Saturday, June 21, 2014

OVA Review: Mushi-shi Special: Hihamukage

Mushi-shi is the story of a Mushi Master, Ginko, who travels the countryside helping those who are affected by "mushi," beings that are neither animals nor plants but which exist in the world and can be only seen by few people with the gift to see them. Ginko is one such person.

The story is adapted from a manga of the same name by Yuki Urushibara. I have copies of some of the volume of the manga and I must say that I quite enjoy it. The art style and the story are sparse but the atmosphere is rich and a story can be so good, you'd be thinking about it for days. The manga was later adapted into anime by Artland and the series aired in 2006. The anime followed many of the stories featured in the manga but the new platform added an entire new layer to this wonderful story: music. The one thing that really stuck out to me when I first watched this anime series back in 2009 was the background music, which accurately reflected the mood of this entire series.

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This OVA, entitled Hihamukage, came out in January this year. It follows Ginko as he tries to help a village affected by a mushi that only comes out when there is a solar eclipse. The mushi blocks out the sun, causing problems for the villagers as their crops slowly die. But one child happily basks in this dark landscape until tragedy strikes for her and her family.

Even though it's been eight years since the series ended, it feels like no time has passed. That's the thing about this story. It's timeless. There is no overarching plot to follow and this series is better described as an anthology with only one recurring character: Ginko. But the characters are so made that they will stay with you even after their story ends.

Fans of the series might pick up some easter eggs in the OVA. There are a few characters who have previously appeared in episodes of the series. Characters like the mushi-crazy Adashino, the village doctor, and the mysterious Tanyuu. But what most would miss are characters from the "bamboo woman episode" who appear in this special.

The animation is nothing to write home about but it serves the show well. It's understated and stays true to the style of the manga. The music is just how I remembered it. Although I believe they're using a different theme for the OVA, the mood is the same and does not at all detract from the story they're trying to tell.

Mushi-shi: Hihamukage provides a nice bridge between season 1 and the currently airing season 2 of the series.

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