Manga author: Yuki Urushibara
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural
First complete run: 2005-2006
Regular episodes: 26
Some anime are primarily plot-driven, focusing less on the individual personalities of their characters and more on the macrocosmic and usually epic events taking place around them. Other shows take little interest in a contiguous plot and instead focus primarily on the personal developments of their main characters. The very best anime generally manage to do both. Mushishi, oddly enough, does neither.
Mushishi takes place in a world which humans cohabit with primordial beings called "mushi." Mushi and humans rarely interact; in fact, mushi are invisible and thus beyond the awareness of most humans. Only specific people who are gifted with a kind of second sight recognize mushi for what they are. Thus, the rare interactions between mushi and humans are treated as psychic or supernatural phenomena, rather than the coexistence of two species. Mushishi's protagonist, Ginko, is a "mushishi," or a traveling seer dedicated to investigating and resolving human drama caused by mushi. Mushishi has no continuous plot at all; besides possibly the first episode, you can watch the show in any order with no loss of meaning. In fact, the 26-episode anime is actually composed of selected volumes from the much larger manga series. The world does not change in the slightest from episode 1 to episode 26. Ginko makes no headway in resolving these supernatural phenomena. And he does not progress as a character in the slightest. Shōnen fans beware: nothing happens in this anime, quite literally.
That said, the show's solid production value makes it a reasonable pleasant experience. The animation is colorful, smooth, and very mild. Mushishi's score only serves to reinforce that sensation. There's very little suspense and minimal conflict; the show's mood never gets tense for very long. The Mushishi experience is like easy listening; it's pleasant, there's just no spice, no excitement. It's a tough anime to hate, since each episode tells a quaint and sufficiently unique story. Ginko, likewise, is a bit dry, but he's a decent investigator and a nice enough guy. Nothing to love, nothing to hate. Just a lingering sense of being underwhelmed.