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Manga: Mushi Shi

Neither good nor evil, they are life in its purest form. Vulgar and strange, they have inspired fear in humans since the dawn of time and have, over the ages, come to be known as "mushi".

Ginko is a mushishi — a person who can see the small pseudo-nature-spirit entities known as mushi, which both mystify and plague mankind. With little more than his wits and experience to guide him, Ginko walks the earth (or more specifically Japan) helping humans who have become unpleasantly entangled with the mushi. The mushi themselves are rarely sentient and occupy a nebulous zone between things that can be identified as life forms and things that cannot, such as a swamp that travels from location to location, or tiny heat-absorbing microbes. Usually the motivation for the mushi is as simple as survival or reproduction, such as a sound-eating mushi infecting a human, causing deafness; but because of their mystical properties, they tend to cause a variety of troubles when they interact with humans.

The manga ran for nine years, ending in 2008. It was adapted into an anime that ran for 26 episodes, ending in mid-2006. 2014 saw a TV special and a sequel series, Mushishi Zoku-shou, which began airing in the spring 2014 anime season, running for an additional 26 episodes. Most episodes are stand-alone stories, though a few interconnect with other episodes in an oblique manner.

The series' general tone is extremely mellow and in some ways seemed toned after a PBS docudrama. Though many civilians take offense at whatever mushi-related troubles they have, Ginko sees problems to be solved by understanding rather than pests to be exterminated (even if he does often wind up killing the mushi from necessity). Personal tragedy and triumph tends to blossom for many of the individuals Ginko encounters, yet the overall theme seems to be a reverence for the mundane as well as the fantastic; people learn to appreciate such simple joys as the sound of their own heartbeat, for example.

Also, a Live-Action Adaptation Movie was made by Katsuhiro Otomo (AKIRA), which won many independent film awards.

The series is now available on Hulu and Youtube.

This series provides examples of:

  • Amnesia Danger: Sayo, the forgetful mother from one of the episodes, has fallen victim to a mushi that slowly eats away all of her memories — including her ability to recognize basic bodily functions. It is a permanent and irreversible process reminiscent of both the rarely explored anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia; should the memories run out, the host will probably be killed. Sayo manages her condition by taking up a job at a teahouse where she can converse daily with travelers and hear stories of their travels, creating a constant supply of new memories.
  • Anachronic Order: You can watch the episodes completely out of order and still not miss anything important to the overall story. Especially since the series jumps around in terms of which story from which manga volume it adapts.
  • Anachronism Stew: The exact setting and time period is kept deliberately vague, but it resembles feudal (or possibly mid-to-late 19th century) Japan, in mostly rural areas. There are some odd artifacts, though, such as Ginko using scientific equipment far in advance of what was generally available at the time (like a wooden microscope), not to mention his very Western-style clothing.
    • And no one seems to comment on his foreign clothing (not to mention strange eye and hair color) either, which is very odd considering how odd it should make him look to them. Then again, just like the scientific equipment it's probably the mushishi equivalent of a wizard's hat and robes.
    • In the very last episode of the first anime series (which takes place mostly about ten or so years before most of the rest of the story) one boy tells another boy a garbled story he heard about a young Ginko, mentioning his strange eye and hair color. The other boy speculates as to whether Ginko is a foreigner, in a way that makes it seem like people are aware of foreigners but they are extremely uncommon
    • Word of God states that the series takes place in a fictional period between the Edo and Meiji eras, in which outside technology has arrived, but Japan remains a closed country.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Ginko is nowhere to be seen in "One-Eyed Fish". Instead we are introduced to a timid boy named Yoki who can see mushi, and learn how he ends up under the care of a mushi master named Nui after becoming injured in the landslide that killed his mother. Subverted - this is Ginko's Origins Episode.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: "Pickers of Empty Cocoons" deals with a woman whose twin sister was kidnapped five years earlier by a mushi, and her attempts to contact her despite everyone telling her that it's a lost cause.
  • Art Initiates Life: Shinra, the boy from "The Green Seat", has this power.
  • Asleep for Days: In "A Pretense of Spring," a boy named Miharu falls asleep every winter for months after visiting a place that is miraculously full of life due to a mushi's influence. Then, something goes wrong and he is asleep for over a year. Ginko investigates the false spring and they both end up in a coma. Thankfully, they wake up the next spring.
