I can think of a ton of series that uses time loops for the focus of their episodes– Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Endless Eight arc, the rewinding town arc in D.Gray-man [miss this series a lot], the Nue arc of Mononoke and even in the oddball comedy Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Last but not least is one of the best ones of the decade, Tatami Galaxy as the entire series throws its protagonist into picking different clubs at university level every episode. However, for 2014 there were four episodes that stuck out with me really well: Space Dandy‘s episode 10, Garo‘s episodes 7 and 8 and now this tale of Mushishi.
Normal people living mundane lives is how the man who Ginko meets describes the livelihood around the village. The use of slow fading pictures and no sound effects as time was passing matched with the awesome relaxing soundtrack Mushishi is known for executed the premise of this so effectively. Also loved how episode director Yoichiro Sohtome uses the same piece of music each time that time was gradually moving forward.
As Ginko arrives at a family’s home to seek shelter from the rain it unravels into an amazing slow start to Kaoru’s entire life: as a child caught between seeing the tenacity of another child disrupt the production of sake up to being mesmerized by his future wife Iku, to having a family of his own and finally with his fated encounter with the cave-like mushi Kairou. I had to keep track of everything that was going on here, because it liked to transition quickly to when he was older and recollecting his happy memories within the cave only to realize what was really going on.
This isn’t the first time a Mushishi episode has opened the door to the ideas of time passing by from the influence of the supernatural: Episode 22 of the first season where Ginko discovers an island that contains a mushi that feeds on the time lived by humans simply establishes an idea of reincarnation. As Ginko arrives at a family’s home to seek shelter from the rain it unravels into a somewhat strange feeling with familiar faces. Ginko opens Kaoru’s eyes with the explanation that he might have at one point encountered a Kairou which was the cause of him having to re-live his peaceful life over and over again.
Regarding this story I found a bit of background information on the cast of this that made my jaw drop, that makes this episode even more amazing than I initially believed– the seiyuu of Kaoru and his wife Iku in real life are actually married! This provided some strong emotions not to mention genuine acting towards the scene where Iku falls off the cliff depicting Kaoru’s desperation in saving the woman he loved.
An aspect of Mushishi that may not outright say it is that there are many times where the previous episodes will paint a bigger picture for the individual characters in future episodes. In more detail for this time-looping episode is the decision he has to make here: repeat time and save the woman he loves or stop traversing into the mushi’s power which will keep his wife dead forever. This reflects the previous episode quite a lot: young Ginko swayed by the mountain lord’s acceptance of finding where he belongs and refusing to accept Suguro’s words to stay just as he was. The correlation to this episode that we are presented with is that Kaoru neglecting Ginko’s warnings and goes ahead at living an unremarkable life displays the selfishness in humans throughout this series but in two distinct ways here: disrespecting a knowledgable traveler (Ginko) by evading his warnings and maintaining a life that he slowly has come to realize that he loves.
From the get-go Ginko’s meeting with Kaoru and the slightly varied dialogue between the two of them throughout this repetition of time illustrated a rather fine point as a whole for this entire episode. It is a line that Ginko says at the very beginning that living a life uninteresting is the best kind of life to live. Seeing what Kaoru went through as time was repeating itself poses a strong question to the viewer. If you can have the means to repeat your life just as Kaoru had done which choice would you choose? Keeping in mind that the underlining theme here in a sense is this idea of immortality.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10