「隠り江」 (Komori e)
On Japan’s Kyuushuu island, in the prefecture of Fukuoka, is a quaint little city called Yanagawa. The main tourist attraction there is a network of canals that still runs through a part of the town, going between the houses and requiring boats to navigate. These canals have earned Yanagawa the nickname ‘Venice of Japan’; just trade in European architecture for Japanese. The setting for this week’s episode of Mushishi is undoubtedly inspired by the canals of Yanagawa, but with more of that greenery that has come to define Mushishi‘s naturalistic beauty. It gives a sense of peaceful tranquility and reminds me very much of Aria, but while Neo-Venezia was a very bright, clean utopia, fantasy Yanagawa is a much more agrarian ideal. The landscape of Mushishi has always been beautiful, but the villages have always been less Arcadia and more dirt farms, so it was quite a treat to see a human habitat rendered so picturesque. Of course, Mushishi is still ultimately about people, and this week is about nursemaid Sumi (voiced by Shimamoto Sumi, a mother) and her charge, Yura (voiced by Koshikawa Shiori, the daughter). Their home serves as a metaphor, a place of obscuring mist, both divided and connected by the canals that make it distinctive.
Humans are social animals, and while Mushishi adds a fantasy flair to it with the Kairogi, we can see that even today humans tend to build communities to form connections with each other. But Mushishi also warns against valuing these established connections to the exclusion of all others. Yura’s bond with Sumi is warm and maternal—and society holds little in esteem higher than motherhood—but that bond turned into dependence and escapism. It’s the same with the Kairogi: like many mushi, they can be useful, but they are double-edged swords. The abuse of mushi has never gone well, and neither does it here. As is common with social withdrawal in real life, the longer you hide the harder it is to emerge later. Mushishi, however, has a optimistic message: like with Yura, if you call out, people will answer. Although each home had the appearance of an island, in truth the village was still a tightly knit community.
Mushishi still paints Yura and Sumi’s relationship to be, ultimately, positive. Without a doubt, Sumi filled an important hole in Yura’s heart (both metaphorical and otherwise) that her dead mother left behind. In a series that has both closely examined and greatly valued the relationship between parent and child, Sumi’s love for Yura is as real as all the other examples Mushishi has shown us over its span, and to take it away still felt cruel. Visiting each other, and even using the Kairogi, is still fine in moderation. What is important is finding the initiative to reach out to others. It’s not easy, for sure. Every person is shrouded in a veil—a mist, if you will—that we need to pierce before we can know each other. Every individual is a secluded cove. That makes the bonds we do forge precious and beautiful.
Full-length images: 36.