    • Ginko sleeps for days several more times in the manga, including chapter 37 in which he is put into a long hibernation by the local mountain god.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Inverted, as Ginko wears modern clothes in a feudal setting. In the manga, this is inverted with Biki (the cousin of the blind girl locked in a storehouse) as well.
  • A Mushi Did It with Bizarre Alien Biology, complete with an explanation of what's known of its lifecycle.
  • Badass Bookworm: Ginko. While he may not be brawny or get in many fights, he is definitely the one you want to be standing there unflappably to tell you what to do when some immense Thing you can't even see is slithering overhead.
  • Berserk Button: Ginko doesn't really do "berserk" exactly, but seeing anyone give in to despair or attempt suicide really upsets him. He flips out in " The Sleeping Mountain" due to this. People losing their humanity or becoming mushi seem to unnerve him as well, probably because that subject is a bit Close To Home.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: "Lost in the Flowers," adapted as the episode "Floral Delusion" in Zoku-shou: Generations of a family keep a strange yet beautiful woman, found as a baby in an ancient cherry tree, alive and healthy for over three hundred years by "grafting" her head onto different bodies.
  • Bittersweet Endings: All over the place.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: See above about being very similar to a documentary: the mushi and their strange powers and ecology are sort of the point of the show.
  • Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome: Many mushi-infected people are granted powers that prove useful—until the mushi grows in power and gets beyond the infected person's control. For example, there is a man whose dreams appear to be prophetic. Instead his dreams are infested with Mushi that make his dreams into reality. Ginko tries to give advice that lets people live with their condition, with varying success.
    • Ginko himself is a walking example. He can see in the dark, watch The Lifestream, and has power over small mushi, but on the other hand he's minus an eye, is potentially a danger to everyone around him, and will probably eventually be consumed by the Tokoyami.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The cleverer mushi tend to possess this. Few are actively malicious, but they mostly seem oblivious to the harm they can do humanity.
  • Body Horror: Many of the mushi cause trouble by entering people's bodies and taking over one small part of it, although some of the less fortunate people have been transformed into mushi completely.
  • Booze-Based Buff: In the manga and Zoku-shou, a sake-maker creates an artificial version of the river of life (his dad got to taste the real thing and has been trying to recreate it for years). The other mushi-masters are amazed, but warn him not to sell the stuff as it grants the ability to see mushi to people who normally can't, which would cause panic.
  • The Bus Came Back: For Ginko's friend Tanyuu (the scribe with a mushi sealed in her body). She is a minor character in the Hihamukage OVA, and she's also slated to make more appearances in future episodes of Zoku-shou.
  • Celibate Hero: A strange case. Since Ginko can never settle down without drawing too many mushi in, he doesn't exactly have the chance for romance. Not that it stops the ladies from hitting on him, but he stands firm.
  • Cheerful Child: There are a few - Jin's young daughter Mayu from "The Pillow Pathway" and Isana from "Shrine In The Sea" in particular.
  • Chick Magnet: There's a reason (well, okay, two reasons) Ginko is nicknamed "Pimp-ko" by the fandom.
  • Closed Circle:
    • Kisuke in "Inside the Cage" is unable to leave the bamboo forest near his home village due to the influence of a mushi. No matter which direction he goes, he and anyone with him end up unconsciously circling back to the same area.
    • In "The Depths of Winter," Ginko finds himself trapped alone on a mountain where winter mysteriously refuses to end even as neighboring mountains are visibly thawing.
  • Collector of the Strange: Dr. Adashino, Ginko's be-monocled pal, is an avid collector of mushi-related odds and ends - the stranger the better. It comes back to bite him in "The White Which Lives Within the Inkstone" when some snooping little kids go through his collection and end up afflicted with a mushi that slowly freezes their bodies from the inside out. Things work out all right thanks to Ginko's efforts, but judging by Adashino's behavior in later episodes, the lesson doesn't quite stick - in Zoku-shou he goes so far as to try rummaging through Ginko's travel case while Ginko is sleeping.
  • Conspicuously Light Patch: Notably averted in one episode when a roof tile is broken by a large hailstone.
