This season of Mushi-shi has been a much darker, colder take on the mushi so far, but episodes 8 through 10 do much to shake the chill off. Winter remains a prominent theme in all three, but in each episode the lessons seem to focus on ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ and the innate balancing act that is nature. These familiar themes are a breath of fresh air and thematically interesting as the series emerges from exploring grave circumstance to settle into the diversity of life, as if waking from the winter in these closing episodes.
Episode 08 is an interesting tale of a man who can call the wind and the danger inherent in manipulating such elements. He is given a choice and reminded that exploiting the mushi has dire consequences. It is a well-paced episode and as a viewer, the temptation to say ‘well, he can so he should – it’s only wind, right? Where’s the harm?’ is a very prominent one. The events of the episode remind us that nature is a series of checks and balances and while the reason for things may not be obvious to us, they still exist and should still be respected.
Episode 09 features a family living in the depths of a valley that enjoys mild winters and bountiful crops whose father tends the paddies day and night. Ginko’s tipped off to the involvement of mushi by the father’s sweet scent and the back story his investigation unearths is a bittersweet one. I won’t ruin the end here, but the father’s choice is a difficult one to understand and the episode finishes with a few loose ends that almost seem forgotten. Of the three in this final round of reviews, this is weakest episode.
Finally, episode 10 – the final for the spring season – is simply that of Ginko amidst nature. The mushi-shi has been summoned, but his travel across mountains is timed with the shift of the seasons. Rather than be plagued by the awakening mushi, he settles into camp to sleep it through. When he awakes, spring has not sprung; indeed, it seems that the mountain has held on to winter even though neighboring mountains have embraced spring. Confused, and sealed in, Ginko struggles with ways to confront the mountain’s lord, its supernatural overseer. What happens next is a potent reminder that nature can take care of itself and sometimes it isn’t necessary to intervene or problem solve, as Ginko experiences first hand. It’s a clever tale that doesn’t show its hand, forcing the audience to side with Ginko’s perception and encourages his realization to come as the viewer’s own.
Over all, I quite enjoyed these final three episodes and am certainly looking forward to continuing the series in the summer season.