Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mushishi Episode 15: Living the Dream

     I'm rewatching Mushishi on DVD and blogging it. Previous post here. First post here. You can watch this episode and the rest of the series legally (and free) on Youtube. For those in need of a refresher, there's a list of brief episode descriptions here.

     Have you ever found yourself pretending you have something you don't? This happens often with a lot of things, especially those on the intangible side: bravery, intelligence, clout, happiness, and so on. Each of us, when this happens, live out our own little fantasy. Hardly a high crime.

     But it's important to remember that at the end of the day, it's still a lie.

     "Pretense of Spring" is, as can be inferred from the title, about falsehoods. But it's the nature of those falsehoods and the ways that we let ourselves be fooled by them that stand at the core of the episode; those are what I want to talk about here.

For instance, I live of the lie of thinking that if I watched enough Bob Ross videos I, too, could apply Titanium White so artfully.

     All three protagonists - Ginko, Suzu, and Miharu - each have their own "false spring" to contend with. Miharu's is the most obvious; it's literally a blossoming winter glade that lures in, traps, and feeds off creatures seeking a respite from winter.

      The impetus for Miharu to continue pursuing this glade is. . .somewhat murky, I admit. Especially so, given that he knows it effectively robs him of months of his life. When things get really rough in the winter, he goes to the glade to collect plants - ostensibly food - and then enters forced hibernation until spring. What's confusing is that he never brings back very much of whatever it is he finds in the glade, be it food, medicinal herbs, or something else; it's hard to understand how such amounts are worth the associated costs.

     Perhaps it's more likely that Miharu is doing this for his sister Suzu. It's unclear what circumstances led to their parents not being around, but whatever the case it's just the two of them living together. There is some clear struggle on their part to overcome the hardships of life, and based on their interactions it seems likely that Miharu is doing this to show his sister he's independent and alleviate some of her burden. That is the lie he lives - strength. Whatever his intentions, Miharu is too naive and self-centered to realize his goal; he tries nonetheless, and it only ends up causing pain to those around him.

     Suzu's "false spring" is more borne from hope than from naivety. She wants Ginko to stay and complete their family, in a sort of way. He offers both friendship and wisdom, approximating the roles of both guardian and confidante, exactly the sort of person you'd want around while attempting to become a fully-autonomous adult.

I feel you, girl. It's a scary thing to take on alone.

     The thing is, Ginko is neither a friend nor a guardian - he's a traveling doctor. Suzu knows that, and. . .to her credit, she handles it pretty well. Her half-hearted attempts to get him to stay betray her realization that it is a fantasy, and at the same time set her apart as the more mature of the two siblings.

     Ginko is the truly interesting one here, however, because once again we gain insight into his desire for "place". The lie that Ginko lives - or struggles to not live, as the case may be - is the greatest of the three, and the focus of the episode. He wants his lie of a place to belong, a place to teach and to be accepted. To Suzu he is a calming presence, and to Miharu he is a mentor. With them, he is accepted, he has value, and he has purpose.

     But it's still a lie.

     The core reason Ginko can't stay with people hasn't changed. He's still a mushi attractor. He still poses a danger to others; that's the reality he has to live with, and the truth he can't allow to be lost in fantasy. It's also one of the more tragic elements of his character. Ginko does what he can. He metes out semi-regular visits to his clientele, he helps people and fulfills his role as a healer and mediator as best as he's able (however temporary it might be), and maintains psuedo-friendships and meager relationships with those that he can afford to, like Adashino. But that's it. That's as lofty as his ambitions can go before they start to become a fantasy.

     To overcome limitation, to find acceptance, and to be able to afford intimacy. That's Ginko's false spring.

     The rest of the episode is standard fare (i.e. gorgeous), at least as Mushishi goes - Ginko uses his considerable expertise to solve the crisis before them, and in the end once again fails to succumb and acknowledges what is real and what is fantasy. But it serves as a harrowing reminder of the conflict that permeates his journey nonetheless. I really enjoy these little telltale signs of his internal strife; they add a certain flavor to his character that just isn't there otherwise, and they establish a much richer narrative backing to the series than most people give it credit for.

     Additional Notes:

          Ginko is basically an asymptomatic carrier, with the "disease" being mushi. Discuss.