  • Continuity Nod: In the OVA, as the eclipse reaches its climax, we are treated to a montage of each of the people Ginko met in his travels during the first season, watching it happen.
  • Covers Always Lie: The blurb on the back cover of one manga volume describes mushi specifically as parasitic, malevolent entities. Talk about missing the point.
  • Credits Jukebox: Every episode gets its own ending tune.
  • Creepy Child: The Watahiko. Though they're not so much children as they are a viral parasitic Hive Mind...
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Aside from the myriad horrible uses a mushishi could put his knowledge to should he be inspired, there are the techniques that manipulate the Lifestream itself. Anyone who can do so has the power to become immortal, or create a seed that will ensure a truly bountiful the low, low cost of someone's life. Doing so risks disrupting the balance of nature, and "The Heavy Seed" revolves around Ginko dealing with the legacy of such an abuse.
  • Dojikko: Sayo, as her son claims.
  • Downer Ending: Many of the stories throughout the series have a sad (or at least not pleasant for all involved) ending.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: More than once, this is all that's left after a person's body turns to mushi completely.
  • Eye Scream: Episode 2. The part where Ginko takes out his fake eye even has this effect on another character. It gets worse in "Eye of Fortune, Eye of Misfortune". A woman's mushi-infected eyes jump out of their sockets and wriggle away!. The author finds eye damage especially squicky.
    • For those curious, here's a link. Happens from 20 minutes onwards. Have fun.
    • The little girl in "Light Of The Eyelid" was afflicted with a mushi that made her eyes so sensitive to light that she was eventually locked away in a storage shed to live out her days in darkness. Unfortuately, this particular mushi thrived in darkness, and slowly ate away at her eyeballs until they were completely gone. She gets better, though...kinda.
  • The Fair Folk/Fantastic Flora: Mushi are pretty much the X Meets Y of these two tropes. Sometimes with Festering Fungus thrown in.
  • Faux Flame: One variety of mushi featured, called the "kagebi," feeds off human body heat by appearing to its victims as an open flame. If a person huddles close to it for warmth, it slowly saps their heat from them until they freeze to death. Bizarrely enough, the flame of a kagebi can be used to cook food or boil water... which, when ingested, freezes the body from the inside, giving the unlucky victim a case of internal frostbite.
  • Flying Dutchman: Due to Ginko's power to attract mushi, he can never have a permanent home.
  • Friend to All Children: Ginko is a pretty nice guy, but not very emotive. He smiles considerably more when children are around and they seem to like him as well. Isana, the girl from "Shrine in the Sea" seems especially attached.
    • Adashino is this to the children in his village too; there's usually a gang of them following him around when he's not seeing patients or hanging out with Ginko.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: In "Singing Shell," a large number of normally-seagoing birdlike mushi take shelter in the shells that have washed up on the beach, prompting Ginko to warn the nearby fishing village that some kind of disaster will occur at sea.
  • Foreign Language Theme: The opening songs of both seasons are sung in English.
    I walked ten thousand miles, ten thousand miles to see you...
  • Genius Loci: Some mushi take the form of (very large) natural phenomena. One of the most prominent is the Traveling Swamp, which is generally harmless unless someone drinks of its waters for too long (causing them to eventually dissolve into water themselves). It saved the life of a young woman who would have been drowned (by being thrown in a river as a sacrifice).
  • Genki Girl: Sayo, the forgetful, restless, mushi-infected mother in "Sunrise Serpent".
  • Genre-Busting: It's quite hard to pigeonhole the series precisely. It's kind of slice-of-life, kind of fantastic Mystery of the Week and kind of documentary with an overall peaceful and bittersweet tone.
  • Green Aesop: A lot of the stories tell about living in harmony with the environment, as pollution can cause all mushi to leave - with possibly worse effects on the people than when the mushi were present.
  • Green Eyes: Ginko has lovely, vivid blue-green eyes, as did Nui. This, as well as their silvery heads of hair, are a result of being exposed to a mushi named Tokoyami.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Often built around this. It's irrational to blame an animal for doing what nature made it to do, even if 'what it does' is eating eyes, parasitically living in people's ears or devouring fetuses and taking their place. The mushi are bizarre and sometimes frightful, but mindlessly innocent, and the Mushishi who handle them can come off as Knight Templar or Well Intentioned Extremists for exterminating them.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: A guy has been living in a "long, happy nightmare" since his encounter with a time-warping mushi. Ginko warns him not to go through it again but then his wife is mortally wounded and they can't get back to their village in time. He goes through with her and now she's the one experiencing deja-vu...
