The 2005 anime series Mushi Shi,
based on the manga series
of the same name, was one of my favorite animated releases of 2007. It was a hit in Japan
too, and like we do here in the US,
if something is big in Japan
that means a theatrical movie (live action in this case) can't be too
away. The film, simply titled Mushi-Shi:
The Movie was released in 2006 and directed by Japanese animator
Otomo (Akira and Steam Boy). With
such a pedigree I was excited to hear
that the movie was making its way onto a region one DVD thanks to
FUNimation. Unfortunately, while the
anime was great the movie doesn't live up to that standard. To make matters worse, the image on the DVD
has some problems which makes this a disappointing disc.
This movie is a series of short stories strung together, and
as such there's not a lot of plot. The
movie is set in a pre-technological Japan where Mushi exist. Mushi are the most pure creatures that
exist. Not base and vulgar like humans
or animals, Mushi are beings that are in touch with the essence of life. Invisible to normal people, these creatures
are all around us, though humans rarely interact with them. When a Mushi does interact with a human, the
results are usually bad.
One person who is able to see these creatures is Ginko, a
Mushi-Shi or Mushi Master. He travels
the countryside carrying only a wooden box filled with herbs and
potions on his
back and helps people who have been infected with malicious or unwanted
Mushi. Though his travels he encounters
many odd and bizarre situations things that only a Mushi-Shi would be
Some of the odd situations he encounters include a village
where everyone is deaf in one ear, a girl with horns who hears a
that no one else notices, a man trying to catch a rainbow in a large
pot, and a
beautiful woman who is infected with a Mushi and has to write down
keep it from taking her over.
Most, but not all, of the events are retold from the anime
series, but where that was interesting and engaging, this movie just
work well. There are a couple of reasons
for that. The main thing is that the
movie is very confusing. I've seen the
entire anime series and I wasn't sure what was going on in parts. If this is your first encounter with the
world of Mushi, you'd easily get lost and have no clue as to way things
One of the reasons the film is so disjointed is that it cuts
Ginko's background story into the film without letting viewers knowing
what's happening. One scene Ginko is
curing a Mushi infected girl, the next a little boy named Yoki is
an androgynous white-haired woman. By
the time it's revealed that Yoki is really Ginko as a lad, viewers will
pressed to care, especially since the big reveal was done in a low-key
that would be easy to miss.
The film has a slow and deliberate pace, which isn't
necessarily bad, but with a 2 hour + run time it will try the patience
of a lot
of viewers. With Ginko just travelling
from place to place helping people he encounters, the story is much
suited to a periodic comic or weekly TV series.
Here there is no overriding plot.
Though some of the stories are connected at the end, there isn't
mystery or suspense in the film, it just sort of meanders slowly from
to the next.
Viewers have the
choice of the original Japanese soundtrack or an English dub, both in
5.1. While there have been some good
dubs lately, this isn't one of them. The
English actors only did a so-so job in the spots that I checked. They were trying to hard, putting a little
bit too much emotion into the voices in this subtle movie.
I did enjoy the Japanese track, and though it
only made use of the whole soundstage a few times, when it did it was
I have to admit I was really disappointed in the image.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic picture had some
surprising defects, things I wasn't expecting to appear on a film made
2006. First the colors were
boosted. The greens of the lush forests
were too bright and the blacks were way too dark. Contrast
was a problem too with details
obscured in the few night scenes.
There's one scene were a woman is covered in black mud at night
it's hard to see what's going on. Whites
were nearly as bad coming across as too bright in many scenes and
sometimes even blooming.
The image also had a significant about of digital noise,
especially the opening scene of clouds covering a mountain pass. This was distracting in a few scenes. Added to that, the print itself had some
problems. There were a few spots here
and there throughout the films running time.
While I expect that from a movie made 50 years ago, a movie as
this one shouldn't have such defects.
While I hate to say it, this is one of the worst looking DVDs
in a while.
This disc also includes ten minutes worth of deleted scenes,
none of which really would have added much to the film, a five-minute
the premier of the film including a brief interview with the lead
the original trailer.
This film will only appeal to fans of the manga or anime
series. It's just too confusing and slow
for anyone else. Given that the film
isn't really that successful in bringing the manga and anime to life,
the image leaves a lot to be desired, fans should make this one a rental