Mushishi :: Live Action Movie AKA Bugmaster

Toronto International Film Festival Screening :: Sept. 13, 2006

YO ALL! I got a chance to watch the First screening of Mushishi the live action movie at the Torotno International Film Festival. It actually turns out this is the VERY FIRST public screening and won't even be released in Japan until this Spring. This is my attempt at a report/review of the movie and it DOES contain MASSIVE SPOILERS. SO you have been warned, otherwise I hope you enjoy it. ^^

I'll start from the beginning but this will be short because the first half of the story comprises the horns story (ep 3) / and most of the flashbacks of Ginko's past (ep12), with little change and is pretty much faithful to the original anime. The only thing is Maho is a girl... but other than that it was fine. I'll comment on a few scenes that differed from the anime.

When Nui is taking care of Yoki, there is a scene in the movie where it looks like Nui tries to abandon Yoki in the village and tries to go off on her own. A man asks Yoki if he is an orphan and would like to work for him.. but Yoki runs after Nui. Secondly, when Nui is being consumed by the Tokoyami, she and Yoki both go into the lake¡¦ and instead of becoming a "shadow figure" and being bathed in the light of the lifestream of mushi... they both kind of float around in the water fully immersed... Also the scene where Yoki loses his eye, Nui just kinda closes one and then pulls out the other.. it¡¯s more a graphic realistic approach as there is blood as he actually physically loses the eye.

The 2nd half of the movie features the story of Tanyuu (ep20) and Kourou (ep7), except the two stories are intertwined. This is also where the story of Mushishi drastically changes from the anime and I'll try my best to recall it accurately.

Ginko is at a gathering with some other mushishi resting from their travels and he gets a tattered up letter from Tanyuu that is urgent. Outside the hut, Kourou is resting outside and when Ginko hears that the man is looking for a rainbow.. he gets interested and they introduce themselves. Needless to say they start traveling together.

They arrive at Tanyuu's place and evidently the girl is very sick and the black mushi that has infected her leg spreads throughout her entire body. I think the old lady said it happened after Tanyuu had heard/records a story from a blind old woman (who claims she is a mushishi) and her deranged husband. Ginko naturally wants to see what the documented story is and they go into the archives to investigate a possible cure.

As Ginko reads the story, the viewer soon realizes it's the story of Ginko's past.. himself as the boy Yoki and Nui + all that crap with the mushi tokoyami and ginko. So wtf does this mean? It means the blind woman IS actually Nui (this is where I became utterly confused) and therefore is still alive WTFBBQ.

At this point Ginko starts recalling his past, but then the room goes crazy and the writing in the scrolls starts melting. The old lady runs off worrying about Tanyuu and Ginko is left alone to deal with the writing. Kourou tries to help, but Ginko says it's his problem and seals the door. Ginko then has this face-off with the writing that masses into a big black blob (the tokoyami) and takes possession of a discarded robe. It starts talking like Nui, and upon close inspection even looks like a demonized Nui.. all black and decaying.

The movie goes back to Tanyuu and the old lady where she tries to heal tanyuu by bleeding her.. some shit about the red blood washing away the black evil or something.. Kourou and the lady drag her to the bath and the lady stabs her in her upper arm which still remains soft (she tried cutting her hand but it was rock hard). Tanyuu bleeds black blood and only when the blood turns red do they try to staunch her bleeding (hah the blood spray in this part rivals horror flicks). By now Tanyuu is better, so I guess it worked.

Tanyuu and the others go back to the room and see Ginko crumpled on the floor. He has all these black marks on his body and tanyuu says that her writing has sealed the dark tokiyami within Ginko. She asks the old lady for her shaman chopsticks and proceeds to "summon out" the writing and slowly rewrites her scrolls. This scene is the basic stabbing with chopsticks and pulling out the writing on the walls and whipping them on paper.

When this is finally all done, Ginko will be okay but obviously isn't "mentally all there". Tanyuu says it's up to Ginko himself to return back fully and her and Kourou decide that visiting all the major lines/locations of the koki would immensely help Ginko's recovery.

Somewhere along here the focus changes to the blind old woman and her husband (deranged man) among a group of children. Nui is holding the hand of one of the boys; calling him Yoki and screaming don't leave me when the boy runs off with his friends.

As Ginko shows very little recovery, there is a scene where he is sleeping. Tanyuu is watching over him and recalls a moment in the past between them. This scene is basically the one in ep 20 at the end where Ginko carries Tanyuu to the karst topographic field and they chat. It can be assumed by the viewer than Ginko's and Tanyuu's relationship is actually closer than is implied in the anime... and it's clear that atleast from Tanyuu point of view that she has some feelings for Ginko.