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Some mushishi less enlightened than Ginko have this view about all mushi, seeing them as pests or threats to be exterminated. In "Drowning in a Sea of Letters," Ginko comforts a girl binding a mushi trapped inside her with stories of harmless and/or beneficial mushi.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Oniko, children of mushi and human, which are very rare and inherit traits from both parents. In "Inside The Cage" Ginko meets a woman and her daughter, who are descended from Magaridake, mushi that look like white bamboo. Though they look completely normal, both were born inside bamboo shoots and need water from mushi to survive.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Narrowly averted, though only through another character's not-quite-so-heroic sacrifice. In the final story, Ginko risks his life to save a teenage girl who was chosen as a mountain-master but was rejected when she returned to her family and began to miss them even after returning to her mountain. He's about to be disintegrated into the lifestream (which he's fine with since his days were numbered anyway) when the girl takes his place because she couldn't stand being away from the mountain — because she was the mountain.
  • Human Sacrifice: The girl who traveled with the swamp was sacrificed by her village, in the hopes of ending an onslaught of massive floods by appeasing the river god with a bride.
  • Identical Grandson: Played with in "Shrine in the Sea." A particular island has a mushi called Uminaoshi that can seemingly reincarnate a person into a child form so they can be reborn to someone else, such as their daughter. Turns out that the 'reincarnations' actually are that person, at least physically; the mushi reduces someone to an embryonic state and allows them to be reborn if the egg is ingested. But since they have no memories of their 'past' lives, are they really the same people? There's no way to prove the reborn even have the same soul.
  • Kill and Replace: This is the modus operandi of the Watahiko mushi - entering the womb of a pregnant woman and destroying her fetus in order to take its place.
  • Kill It with Fire: In episode 21, the Watahachi parasite attempts this on itself in order to force itself into hibernation rather than be killed by Ginko. It doesn't die, but its power is diminished enough for Ginko to carry it off in a bottle.
    • In episode 23, Yahagi thinks doing this to the mushi will solve the problem. It only happens to escalate into a problem that kills several villagers and threatens her own life.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Ginko has the retrograde variant. It plays an important role in his backstory, and is irreversible.
  • The Lifestream: Many references are made to a river of light that only Ginko and certain other special people can sense. This river is the primal life force that the mushi come from, and strengthens and bolsters nature when it is near the surface of the earth: normally it's deep underground..
  • Locked into Strangeness: One of the possible effects of mushi. See Io, the girl in "The Traveling Swamp," with green hair that turns black again after the swamp dies, and Ginko and Nui, as well as Hiyori in the Hihamukage special, with white hair.
  • Magical Underpinnings of Reality
  • Magnetic Medium: Ginko's reason for being on the move all the time.
  • Mama Bear: The Victim of the Week in "Cotton Changeling" is full prepared to stab Ginko to protect her children. Too bad she was protecting a parasitic mushi who was responsible for the death of her actual child...
  • Mayfly-December Romance: It does not appear to be a Mayfly-December Romance at first, however Ginko quickly deduces that the girl, Saho has lived for hundreds of years thanks in part to the landscaper who loves her and his ancestors.
  • Mind Screw: Not a very severe case, but there is some — as to be expected of a series that blends psychological, fantasy and slice-of-life themes together.
  • Monster Protection Racket: It turns out that Ginko was dragged into a couple of these as a child — some mushi masters would take him in (knowing that mushi tend to gather around him and cause trouble) so they could increase their business.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Guess who.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Nui in "One-Eyed Fish" uses weak mushi in place of lamps. Sui in "Light of the Eyelid" uses the light of the lifestream to see by in the dark storage shed she's confined in.
    • "Pickers of Empty Cocoons" shows a mushi that inhabits enclosed spaces in areas close to the lifestream, mostly silkworm cocoons, linking them together through a labyrinthine network of extra dimensional silk tunnels. Anything that's enclosed with them gets carried along through the tunnels, a characteristic which the mushishi take advantage of by sealing the mushi into a specialized pair of cocoons which can then be used as a sort of pre-modern email.
