Silver-haired and mysterious, he wanders through Japan helping people who are plagued with mushi -- mysterious supernatural creatures.
And while most live action movies adapted from anime/manga are tepid CGI-heavy affairs, "Mushi-Shi: The Movie" is an ethereal, atmosphere-soaked piece of work that shows the brilliant Katsushiro Otomo at his best. The storyline is kind of fragmented as it explains the protagonists' history, but the eerie plot and hauntingly lush backdrop of medieval Japan make this an exquisite piece of work, with a subtle tinge of horror.
A silver-haired wanderer -- a "mushi-shi" or "bugmaster" -- named Ginko (Joe Odagin) takes shelter in a small village, where the local matriarch asks him to help with some problems. One is that some of the villagers have gone deaf in one ear; the other is that her granddaughter is hearing bizarre things that aren't there, and grown a pair of strange horns from her forehead. With his know-how and an assortment of herbs, Ginko manages to deal with the problems.
While all this is going on, we see a silver-haired woman named Nui (Makiko Esumi) adopt a child whose mother died in a landslide. She urges him to go in case the local mushi affect him, but she grows fond of the boy -- leading to a magical and horrifying transformation for them both.
But new problems arise when Ginko travels to the Tanyuu household, home of a bizarre hereditary mushi and a vast store of mushi-related information. The mistress of the house (Yû Aoi) has become mysteriously ill, and information about a kind of mushi called the Tokoyami stirs old memories in Ginko. And as he tries to seal away the mushi that threaten to swarm through the mansion, he comes face-to-face with a tormented soul from his past...
"Mushi-Shi: The Movie" reminds me a little of "Dororo," only with lovelier landscapes and less messy monster-slaying. The only real problem with this movie is the fragmented storyline, especially since the first half is a series of interconnected vignettes and flashbacks -- half is backstory, and half is about Ginko's ability to seek out mushi and deal with them.
But Otomo manages to keep the plot threads of past and present woven into a shimmering web, and the second half is a beautiful, painful expanse full of danger, blood and past pain. And we see how deadly the mushi can be, rather than the minor pests and nebulous dangers in the first.
It's a beautiful piece of work, roaming languidly through lush leafy forests, pale misty light, and deep woodland ponds fringed with trees -- it's utterly gorgeous. One particularly haunting moment is when we see of Nui and the boy Yoki "flying" in deep pondwater, murmuring to each other as they drift. And the beauty of most of it makes the horrific parts (including a piece of clothing slowly filling itself with swarming darkness) even darker and more ghastly.
Joe Odagin (with a headful of silver dye) does a pretty good job as the perpetually mellow Ginko, who gradually seems to awaken emotionally when a crisis arises that he can't immediately fix. Makiko Esumi is absolutely brilliant as Nui, Nao Omori has a good supporting role as Ginko's rainbow-hunting sidekick, and Aoi has an excellent small role as a legendary mushi-shi who is infected with one herself (and deals with it by writing about them).
"Mushi-shi: The Movie" is a visually lush, slow-moving piece of fantasy, relying on subtlety and a strange brand of "bugs" that can only be dead with by a mushishi. It requires some patience, but it's a beautiful piece of work.
While Mushi-Shi The Movie cannot claim to have many ties to anime-giant Funimation (after all, it is a 2006 live action film that has cleaned up at movie festivals), the franchise itself is deeply rooted in the anime/ manga industry. Yuki Urushibara was the mastermind behind the original manga (which was awarded an Excellence Prize for manga at the 7th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2003) and a rich 26-episode animated series followed shortly thereafter in 2005.
In 2006, amidst the successful run of the anime, Katsuhiro Otomo directed this live-action incarnation, which enjoyed its world premiere at the 2006 Venice Film Festival. It then opened in Japanese theatres in March of 2007.
Released to North American markets at last, Funimation has acquired the exclusive rights to the motion picture, which occupies a single disc within a standard-sized DVD case. Runtime comes in at 131 minutes and language options follow the standard set in the anime business: Original Japanese dialog (in stereo) and an English dub option in Dolby 5.1 Surround. English subtitles are available with either voice choice.
The film wears an appropriate TV 14 rating due to the slightly disturbing imagery though the film does a wonderful job of steering clear of sexual situations, foul language, or glorification of gore.
