No Haiyore! as a dance partner for Mushibugyou this week, but that’s fine – I’m more than happy to give this series its own post. Occasionally I get one right, and I think I did when I pegged this series as a keeper despite a generally poor reaction to the first episode from manga readers. Mushibugyou still has the things going for it that sold me on the premiere – a terrific soundtrack, attractive visuals, and a great sense of fun. And it’s added a deceptively genius hand with plot and character development. I really love the way this series has patiently parceled out exposition, expanding then plot only after it had introduced the cast and given the audience some buy-in with the characters. In terms of pacing, most far more touted series could take a lesson from this one.
As for that plot, it’s really picking up, and all of the elements teased in the first six episodes are starting to come into play. One of them is the Insect Magistrate herself (I’m assuming it’s a her), who up to now has only been a mysterious figure behind a bamboo screen who communicates with Kotori via a tinkly little bell. Well, she finally has a face – a very odd one – and the voice of Megumi Han. The character is still shrouded in mystery, but it’s interested that she chose to leave her cloistered space and walk about the compound only when she assumed everyone was gone. Whether this means no one is ever supposed to see her face I don’t know – she says herself later that no one is supposed to touch her, but she doesn’t seem all that upset that Jinbei has now done both.
Jinbei has systematically converted everyone in the cast to his friendship harem with his preposterous levels of earnest cheerfulness, and the Mushibugyou is the latest to fall under his sway. He’s off on a sake run while the others are called into battle to face the biggest insect we’ve seen so far, a “fortress insect” – a rhinoceros beetle, naturally. Thus, he’s left behind and in fact, never at any point has a clue the “Summer War” is going on in Edo. Instead, he sets himself to finding a good spot for the Magistrate – who says she can never leave the compound – to watch the famous Sumida River fireworks which mark the start of summer. As a reward for his efforts she eventually gives him one of the tassel bells off her hat, which I assume is going to be a significant moment going forward.
As for that beetle, this is apparently a ritual in Edo – every summer a fortress insect descends on the city, and the Insect Magistrate’s office has a well-established plan in place. Effectively, Mugai fights the bug while everyone else evacuates the populace – many of whom, it seems, take to enjoying the ritual as just another part of Edo’s summer pageantry like society swells watching a Civil War battle from a nearby hilltop. Rhinoceros beetles are practically big enough to feature on this show in real life (up to 6 inches long) but basically harmless – though certainly impressive (they’re popular pets for young boys in Japan, who can even buy them from vending machines). The mountain-sized one here provides Mushibugyou a chance to deliver its most impressive set piece yet in Mugai’s battle with it, which eventually sees him cutting off its horn and absorbing it into his katana, which he then uses to cut the beetle in half. Mugai seems pretty much indestructible at this point, though I wonder if that’s going to be put to the test before we’re done. And just who’s going to cart away a carcass the size of a small town?
The last piece of the plot puzzle – that we’ve been teased with, anyway – is the blonde who’s one of Mugai’s old cohorts, and it seems we’re finally going to get her story next week. She’s excessively interested in the Magistrate herself, who’s informed her retainers that the insects are behaving strangely this year, and that she’s going to follow the summer tradition and “seal herself away” early. I’m not sure just what this means but it’s clearly more than significant, and tied in to the central mystery of just why these giant mushi came into the existence in the first place – which not even the son and heir of the Shogun himself has any answers to.