  • Mystery of the Week: Mushi-based.
  • Mystical White Hair: Quite a few people.
    • First off, of course, there's Ginko, whose white hair is just one of the signs that indicate his status as a being who attracts mushi. In fact, coming into contact with one as a child is what gave him the white hair in the first place. His mentor, Nui, also had white hair.
    • The girl Fuki from the chapter "String From The Sky" also has white hair, as an indication that she can see mushi - she's later kidnapped by one and very nearly drawn into the mushi world. She doesn't have white hair in the anime adaptation, though, so there's no reason given for why she can see them.
    • Finally, in the manga's final chapter Ginko meets a spirit of the mountain born as a human girl, who has white hair as an indication she was marked by ancient mushi at birth.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero/I Did What I Had to Do: It's up to the viewer to decide which of these applies to Yahagi in "Journey to the Field of Fire." Ginko is 100% correct that burning the mountainside wouldn't get rid of the mushi, but there is nothing but his own confidence to suggest that he could have come up with the correct solution in time to avoid all of the vegetation in the area being poisoned (including the rice fields, which would have caused a localized famine). Worse, instead of thinking clearly, he's so upset that he berates the villagers in an insulting way, which predictably does not make them want to listen to him.
    On the other hand, Yahagi should have been able to recognize - as Ginko does - that burning a mushi which emerged from a volcanic rock would probably at best be unhelpful and at worst could be catastrophic. Whether burning the mountain was the best option or not, it is colossally stupid of her not to admit right away that she'd swallowed one of the hidene that resulted from the fires, and her overconfidence in her ability to deal with the hidene mushi despite their unusually large numbers results in several villagers dying from exposure to them. If she'd swallowed her pride and asked for Ginko's help, they probably would have worked out that the larval "weed" form could be killed by the false hidene fire sooner.
    Still, she wasn't wrong to point out to Ginko that the hidene were more manageable than the previously unknown larval stage that they'd burned, and if the villagers had been more diligent about listening to her warnings, no one but herself would have been harmed.
  • The Obi-Wan: Quite a few characters. Saishu to Sane in "The Heavy Seed", Mujika to Kodama in "The Sleeping Mountain", Jii-sama to the twins Aya and Ito in "Pickers Of Empty Cocoons." And in his childhood, Ginko himself was mentored by a woman named Nui, in "One-Eyed Fish."
  • Oh, Crap: A dramatic example in "Pickers Of Empty Cocoons", when Ito wakes up to see that the mushi capable of making people disappear is right in front of her.
  • One Myth to Explain Them All: Ginko says that most supernatural phenomena, like ghosts, are actually mushi.
  • Only Six Faces: Despite Ginko's unique appearance, the series (especially the manga) suffers heavily from this. It's even more apparent with the darker-skinned characters, who will always have one person, male or female, with the same facial features and short haircut.
    • All the younger male characters bear a striking resemblance to each other, to say the least.
    • Perhaps this serves a purpose to the anthology: The people are not as important as the events that happened to them. Notice how very few of them reoccur throughout the series.
  • Our Souls Are Different: A boy from a mushishi family couldn't see mushi and underwent a process that replaced his soul with one, making him "the can" in order to help the girl who's Sealed Evil in a Can. As an adult he's usually The Stoic, but occasionally the mushi-soul leaves and he becomes The Spock.
    • A woman who can pull the life-force from living things eventually becomes overwhelmed by it and her soul essentially separates from her body, becoming an angel-like being only her son can see.
    • Our Zombies Are Different: They're harmless, used as a way for a physically weak species of Mushi to migrate, and mostly sit in the sun all day photosynthesizing.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: In "One-Night Bridge," Hana's mother is very much against Zen marrying her daughter, causing the two lovers to decide to elope. It... doesn't go well.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Ginko's haircut covers one eye. Or rather, the empty socket.
    • After Ginko gives up his glass eye to her, Sui in "Light Of The Eyelid" sports this hairstyle as well.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Most of the events of the Zoku-shou episode "The Wind Raiser" might have been avoided if Ginko had explained to the young sailor why he shouldn't whistle at night, instead of just telling him that "something bad will probably happen." Because of the vague warning, when the young man man slips up and absent-mindedly lets out a whistle after dark, he assumes that nothing's happened and goes right on whistling... leading to a chain of events that isn't resolved until after a good bit of damage has already been done.
