What They Say
Nebulous and unseen, existing in a state somewhere between life and death, mushi bring nothing but pain, suffering, and destruction to humans. A small community of wandering healers and naturalists known as mushishi protect humans from the ravages of these malevolent entities. Ginko, with his green eye and white hair, is a mushishi. But when Ginko tries to help a boy who seems to have found spring in the middle of winter, he and the boy both become victims of the life-sucking creatures.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Volume 4 of Mushishi brings five new standalone stories which move the series away from Volume 3’s more grotesque tone into somewhat more sombre and tragic territory. A majority of these chapters have mixed or outright negative endings, ranging from the death of a family to the destruction of a village, and the basic premises visit some unhappy territory: a child who’s susceptible to seasonally mushi-induced comas in “Spring and Falsehoods”, the corpses of loved ones reanimated by mushi in “One-Night Bridge”, and so on. Even “In the Cage”, which deals with the bemused husband of a half-mushi, half-human woman and is arguably the lightest story of the bunch, starts as a dark comedy but becomes increasingly melancholy almost to the very end. Two of these five stories delve deeper into the Mushishi mythos itself; “Picking the Empty Cocoon” frames a disappearing-child case around the cocoons that mushishi use to communicate with customers, and “The Sound of Trodden Grass” (eventually) deals with Ginko’s transition into the wandering mushishi lifestyle.
I’ll keep my comments brief: Urushibara has picked a good formula and she’s sticking to it, so there’re really no surprises here. Like the last couple of releases, Volume 4 preserves (with small tweaks here and there) the basic storytelling style and quality of its predecessors — good news for readers who’ve liked what they’ve seen in past volumes, maybe not so great news for the series’s detractors. That said, Volume 4 isn’t perfect since it stumbles in the home stretch with a closing chapter that crosses the thin line from “contemplative” to “lackadaisical”. But with four other excellent stories to round out the volume, I won’t complain too much about one creative misfire.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Del Rey Manga
Release Date: May 20th, 2008