Mushishi is my favorite anime. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably be saying it for years on end. Mushishi captivates again and again with it’s vast array of supernatural phenomena intermixed with tender and emotional character stories. It’s a testament to the writing and imagination people are capable of, and I always feel privileged to have seen this anime. At first, I wanted to do a countdown of the best episodes, but I can do that for ANY anime. Instead, I want to do something a bit more true to the show, and rank the Mushi themselves, regardless of how good their episode was.
Mushi, for those who have yet to see this anime, are ethereal beings that hover on the edge of existence. They can barely be perceived, yet they affect the world in very real ways. The numerous capabilities they have of changing the world and afflicting it with different conditions have given us an outstandingly great list to choose from. Every episode has a new Mushi, and every single one of them would be a privilege to write about. But we’re here to pick the coolest ones. The most interesting, complex, or imaginative of these little suckers to compare and lay out for all to see. I have a tendency to forget certain episodes because they don’t have a continuing storyline, so delving through them again reawakened my appreciation for this anime. Mushishi has delivered more quality stories than any other anime I’ve seen, but before we delve into the fifteen best Mushi, we have one to discuss that is the foundation of all Mushi.
~ Kouki – “The Sake of Light”
Kouki is the most important aspect of the Mushi world, and serves as a great starting point. This isn’t necessarily an incredible Mushi, as it is a necessary one to know in order to understand parts of the Mushi in the actual countdown. Kouki makes multiple appearances in many episodes, and is referenced repeatedly.
Kouki is like the water of life. It’s a liquid based Mushi that serves as the fundamental basis for all other Mushi lifeforms. It’s the very DNA of mushi. Kouki dwells deep underground in the darkness and creates rivers of light called Light Veins. Ever since there was life in this world, these Light Veins have existed beneath the earth. When a Light Vein nears the surface, the land around it is blessed with verdancy.
There are several unique phenomena that occur that have to with the nature of Kouki. There is a Mushi banquet in which unknown Mushi gift a chosen human the opportunity to drink Kouki from a ceremonial glass, thus causing them to join the Mushi world. Kouki attracts other Mushi and is used to draw certain ones out of hiding.
Watahaki presents one of the extremely rare cases where the only method of cure is to actually kill the Mushi. Ginko, the protagonist, avoids this at all costs in every Mushi he encounters, but this particular one is just too dangerous to leave alone. Watakahi is a green spore like Mushi that infects pregnant women. After doing so, it kills the baby in it’s womb and takes it’s place. When the woman gives birth, the Watahaki comes out as a shapeless green mass. It then quickly escapes by flowing up to the ceiling or escaping outside to bury itself under the house.
After a year, the Watahaki will create a fungus that behaves and looks like the baby the mother was supposed to have and leave it for the parents to discover. This baby is called a Hitotake. It will continue this process by creating a new kid every year and sending them up to the parents to discover yet again. These Hitotake kids only purpose is to gather nutrients for the Watahaki. The Hitotake are connected to the central Watahaki which gives them a symbiotic mind. This allows the kids to learn across multiple perspectives, giving them rapid mental development. Thanks to their connections, they can even communicate telepathically. They possess little emotion, and their lifespan lasts about three years. When they die naturally, they release more spores that multiply, and increase the breadth of the Watahaki under the house.
The only cure is to kill the Hitotake before they die naturally, halting it’s ability to reproduce. This is seen as a difficult action to carry out because the Hitotake resemble children, and will act like they want to live in order to manipulate human emotions. Unfortunately, this is still the only recourse, and the Hitotake children will even result to trying to murder those who attempt to harm them.
14. Hihami & Tsukihami – “The Sun and Moon Devourers”
Hihami, the sun devouring Mushi, live underground for most of their lives because the sunlight kills it. However, during an eclipse, the Hihami will split into a core and a root. The root, which is still unable to be in sunlight, stays in the ground, and the core, which feeds off of sunlight, rises to the sky. The core calls smaller Mushi towards it, causing millions of them to rise into the sky. This creates a shadow that acts as a permanent eclipse for those living underneath it, and shields the root from the sunlight.
