Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 4

Mushishi, Volume 4
by Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2008), Paperback, 256 pages

Mushishi (蟲師) is a manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara.

Mushi are dangerous beings existing in the unseen, between life or death. They are in touch with the essence of life in a manner more pure than human beings. Most humans are incapable to perceiving Mushi, apart from few people and among these people there is Ginko (ギンコ), the main character of Mushishi. Ginko is a Mushishi: a Mushi Master who wanders Japan.

The contents of Mushishi volume 4: Picking the Empty Cocoon; One-Night Bridge; Spring and Falsehoods; In the Cage; and The Sound of Trodden Grass.

Picking the Empty Cocoon or Pickers of Empty Cocoons (虚繭取り): Ginko is angry with the girl who handles the cocoons used by Mushishi as mailboxes, because she’s still looking for her sister disappeared in an empty cocoon.
‘How long are you going to obsess on what’s lost? - The old man won’t be able to rest in peace!’ (p. 9) *See note at the end.

One-Night Bridge (一夜橋): Ginko arrives in a village where there is a bridge that you can cross only in one direction, otherwise if you go back the bridge destroys itself causing your fall. In this village there is a girl’s fallen from the bridge but still alive as a vegetable; she is not the person she used to be anymore. ‘ They fall into the valley and come back, but ... their hearts have been eaten.’ (p. 60)
Ginko finds out that the bridge is ‘possessed’ by Mushi called Nisekazura, who make their home in the tops of the tree; also ‘the Nisekazura of this valley ... come to control the bodies of ... animals ... and store up the sunlight.’ (p. 64)

Spring and Falsehoods or Pretense to Spring (春と嘯く): winter is coming, so Ginko gets shelter in a cabin where already lives a boy. The boy tells Ginko a story about a place where Spring blooms early and every time he goes there he falls asleep for days. In this story the Mushi is called Usobuki. ‘They have the same form as blooms on flowering trees. I hear that they’re a Mushi called Usobuki. Its main effect is the odor it gives off. They say the odor awakens activity in hibernating animals and plants in the middle of winter. ‘ (p. 103)
‘And the houses along the snow-filled road display their illuminations. Their promise of warm shelter is nearly inescapable ... to animals, insects ... and humans alike.’ (p. 138)

In the Cage or Inside the Cage (籠のなか): Inside a bamboo forest lives a man with his wife and child, they can’t leave the forest, when they try to escape from the forest, always they return to the same place. The Mushi is called Magaridake and means bamboo that has taken up residence, so Magaridake lives in a white bamboo with the power to give birth to children half-Mushi half-Human.

The Sound of Trodden Grass or The Sound of Footsteps on the Grass (草を踏む音): as a child Ginko wander Japan with other nomads, and every year they visited a special mountain.
‘Something about how a certain blueness means that the mountain’s calm, and we can go on. And if it’s red, we can’t ... If it’s gold, that’s when the mountain is in its best mood, and we can go in peace.’ (p. 207)
‘Even now, when I hear someone treading in the mountain’s grass, I feel relieved ...’ (p. 229)

Could be a paradox: a tale told and drawn about an unseen beings (Mushi), but in Mushishi everything flows like a quiet stream, and nobody is worried about this paradox. The black and white drawings are impressive: among the others I recall the cat-fish in the river; also impressive the various landscapes, in this case I recall that one with the rain. (p. 211)

* A note for the whispers: ‘According to Japanese and Buddhist tradition, at death a person has the opportunity to move on to the next life. This is called jobutsu. If the spirits have worries still connected to the earth, they are trapped and are unable to move on.’ (p. 241)

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