This is review number two hundred and fifty four. This anime is part of the Spring 2013 lineup. It’s one of the leftovers from that season that I want to watch before I watch more Fall anime. The show I’ll be reviewing is Mushibugyou. It’s a twenty six episode anime about cool people killing bugs with their swords. It’s a nice show. Can you believe though that I had trouble writing this review? Apologies if I’m getting a bit rusty after not reviewing for a long time. Now that life has settled down, it’s not long before I dispose of the short shows of the Fall lineup. Anyways, this particular show is awesome but also a bad one. It’s hard to pin down. Let’s just read on.
This anime is set in a fictional Feudal Japan where giant insects are running rampant causing havoc and eating innocent people as the spread fear towards the land. The government has come up with a way to fight off these insects by establishing the Mushibugyou. It’s a group of highly skilled people that specializes in disposing of the bugs. Jinbei Tsukishima is now planning to join this elite group of strong warriors hoping to one day be the best samurai in Japan. Dispatching insects isn’t for everyone though since Mushibugyou recruits doesn’t last more than ten days in the job. Jinbei isn’t deterred as he charges on with sword drawn and his fighting spirit burning.
Taking the Pants Off
I think a lot of people forgot this anime existed. I honestly forgot about it too. The idea of giant bugs eating innocent people sounds like a cool enough premise to grab people’s attention but I guess 2013 had a major year and sadly, some anime are swept under the rug. It happens. There are a lot of shows out there that are barely given the credit it deserves. To be fair though, Mushibugyou isn’t without its share of downsides and the show just fails to really impress. This is a hard show to describe because, honestly, I enjoyed it but I can’t also recommend it people just yet. It’s not really good but it’s also not bad. I’m having a bit of trouble coming up with the right words to truly describe this anime but I guess it boils down to its choice of genre. This show is a shounen anime about people with swords cutting up giant bugs. It’s a pretty straight forward shounen anime but I think it still fails to be an entertaining one. People take shounen for granted. The ability to create a story that balances fight scenes and progressing arcs is actually a complex thing to do. Shounen has so many levels. Character progression, fight technicalities and an overall story to satisfy among other things. Mushibugyou fails to create a balance of these things. Simply put, it’s a subpar shounen anime. I have a few reasons why but I’ll explain that later on. This was the biggest conundrum for me though. I personally like this show because it is entertaining but, at its core, this show was disappointing and it’s lacking of a really good anime experience people get after wasting twenty six episodes on an anime. All the cool techniques the characters yell out is insanely entertaining but this anime is very faulty.
The premise of the anime is pretty simple. The show is set in a fictional Feudal Japan. It’s an era where samurais and ninjas are from and a lot of cool stuff happens. Basically, this world has giant bugs in it. These giant bugs like to eat humans. Imagine a fly caught in a spider’s web squirming to get away. Now imagine an innocent human in that web and the spider munching on its head as the human slowly die in gory detail. That’s pretty much what draws you into Mushibugyou. It’s a shounen anime though so the ultimate appeal is to have these giant bugs get chopped up and beaten by some cool people. In this feudal japan, the government has created a special division called the Mushibugyou. These are people specialized to exterminate the bugs. They are called the City Patrol and they protect the people of Edo from the bugs that attack them. The story is about this young and high spirited boy named Jinbei Tsukishima that wants to join the City Patrol. He is subbing in for his father after he injured his leg and can no longer fight. The group was expecting this amazing swordsman though and not his son so the group was a bit skeptical if he can last at this job. It’s not an easy job and no new recruit last more than ten days at Mushibugyou. Even if his peers are looking down on him, Jinbei is prepared to prove everyone wrong and try to become the best samurai in Japan that the City Patrol can depend on. The flow of the story is pretty straight forward from this point on. In the first half of the show, Jinbei is just trying to prove he has enough awesomeness to hang with the rest of the City Patrol.
