Ancient trees are somewhat of a popular culture among Japanese stories. According to legends, kodama are considered to be gods [kami] that dwell inside of trees. Many believed that kodama never stick to one tree but can travel through forests by clinging from tree to tree. In reference to Japanese animation kodama have been used in numerous Hayao Miyazaki’s films most notably in Princess Mononoke. What makes this story of Zoku Shou especially engaging is how it takes these collections of legends and builds up from it using atmosphere, the conventional and sometimes awe-inspiring music of Japan and wraps it around a simple story about a village making sacrifices for one another.
Sentimental would probably be the best way to describe this episode. The basis for a lot of Mushishi episodes even back in season 1 has been about Shinto– an action-centered religion that focuses on ceremonial practices based on one principal idea: to be diligent. More over the fact that its a religion based around searching for connections between the present time and the past in order to secure a strong future. Much like many episodes that Mushishi has had this one developed strongly with its episodic cast through its intertwining flashbacks around the giant tree and the fruit that Kanta eats from it.
The story of Tokoshie no Ki here with Kanta’s curiosity to travel across unknown lands brings this season 2 to a close quite nicely. What’s great about these episodes are how individual they are. It certainly did not feel like Mushishi was ending here but rather delivers exceptionally strong based on how much we’ve seen of this world. This episode might recall some relevance to season 1’s Kago no Naka episode. Setsu being unable to get out of the forest which turns out that he has a familiar family connection with the bamboo tree. Here though it’s Kanta’s curiosity of the world that pushes him even further into the tree to the point of disabling his legs literally! Love the scene where Kanta recollects how he knows of Ginko when he was a boy and the elderly mushishi when he was but a child as well. Its the sudden flashback that gives off the mushi’s influence by the tree that gets this story going with a bang.
While both season 1’s episode 14 and this final episode shows a tree getting cut down they both exploit shinto in different ways. Kanta getting his feet stuck while becoming one with the tree was a strong visual indicator that he really has been a part of this tree all along. Not to mention all the memories he’s collected: 550 years worth!
The flashback with Isaza and young Ginko was awesome because we get to see how long this Satorigi has also been around for. The earthquake the elderly man mentions from 550 years ago where the first bloom occurred depicts the sacrificial aspect of this tale really well. The villagers healing it, then trying to cut it down and finally to the point of praising it as a god could not have emphasized this better! I like how this episode uses the various villagers as storytellers about what the tree has caused within their village over time. The glowing sap after the tree had been cut down once again reintroduces the Light Vein we’ve seen in past episodes and the strength it lends to its hosts. Which in this case is Kanta.
Ginko offers medicine to the ailing Kanta and I like how he sends out messages in hopes for a cure really settled down the atmosphere here. A calm before the storm. In order to save the villagers from a coming threat he has them escape from an earthquake. That was an incredibly well-animated scene during that earthquake! It’s not until the end here that Tokoshie no Ki delivers a really strong message! And that’s this idea of humans bonding together with mushi to learn from each other on how to live. A theme that seems to flow throughout every episode of Mushishi: survival.
At last! We are finally at the end of Zoku Shou. I’m actually quite sad this series has ended and I hope that there will be more in the future. Good thing that there will be an animated feature film coming this summer to adapt the final two chapters of the manga. I can’t even imagine what the budget will look like for that!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10