Oh yes. This is it. This is what storytelling should be about: telling real stories about real people, all with their own problems that need to be overcome. And this show does that time and time again in just one episode.
I still can’t believe how authentic this series is. The thing is, when I first started watching this series, I was still very young: 18, and I hadn’t even been released in the real world yet. Now that I’m much older I can appreciate the attention to detail even more. This episode was about a fishing village, probably in one of the southern parts of Japan, and what the people there generally had to do to come by. The Mushi here symbolize the tragedies that come with such a life, however I love how they’re only telling a part of the picture: they hint at other big problems, and they’re far from the only thing playing in the world: the world doesn’t revolve around them, they’re just part of it. I have seen no other show that does that better than this series.
What’s also wonderful to see is that the creators really seem to try to fit in character-development into these one-episode stories. I loved how that one guy was finally able to set his grudges aside. And it was done in such a natural way: for once there wasn’t some big life choice that he was forced to make “return or else you’ll die!”. In theory, they could have figured something out with the village, heck he just could have given them the pearl while still remaining isolated. It just was the push he needed to set his feelings aside and become part of the village again.
Another way in which anime has gone down, is how its directors have gotten much less freedom. What I mean by that is this: when in 2005, Mushishi was made, Hiroshi Nagahama was perhaps a well known episode director and storyboard artist, but he never directed a full series. Here he got the chance, and BAM, he gave it the best possible adaptation it could have hoped for. I mean, if you look at some of the other series that Artland has worked on: the animation is completely different, much more generic, their pacing is way off. A debuting director managed to do that and they gave him a lot of freedom here.
Fast-forward eight years, and you can see that the established directors can get the freedom they want: Masaaki Yuasa can just push forward his style like he wants. But really, when was the last time that we really saw a first-time director try to push his own style and stamp on a series? My guess is that as anime has matured since the digital age, it has become more consistent. Consistency is boring! Be ambitious! Take risks! Show your personal style! Be intelligent and show authentic stories!