Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mu Shi Shi Volume 3 by Yuki Urushibara

Ginko is a Mushishi, a man who fights against ancient life forms known as the Mushi, who seem to live between the possible and the impossible. Only Ginko seems to see them, though many others feel the effects.

The first story is called "The Voice of Rust". A young girl living with her family seems to be cursed in that anyone who speaks to her becomes covered in rust, and their bodies grow heavy and unable to move. The rest of the town blames her, even as they donate food for her family to live on because they are so covered in rust they can no longer move. It is up to Ginko to determine the true source of the trouble and free the town... as well as the girl, to move on in their lives.

The second story is "From the Ocean's Edge", and it tells of a Young man stuck on a strange shoreline waiting for his wife to appear and her boat to come in. He has been waiting for three years, but hasn't given up hope. She and her boat disappeared in a strange mist, when the water grew full of snakes. She and her husband had been having a disagreement, so his waiting is partly guilt at abandoning her. When the strange mist returns, can Ginko and the man retrieve his wife?

The third story is called "The Heavy Seed". In a land of famine, only one village has fields bursting with crops. But everyone around won't take their food, seeing it as something unnatural. It turns out that their harvest is due to something called the Heavy Seed, a mushi that guarantees a bountiful crop, in exchange for the life of one person who eats the food it brings. Can Ginko show the Crop Master the dangers of using the seed before someone else dies?

The fourth story is called "White Living in the Ink Stone". When three young villagers fall ill after using an inkstone full of Mushi, Ginko must go to find the origins of the Inkstone, as well as finding a cure for the three children before they die of the cold inhabiting their bodies.

The last story is "The Fish Gaze" about a young boy named Yoki who can see Mushi. He loses his mother and hurts his leg and is found by a woman in the forest. She takes him back to her home to nurse him. The boy is curious about the woman, who has snow-white hair and only one eye, but she reists his questions, instead telling him about Mushi. She does later answer his questions. She is, or rather was, a Mushishi, and wandered about the land, returning to her home village where her husband and daughter stayed. One time when she came home, however, her husband and daughter were missing. She went out to search for them, and decided they must have fallen to the Mushi of the Lake. It turns the fish living in the lake white and takes an eye from them. Because she has lived near the lake for so long, she, too, has fallen victim to the effects.

Yoki is curious, and one night sees a fish in the lake lose its other eye and dissapear. He tells the woman, and she basically says she knows this. She is waiting for it to happen to her so she can finally be with her husband and daughter. The next full moon, she disappears, but Yoki grabs her arm and is taken with her. She tells him to keep one eye closed, and he follows her, but finds his way out of the Mushi, and she disappears. Afterwards, his hair is white, but one eye is completely black. He is adopted into another village. His new parents call him Ginko...

Mushishi is a title filled with mysteries, from the Mushi themselves to the people who are infected and caught by them. This leads to a sense of wonder that lingers long after you have finished reading the story.

I, for one, really enjoy this series, and if you enjoy mysteries that may never be explained, you will, too. Ginko has remained much of an enigma during the first two books, but the last story here goes some way towards explaining his profession. How he can see Mushi isn't explained (was he born with the ability?), but the continual mysteries of the series bring both awe and wonder.

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