cataloging

Review: Mushi-Shi; Supernatural: the Anime

I've never really been able to appreciate anime--the art style, the types of stories being told, the way in which they're told. Over the years, I've found only a few exceptions to this, with Mushi-Shi probably being the most notable one. It has a beautiful, almost soft visual style, for one thing: gorgeous landscapes, and highly effective soundscapes to match. At times it's like looking at a moving picture book.

However, it's also kind of ... not for the squeamish, as there's a fair bit of body-horror. The standard premise for each episode is that someone has some strange ailment, often visibly affecting their bodies in some way, which turns out to be caused by some species of supernatural 'mushi'. Ginko, the main character, wanders around, village to village, helping to diagnose and cure (or at least alleviate) the problem. Sometimes it's a happy ending, sometimes it's very definitely ... not. But he can usually at least grant an ending of some kind.

The whole thing is usually played more for eeriness rather than outright horror, and there's a fairly mellow vibe throughout despite how horrifying some of the situations are. In some ways it reminds me a lot of the "John the Balladeer" series of stories, only set in nebulously antique Japan instead of 1950s Appalachia, and without all the music. But in both cases the main character spends his life traveling through sparsely-inhabited forest, saving people from inexplicable afflictions of various sorts.

Funimation has the whole series available for free on YouTube, if this sounds interesting--I'd recommend skipping a couple episodes in to get a proper feel for the typical kind of story being told.


Supernatural: the Anime, on the other hand, has that typical anime visual style that I really don't like, but hiatus seems like a good time to finally check it out, since CW has it up for free on YouTube. So, let's look at episode 1, "The Alter Ego".

The dubbing is distinctly out of sync at points, but it's interesting to see how "Skin" is chopped down to fit a half hour. We jump in without any sort of backstory for the brothers aside from "hey, we gotta find dad (for some reason)". Sam's connection with Becky and Zach is removed entirely, and Dean's the one pushing to pursue the case. They're also definitely playing up the horndog aspect of s1 Dean, and chopping out everything that isn't a) action or b) awkward expository dialog. The shapeshifter gets crazy acrobatics added to his skill set, and Sam loses several competence points in the process. As an example of what I mean about them amping up the action, the final fight with the shapeshifter happens in the car while they're driving on the highway, and at one point Sam just runs out into the middle of the road, gun in hand. No point to it, aside from looking cool, I guess. Also, Dean dangles over a pit or something at one point and has to Tarzan-swing to safety, because why not.

Also--in adition to that typical anime visual style, they seem to be cranking up the gore and just general grossness, so this is definitely not something to watch if you're feeling a bit queasy. Honestly, I'd take the original peeling skin and slime over the animated transformation sequence.

Overall I was left feeling kind of confused by a very abrupt ending. There's almost no real character interaction or development, and nothing to indicate the depth of the bond between Sam and Dean. Honestly, I kind of doubt this would be enough to get me to watch the rest of the series if I didn't have an external reason to do so.

But if that hasn't spoiled it for you, here's the episode itself. Feel free to point out all the merits of writing/art that i've completely overlooked!
Okay, I watched the episode twice and I still don't understand what happened--when Dean goes to Katherine's apartment, she's the shifter--then the cops come in and Dean is tied up--when did that happen? Then Dean in SWAT gear finds Sam...cut to them in the car and Sam is the shifter??? When did that happen?

I know our show has some glitchy writing, but I can't recall anything this unfollowable...
Oh thank goodness it wasn't just me somehow missing the obvious.

I'm kind of interested to see if the original episodes fare better in the writing than the chopped-down remixes of episodes from SPN.
Re: Mushi-shi
I was delighted to discover that there's a second season now available on Amazon Prime, though apparently it's not available for general purchase (for some reason).