It took a lot of thinking to come to the conclusions I reached about Neon Genesis Evangelion. As I mentioned, I first viewed the anime with very unprepared eyes, and initially I was extremely frustrated and confused. I kept asking myself questions like, “Why was all this crazy crap happening? Why did the story just suddenly stop at the end? What does all this even mean?” I managed to push on and do some research and after reading some reviews, talking to some friends, and digging a little, I think I managed to get a grip on what I can take away from Evangelion. I’m no longer confused because I accepted that it’s not about the plot.
While I musing on the idea of the plot taking a back seat, I realized that I had already seen and appreciated another anime that doesn’t hold its plot front and center. I’d seen it a few years back and it had never occurred to me that the very thing that bothered me about Evangelion is what made me fall in love with this other anime- Mushi-Shi.
Y’see, Mushi-Shi is the story of Genko, a roving Mushi master (spirit bug exterminator) who goes from town to town helping people with the various Mushi (spirit bugs) that plague them. On the surface, this sounds like a mediocre anime at best. What’s the draw? It’s a guy killing bugs; what could possible be so enthralling about seeing a new kind of spirit cockroach torture a village? The best answer I can give is that it’s not about the bug-killing. Sure, a few Mushi make interesting subjects due to the unique nature of their plague, but on the whole, this is not a show to watch for the action value. It’s predictable; Genko always manages to get things under control after the reluctant townsfolk let him treat the issue. I could probably write an episode in an afternoon if I tried. What makes it stand out is the fabulous mix between a stellar soundtrack and beautiful visual effects.
Mushi-Shi is a show devoted to the experience of a young Japan. It’s the story of Genko, yes, but it’s really about a world of spirits and life, when Japan was vibrant and virile and the landscape was thick with flora and fauna. It’s a show about creating a world where the viewer can experience beauty, both in sight and sound. The plot is just an opportunity for Genko to travel across this stunning landscape while soothing melodies play in the background.
I loved Mushi-Shi, but it took me a while to understand why. I was intrigued by the characters, but the main draw was the atmosphere. I loved the beauty and majesty of the world the show created and I wanted to return to that world whenever I could. It created a special place in my mind unlike anything else and that alone set it apart.
I say all that to say that I’ve learned something from these two anime: sometimes, the plot isn’t the center of things, and that’s ok.
More to come! Stay tuned!