Jinbei Tsukishima arrives in Edo to join the Mushi Magistrate in his father's place. The magistrate in question were formed to fight the sudden emergence of collossal insects that terrorize the population and occasionally even ravage the nearby cities, including Edo.
I started watching Mushibugyo more or less on a whim. One of the draws was the often ludicrous hair showcased by some of the characters or the exhaggerated character designs, while the fact that the show limited itself to 26 episodes instead of breaking the three-digit threshold.
Of course, there was also the whole thing with the giant insects.
In some ways, I hoped Mushibugyo would diverge itself a little from shounen titles as I know them, where the whole thing eventually devolves into huge, bombastic fights against one antagonist more dangerous than the other. And for a good while, that's actually what I got. The gigantic insects the Magistrate fight are obviously based on real-life insects, but given a really well done monstrous makeovers.
The second selling point turned out to be that, if anything, Mushibugyo sure doesn't hold back. While most insect assaults are mercifully kept offscreen, their grisly aftermaths are showcased in all their nasty glory. They're there to feed, and with their size, they made for a menacing threat that had to be dealt with by strength, but also the knowledge of how to handle each type. It gave the show a flair of realism in all its ridiculousness that I appreciated.
It's actually rather at odds with the bizarreness of the character designs. Jinbei might look like your average teenage samurai, if you discount the long ponytail hanging out of his samurai topknot, but that doesn't even begin to compare to the utter ridiculous stature of Edo's local hero, Mugai. There is simply no words sufficient to explain how ridiculous that guy looks; from his hilariously gigantic and oddly shaped hair to his even bigger sword. And he's not Edo's resident hero for no reason; his strength, towers above the rest, so he's basically there to be the show's version of Sesshoumaru.
Filling out the remainder of the cast is the other four members of the Mushibugyo fighting unit as well as their mysterious leader, Kuroageha. The other four members consist of Hibachi, a ninja who fight with bombs and throwing knives; Tenma, a young kinda-sorta summoner wizard who fights with two paper dolls; Shungiku, a huge man who fights with at least two swords and is known as "the killer of 99", and lastly, Kotori, the resident captain of the team. Those are the characters you will see the most often.
As far as character introduction and interaction goes, Mushibugyo generally does a serviceable job. It quickly introduces Jinbei as a bit of an idiot. His naivete is actually pretty charming at first, and his enthusiasm does rub off on you after a while, but the show quickly makes it clear that his idiocy is also there to make sure he will faceplant into Haru's enormous chest or do something that embarrasses Hibachi, which will lead to applied violence. He is naturally not immediately accepted by the team, but gradually worms his way into their hearts.
The most interesting among the characters would probably be Shungiku, the "killer of 99". In his introduction episode, we quickly learn that he has a past with a bandit tribe, in which his father served as the acting chief. What makes his character a bit more intriguing is that his rather infamous nickname isn't false advertising, and the actions that lead to it is one that may polarize some of you, regardless of whether you felt it was justified or not.
Artwise, Mushibugyo is a rather... interesting show. While its version of Edo isn't as keenly detailed as in House of Five Leaves, this is another case where the show's sense of realism actually helps it be more appealing. The city might not be particularly riveting, but its design is simple and, I can only assume, somewhat realistic in its depiction of characters, their clothing and their housing. Which is why the main characters with their downright ridiculous designs only serve to stand out even more, despite the whole "fighting kaijuu-sized insects" thing going on. Animation isn't particularly spectacular, but it's not particularly bad either. Most of the gargantuan insects are made in CG, which actually works rather well.
If only they could have kept it at that; Mushibugyo as some feudal National Geographics version of Alien could have been a rather kickass show, but this was apparently not enough. Not far in, the show throws in an antagonist group called the Mushikari, a group dedicated to assassinate Kuroageha, the white-haired princess and the ruling faction of the Mushibugyo Magistrate, a character with poison powers so utterly powerful, she can kill with a mere touch. And then, at around the halfway point, we are introduced to yet another group of antagonists, all of which have insect bodies and powers of their own.
I could have taken the first metamorphosis, as even with that, Mushibugyo still had some intrigue to show for itself. But once the insect men enter the arena, it's only downhill from there. The show, true to its shounen roots, devolves into the kind of one-on-one (or, in some cases, one-on-two) fights that I have long since grown tired of. By this point, anything even resembling sympathy angles among the antagonists are long gone. The insect people are only there to make sure you hate them as much as you can before they get their inetivable takedown.
The worst part is that, in an attempt to stay relevant and interesting, Mushibugyo's last arc introduces a long string of concepts, like secret sources of powers or the whole thing where the insect men once were human, and the revelations, if you even get any, are disappointing to say the least. It's also where the characters gets to hock their mawkish garbage the show has the nerve to call dialogue, and even the amnesia card gets played out to aggravatingly predictable results before the show ends, and through it all, I just sat there, shaking my head and wondered where the fun parts of Mushibugyo headed off to. You know, the parts where the show dealt with an unknown, mindless threat, and Jinbei and his friends weren't necessarily going to get the opportunity to get as many second winds as they needed. The part where Jinbei's verbal outpouring didn't actually smell like diarrhea. The part I actually enjoyed.
I don't really know if I want to recommend this. It's all going to depend on whether you can keep your viewing to thirteen episodes only, because as ominous as the revelation at the end of said episode is, the following ones do not live up to those promises.
On a sliding scale, it starts on four, drops to three by the midway point and just continues on downwards to two by the time it ends. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show is surprisingly gory. Not directly, but the giant insects have a habit of tearing people to SHREDS, and you get to see this after it's happened. The violence is easily on the level of the Inuyasha MANGA, so I can only assume that unlike the Inuyasha anime, Mushibugyo's transfer wasn't nixed in the gore department.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subtitles.
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Mushibugyo © 2013 Seven Arcs Pictures.
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