Mushishi Zoku Shou – 05

Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 02 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 24 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 32

The symbolism is thick with this one.

Mushishi is fully back in the swing of things, and that means opening up the series to the darker side of existence now that the viewers have been gently reeled back in with three stories that run more towards the wistful and contemplative.  “Mirror Lake” is scary, though not quite in the same way as last week’s “The Hand That Caresses the Night”.  That was more of a primal, existentially unsettling experience – this story is more like something told around a campfire to keep complaining children from losing perspective.

More so even than in last week’s story, it’s Ginko who seems to be at the existential center of this one.  The main protagonist this time is a very passive presence – the young woman Masumi (Shiraishi Haruka).  In fact compared to the characters at the center of most Mushishi chapters she’s quite ordinary – a teenaged girl (again played by an age-appropriate seiyuu) who’s in love with the idea of being in love and has bad taste in men.  So much so that when she seems especially listless and withdrawn after her most recent broken heart, her parents have no reason not to chalk it up to her usual heartsick moping.

The Mushi of the week is the Mizukagami (“Water Mirror”), as usual truthfully named.  It hides in waters with especially reflective surfaces, like the clear, still ponds in mountain valleys (the one here is gorgeously depicted, though there are some off-model character moments this week – I suspect outsourced episode syndrome) waiting for an unsuspecting animal to come along.  It then mimics than animal’s form, follows them around and slowly leeches strength from them, until one day it switches places and leaves the original as a bodiless, soulless “thing” forever lost in a world of darkness.

If you know anything about folk tales, you know that’s a pretty basic human fear personified – pretty much every culture has a myth or two that roughly coincides with this one.  And Masumi is pretty universal too – the most recent bad seed to jilt her was a mirror polisher (a highly specialized trade, it seems to me) who fools around with her on his trips through the village but has obviously decided it’s time to look for greener pastures, both commercially and carnally (he’s especially cruel about it – “I don’t want a tomboy like you as a wife!”).

With both the human and mushi sides of the story being relatively straightforward this week, it falls to Ginko to make it memorable.  His quiet but insistent reproaching of Masumi is the most compelling part of the episode.  The lesson here is quite a simple one – while we take it for granted, the gift of a living, breathing body to house our being is a privilege we should be immensely grateful for.  It’s certainly no coincidence that the way to unmake the Mizukagami is a mirror – to reveal the truth by reflecting it when it attempts to take over the body altogether when the target has grown weak enough.  But when circumstances prevent the mirror in question from being used at the critical moment, it’s the act of opening her eyes to the truth that saves Masumi from a fate worse than death.

The ending of the episode proves to be the most interesting and surprising part (and no, I don’t mean Masumi marvelling at how good-looking Ginko is, though that was certainly amusing).  For all Ginko’s description of Mushi as being soulless creatures without a true will (that’s consistent throughout the series) he clearly takes pity on this one – following it back to the pond it’s retreated to after Masumi foiled its plans, and offering to lead it deeper into the mountains (presumably so it can find a non-human victim – which is rather harsh of Ginko towards that unlucky creature).  It’s certainly a fact that we as an audience have an incomplete understanding of Mushi, but it’s interesting to speculate on just how incomplete is the understanding Ginko himself has of them.  His words seem to contradict his actions here, but perhaps this is an admission on Ginko’s part that Mushi are almost as big a mystery to him as they are to us.

Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 08 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 09 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 10
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 11 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 12 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 13
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 14 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 15 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 16
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 17 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 18 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 19
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 20 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 21 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 22
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 23 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 25 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 26
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 27 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 28 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 29
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 30 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 31 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 33
Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 34 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 35 Mushishi Zoku Shou - 05 - Large 36


  1. P

    I don't think Ginko took the mushi to a lake deeper in the moutains so that it could find a non-human victim: this mushi lives on minerals found in the water and its goal in taking the form of an animal is to be able to reach a lake richer in minerals.

  2. m

    yea, the mizukagami probably won't need to find a host if the lake had minerals it needed to live on. thus, a better lake would keep any potential victim safe.. for a while

  3. K

    Remember Cotton Changeling from season 1? The episode ending somewhat similarly to this one and I thought of it instantly. It ended with Ginko not killing the baby Mushi (don't remember it's name) albeit it wasn't as sweet here. Mushi aren't malicious, they're are just doing what they need to live, I recall Ginko uttering something along those words before (in Cotton Changeling I think). This episode really jettisoned that part of the first season into my mind, I think Ginko's always kind of had a soft spot for Mushi.

    But yeah, I'm somewhat dipping off the mark so this episode was really good, particularly the OST. I think it had the best usage of music sans maybe episode 3 (I'd have to rewatch it [again]) so far.

  4. K

    I wonder if there was ever a time where a person's entire job was polishing mirrors. Sounds like the easy life.

  5. n

    I didn't notice any off-model character moments, really… I thought it was just as beautiful as the previous four eps. But anyway, Mushishi is really one anime that I can watch with ease and confidence without worrying about any encounter with stupidities of various types: especially, Moe-free! But to be honest, the moment when Masumi tried to hit on Ginko was comically moe. This is something I've always believed: the only way to achieve and appreciate true moe is to exclude it from the story as much as possible.

    And I did a quick search on google and it seems that polishing mirrors is still a legitimate job in these days.

  6. Z

    There is no such thing as true moe.

  7. R

    See, the thing with off-models is that if the background and music are gorgeous enough that I don't notice them (and they're usually wide shots anyways, so it's understandable), it doesn't really bother me.

    And with Mushishi, you have the compounded fact that there's a very compelling, if somewhat hard to grasp the essence of WHY, story pulling you along on a sort of primal, emotional level, and I really am not bothered. Just here for the ride.

  8. M

    I recall people ragging on AnH for having long shots of characters with featureless faces – but Mushishi has plenty of that too. That show (being the same director) also has great backgrounds and music, so it never bugged me as it doesn't here.

  9. M

    Considerably weaker chapter than the others this season. If this could be considered the closest Urushibara's come to phoning in, that isn't too shameful a place to be.

    Amusingly apt comment on ASF: "that girl was so dumb i was crying by how dumb she was."

  10. Z

    It did feel like a bit of a filler episode to me. If that is even possible with this show.

Leave a Comment