Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $24.98 US
Running Time: 131 minutes
Genre: Live Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Mushi Master, heal thyself.
Like everyone in this office, I’m both apprehensive and excited by the prospect of a live-action movie based on a favorite manga or anime series. I was absolutely thrilled by the Death Note movies and I thought Honey and Clover made an excellent romantic-comedy so I had high expectations about Mushi-Shi The Movie. The good news is that the live-action feature is directed by acclaimed director Katsuhiro Otomo (of Steamboy and Akira fame) and yes the movie is absolutely stunning.
Taking place in turn-of-the-century Japan, the movie opens with a little boy and his mother traveling to a nearby town to sell their wares. Unfortunately, due to the excessive rainstorm that hit the area, a landslide brings the road they walk crashing down as the boy’s mother is buried by the mud. As the boy attempts to find his mother’s remains, he is discovered by a female Mushi-Shi or Mushi Master … a sort of healer/exorcist of glistening worm-like creatures called Mushi that inflict illness on those it touches.
Fast forward several years later where a different white-haired Mushi-Shi named Ginko (played superbly by Joe Odajiri) seeks refuge from a snow storm that blocks his path to his destination. He finds a local inn where several other travels have decided to stay the night only to find that some of the people of the village have been afflicted by an unusual ailment that caused them to be deaf in one ear. When Ginko cures them, the lady of the inn asks him to look into one other unusual case. It seems his granddaughter, Maho, was also afflicted but, in her case, she doesn’t hear anything but thousands of voice and she has grown horns out of her forehead.
Looking into the little girl’s rare case, Ginko discovers an interesting fact about the child’s mother as well as the voices the little girl hears. When he pieces together the puzzle pieces that is the mysterious case, he confronts Maho who helps Ginko solve the problem. He also comes to an alarming discovery that a great number of Mushi have been flocking in great number and the ones that attacked the little girl are different than the ones he is use to eliminating. Somehow, the strange new Mushi seems familiar to him.
We also find out what happens to the boy (whose name is Yoki) who finds himself living with the female Mushi-Shi named Nui. While Yoki clearly wants to stay with Nui, the Mushi Master does not want to be near her or the place where she lives. You see, Nui is worried that the pond near her home is filled with the strange Mushi Ginko discovered. The Mushi-Shi calls it Tokoyami and it lives within the pond with the eyeless white fish the woman calls Ginko. She even tries to leave Yoki in another village but the boy races by Nui’s side only to suffer a regrettable fate.
Finally able to go to a Mushi-Shi gathering place, Ginko finds out that he has been summoned by an old friend in need. Said friend is a young woman named Tanyo (the wonderful Yu Aoi) who has a special gift of writing stories down on parchment … with her mind. Ginko meets a man named Karo, who is attempting to catch a strange rainbow and seal it in his massive jug, who travels with him. When they arrive, Ginko finds that Tanyo’s Mushi infection is way too unusual and it can only mean Tokoyami might be involved. With what looks like ink threatening to consume her.
Locked in her library, Ginko comes across one scroll with very familiar content. Revealing more would spoil the story’s shocking ending but I will say that Ginko’s battle against the Tokoyami leaves the young Mushi Master nearly catatonic as Ginko must face his past and the repressed memory of his childhood.
Director Katsuhiro Otomo tells the story beautifully and he definitely knows how to tug at the heart strings in the most moving parts of the movie that leads to the ending. More importantly, he manages to get great performances out of Joe Odajiri and Yu Aoi. The visuals are grainy but it works beautifully to pull off the visual effects when the Mushi appear. Watching the movie with a crowd that never picked up a manga or know what anime is really enjoyed the movie as it stands. Those in the office who love the original source material loved it even more.
Mushi-Shi The Movie is a wonderfully moving and artistically brilliant version of a story that feels as epic as an old folkloric tale from Japan. Reinvented as a live-action feature, the movie tries to remain as close to the source material as well as the anime but does it in its own style that makes this movie a visceral and extraordinary experience. This is the movie Mushi-Shi fans will certainly love and one that non-anime viewers will fondly appreciate.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Ginko is a Mushi Master with a mysterious past who comes to the aid of a good friend who is in dire need of his services when she is struck by a horrifying affliction caused by a Mushi of great power. We also learn the story of an orphaned boy who comes to live with a female Mushi-Shi who might just be connected to Ginko.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The grainy visual style of the film is intentional and, surprisingly enough, it works. Meanwhile, the visual effects look amazing in some parts and simply Ok in others. You just have to love the backdrops and cinematography in the film.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original score by Kuniaki Haishima is absolutely breathtaking to say the least and the sound effects are just as effective as the visual effects in this film.
The Mushi-Shi Premieres footage is short but it’s good to see the warm reception the Director and the movie’s cast received in Italy during the Venice International Film Festival. There are a few deleted and extended scenes, including an ending I felt was a tad better than the ending selected for the movie. The disc also includes the movie’s original trailer as well as other FUNimation trailers.
True to the anime version, Mushi-Shi The Movie is a beautifully directed and wonderfully acted live-action movie that might not be as brilliant as the anime but still manages to convey the emotional power. Katsuhiro Otomo does recreate some of the best moments and does them well thanks to a stellar cast and a brilliant visual style. If you loved the manga or the anime, Mushi-Shi The Movie is a Must See.