Mushishi, which roughly translates as “Mushi master”, is a collection of loosely connected short stories which follow the travels of Ginko, a strange, silver haired man who travels the countryside of Japan, investigating and treating people affected by Mushi.
But what are Mushi I hear you ask? Well as Ginko explains in the first of five stories that make up this first volume of the (to date) three volume series, Mushi are spirit-like life-forms which are the progenitors of all life - think of them as spiritual single cell organisms.
As the series (which was originally published in 2000 by the then newcomer Yuki Urushibara, and recently translated and published in the west by DEL RAY) continues we are introduced to many different types of Mushi, and to the people affected by them – from sound sucking snails, to things that reside in the darkness behind your eyes.
As you can see, Mushishi isn't your average supernatural series, with many of the Mushi either based on or inspired by real Japanese legends and myth, and at the end of each chapter the author adds anecdotes about legends and ghost stories from her own family's past.
The pacing of the series is such as to allow the reader to enjoy the story flow of each chapter without feeling too bogged down by technical jargon, or to be needing an encyclopaedic knowledge of Japanese mythology to appreciate it – a fact which is helped by DEL RAY yet again supplying top notch translation notes at the back of the book, which supply explanations for some of the more obscure references used in the book.
The artwork too, which in turn is minimalist in some parts and gloriously detailed in others, does in my view supply enough detail to enable you the reader to enjoy each story without needing to be overburdened with artwork for art’s sake.
My only two problems with the series are that the relaxed pace of the story might put off anyone more interested in faster paced Manga. My other problem is the ambiguity of the period Mushishi is set - every other character in the series is dressed in costumes appropriate for the turn of the last century, yet Ginko himself seems to have walked out of the present day – a fact that the author never really explains away to any satisfaction, but which can be ignored and yet still allow this series to be enjoyed without any trouble.
All in all if your idea of a good read is a fast-paced, action packed series like Naruto or Negima, then you might want to give this one a miss. If however your after something to read during a rainy day, or if you desire a change of pace, then you cant go far wrong with this series.
‘Til next time, happy travels.
Writer/Artist: Yuki Urushibara