I'll admit, I was caught a little off guard. Usually there are so many angles to write from with this series that my greatest difficulty is finding which one is the most prevalent. Episode 5 presented far fewer, few enough that at first I struggled to find any at all. To be fair, though, I was distracted by the excessive amounts of gorgeous scenery shots.
|My desktop background at the time of publishing.|
The episode centers around two entities, a girl who (at least at the end of the episode) goes by the name Io and a Suiko, a liquid mushi that assumes the form of a swamp. Or so I say, but to be specific it doesn't center so much on them as it does their relationship. Io is by far the more important of the two, so let's start with her.
Io's story begins some time prior to the episode's, when her village is ravaged by a flood. She is chosen to be sacrificed to the village's "water god" and is cast from a cliff. While she is saved from drowning by the Suiko, the most important changes have already occurred. Io had been cast out by the people she was closest to. They abandoned her and she in turn eschewed humans in favor of her rescuer. She believes she died in the river and it gave her a new life, which she is now content to live in its company - she claims it's the only place she feels she belongs.
Her appearance only serves to solidify this, with her green hair setting her apart from other humans and serving as a very visual reminder of her bond with the Suiko. (That she wears the kimono she was given as "the bride of the water god" only further hammers in the idea.) After being cast out, Io has found a companion again.
It's at this point Ginko comes into the story and her situation escalates quickly. The Suiko is headed to the sea to die, and she considers it enough of a comrade to become a part of the swamp (direct exposure to a Suiko causes one to, eventually, become liquid) and die alongside it. Ginko, who believes the limbo between life and death she would inhabit as a result would be unbearable, wants to recover her. When his plan succeeds, her story - in stark contrast to Jin's from the previous episode - reaches a rather positive conclusion. She is accepted by the village (in a way undoing her abandonment back home) and lives there as a human, seemingly quite happy.
|No more forced cliff jumping, at least.|
Although the idea of humanity redeeming itself to Io is a poignant one, what really fascinates me is not the beginning or end to her arc, but the middle. Her friendship (for lack of a better word) with the Suiko begins almost as one of convenience, with it simply representing another creature to take comfort in while dealing with the shock of abandonment. Soon enough, though, there seems to be care on a deeper level as she identifies with the Suiko and resolves to stay with it even to its death. Eventually, it becomes too dangerous for Io to stay and she is just barely recovered in time, but she's still sad to part with the mushi. There are a few different ways to interpret this, but the show seems to be saying "Companionship from those radically different from you is painful, and often can't last, but treasure it nonetheless."
While not a particularly strong stance, this does agree with the ideas that were introduced last episode; coexistence isn't a choice. You must coexist, or face the consequences. This episode seems to say that being the case, you should make the most of it when it is presented to you. Let yourself enjoy the company, and even if it ends poorly you'll have something to hold on to.
Not bad for a story that began with abandonment, no?
It seems that not only did I manage to make the one idea I struggled to find into my longest post on the series thus far, but I also proved myself utterly wrong. Two discussions I ended up ignoring entirely that would have been posts of their own (though perhaps of a different flavor) were Ginko's reasons for wanting to retrieve Io, and viewing things from the Suiko's perspective. Perhaps another day.