In order to get rid of the Hihami’s shadow, one must find the root and expose it to the sun. The root is typically noted as an area where flowers will bloom with a soft glow, no matter the season. If the root is moved, the shadow will follow to keep the root under it’s reach, so this may mean the necessity of outrunning the speed at which the shadow moves until it finally hits the edge of the eclipse and enters the sunlight. Hihami cores are crystalline and a piece of them are able to help humans in increasing their vitality, as well.
Where the root lies
Tsukihami are a subspecies of Hihami, called Moon Devourer Mushi. They use a process similar to the Hihami in order to create fake lunar eclipses. When a pregnant woman’s womb is exposed to this fake eclipse, the baby is drained of color. This will cause them to be born with pale skin, ghostly eyes, and white hair. Sunlight will cause burn markings to appear on these pale victims, meaning they have to live inside most of their lives. However, the eclipse that the Hihami causes allows the victims of the Tsukihami to walk outside, safe from harm. These Mushi were used to brilliant effect to show human’s reliance on the sun, and how powerless they are without it. The Tsukihami in turn was used to show that even if you can’t enjoy the light, you should never wish it away from others.
Some Mushi are used by Mushi Masters for some kind of functional purpose. No Mushi is more useful, in this respect, than the Uro. Uro can’t live long outside of enclosed spaces. Because of this, they have the extremely unique ability to create portals that allow them to teleport from one enclosed space to another. Uro are found in a certain type of cocoon called double cocoons. These cocoons are made by two different pupae, and will appear empty to those who can’t see Mushi. Double cocoons are made of two threads, one by each pupae, or Uro in this case. If you make two separate cocoons with each thread then the Uro can warp between the two.
Thanks to this cocoon trick, Mushi Masters have formed a mailing system. By giving Cocoon A to the Mushi Master and keeping Coccon B at a central location, people can visit that place and have the Uro teleport-deliver letters to Mushi Masters around the globe. They can eventually penetrate into other passageways meaning they don’t last forever, and must be replaced every once in a while. Uro are very dangerous, however. If someone closes one into a concealed space, and then re-open that space, the Uro will escape by teleporting, and carry that person with it. If someone gets sucked in, then they’re condemned to roaming in the Uro passage for the rest of their life.
Uro passageways span across the globe. There are an uncountable amount of Uro Caverns which are where multiple passageways intersect creating an increasingly complex maze. Normally traveling with an Uro is the only way to enter a passage, but when Uro infest a tree along a Light Vein, then it causes a weird reaction in the tree. This creates an entrance into the Uro passageway that anybody can walk into. These particular entrances are used as shortcuts to cross the globe in a shorter time. Mushi Masters have used chains laid across this maze-like cave system to guide them. It is said the there is only one a scarce few exits that lead to open space, while the other millions of exits lead to enclosed spaces.
12. Fuki – “The Sake of Decay”
Fuki is the antithesis to Kouki. While Kouki is the essence of all life, Fuki represents death. When Kouki decays, it turns into Fuki, and can be found in water resembling red mud. They smell like fruit wine, but are actually fatally toxic. Fuki isn’t sentient. They are just a phenomenon of decay.
However, if the Fuki is ingested, and enters the bloodstream, it does become sentient. The Fuki will act to slowly take over the body of it’s victim. If the host is a human, a mark that looks like an eye will appear on their palm. This mark has the ability to give off a sweet scent from their hand which attracts animals, and poisons them. The Fuki is passed down through bloodlines lasting generations, and the ability gets stronger for each person it passes through. However, not every blood related descendant gains this ability, and the ones that don’t usually die from the toxicity. As the Fuki continues to take over the body, they will start to pass over to the Mushi world. First the human starts appearing transparent. Then their shadow disappears. Eventually they vanish completely. This isn’t death, but losing their physical form as well as their soul.