  • Real Song Theme Tune:
    • Ally Kerr's "The Sore Feet Song" serves as the anime's opening theme.
    • The tradition is continued in second season with "Shiver" by Lucy Rose.
  • Reality Warper: Certain dream Mushi can make people's dreams come true, making them Reality Warpers with power incontinence. Medication can usually let the person live a normal life just thinking they have prophetic dreams. In a bad case, though, a man blaming himself for not foreseeing his daughter's death goes off his meds and accidentally wipes out his entire village by imagining a plague that turns them to dust.
  • Scenery Porn: Only Six Faces notwithstanding, the backgrounds are breathtakingly beautiful.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The girl-of-the-week in "Drowning in a Sea of Letters" has an especially dangerous mushi sealed in her body; it makes her leg black and prevents her from walking on it. The sealed mushi has been passed from mother to daughter for generations, each host gradually wearing it down by siphoning it a little at a time into scrolls. Previous hosts were all but completely paralyzed.
  • Secret Other Family: One Victim of the Week's husband did this to her and her son. Good thing she can't remember it.
  • Shoot the Dog: Ginko does this a few times.
  • Shown Their Work: Many aspects and objects of rural Japanese life are depicted accurately, and there are a lot of references to traditional folktales as well. It's also obvious to anyone who's ever been to Shirakawa-go that the author has been there too and took careful note of the architecture of the communal farmhouses there. For mycophiles, there's even an accurate representation of a Russula mushroom in "One-Eyed Fish", complete with what happens when you chew on the cap.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Women seem attracted to Ginko for his reliability and helpful, caring nature. In particular Suzu in "Pretense of Spring" likes him because he's good with her little brother Miharu, who also reckons she got lonely without a man around the house.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Subverted. Though the smoke from Ginko's pipe has the effect of warding off the mushi that are attracted to him, it does not contain normal tobacco (or any type of narcotic, for that matter); and he couldn't stop even if he wanted to, lest he be swallowed up by a swarm of mushi.
  • Starfish Aliens: This is what pretty much all of the mushi are.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: The study of mushi is more or less treated as a science. A science that just happens to analyze things that can live in your dreams or eat silence.
  • Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious: Ginko to the mushi.
  • Taken for Granite: Or wood, anyway: A carpenter eats a mushi that lived in an ancient tree, giving him access to the tree's long memory. When he finds the tree again he narrowly escapes being assimilated back into the wood, but it's implied he will eventually become a statue.
  • Tears of Blood: A variant occurs in "Valley of the Welling Tide," in which a woman cries tears of milk just before her mushi-induced death.
  • Time Dissonance: Anyone who takes on the time-POV of a mushi (see "Those who Inhale the Dew" and "Sea Meets Man").
  • The Virus: One of the mushi Ginko encounters has the ability to enter soon-to-be-pregnant women and replace their unborn fetus with a copy of itself, which spawns clones that the fetus' unwitting parents raise to maturity.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: In the Hihamukage special, a particularly powerful mushi strikes during a solar eclipse, drawing other smaller mushi to it and blocking out the sun for far longer than the eclipse should have lasted.
  • Unfamiliar Ceiling: This has happened to Ginko a few times. The story "Valley of the Welling Tide" begins with a man finding him unconscious on a snowy mountain and bringing him back to his village.
  • The Unfavorite: The boy in "The Seat Of The Lightning", whose mother refused to love (or acknowledge) him even after he allows himself to get struck by lightning so their house won't get burned down and later saves her from being struck despite her declarations of being willing to die with him. His mother once tied him to a tree during a thunderstorm to keep the lightning away from her house.
    • The stepmother of the ferryman who can summon bird/wind mushi is more concerned that he can't make money than the fact that he survived his ship sinking.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Ginko has stark white hair and is walking around in Western-style clothes in something that can be described as a feudal Japanese rural area. And no one ever questions this.
