Mushishi – episode 14

March 9, 2006 on 7:22 pm | In Mushishi | Comments Off on Mushishi – episode 14

“Inside the Cage”

Tremendously sad yet slightly hopeful, “Inside the Cage” is a masterstroke of Mushishi about a selflessness of love that is too strong to survive.

Ginko wanders through a bamboo forest and stumbles upon Kisuke, a man who can not leave. When Ginko accompanies the man, he finds that he, too, is unable to get out. Leaving Kisuke at his house, Ginko eventually makes his way to the next village along and learns of the “monster” that controls the forest.
This sounds suspicious, so Ginko goes back and meets Kisuke’s wife, Setsu. It turns out that she is born from the white bamboo of the forest: the magaridake mushi. This story reveals that mushi have their own will, even when in plant form, and it says a great deal about the nature of love.

Guilt is, as usual, the issue prevalent in this story; this time, it comes from all angles as both Kisuke and Setsu dearly love each other. Kisuke wants to be able to go back to his village, and Setsu has always wanted him to be with her.
With the realisation that going back to the village means losing Setsu, Kisuke resigns himself to not being able to do so; with the realisation that Kisuke misses his village dearly, Setsu decides that she must do something about it.

In the space of twenty four minutes, Mushishi successfully imparts a lot of information about its major characters. Kisuke and Setsu do not get a large amount of dialogue, yet they are among the best drawn of those featured in the series so far. Despite the fact that Setsu comes from the bamboo, and that their daughter emerged from the womb in a bamboo stalk, Kisuke is dedicated to her. Even as Kisuke learns more, his stance does not change.

Unfortunately, society does not know how to deal with these situations. The people of Mushishi are generally amenable to the supernatural, but this case is somewhat different as it directly involves reproduction.
I think that Mushishi is an apt reflection of society, as one person may have a progressive attitude, but one person often simply isn’t enough to affect change in the attitudes of others. It also implies that prejudice is something learned, as the children of the village accepted Setsu when she was a child herself.
The level of support that was shown for Kisuke in his early days in the bamboo forest was enough to keep him going; given his age, it would have been cruel otherwise. As the villagers aged, the visits dwindled until the final “horror” that nobody tried to understand occurred, leaving Kisuke and Setsu abandoned for three years. Love sustained Kisuke and Setsu, but they always felt that they lacked something.

Therefore the issue of this episode isn’t the failing of a supernatural entity, but rather the failure of “civilised” society to welcome anyone who seems different in the slightest. It was the village that caused the tragic outcome of this episode.

The best episodes of Mushishi shed light on Ginko himself and, unlike Adashino-sensei, it is clear that mushi are not just a passing interest to him. The epilogue to this episode, in which Ginko returns to see the outcome, is what allows this show to shine as an episodic series; these episodes are excellent in their self-content, to a level that surpasses even Master Keaton.

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