The cure of a Fuki infection is to simply drink enough Kouki to combat it and make the Fuki dissipate. The biggest danger comes from the fact that if the mark becomes covered, or hidden from view, then the human becomes in danger of being attacked by wild animals, most particularly, birds. It is also noted that the more the Fuki infects a human, the more indiscriminately they kill animals, and eventually humans, causing this to be one of the few Mushi that can turn people into truly destructive beings.
The Yanowaru is a spore like Mushi that live in Morning Glory flowers. If one smells this flower, the Yanowaru will infest in your nasal cavity. Once this happens, the host’s biological clock will become synced to the Mushi’s. They will only live one day, which causes the human to age the entire span of their life in one day as well, and when the Mushi dies, so does the host. However, this Mushi creates an offspring upon death which resets the clock, causing the human body to de-age back to it’s original age upon contact. This effectively means that the human will never die, and be stuck in this ever-repeating process forever.
It’s said that all living things have roughly the same amount of heart beats, even with their different life spans, which is the concept that this Mushi operates within. The cure is among the most simple of all Mushi. One simply has to tap a sharp object between their eyebrows which will cause the Yanowaru to leave of it’s own accord. The true comprehension of this Mushi comes when you talk with someone who is cured of it. They say that re-adjusting to human time feels scary, and that the very progress of their lives is an inescapable fear.
The Ganpuku was a mere myth until the main character discovered it. It was said that it could improve the eyesight of those who gaze towards it, even curing the blind. The Ganpuku live in this world resembling a bright flower, and if you look at it, it will transform into a black worm-like form and jump into your eye. From there, the host begins a progression of enhanced eyesight.
Stage 1 – Clear vision. Your vision becomes completely cured of any ailments and you see as any healthy human being would.
Stage 2 – Your vision becomes able to penetrate solid objects, allowing you to see through walls.
Stage 3 – The distance and range of your vision increases, reaching further and further beyond fields, mountains, and even oceans.
Stage 4 – The timeframe of your vision widens allowing you to see the past and future of those you look at.
Stage 5 – Your vision starts to become uncontrollable. Your eyelids no longer shield your eyes from what you see, and you start seeing multiple perspectives of things at the same time.
Stage 6 – The final step is the ability to view your own future. The future that this visions sees cannot be changed, and are all destined to happen.
Seeing the future, including their deaths.
When it infests the eyeball, it slowly starts changing it into something that can exist even if the host dies. As such, the final stage of this development is losing it’s dependency on the human. As the human becomes simply another person to the eyeball, this is why their own eyelids and their own future finally become truly transparent. Once it takes over the eyes completely, they’ll literally leave the body leaving the host with no eyes. This Mushi was used in the anime to argue whether seeing everything was better than seeing nothing at all, while presenting valid arguments for both sides.
9. Kairou – “The Looping Tunnel”
Kairou is the source of the phenomenon known as Dejavu. It’s a pitch-dark Mushi shaped like a hollow tube. It lures beasts and animals by exuding a floral scent, and hiding in a tunnel. As the host walks through the Kairou, they warp their prey’s time into a loop, forcing the victim to re-experience their life, up until the point where they encountered the Kairou in the first place, upon which, they will inevitably walk into again, restarting the process.
Once the host starts having senses of Dejavu, it means that they are becoming one with the Kairou. The only way to escape is to be lucky enough to have someone, like a Mushi Master tell them to avoid the tunnel, and they must consciously make that decision once possessing that knowledge.
This Mushi was used to great effect in it’s episode by showing a human who regretted things in his past. While he acted the better man and avoided the tunnel despite wanting to fix past mistakes, he still ultimately repeated his mistake by bringing his wife through the tunnel to heal her injury, causing her to now fall victim to the tragic notion of never living a new day ever again.