Mushishi Vol. 1 (Del Rey)


One man's struggle to heal a threat as old as time.



240 pgs B&W; $12.95

(W / A: Yuki Urushibara)



Yuki Urushibara won a Kodansha Manga Award for her fascinating series Mushishi, the tale of a young man named Ginko gifted with the knowledge to wrangle destructive primordial spirits. The historical fantasy series proved a hit in Japan, spawning a 26-episode animated series (due in US stores later this year from Funimation) and a live action movie directed by none other than Katsuhiro Otomo, the famed writer/director of Akira. Ginko's journey takes him from village to village encountering these spirits (called mushi) that alter reality, eat sound, manifest dreams, disfigure, blind, and appear as living swamps. Each spirit presents its own intriguing challenge, which Urushibara handles touchingly.


The cover to Mushishi Vol. 1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Whether or not Ginko solves most of the mushi problems is not really the point of this series, but rather to illuminate unique human qualities for readers. In a story like this, tragedy is inevitable, but through it readers may find development both in Ginko and themselves.


Despite the occasional disproportioned limb, Urushibara creates a pleasing number of well-toned panels. Cross-hatching seems to be the favored technique in this first installment. Characters are expressive and their surroundings complementary. Scenes are not hyper-detailed to absurdity, and Urushibara captures action well with a mixture of frenetic gestures and careful angling.


The tones are rich, but not overpowering and the actual spirits are rendered creepily enough to keep readers turning pages. Some exceptional moments include the dramatic healing of the horned boy, as well as the dream sequences surrounding the man who brings destruction to his village.


With such an initial intriguing story idea, one wonders what Urushibara has planned for the entirety of the series, which is still being serialized in Kodansha's Afternoon magazine. Surely Ginko will face challenges other than those he can comfortably navigate, and if Urushibara has the sense to pull these mushi into some larger framework, she may just manage to keep readers buying these translations. | James Nokes

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