Now that Mushi-shi is up for a Hulu Award (for Best Anime), I want to give it a shameless plug. I admit to being a johnny-come-lately when it comes to recognizing both this show and this genre, but I hope you don't take that to mean that I love it any less.
Early in the panelist voting process, I was concerned about "tainting" the results by encouraging the panel to vote for any particular show, but now I'm confident that we have a panel of strong-minded individuals who each offer their own unique, well-formed perspective when they cast their vote.
Here's what I wrote about this brilliant show when I was first exposed to it a month ago...
The storyline sounds like an excuse for lots of loud battle scenes and frenetic action, but nothing could be further from the quiet magic that fuels this show. I hardly know what to praise first. The whole enterprise is seamlessly devoted to bringing traditional Japanese culture to life. The quiet setting, the delicate artwork, the compelling human stories, and the delightfully imaginative Mushi all work to seduce me every time I tune in.
You might imagine that a "Mushi Master" would be all brawn, but Ginko is a hero of a different color. He usually blows into town, drawn to the local Mushi. He listens thoughtfully to the local human who is having problems, and then offers his advice. His two weapons are his herbal remedies, and his vast knowledge of the ins and outs of the seemingly endless forms of Mushi.
The Mushi are the stars of the show. They are usually presented as some bizarre component of the local ecology, with their own needs for survival. One episode, we might see a type of Mushi that lives in your ear canal and feeds on sounds. Another type might live in the darkness between your two sets of eyelids. A third might be connected with a moving swamp that appears and disappears overnight.
The show is very thoughtful, and always makes an effort to throw out a little food for thought as it moves through the plot of any given episode. The English dubbing is so flawless that I thought it might have been created in the US (but it's not).
In short, this is what anime is all about. If you've never dabbled in these cartoons, this is the one to cut your teeth on.