleepy, little episode. For the entirety of its runtime, Ginko is the only person to utter a single spoken word. Even then, there are long moments of complete silence as the man takes in his surroundings. This is clearly not the episode for the impatient or the easily bored. It soon becomes apparent why the show has ramped up its contemplative mood. When change comes, it’s always helpful take pause and reflect. The languid pace of this week’s episode seems to lend itself to this need to slow down and observe. When Ginko tries to do anything but observe, that’s when anxiety would come. This week, Ginko finds himself trapped on a mountain that has been sealed by a turtle. Hey man, don’t knock the turtle. It’s the mountain lord, and it can apparently decide who comes and goes. The Mushi themselves have always been somewhat fantastical in nature, but this episode takes it up another notch.
First, as already mentioned, it’s the idea that a mountain can even be sealed. At one point, Ginko tries to leave on his own accord, but no matter which direction he takes, he finds himself doubling back to his campsite. Because Ginko always has an explanation for the Mushi, you sometimes forget just how supernatural Mushishi‘s universe really is. Second, the mountain seals itself up in order to hibernate and heal. Ginko fears, however, that if the mountain hasn’t revived by now, perhaps it is dying. He quickly comes to the conclusion that he’ll also share its fate if he doesn’t find a way to escape. But how can a mountain can die? Not only that, how can it die from just a few landslides? What does it even mean for a mountain to die? I suppose I’m getting a bit too carried away here. For a moment, I actually imagined the entire landmass just simply disappearing from sight. Hey, that’s what dying typically means, isn’t it? The end of existence? But realistically, the death of a mountain probably just means it’ll lose all signs of life. Even so, it’s crazy to imagine that a mountain can die in such a way because of a few landslides.
When Ginko tries to get the mountain lord’s attention, it seem as through the turtle can command the Oroshibue, a Winter-esque Mushi. A flock of it then knocks Ginko into a tiny lake in which he can’t escape, but he soon finds that he can breathe in it. He also sees that all of the mountain’s animals have gathered here to literally hibernate as the rest of the mountain puts itself to sleep. Ginko’s fears are thus allayed. The mountain isn’t dying and neither are the animals. Like when we have a flu and we just stay in bed all day to recuperate, the mountain and everything on it are basically hitting the snooze button to sleep it out. As I’ve said at the start of the post, one of the primary message in this week’s episode is to just take pause and reflect. When Ginko tried to be a problem-solver — which you can’t exactly blame him for since this is what he does all series — he couldn’t help but jump to conclusions, e.g. the mountain was dying. Nature, however, always finds a way, and the fact that the mountain lord is represented by the turtle seems to reflect this notion.
On a meta level, it’s interesting to note that the second season of Mushishi will take a hiatus by ending with an episode like this one. It seems that the show itself will hibernate as well until the studio is ready to release more episodes. I’ve heard that they’ve been having production troubles, so I guess even the anime will have to heal itself. In any case, we’ve certainly gotten our fair share of winter-themed stories, and “Shiver,” the anime’s opening song sets the right mood and tone from the get-go. Lucy Rose sings of a lover who longs for an ex-lover even if their relationship wasn’t perfect: “And if we turn back time, could we learn to live right?” He or she is even willing to leave the person they are currently with if the old relationship could be rekindled. The song captures that essence of winter, i.e. the sense of longing as the cold settles in. The feelings of depression and malaise creeps into the mind as the nights get dark quicker. The way uneasiness with the current situation eventually becomes an obsession with the past — of times that we now look upon with rose-tinted glasses.
Eventually, Ginko awakens from his imposed hibernation to find that spring has come. Before he can take in the new sights and depart from the mountain, however, he notices that the flock of Oroshibue has found his kouki, and they are making off with it before they migrate. He even wonders if the turtle had only allowed him to enter the mountain in the first place to get at his kouki. In a way, it’s a starting over period for everyone, including the main character himself. Typically, feelings of depression, malaise, and obsession are not solved by returning to the ex-lover you had once broken up with. After all, if you even broke up in the first place, there’s a good chance the relationship is too unhealthy to work out. Granted, this doesn’t sound romantic or beautiful, but life isn’t a fairy tale. Sometimes the best solution is a rebirth. In other words, you need to allow the past to die in order to move on with your life. Of course, that isn’t to say that returning to an old relationship will absolutely, 100% not work, but the healthy foundation had better be in place to begin with…
Although Ginko and the mountain beasts may have slumbered in one sense, they were also devoid of life in another sense. You could then say that the mountain had to kill a part of itself in order for it to heal. And just like with the song in the OP, I suspect the subject of the ballad will also need to put the old relationship to sleep if he or she can ever move on to see the spring. Longing for an old lover is not exactly healthy. Likewise, we see how an obsession with the past has or nearly destroyed the lives of the people Ginko had encountered. Snow perpetually fell on a young man because he continued to blame himself for his sister’s death. A family forced a woman to live forever by grafting her head onto other people’s bodies. A sailor nearly killed his mother because he couldn’t accept that she didn’t love him. I’m just listing off a few examples, but you get the picture. With winter comes the idea of stasis. With stasis comes the idea of obsession. In order to get over an obsession, you have to let a part of yourself die.
Having said that, I wonder if later episodes will get a new OP. It would make sense thematically, but the first season never changed its OP. Anyway, Mushishi is as fantastic as always. I’ve said elsewhere that Ping Pong is my favorite anime of the season, but that’s because it came out of nowhere to surprise me. Mushishi is as good as it has always been, and that’s not a knock on it whatsoever. it’s still one of the two anime this season that I would absolutely recommend without a caveat. Even though the posts on this anime typically got the least views this season, I’ll still blog the show whenever the rest of the episodes come out (I’ve been told not to expect Artland to stick to its schedule). It’s nice to watch something that isn’t about kids saving the world or trying to have a shining high school life.