The anime has a slow start and there is no overall plot forming anytime soon. The anime focused on establishing the status quo first and it surprisingly took the entire first half of the show. Basically it just wanted you to focus on the people killing the bugs as each episode focuses on Jinbei getting to know some of the important characters of the show. There is no continuity yet. In the first half, each episode is stand alone and it just introduces the various characters. I was personally worried about this because it’s starting to look too simplistic and it’s lacking direction. I think the whole point of the show was just to enjoy the bug battles and nothing more. As the show progresses, more and more characters enter the picture and the status quo is slowly set. You’ll love how Jinbei can be such an endearing idiot in the episodes and how each character has their own story to tell. The characters aren’t simple. Every flashback and monologue of the first half lends to making the characters look good. This was a nice move because the bug battles become more engaging when more characters join the melee. Each episode just gives us an awesome story of some bugs trying to kill people and a bunch of fighters dedicated to fight them. It also focuses on the fun life of the characters as they start to bond together. This was a very slow progression in the show though. Instead of building up a story about the dangers of the bugs and a few backstories on their origins, the show decided to let each episode starting out to be standalone. Its simple fun and it’s nothing serious. It may not appeal to some but I’m sure some people can appreciate the approach of the show. Not building up on the overall story ultimately hurt the anime in the long run though.
Anyways, the first half also introduces the show’s first arc. After the characters are introduced and they start to form a bond, the first sign of a story appears. The City Patrol isn’t actually the first group that dedicates itself to killing bugs. Long ago, a bunch of mercenaries called the Mushikari are also hired to kill bugs. They’re a shady group and it seems that they have some deep hatred for the City Patrol. It’s not a simple anger about having a rivalry in their trade business. One of the City Patrol members is actually a former Mushikari and he was actually once their leader. The Mushikari now hates the City Patrol and the Insect Magistrate for taking one of their respected members. The reason for their hatred is a bit complex but they have one goal in mind that is certain to be the demise of the Mushibugyou. The Mushikari plans to kill the Insect Magistrate, the high ranking official that oversees the Mushibugyou. The City Patrol must now band together and stop the Mushikari before they reach the Insect Magistrate. This is easier said than done when it’s pretty clear that the Mushikari not only outnumbers our heroes but they also outmatch them.
I think if you focus on the fact that show is just simple fun then you won’t mind the poorly constructed story. This anime is really entertaining and every episode has something cool to offer but when you try to dissect the story, it proves to be pretty hollow. The first arc is simply about a group of fighters fighting another group of fighters and really nothing more. The standalone episodes of the first half really hurt the anime. It could’ve easily eased us into the first arc of the anime but it just focused on the characters being cool. The turn out? We have an arc that has little established, fights and match ups that have no hype, nonexistent rivalries and a hazy overall story. I am personally confused why the Mushikari wanted to kill the Insect Magistrate. They created this intricate plan to trap the Insect Magistrate yet we see no reason why they have such a strong motivation to do so. This is also where a lot of plot holes starts to emerge. The show does flashbacks yet it only does so to make characters look good. The overall story is deprived of a good build up using the flashbacks. I was waiting for the flashback that explains why the Mushikari is angry at the City Patrol or maybe a flashback on what makes them so fierce at battles. Some of the Mushikari can control insects and such an important part of the show (humans controlling the giant man-eating bugs) seems to be just a plot device for the show. The show glossed a lot of things over. The fight scenes themselves are also lacking. Characters call out a move but you don’t really understand how a guy can swing a sword and a giant thunderbolt comes out from the ground. Did they develop that technique? How? This is feudal japan where almost everyone is a student of something yet the show seem to just let two characters brawl without keeping in mind the proper progression and storytelling functions that comes with it. At some point, the lack of a good story does become a bother since you can’t enjoy the show as much as you want to. I’m not sure if this was the same for the manga but it’s a very off putting experience for me.