Extras on the release include a host of deleted & extended scenes (opposed to the theatrical release), Mushi-Shi premieres, original trailer, and a crop of coming attractions (which includes live-action features).
The story, which basically follows the format established in both the manga and the anime, goes something like this: In turn of the century Japan, a mysterious traveler named Ginko arrives to a small village where he happens upon a houseful of individuals afflicted with inner-ear trouble. As fate would have it, the traveler is one of few living Mushi Masters; an individual who has devoted his life to studying strange, iridescent parasites called Mushi.
What's more, these parasites cannot be seen by everyone, which of course makes them particularly dangerous as their choice for entering their host (human or animal) is through the ear.
Infection of the parasite results in deafness and the appearance of four small, upward curving horns on the forehead (which are capable of detecting new sounds that unaffected men cannot hear; whispers and ringing bells).
The tone of the film is surprisingly serious, with near-constant tension and mysteriousness. It requires a certain level of patience and willingness to sit back and allow the film to weave its story. Action-lovers will probably be disappointed but horror-film fans will probably have little trouble adapting into the proper state of mind by the mysterious series of events with which the film opens.
Some have expressed extreme disappointment in earlier American-renditions of the film, which, like many foreign properties before it, brutalized the subtleties and genius of the original in translation. If you seek examples, consider this: The original English translation was titled "The Bugmaster"; a name used to identify Ginko as the Mushi themselves was translated simply as "bugs".
In my opinion, viewing the creatures as a simple bug infestation certainly downplays the mysteriousness and borderline-disturbing nature of the creatures. These aren't the type of pests that one can get rid of by calling in the Orkin Man. Instead, there's mysticism at work here that builds well by playing off the natural scenery and darkened environments of the film.
Jô Odagiri's portrayal of Ginko is quite impressive as well thanks to an affinity of confidence-filled grins and slow, deliberate motions.
The dub is decent and certainly holds up pretty well against the original dialog, though not quite as smoothly as the generic mouth flapping that anime allows. Once the initial distress of lips that do not match the dialog fades, expect a solid job by the English voice actors coupled to the benefits of Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.
Pacing is fairly slow and methodic throughout but for the most part, well done. Films like this rely upon tension and release in its prose rather than endless action sequences or CG-induced visual overload.
About the biggest source of confusion comes in the form of the frequent flashback sequences that without the benefit of some corny wavy screen-wipe effect could easily be mistaken for current events. These segments, which can be identified by a woman with the same silver hair as Ginko, are in fact memories of Ginko's distant past. The silver haired woman is in fact Nui; young orphan Ginko's own mentor and her teachings are the type of philosophical infusing one might expect should be present in an Asian film.
Perhaps the picture's greatest strength lies not in what's seen but in what isn't- as in dimly lit sets, misty mountainsides, and minimal-use of the computer-generated parasites all add up to a creepy undertone that works extremely well. It's often said that some of the finest tension-thrillers are those where the villain is rarely seen on screen (but left to the viewer's imagination). Ridley Scott has reiterated this point when discussing his 1979 film, ALIEN time and time again and indeed, it's the quick shots of the monster that make it so terrifying and keep viewers studying the shadows in every scene.
In all, this movie certainly isn't for everyone. As stated above, it takes a certain level of patience and commitment from the viewer to fully enjoy. The over-two-hour runtime can feel long and tedious if approached with the wrong expectations. The tones and themes here are definitely much heavier and more depressing than those presented in the anime, manga, and video game incarnations of the property. In all though, a very unique picture that will surely impress those who view artistry and emotionally driven storytelling as one in the same.
For a decade, manga writer/artist Yuki Urusihibara is known for the award winning series "Mushishi" which was publicized in Kodansha's "Afternoon" magazine (1999-2008). The manga was eventually adapted into a Japanese animated series and later adapted to a live film by "AKIRA" and "STEAMBOY" creator Katsuhiro Otomo.
The film would star Jo Odagiri ("Shinobi", "Azumi" and "Kamen Rider Cougar"), Makiko Esumi ("Shomuni" series, "Over Time" and "Love Revolution"), Yu Aoi ("Tokyo!", "Hachimitsu to Clover" and "Tekkon Kinkreet") and Nao Omori ("Tokyo!", "Tekkon Kinkreet" and "Prisoner").