Anywayz, Kourou decides to take Ginko and embark on a recovery journey... and Ginko slowly (miraculously?) gets better as their journey continues... meeting people... Ginko curing people) and finally Kourou even get's to see his rainbow mushishi (Kouda). But the time comes where they must part ways.. where Kouda emotionally declares that Ginko won't die and that he and Tanyuu will visit him and this isn't a final parting. There is no response from Ginko who continues walking silently.

Ginko comes upon a hut in shambles in a forest, where a deranged old man drags a dead body outside (looks to be a boy) and starts freaking out when he sees Ginko. Ginko is obviously unsettled and investigates what's inside and discovers a large black mass that is a tokoyami. Alarmingly it starts talking and obviously the mass is Nui, having suffered a hell worse than reality... she has become more monster than human. She pleads and begs to Ginko.... saying how he finally came to her and claws at him frantically, finally screaming that there is the mushi Ginko within Ginko??

There is also a flashback at this point where it shows that during the point where Nui is supposed to be consumed by the ginko... but what actually happened, is that in cowardice she decides to keep her life by draining the entire lake. She of course has lost all her eyes and Ginko himself has lost one eye and has had his hair turned white.. but he¡¯s still in the "darkness mode" where all he can see is dark. Nui screams/begs to Yoki for him to stay with her because she has no one.. and pitifully flails around in the muddy lakebed.. as Yoki only slowly walks away in the night forest. End of flashback.

They both continue to struggle until a bright light explodes in Nui (I'm guessing the Ginko mushi) and she just kinda crumples on the ground.

Ginko takes her in his arms and proceeds to a certain area of the woods where he lays her down and claims this is a good enough place. He says he has experience dissipating mushi.. but very little with summoning mushi and sprinkles some water like liquid over Nui. He then silently leaves¡¦

Meanwhile Nui "evaporates" away with little golden things eating away at her. The deranged man who had followed the entire way screams a silent scream.. and the scene changes to Ginko silently walking among among the terrain as he "fades" away. This is where the movie ends.

Character Changes
- Tanyuu obviously has long black hair, typical of all Japanese girls.. but I thought her character was portrayed to be younger and more dependant than her anime counterpart. I dunno how others felt but she feels more mature in the anime... and also her "nobility" seems to be far more emphasized in the movie. Her robes look very high class and the old lady never fails to stress her status in comparison to others (esp Ginko who is only a lowly mushishi). I heard her VA actually played the movie role though?? Is that true?
- Ginko... not many changes.. other than the fact he's a little more emotional than anime Ginko. He's more prone to outburst and easier going. He laughs at jokes and overall is more DUDEish. Less of the stonerface ginko we all love. ^^;; Sadly he's lost the trench coat though and smokes a PIPE for most of the movie ( a wussy looking one too). However, he does smoke the trademark brown cig in the ep 20 flashback.
- Kourou. He was pretty minor in the anime but landed a much larger role here. Less of HIS story is in the movie.. and he may appear older.. but he plays a more involved part. Otherwise nothing else more.

Uh well.. what can I say??? Even being a huge fan of the anime, I found the movie hella confusing with too many questions and obscure explanations. It made very little sense (most likely due to the very heavy use of pure Japanese with little explanation), and honestly if I was casually watching this movie.. I would have probably walked out halfway because it was just such a mess.

Main gripes
- Villifing Nui.. or atleast making her a very pitiful and sad character. I mean I'm open for changes¡¦ but this is just the utter opposite of the self sacrificial and even honorable character of Nui in the anime.. no matter how tragic she is presented as.
- Sorry Joe, but that mole.. bothered me throughout the entire movie.

Surprisingly the mushi effects were alright. I mean we can only reasonably expect the CG of the mushi to look alright. It did look fake in scenes¡¦ but given the supernatural aspect of what they had to represent.. it would be pretty damn hard to make them look very real REAL. The only thing.. it was pretty shaky when and when not the mushi could be visible to people other than Ginko. It seems like sometimes they would be visible to people and others not.

Overall.. as a biased Mushishi fan I'll give the movie a pass for a good attempt. The story was really butchered and altered... and I'm not a nazi like that in any way.. I like to think I'm open to change.... but I thought the changes were drastic to the point of contradictory to its original meaning. Meh... the characters looked okay, but perhaps the backdrop and nature cinematography was my favourite aspect. I love how beautifully the nature setting was shot in Mushishi.

Final verdict:
As a Fan: 6.5/10
As the casual viewer: 4/10