The show does seem to have clarity towards the second half though. It introduces the second arc of the show and focuses solely on this. After the attack of the Mushikari, a lot of things happened and it gave the story a pretty solid foundation. It seems that there is a part of Japan is completely closed off and has been considered infested with a lot of insects. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but let’s just say that the second arc is about the introduction of a new enemy: the insect men. That’s right. These are insects that look like humans and they are able to communicate like one. They still possess the same crave for humans though so they talk to them but they also eat them. The twist is that these are not your ordinary lumbering giants that are attracted to humans. These insect men are more complex. They have their own techniques mastered and the insect attributes they have amplify their techniques. Let’s say one of these insect men mastered some sort of ninjutsu. Now imagine that he is part fly and his fast reflexes makes him a threat but the ninjutsu he uses now makes him three times more deadly. This was the fun part of the second arc. The characters now have to fight a bunch of insect men and hope to stop them before they wipe out all of humanity. For the second arc, three plot points starts to emerge.
The first plot point is about Jinbei journeying from Edo to Kishuu. After the events of the Mushikari attack, Jinbei must now escort the Insect Magistrate from the capital all the way to the most border part of Japan, Kishuu. This is fictional Japan, by the way. The first plot point is mostly about the interesting journey they will undergo. The insect men have apparently crossed the border as well and now they have taken the people of the area hostage. They mean business and they demand a lot from the humans. One of their demands is to stop Jinbei from reaching his destination. I like this plot point a lot because an entire region is literally after Jinbei and they want him dead or else the insect men would be the one to kill them. It captures the darkness of the anime while still staying true to the shounen format it started out with. As Jinbei journeys on, he meets a lot of strong enemies and situations that is not in his favor. Seeing him slash his way out of the situations is a great part of the show though. It still lacked some decent storytelling since most of the episodes are solely focused on the crazy situation Jinbei gets caught in but it does have some pretty insane episodes to deliver.
The second plot point is about the insect men themselves. The anime didn’t explain much about the background of the anime but the appearance of the insect men seems to give the story direction. The insect men all came from outside the border of Kishuu and they seem to want to push forward. This is where the story of the anime was truly lacking because a lot of questions about the insect men aren’t covered by the show. How did they become insect men? Why do they hate humans? How did they obtain supernatural powers like gathering energy from their hands and blasting people away? What lies beyond Kishuu? There are a lot more questions but I don’t want to spoil anything more. The second plot point basically gives the anime a chance to have a story. The appearance of the insect men raises up questions that I think the show is planning to answer later on. It certainly becomes more interesting when you discover the origin of all the giant bugs and it opens up new arcs for the show. This second plot point is pretty small though. When you realize that the show just wants to be cool, the whole thing surrounding the show doesn’t mean much at all. The show does have bits and pieces of an overall story spread all over and the second plot point is one of those.
The third plot point is about Jinbei and the Insect Magistrate. This is probably the only thing in the show that feels like an actual story. Jinbei is this dumb kid with an honest personality and this has attracted the Insect Magistrate that has closed her heart for a long time now. She sees people as nothing more than two faced liars that only function for selfish reasons. The appearance of a guy that has pure intentions like Jinbei is something the Insect Magistrate has never considered and she has since tried to get closer to the guy. This was a very wonderful plot point. The setup is pretty simple yet adorable at the same time. The two characters personality goes nicely together and the sequence of events that brings them together is really cute. This plot point also tied the show together. The various subplots and the two main plot points that appear in the second arc become cohesive as this third plot point starts building up. The story of two people suddenly growing fond of each other apparently holds the entire anime together. It’s a bit hard to describe properly with the show being lacking and all but the initial climax of this particular plot point is actually the highlight of the entire show.
This show is very faulty but I think it just wants to be simple and cool. There’s no harm in that. While I don’t like how it’s full of plot holes, pacing problems and pretty much lacking an overall story, I still love how the show can get insane at times. The inconsistencies are funny like how the main characters don’t die when hit by an ultimate move yet a side character dies instantly. I love how the barely explained moves are so awesome that every time it happens, you can’t help but cheer at the characters. It’s a shallow anime but I think the shounen elements it possesses are still entertaining enough to watch till the end. Is it something I can recommend? Hell no. This show just doesn’t cut it. Shounen is a dime a dozen so you don’t need something as unfulfilling as Mushibugyou to fill your shounen needs. One Piece has honestly a far better structure than this show. It can hype a fight, build a rivalry and make the audience care for side characters like Bon Clay. Mushibugyou lacks that. It’s incomplete and the negatives just outweigh the positives. As long as you like cool stuff that isn’t overly complicated then you’ll enjoy Mushibugyou. I do think that the twenty six episode format was just too small for the entire story of the show. I’m guessing the actual bulk of information regarding the anime was cut so it can focus on the cool stuff. Or maybe the manga itself is just as shallow as the anime story wise. I’m not sure. I don’t read manga. I do hope there’s another season though. I heard the manga was already over so there’s no reason not to finish the story. The second arc proves there’s still a good chance for the anime to create something amazing story wise and I’m hopeful such a thing does happen.
