While some episodes of Mushishi are mysteries in and of themselves that require extensive unraveling (like episode 3), others are more straightforward stories simply enjoyable for what they are at face value. Episode 10 was one of these. The technical competence of the episode was as enthralling to behold as ever, with gorgeous visual and sound design. The story, at its heart one of a former inkstone artisan returning to her craft, requires little more than the viewer's attention to make sense.
I'm okay with that. One of the things that has always made Mushishi a special piece of media is its blase attitude towards itself. Sometimes it has incredibly nuanced, uplifting, or grim ideas and themes it wants to explore, and just as often it simply wants to tell an unusual tale and leave it at that. It's a series that walks its own path, at its own pace, and welcomes you to travel with it, skip ahead, stay behind, or ignore it entirely. It's just. . .there, and that's fantastic.
|A visual representation of owning up to a mistake.|
Most of the characters in this episode have their actions motivated by needing to take responsibility: Doctor Adashino for leaving his warehouse unsecure and allowing children to contract a deadly mushi related virus, Tagane for making an inkstone that causes people's deaths, even the children for breaking into Adashino's warehouse. Every one of them took an action (passively or not) and has to deal with the consequences, one way or another.
Note that this differs from the idea of redemption. Redemption is being forgiven for some transgression. You did something horrible, and now you have to go do something good to make up for it. Taking responsibility is sort of the alternative. You aren't trying to erase the consequences so much as mitigate and accept them. Adashino doesn't try to just help the other villagers really well; he does everything he can to cure the children - which isn't much, to his dismay, but he still does it.
As seen in the episode (and real life), taking responsibility is incredibly hard. Tagane's dream was to be a craftswoman and she had to destroy her best work - literally, the piece that stood at the pinnacle of her achievements - to make things right. Perhaps more harrowing is the thought that she abandoned her craft entirely for years while trying to find it so she could do so.
|This didn't seem so poignant until I realized she was watching her masterpiece figuratively (and literally) fall to earth.|
While difficult, however, the idea is also depicted as liberating, in a way. Adashino gains a fuller perspective on the dangers of his pastime. Tagane becomes ready to craft again. You could extend it to the children as well; had the girl not confessed to breaking into Adashino's warehouse, she likely wouldn't have survived.
In the end, this is a rather base theme. Fessing up, admitting your mistakes, and accepting what comes of them is hardly a foreign idea to us, nor is the fact that doing so can be monumentally difficult. Still, it's nice to be reminded sometimes that good does come of it, to ourselves and often to others.