「壷天の星」 (Koten no Hoshi)
“Sea of Otherworldly Stars”
Sometimes, it feels like Mushishi can read my mind.
You may remember that last week we talked about how the mushi-shi must look like a bunch of cons to the common layman. This week we see more of the jaded cynicism that some hold for the whole mushi business. Who can blame them? The idea that your daughter fell down a well and into an alternate dimension is a rather eyebrow-raising idea when simple explanations like kidnapping can suffice. We, as the audience, have followed Ginko around long enough to have full faith in his work, but strangers, who can neither see mushi nor stars in a well, will wisely be suspicious of what exactly this mysterious man is trying to sell. If I was the grumpy patriarch of a Japanese household I would be a bit cynical too about trusting the fate of my family to some white-haired chain smoker.
As is par for Mushishi, the bonds between family (and, in particular, sisters) is treated with a great deal of respect. Despite both the father’s stubborn cynicism and Ginko’s supernatural displays, what ultimately saves Izuho is her connection to her family. The method of rescue is less important than the desire to do so—it’s a them you’ll have seen in Mushishi before. With humans seem to get spirited away quite regularly in the Mushishi world, and this episode may remind you of the first and last of the first season. And it’s also similar to last week and having to ‘clap if you believe’. Mushishi has always been thematically consistent, and I can appreciate that.
It’s interesting to me that the Mushishi world still, in part, runs on faith because it highlights one of the interesting dichotomies in Ginko. In dealing with the mushi Ginko has always employed a kind of anachronistic scientific method, even as he employed his arcane rituals. The mushi-shi as an organisation have amassed huge amounts of knowledge about the mushi, but there is still so much they don’t understand. That may be why so few treat the mushi with open fascination like Ginko, and instead wish only to exterminate. In this world, in this age, the unknown is simply a source of danger. Izuho may still hold some curiosity for the stars in the well, but even she ultimately pulls away. Her father goes all the way to block it off, which just goes to show the general attitude to these things. But even he leaves one small opening, as a concession to his own superstitions. Whatever the philosophy toward the mushi, at their core humans still have a subconscious respect for these mysteries of the universe.
Sea of Otherwordly Stars of course evokes imagery of space, that final, forbidding frontier that humans have yet to master. We recently landed a robot on a comet, but that wasn’t without its hiccups, and private space-travel ambitions have been dampened by worrying accidents. Yet, despite these hardships and dangers, the world beyond our atmosphere still holds a romantic allure for those on the ground. We may no longer be at the height of the Space Age as we were during the Cold War but, like the stars, human curiosity has yet to be dimmed. So shall it hopefully be as well for the world of Mushishi.