2009 Movie. Director: Katsuhiro Otomo. 131 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $24.98. Distributor: Funimation.
Steeped in the mythology of nature, mushi are the unseen beings inextricably linked to its life force. And although man is an animal, he is an animal that abandoned nature’s cradle long ago. So, when the two collide, the results can be frightening, disfiguring, and utterly disturbing. Mushi may be essential to nature, but they can inflict harm upon humans. One that not only sees the mushi, but also remedies their power can alone restore balance: the mushi master Ginko.
Based on the popular anime/manga series of the same name – whose lush artistry equally matches the verdant vitality of nature itself – this live-action version is a much-welcomed adaptation. Writer/director Katsuhiro Otomo captures the very being of Ginko’s tale through scenes inundated with the light and dark of Japan’s countryside. Our eyes are removed so far from civilization that you can nearly smell the mud and feel the wind in which the mushi move so freely.
The story line essentially follows the initial volume of the anime series. As Ginko wanders the countryside he encounters those suffering from mushi contact: loss of hearing, the growth of horns on the forehead, etc. As a mushi master, he is the only one that can heal them. For fans, it will be a private joy to watch familiar scenes acted out in the real world. For newcomers, the supernatural effects of the mushi, coupled with the mysticism of nature, should be enough to entice those with a predilection for the fantasy and light horror genres.
The film, however, does assume you know what mushi are. The possibility of newcomers getting lost exists.
At any rate, I enjoyed this film. I wasn’t jumping on the couch like Tom Cruise. But the supernatural essence inherent in nature’s beauty is successfully laid bare in this live-action version. Otaku everywhere should be pleased with the adaptation. More importantly, anime/manga origins removed, I think Otomo has created a film that stands on its own.
My only real quibble pertains to the rendition of Ginko. In the anime he has this wandering coolness illuminated by his perfectly casual white hair and dangling cigarette. And while Joe Odagiri’s acting is flawless, the white wig and albino skin is a bit of an eye sore. Visually this Ginko invokes the ideal, sickly aesthetic of emo kids everywhere!
Check this flick out. It’s definitely worth your time.