Mushishi: Post Modern Representation of Otherness in and outside Human Bodies

By Mio Bryce and Amy Plumb.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Recent decades have witnessed a resurgence of fantasies in novels, films as well as manga and anime, reflecting our ambivalent feelings (fear and hope) towards techno–scientific advancements spreading through everyday life. These hybrid fantasies are largely genre–hybrids and incorporate traditional folklore, combining magic and psychic powers with information and biotechnologies. Urushibara Yuki’s manga and anime, Mushishi (1999–2008) introduces a number of invisible, shapeless, or shape–shifting mushi (spirits). They are generally parasitical, attaching to human bodies and things. When they cause suffering to their human hosts, they are often removed by the main protagonist, Mushishi (lit., Mushi Master), Ginko. Mushi, however, are neither intrinsically good nor evil. What do such mushi represent? Do they manifest our anxieties about invisible threats caused by infectious viruses, pollutants, genetic manipulations, biochemical weapons, or radiation? Or do they represent the invasive use of information technology in our everyday life and living spaces? Is cyberspace, with its elusive connectedness, an analogue of the world with mushi? Is the world of Mushishi a metaphor for our environment?
This paper will discuss human’s ambiguous visions of life, bodies, and co–existence through the characterisations of parasitical mushi in Urushibara’s Mushishi in comparison with Miyazaki Hayao’s Kaze no tani no Nausicaä (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind).

Keywords: Urushibara Yuki, Mushishi, Miyazaki Hayao, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Otherness, Fantasy, Manga, Anime

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 11, pp.111-120. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 862.256KB).

Dr. Mio Bryce

Senior Lecturer and Head of Japanese Studies, Faculty of Arts, Department of International Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr. Bryce is a senior lecturer and head of Japanese studies in the Department of International Studies at Macquarie University. She teaches Japanese language, literature, and manga related units. She has a Ph.D in Japanese classical literature, The Tale of Genji, from the University of Sydney. Mio is particularly interested in historical, socio–cultural, and psychological issues depicted in fiction. She is currently involved in interdisciplinary research into youth cultures, with particular focus on manga and anime, in conjunction with the English Department at Macquarie University.

Amy Plumb

Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

I’m a Ph.D candidate at Macquarie University, Australia. My thesis topic is Japanese religion, mythology, and the world of the supernatural in anime and manga (Japanese animations and comics). I’ve always loved classical mythology and when my interest in Japan began, it felt only logical to follow my love of mythology into a new culture. I hope to begin an Asian mythology class at my university in the future. I’m a Japanophile, so I love practically every-thing Japanese. I’m also a cat person.


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