    • Not to mention his odd eye colour, odd skin tone (he's not impossibly pale, but more so than any of the other men in the show) and his one missing eye (he has a glass one, which did exist, but glass eyes still tend to be fairly noticeable.) Might have something to do with the fact that he usually introduces himself as a mushishi; people expect him to be a bit odd. Some of the mushi might qualify too, with people surprisingly blasť about, say, an island with people who demonstrably reincarnate every time they die. It's implied that there's far more mythology up and walking around in this world than in a normal Japanese setting — even people who can't see the phenomena first-hand seem to have little trouble believing in it.
    • Biki in "Light of the Eyelid" had Western clothes in the manga (he even had a toy airplane), but he got Japanese clothes in the anime after the artist retconned the setting away from modern times as it was in the original one shot chapter.
      • Word of God has it that the story is set in an imaginary time between the Edo and Meiji eras in which isolationism continued. There are western influences but far fewer than occurred in real life.
  • Vague Age: Because of a combination of the art style, episodic nature, and deliberately vague time period of the story, it's impossible to tell how old Ginko is. In fact, Ginko himself doesn't know how old he is, because the memory of his childhood was destroyed by the mushi that gave him his name. He reckons he was about 10 when he lost his eye and hair color though. While he certainly ages and many years must go by in story (his trench coat frequently changes color in the anime, and sometimes he's wearing a different shirt, not to mention the many times the narration indicates that periods of months or years have passed) he always looks the same. He could be anywhere between 20-50.
    • It should be noted that Ginko looks younger in earlier volumes of the manga than in later ones, but this seems more like Art Evolution than anything.
  • Victim of the Week/Woobie of the Week: Almost every episode has one or two in the form of Ginko's 'client(s)'.
  • Walking the Earth: Ginko is forced to do this due to the amount of mushi he attracts. There are other mushishi who do the same, though not all.
    • The Watari, a wandering tribe who study mushi and aid the mushishi, are also eternal wanderers. Ginko tagged along with them for a while when he was younger, and still meets up with them briefly from time to time.
    • Teru, the woman followed by rain in "Cloudless Sky." If she stays in one place it'll cause floods, sickness, and famine. Fortunately it's starting to weaken.
  • We Are as Mayflies
  • Weirdness Magnet: It's not too uncommon for people, such as Ginko and Nui, to be born with the tendency to attract mushi, which naturally brings a lot of oddity to their lives - if not outright danger. The best way to keep it under control is to keep moving and smoke a lot of mushi-tobacco.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: On two separate occasions Ginko tells a village mushishi that they should evacuate their people as a way of dealing with a crisis. Both times the mushishi in question rightly point out that the village will starve if they abandon their crops. Beyond this practical consideration, Ginko fails to understand the emotional attachment the villagers have to their land, which while an understandable kind of Values Dissonance between a perpetual wanderer and settled agriculturalists, doesn't win him any points. Especially after he insults the villagers from "Journey to the Field of Fire".
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Certain mushi can make you immortal — at a price.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Apart from Ginko, most other mushishi are shown to prefer killing mushi. Even Ginko will kill a mushi if it is endangering someone's life, but he prefers not to.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: The mushi in "Where Sea Meets Man" has the opposite effect; a woman lost within it for three years thinks only three days have passed, and when Ginko and the woman's husband spend an hour or two under the mushi's influence, they're missing from the real world for a month.
    • Played with in "The Pickers of Empty Cocoons". The missing sister has been gone for about ten years, but hasn't aged at all; however it's not known how long the time she perceived was.
    • Similarly, victims of a shadow-mushi can trade places if they're touched by another person's shadow. No-one knows how long Mikage was trapped, and Akane returned unaged after many decades.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: It's possible for something or someone to become a Nature Spirit by killing one and eating its flesh. After hearing that this is the only way that Mujika can get rid of his Flying Dutchman status and stay with her, his lover Saku goes out to kill the resident mountain boar god to do just that - getting killed in the process.
    • Ginko almost did this as a kid when he found an egg which was the new mountain-master. He briefly considered taking that power for himself, then accidentally dropped it. Fortunately the mushi took it back and found a new master. Unfortunately for Ginko, the man he was staying with wasn't pleased with what had almost transpired and told him to leave.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Nui. It's also very, very likely that Ginko doesn't have much longer before he's gone as well.

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alternative title(s): Mushishi; Mushishi
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