「光の緒」 (Hikari no O)
“Thread of Light”
I’ve wondered, for a while now, exactly how common knowledge of the mushi is in Mushishi. Although the mushi-shi seem to have a wealth of research on the subject, the layman seem to have no understanding of the hidden forces that make their world work. The ones who do seem to be the exception rather than the rule. That’s understandable, I suppose, what with only select few people being able to even see the mushi. I won’t be surprised if, to some, the mushi-shi look awfully like charlatans, asking simple villagers to believe that the solution to mysterious illnesses are arbitrary rituals that somehow drive away invisible creatures. It’s quite impressive that the modern human can ‘believe’ in things like microbes causing diseases. I suppose that’s why vaccine hysteria and Flat Earthers and climate change denial are still things; for the layman, science is still in part a matter of faith.
It is notable that, at least in this episode, faith is something that is rewarded. Gen believes that his mother watches over him in the form of an angel, and that faith is entirely vindicated. In contrast, Gen’s father distrusts Gen’s mother, which ends up causing him more problems in the long run. Note, also, how it is often in Mushishi that children are able to see mushi, but adults cannot. This is not an uncommon theme in fictions. Children can see faeries. Children can fly if they believe. Children are open to magic and wonder, while adults have lost imagination. At the same time, children seem to have an innocence that protects them from duplicity. Remember the Emperor’s New Clothes? Funnily enough, Thread of Light is in some ways an inverse Emperor’s New Clothes stories, in which the robe in question is both splendid and real, even if nobody can see the thread.
While the robe is real, it’s not necessarily literal; like many things in Mushishi, it serves as a metaphor, representing Yui’s dedication to her son. You will remember that last week’s episode was about motherhood; Mushishi Zoku Shou seems to be doing its episode in pairs. Whereas Secluded Cove was about about the dangers of depending too much on that relationship, Thread of Light is about the dangers of wantonly severing it. To paraphrase Ginko, adults make do without it, but infants cannot survive without it. Indeed, when Gen and Yui are reunited, all their problems are resolved. Gen, no longer teased about his absentee mother, makes peace with the other children. Yui, no longer having to work the ether, regains vitality. It feels like a bit too neat of an ending, but Mushishi seemed to have been playing a few too many angles this episode, so perhaps needed something simple to wrap it all up. The message to take home is about the value of that Thread of Light: invisible yet precious, and a rare treasure indeed.