I spent a large part of my childhood in the north eastern part of Scotland which, to those who aren't familiar with the area would describe as “the middle of nowhere”. Those who are would likely nod and then call it something much worse. Summers were short and hot, the hills abundant and green and the winters biting and long. Water pipes froze, roads closed, and snow drifts towered over children sledging carelessly into them.
they wander from the warm light of the station into the vast, frozen night
It has a romantic appeal, being snowed in snug and warm beneath a blanket next to a crackling fire, until you actually want to do something productive like eat or travel anywhere. That child-like nostalgia persists however, so whenever a video game or anime does winter, I’m always searching for that ephemeral feeling that only a quiet, snowy vista can elicit.
Just having a good scene set during winter though doesn’t automatically make it a good winter scene - Guts versus Griffith (part two) takes place on a crisp, white morning and it’s understandably evocative, but doesn’t tickle memories of the past. Similarly neither does just setting a scene, or even your entire series, during winter - so Non Non Biyori, WWW.Working!! (the northern one), Noragami and Primsa Illya 3rei all feel frosty but don’t make the grade. And just faking winter snow is cheating, yes I’m looking at you Nagi no Asukara, salt flakes doesn’t count.
So to lead be example, here are six perfect winter scenes in anime.
I’ve been trepidatious about writing about the second series of Mushishi. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because when I write a review of an anime series it puts a mental full stop on it. And of all the series that I’ve watched, Mushishi is the last one I want to do that to.
meddling with the unknown, the unknowable, rarely ends well when the hubris, obstinance or folly of people is involved
It’s difficult to overstate exactly how important the first, and now this second, series is to me. It’s the series that I turn off my phone for. Turn down the lights, turn up the volume until my skin tingles with anticipation and the drawl of Ally Kerr, and now Lucy Rose fills my ears. I clutch pillows close when I watch it and dare not move until each episode is finished, letting out a contented sigh as it does. It’s the series I reach for when under the weather, that I put on during bouts of insomnia, and memories of it often come drifting back to me when I least expect it. I can name nearly every episode from the first series and tell you offhand which ones my favourites are. The story of Ginko, the mushi and everyone in between is a story that I don’t want to end, despite knowing that the upcoming movie marks the end of the manga source material.
Like the creatures themselves, Mushishi came more or less out of nowhere. A critically acclaimed manga by Yuki Urushibara mostly unheard of outside of Japan, and Studio Artland for which this would be one of their first fully produced series outside of some relatively obscure OVAs. For it to be so unspeakably brilliant is at odds with common wisdom; story and sound fuse together to create an astonishingly beautiful vision of Japan. Blossoming with wonder, it is a world that is delightful to be lost within: enraptured by the craftsmanship applied to the smallest detail and ensconced within the gentle auditory landscapes.
the loss of a child, the desire for the wellbeing of a community, the sacrifice of one for many - these are the heart and soul of the series
Comprising twenty six mostly episodic stories, the series follows Ginko: a silver haired nomad and a self-proclaimed Mushishi. Picking up where physicians may fail, he concerns himself with mushi, a primal and fugacious life force that suffuses the world but is often only known through their effects on its inhabitants. Sometimes these can be as innocuous as a living painting within a kimono, other times causing afflictions such as memory or hearing loss, but sporadically, they can affect entire communities whether inadvertently or through the misguided auspices of humans themselves. Regardless, Ginko travels listlessly from case to case, sometimes stumbling across one and other times cajoled by letters which travel through the mysterious mushi roads.