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" definitely deserves high marks for its visual appeal. The positive aspects of the film are its breathtaking locations and just overall look. Traditional Japan is captured with its lush greenery and its hills along the countryside. The DVD captures the film's grainy appearance at times but the negative aspect is the amount of dust, scratches and film warping. There was not a tremendous amount of it but it was visible throughout the film.
The film tends to use lighting effectively. From the darkness of its deep blacks and blues to the aged and sometimes burned-like hues, the film seems to have its beautiful and incredible moments, its eery and dark moments and also its vibrant and colorful moments. Also, seasons are captured...with Ginko walking through the snow or through a village full of grass. But the cinematography by Takahide Shibanushi is absolutely beautiful.
As for audio, the film is presented in Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround and English 5.1 Dolby Surround. I primarily watched the film in Japanese and for the most part, the film is a dialogue-driven film. Front and center channel speakers play the dominant role. There are some scenes that utilize some bit of action and of course the music by Kuniaki Haishima definitely sets the tone for the film. Surround is best utilized during the scenes that feature mushi and are effectively used during the eery scenes. As for the English 5.1 Dolby Surround dub, personally it's more of a preference to watch Japanese live action films in Japanese but I did watch some of the film in English dub and for the most part, FUNimation Entertainment has been good by casting quality voice talent for their anime and the same for their live action films but personally, Its just my preference to watch this film in Japanese.
"MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" comes with the following special features:
* Deleted/Extended Scenes - (9:45) The following deleted and extended scenes are played with the original scenes and those that were removed is featured with the time stamp. In Japanese with English subtitles.
* Mushi-Shi Premiere - (5:03) Interviews with the cast and clips of the cast at the premiere of the film. In Japanese with English subtitles.
* Original Trailer - (1:50) The theatrical trailer in Japanese with English subtitles.
* Coming Attractions - FUNimation Entertainment trailers
There are major positives and major negatives about "MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE".
First, the negatives. One of the problems that a film like "MUSHI-SHI" would have is that the film is adapted from a lengthy manga series. There is a lot of story to tell. At least with the anime series, there are 26 episodes that can help introduce the various characters and through the many storylines, you can see how those characters are developed. With the live-film adaption, "MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" requires your full attention. It's a 131-minute film that is easy for your mind to stray, because for the first hour, you watch this mysterious character named Ginko helping villagers with their problems.
Many Japanese fans of the manga and anime series were quick to post on the Internet that if you know the backstory of "MUSHI-SHI" you would be fine but if you didn't, you're going to be lost or even bored. I absolutely agree. There's only so much you can do in trying to get so much story into a 131-minute film and there were times during the film that I'm waiting for Ginko to help more villagers but it doesn't happen. We are treated with flashbacks and dialogue about mushi and tokoyami and it is easy to get lost.
As for the positives, the film looks absolutely beautiful. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, the CG is not overdone and works quite well with this film. Also, the costume department deserves recognition in order to create that old Japanese style (despite not knowing what time period of Japan the film takes place), everything seems to work just right in terms of achieving the look and feel of "MUSHI-SHI".
"MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" is absolutely breathtaking in visuals and there are moments that may be near borderline horror or too eery for some people. As one scene depicts a knife going through a person's arm in order to use the blood of a person to drive away mushi. It's a very bloody scene. And in one scene, for one consumed by mushi, seeing their bodies so black that you feel they are covered in tar. Very eery ! So, I wouldn't necessarily watch this film with young children.
But another positive that one can find in the film is the amount of talent that are in the movie and those behind-the-scenes of the film. Joe Odagi, Yu Aoi, Makiko Esumi and Nao Omori are just awesome talents that are quite common to see in Japanese films and dramas and personally, it was great to see "Shomuni" actress Makiko Esumi in such a role. And of course, knowing that Katsuhiro Otomo is directing is another major plus for the film.
"MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" is one of those films that you want to recommend but at the same time, it all depends on the viewer and if they are the type that can put their entire focus into the intricate details of the film for 131-minutes. In fact, it's a film that can easily lose people right at the end. Even for myself, as I paid close attention to the film, the final 15 minutes of the film, I felt it went over my head and I realized, maybe if I read the manga series or watched the entire anime series, it would all make sense to me or I have to watch it all over again. I guess you can say that at the end of the film, I felt may I have missed something inportant.
"MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" does have its share of cool and eery moments (and I emphasize this film does feature beautiful cinematography throughout the film) but I think that "MUSHI-SHI" is a storyline that is best suited for a manga or anime series or even a live action television drama series in which its intricate storyline is deserving of stories that emphasize on the character's development and could be told in many hours than just 131-minutes. There's too much storyline involved with "MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" that 131-minutes is clearly, not enough (although I also felt the film was a bit too long) to effectively showcase the storyline and explanation of mushi, tokoyami and even Ginko's role as Mushi-shi.
Overall, "MUSHI-SHI THE MOVIE" was entertaining and visually wonderful but unfortunately, the storyline may be too difficult for some viewers to comprehend. If you were a big fan of the anime series or the manga series, then "MUSHI-SHI" will definitely worth checking out but for those not familiar with the storyline, it's a film that will require your full attention.
on August 22, 2015
If you are a fan of the anime I would declare you as the market for this story of Ginko's origin. Fans of Japanese horror you will get some aspects but not enough to make it horror but for those whose skin crawls easily from visual creepiness you'll enjoy this stand alone movie which allows you to follow Ginko's adventures a bit easier knowing a little more of him. Recommended.
on June 10, 2012
Hey, i thought that the tv series was great and had good pacing, music, stories, visuals etc. It wasn't science fiction, or fantasy, not even a "universe created by a magic fairy" type stuff. The series was a nice little visualization of the spirit of nature and one man's (Ginko's) understanding of that nature. In the original series, Ginko was like Odin, striding thru nature, having exchanged an eye for wisdom.
The movie, on the other hand, it poorly paced, has uninspired acting and visuals (in fact this dvd looks very grainy, and even has some damage type artifacts, like damage circles that you see on old films!). There is way too much of Ginko as a kid and the old woman (who was really a very minor part of the original series. Overall, not worth the viewing.
on February 8, 2014
I was able to watch this about halfway through before playback started stuttering. Eventually it just stopped because the disc could not be read. I tried it in multiple readers and with different player software but had the same problem everywhere. I exchanged it hoping it was just a bad disc but had the same problem with the replacement. The data surface of the disc looks wavy, with ripples, rather than even the way most discs look. I'm surprised others haven't reported the same problem. Maybe it is a batch of bad pressings.
I liked the movie as far as I was able to watch it. It seems that I will never be able to see the second half though, which is quite disappointing.
on September 30, 2012
Mushi are strange, supernatural critters, which can sometimes cause trouble for people. Normal people can't usually see them, but Mushi masters, called "Mushi-shi," can. The title character is a Mushi-shi called Ginko who roams a Japan of over a hundred years ago, solving problems caused by Mushi or by people incorrectly interacting with them.
I haven't read the manga, but I think this movie does a good job at telling a few of the stories from the anime: Ginko's history, the Mushi that eat sound, the man who chases rainbows, and the young woman who has a way with words. By the end of the movie, a few plot threads are left dangling, but perhaps they were hoping to do a sequel. It captures the feel of the anime and there's some beautiful camerawork and scenery, though I don't care for the color filters they use sometimes, which makes things look kind of "muddy." (I'm not talking about the filter used to indicate flashbacks.)
on May 5, 2015
For a live adaptation of a Manga/Anime series, this is one of the better ones. And if you already have seen the anime, the movie fills in some minor details that the anime glossed over or I missed in the anime. Most of the movie deals with how Ginko became a Mushi-shi and the person who taught him about the Mushi. In addition there are a couple of new stories (to me) presented in the movie. One involving a girl who hears a cacophony of sound, another involving Tanyuu Karibusa that I've also not seen before.
on November 12, 2013
My daughter and I have watched the entire animated series of Mushi-Shi so the next step was to purchase the live-action film. Some people may not understand the story and get confused by what is happening. Please don't judge this movie on your first viewing. If you watch the movie a second time, it will all become clear. I'm not one to give away movie plots in my reviews, but if you are into Asian live action films, or have ever followed Mushi-Shi then you need to watch this version.
on December 5, 2013
The movie had the same feel as the anime that I love so much - even the same voice actors. It was a conglomeration of the anime stories - altered for effect, but still well done. Love Travis Willingham's voice work. I prefer the anime, but I wasn't disappointed with the live action movie.