Mushishi (蟲師) - written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara (漆原 友紀 )
Mushishi is an award-winning manga that merges elements of science and folklore in a series of short stories following Ginko, the mushishi (or mushi-master), on his adventures through an imaginary pre-Meji era Japan.
The first 26 chapters were excellently adapted into a 26-episode anime series. While the English translation of the manga is sadly no longer being reprinted, fan translations can be found online, and both the sub and dub of the anime streams on Netflix and Funimation’s Youtube channel (x).
Mushishi is one of the greatest works of fiction I have encountered in any medium. Some of that is due to my taste for strange in-between creatures and folklore (not to mention masterful scientists with honed deductive abilities), but it’s also the simultaneous simplicity and power of the stories.
These tales encapsulate the whole spectrum of human experience, even while being told through a specific cultural lens; emphasis is given to suffering, grief, abuse, vulnerability, familial and social rejection, the stigma of invisible illness, the fear of not being able to protect oneself or one’s family. But just as present are themes of survival, hope, adaption, forgiveness, compassion, unselfishness, patience— and the Eastern motif of transient life being beautiful because it is transient.
I could say a lot more about these stories, but I hope you might be inspired to read or watch some of them for yourself.