The characters are pretty incredible. This was one of the things the anime got superbly right. Every character is interesting in their own right and the shounen elements worked great for these characters. The main character is Jinbei. He is the typical shounen character that charges head on against super villains with nothing but his sword and his undying passion. He has this overly heroic personality that is a bit grating but it makes him look cool during some moments of the anime. He’s the type of character that you’ll either love or hate though. He has this endearing never give up attitude and an adorable dumb personality that presents his honest feelings but he is also very annoying. He has a loud personality and he can’t read tension. He would misinterpret a lot of things and he often loves to talk that he won’t let anyone speak. He’s a well-rounded character though and I do appreciate that. His best quality is how he doesn’t back down at every fight. Every showdown he is in is probably the best ones in the show because he can take a hit and he doesn’t care if he’s a LVL 10 and his opponent is well above LVL 50. He’ll scratch and claw his way to a win. This is why I can’t hate much on the anime. Even though it lacks proper build up, Jinbei’s fights are very fun to watch. He’s the most inexperienced among the City Patrol but he’ll jump in a fight even if he knows he can’t win. He is bound by his duties and his chivalrous attitude that wins him a lot of fights.
The rest of the cast is pretty great as well. Each character has a story to tell and they all have a unique personality to make each interaction in the show engaging. Shounen anime should always have great characters and this show stayed true to that one important element. The City Patrol characters are interesting. There is Hibachi, the only female in the group. She trained in a ninja village and specializes in explosions. Her lineage has experienced decline after the government simply didn’t need any ninjas anymore but she wanted to make her grandfather proud and decided to fight giant bugs using her village’s special techniques. She is a really cute tsundere and I love how the show gives us fan service whenever she fights. Another character is Shungiku Koikawa. He used to be a killer and he has an interesting back story where he went on a rampage after his mother died. In that spree alone, he disposed of 99 people before being told that his mother’s killer is a member of the Mushikari. He has since been labeled as a criminal and has the title “Killer of 99” for all the people he killed in one single moment. Shungiku is an interesting character. He acts cold as if he doesn’t care but he also know that he has to live on knowing that he killed so many using his hands. He now kills bugs using his slashing techniques in hopes that he can do some good for a change. Another character is Tenma Ichinotani. He is the youngest in the group and he is an onmyouji. They’re like a shaman that knows magic and can summon familiars. He summons two familiars during fights that are contained in two paper dolls and they slap the lights out of the bugs. Tenma is an interesting character though because he is scared of bugs themselves and is usually a scaredy cat during fights. Most of his fights often involve an internal struggle to man up and beat his fears then beating up his opponents.
There are a lot more characters but let’s not draw this review out even more. The side characters are pretty decent. They have a specific role in an arc and they did their best to improve every moment of it. Most of them are just added for comedic purposes though and I’m guessing they’ll be used in more important roles in more arcs to come. There are recurring characters that are as important as the main characters but they have yet to actual be important in the story. Some characters die fighting though and I love those characters a lot. These characters have limited roles but the show has a nice way of making them endearing and it’s a nice approach because seeing them die does cause a reaction. They often die in spectacular manner as well and also a bit heroic to play off the shounen appeal of the show. I am a bit bummed though that main characters can survive a super move by an enemy but side characters die almost instantly. I like it but it’s that stupid kind of imbalance that I really hate about the show. It’s not like, let’s say, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure where Jojo often loses an arm or two during battles much like any other side character. The show sticks to being insane that it’s sacrificing consistencies. Anyways, the side characters do a lot to the show. From fan service to comedic scenarios, they give the show a much needed depth.
