Mushishi (2005 IMDb)


Episodic, nihilist primary-world fantasy, occasionally close to horror and mystery, but usually serene.


A peaceful time in Japan, possibly a Japan that never opened up as in reality. Some people see forms of life that are neither animal nor plant, but something much more fundamental: usually mindless creatures of great variety, called mushi. A few of them can harm humans by accident, parasitism or self-protection. The results often look like disease, but can be far stranger. A profession has arisen to collect and study the mushi, exploit their useful properties and help people live with them. That profession is the mushishi.


Some mushi are described as underpinning or being otherwise involved in natural phenomena, like volcanoes, rendering nature unnatural and blurring cosmology, but most are creatures of more modest fantasy, perhaps even unrelated to folklore, geomancy and other real-world influences. Each one has clever logical quirks. Far from all yield to human action or comprehension, and these are the best ones. A few shining moments challenge anthropocentrism.

Japanese production animation series

Live-action remake:

Mushishi (2006 IMDb)


The special effects are surprisingly low-key, but expectedly inadequate. The atmosphere of the series never arises, and I'm told it's too confusing to function as an introduction, being entirely episodic anyway. Some good details, but wasted and unmotivated in its change of medium.

Japanese production animation movie