          Ginko x Anyone is the OTP of Mushishi. He's the Guile's Theme of anime; he just goes with everything.

          What do Miharu and Ginko eat while they're hibernating?


  1. Great analysis! I too am rewatching Mushishi S1 after some 7 years since I last watched it. It's definitely one of the series that just gets richer with time.

    I thought the characterisation in this episode was particularly well-written, even for Mushishi's consistently high standards.

    Did you get around to watching Zoku Shou by the way? Would like to hear your thoughts on it as well.


    1. Thanks! Always nice to meet another fan.

      On the note of Zoku Shou, funny story about that. . .I started doing this post series right when the special that preceded it was announced. I wanted to use it to sort of revitalize and develop my blogging, so I decided that to motivate myself I wouldn't watch any of the new show until I'd finished blogging the entire original series.

      I've stuck to that (to my credit, I guess?), so. . .short answer is no, quite shamefully, I have yet to see any of Zoku Shou.

      As for writing about it, that was my plan, initially; finish the first series and go straight to the sequel as it came out. Given the speed at which I post, I now think that might be a bit of a foolish endeavor. . .but you never know. I'm definitely interested to see what elements of the original it chooses to keep and change.

      And hey! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Crazy to me that people are still reading these things.

  2. I recently discovered your blog in my thirst for some sweet Mushishi discussion, and I gotta say I really goddamn enjoy these posts! I can't help but notice that there's huge gaps between each Mushishi post from what I can only expect to be occupied by real life. Which leads me into my question, when can I expect another quality as hell post from you?!

    Keep doing what you're doing because it's damn good.

    1. Hey, thanks.

      And yeah, I've been even worse than usual lately. Honestly, I've been thinking about stopping it here - I'm starting to spend almost as much time between episodes as I used to between rewatches of the entire show, and these things only get harder the longer they stretch on.

      That said. . .if someone is still reading and enjoying them, it's not as though I don't want to finish. Maybe I'll start something soon and see what comes of it.

      Whatever the case, I appreciate the comment and encouragement; always nice to know people are getting something out of these.

    2. There will probably always be readers passing through and reading this content. And some, like me, will leave comments in hopes of future blog posts.

      But yeah, don't stress out over it. And if it has become a burden rather than a stress reliever, then perhaps you're right to stop reviewing the episodes! Either way, what you've already done is inspiring and beautiful. :)

  3. Pardon the weird name (made it up a long long time ago, i think.)

    I'm loving these posts! Read everything in one go, and cannot wait for more! I've been searching all over various forums/websites for in depth discussion of Mushishi's philosophical values and themes, and yours have been the most consistently well thought-out and engaging.

    I just finished the first season of Mushi-shi last week, and began watching the second season today. The new series somehow managed to keep the bittersweet, melancholic beauty present throughout the original series. The only subtle difference appears to be the themes.

    *spoilerish comments ahead*

    More than philosophies and morality, the first 5 episodes of Mushi-shi Zoku Shou are focused on.....mental illness and emotions. Episode 1 & 2 were pretty calming, but I thought episode 3 really nailed the situation surrounding clinical depression. Episode 4 had a similar vibe. Nonetheless, everything fits right in with the original series. It's almost like the 9 year gap between the two never existed!

    I hope you'll continue your episodic discussions of Mushi-shi. They are truly hidden gems that make me reflect about myself and my own philosophies. It's somewhat therapeutic.

    1. Actually, my favorite episode in the original series is #16 - "Sunrise Serpent." The cool thing about Mushishi is how easily one can tune back into the show due to its episodic nature! Please write a review on 16 if you are interested!

      To me, also intriguing are #19 (girl who pulls a string and can no longer be tied to earth unless her loved ones accept her for who she is) and #21 (this one goes into sci-fi horror territory, and I love it).

      Oh and #22, which is essentially a cloning island. That's how I saw it, anyways.

      Hope everything is going well for you! Have a nice day. :)

    2. Hey, thanks for stopping by, and for all the kind words & discussion!

      As for more posts. . .well, I'll see what I can do, anyway. Just went through a Ghost in the Shell binge so I'm ready to watch something else for a while. :)

  4. This is a great blog. I just discovered it on my own rewatch of Mushishi, and I've actually been following along by episode. This series having started in 2013, I assumed there'd be an end! So I only have one question... you okay man???