The villains are one dimensional. This is something the anime also fails at in terms of being a good shounen show. The villains just take the role of being the one a character beats up. It’s often a shame that fights are short and there are a lot of villains to showcase. Most of them don’t even do anything except be fodder from when a character goes super insane. A lot of Mushikari members are role-less bastards that ends up dying before they can even draw their sword out. They are defined by their special moves and weapons. That’s basically it. I personally want to see more talking between Hibachi and the bespectacled Mushikari member that specializes in kicking techniques. That never happens though. I figured it’s the short amount of time the show can give the characters or maybe it’s just pacing issues but the villains certainly get the short end of the stick. Some of them are especially cool and I was bummed out when they didn’t even do anything meaningful in the show. Things did get better for the villains in the second arc though. The insect men all had a chance to strut their stuff and they proved to be meaningful villains. There are a lot of them but each one had a turn to deliver their own brand of nastiness on the characters. In fact, a lot of showdowns in the second arc are nicely paced and the second plot point of the show made sure every insect men was interesting in their own right. The small little twist in the second arc involving the villains was also a nice touch.
I really love this show. I think it’s an underrated show and people should show more love towards it. Maybe they can just enjoy the awesome OP. Either way. Mushibugyou is an insane cool show that deserves more attention than being swept under the rug. I do understand that the show is faulty but the shallow end of it is very much enjoyable. A bunch of Samurais slicing up bugs is a cool idea and the show made every moment worthwhile. I do think it can do a hell of a lot better but what the hell can you do now. I just accept the bad along with the good but I do understand if people don’t last long watching the show. Seven Arcs did a wonderful job with this show though. Their works are often middle ground stuff that barely does anything remarkable but I appreciate their effort. They’ve made some good stuff throughout the year like that one pedo induced magical show, Inukami and White Album. You can add Mushibugyou to that list. I honestly think this show can bounce back though when we get another season to officially close the story. It’s a half-baked show but there is certainly room for improvement.
Sight and Sound
Character design is insane. Hiroshi Fukuda (the author) really did a good job with the design. It honestly reminds me off Tengen Toppan Gurren Langan with the design that employs bright colors and sharp edges on a character. A lot of characters have sharp features like some fierce eyes and a sharp chin to complete the face. Some faces are particularly longer though. The face is the last thing you’ll notice because the first thing that’ll grab your attention is definitely the outrageous outfits of the characters. The author has this whimsy in his design where he takes traditional clothing then modernizes the hell out of it. Some characters are in kimonos but the imprint design of their dress is pretty out there. From flames on the sides of their sleeves to a dyed red and white combination to a stingingly bright colored purple, the outfits made sure to capture your attention towards a character. This is made even more awesome by the sharpness of the design. I guess you can call it “pointy” because some of the outfits stands up on their own and has a pointy edge to them. The same goes for the hair design. Normal hair design is few and some are downright insane. The pointy features are added to the hair so most long ones go zigzag and it looks really awesome when a character fights. When a character isn’t wearing a kimono then they’d just wear something that’ll expose their skin. Males usually have loose kimono to highlight their muscles but some also wear tight fitted clothing. If it’s not tight then it’d be big as if the author really wants you to look at the characters all the time. Female characters are even better because they’d be wearing tube tops or mini skits and some of them just function as fan service in the show. It’s pretty crazy.
Animation is pretty great. It tries to be flashy all the time and I like that aspect of it because almost everything about the show screams awesome. Simple actions are decently animated like when a character walks but great detail is given during fight scenes. The way a bug moves is pretty nice. It captures the actual behavior of the actual bug. The fights are interesting because the bugs use their insect attributes to make each attack special. The way a character holds a sword and swings it is pretty great as well. The flashiness is kept intact and the personality of the characters comes through in each scene they are in. Despite being badly paced, the fights are still pretty awesome and engaging. I love how detailed a special attack of a character can be and the added effects in fights are nicely done as well.
