「水碧む」 (Mizu Aomu)
I had the great fortune of being able to watch this episode of Mushishi with the weather outside my window being in sync with the weather on my screen. The rain motif was also quite fitting for marking Mushishi‘s return to tragedy after having indulged in the happy ending for some time. Since it has discussed mothers protecting their children for so many episodes, it’s only fair that at some point Mushishi shows them fail. It hurts as much as one might expect.
As last week, on watching this episode I can’t really blame people for being wary of the mushi-shi. They are so often bringers of bad news that nobody really wants to hear. They are storm crows, heralds of ill omen, even if most, like Ginko, are only trying to help (and one must admire Ginko’s stalwart dedication to his patients). I’m sure many would prefer to be left alone to feel good about their swimming ability or their superhuman endurance or their hunting skills, but the mushi-shi just have to come and pop their bubble. Yet it was not just Ginko butting his nose into other people’s business; Yuuta’s mother (Orikasa Fumiko) also knew, deep down, that something was wrong with her son. It was interesting, though, how the focus was less on any specific personal harm to Yuuta and more on ‘fixing’ his problems so he could be accepted with his peers. It’s telling of the communal nature of society that the greatest fear is ostracism. Yet Mushishi reminds us that the most important part to making friends is still that most difficult first step: reaching out with goodwill. Incidentally, Yuuta’s bonding moment also made me feel happy for him, which just made his end hurt just that much more.
Yuuta’s fate was not necessarily surprising, and I don’t think the intent was ever to shock the audience. Azure Waters is reminiscent of stories of selkie and similar mythologies, and those almost always, as a rule, end in tragedy. I suspected what was coming, but I still felt those pangs in my chest. The sight of a mother grieving over their child must be universally heartbreaking, especially after watching her try so hard for him as a widow. Mushishi mixes two of its big themes—motherhood and loss—painfully effectively. Yes, Mushishi has dealt with mushi giving humans fleeting second chances before, and the lesson is always to be glad of opportunities rather than regret them, but on some level one still feels the urge to curse the mushi for their fickleness. What the mushi giveth, the mushi taketh away.
One must keep in mind, though, that both Yuuta’s and his mother’s wish was for Yuuta to fit in, and that was what he did, even in the end. Azure Waters stresses all individuals being part of a greater, unseen system. All water may seem different, but all water is the same. Life, like water, runs in cycles. One may be reminded, especially, of The Travelling Swamp from season one. The Travelling Swamp was about the end of a cycle, and the mushi leaves the human behind. Azure Waters is about the renew of a cycle, and the human host is taken with the mushi. In both cases, though, we should look at the greater whole, and that is undying. Water, as river, as clouds, or as ocean, is not destroyed; it is transformed. In the rain, or in our hearts, Yuuta lives.