The design on the insects is pretty great. They are pretty menacing with the way the show perfectly captures an insect’s behavior and I love how the distinguishing features are kept intact. The giant bugs are great because when they come in numbers, you feel a bit freaked out as well. Bugs like centipedes and fleas are nicely portrayed in the show and the show did a great job of making them scary. Well, scary enough to wish that no bugs hide der your bed. The insect designs are even better on the Insect men though. These are insanely awesome because they stand and behave like humans but they have thick outer shells like insects and they still behave like the pests they originated from. I personally like the two Buddhist cockroaches. Their stance is that of a Buddhist with their giant hands in position but they also have cockroach wings fly like those creepy bastards. This design becomes even more awesome later on when an Insect man becomes serious in fighting but I don’t want to spoil it. I really want to talk about it but I’ll just shut my mouth.
Lastly, I want to talk about the show’s biggest appeal. While it sucks on the balance between action and story, it does achieve a nice balance between gory and fan service. The show has some deeply disturbing scenes that the show often just makes light of. Most humans die in horrific fashion. Some are mauled to death by an insect, some gets their meat and bones sucked out while others are mutilated in gory fashion. Again, it’s all light hearted and the show doesn’t wallow in the blood and guts. It’s just a device to make the bugs look more menacing. Certainly seeing a man’s body pulled apart from its head will make you wide eyed. I remember one moment in the show where the insect men got a bunch of dead bodies then gather them up in one big circle like it’s an orange. Then they squeezed the damn thing and you see blood squirt out of it as if the insect man is juicing a fruit. It’s pretty horrific but also cool in a nice way. The show doesn’t get scary though because for every gory scene, the show also boasts a good amount of fan service. Nothing too over the top as well. It’s just some shots of girls with their cleavage exposed and their legs sweaty. It’s still great stuff though. Jinbei would often be caught lusting over a girl’s boobs and I love how juvenile the show can be. The show does fan service right when it gets a close up panty shot of Hibachi fighting a bug. She’ll fly to the air and the show will just objectify the hell out of her. Most girls are kept for fan service and it’s that balance in the show that keeps it from being too serious. It’s just insane and a bit juvenile but gets grim from time to time.
The anime has two OP and two ED. The first OP is “Tomo yo” by GaGaGa SP. I love this song. It’s crazy and over the top with the lyrics often not fitting the rhythm but you can’t help but love how the singer just hastily try to fit it all in. This is accompanied by some crazy sequence that really drew to the anime. I don’t have to explain it. It’s every anime lovers right to see it. (Youtube). The second OP is “Denshin∞ Unchained” by FREE 蛇’M. It’s a really nice song. It’s not as crazy as the first one but it’s decently paced and it builds to an awesome chorus. The singer’s voice is pretty cool that it makes the verse and the chorus both as interesting. The sequence is pretty much like the first one with the characters attacking a bug. It also tells of a short story involving the second arc’s events. It’s as awesome as the first one. The anime’s first ED is “Ichizu” by i☆Ris. It’s a slow paced song and it’s a nice way to cool down after a crazy episode. The singers have a nice voice though and I love how she keeps the pace intact as you enjoy the oddly relaxing ED sequence. It starts with a bird’s eye view of Edo and then a view of the everyday life of the City Patrol. The second ED is “Through All Eternity ~ en no kizuna ~” by ayami. This one shares the same solemn appeal as the first one but it definitely has more energy. The ED sequence features the Insect Magistrate dancing and singing along the music. She was an important part of the second arc so I guess it makes sense. She is pretty cute so I can’t complain.
6/10 “It’s an entertaining show but a bad shounen anime.”
If you watch this on a weekly basis then I’m sure you’ll enjoy how each episode deliver something over the top and insanely awesome. You’ll get something worthwhile every week. If you watch this on a marathon then you’ll easily see how faulty the show is despite having good intentions. It’s a good and a bad show. As you can see by my long winded rant, I have trouble putting to words how the show is both. Either way, I’m sure the shallow appeal is still worth watching. Giant bugs being beaten by cool people have some value to it. If you enjoy simple shounen anime then you’ll love this show. If you like that mix of comedy and darkness and action then you’ll enjoy this show. It’s best not to expect more from this show though.