By Yuki Urushibara. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Del Rey.
And so one of Del Rey's quirkier series comes to an end, as the final 3 volumes of Mushishi come out in one big 'this doesn't sell very well' omnibus. But it is at least complete, and looks great, though I would prefer that Del Rey put all the endnotes at the end and number the pages all the way through - it's harder to flip to the middle to look for a note.
Despite the fact that this is the series' grand finale, the author deliberately avoids giving it a definite ending. The last story is a 2-parter, but other than that could just as easily slot in anywhere in the series. There wasn't much of a backstory to Mushishi in any case - we get another flashback to Ginko's childhood here, but it's not revelatory - so there aren't plot threads to be tied up or couples to marry off. It's just life going on, and that life getting entangled with a lot of mushi.
These stories tend to, like a lot of folk tales, be divided into happy and sad endings. Though really, even the happy endings tend to be a sort of grey, melancholic sort of happiness. Seeing a happy couple at the end, or happy parents and their children, is a rarity here - which of course makes it all the sweeter when it does happen. Likewise, you feel horrible when things go wrong for the mushi-infected people - whether through stubbornness or lack of resolve. One chapter in particular, featuring a man reliving his life over and over again and having deja vu - is heartbreaking, but in a totally understandable, human way.
Despite all of the mushi, Mushishi is a story about humanity, in all its goodness and badness. Ginko wanders through offering sage wisdom, but as much as I like him his role could be filled by anyone and the story would still be the same. Mushishi ended up being an anthology series, a collection of short stories in 10 volumes with an interconnected theme. But they're all well-told, with lovely watercolor art that highlights the naturalistic, quasi-historical feel of the series.
It's not a series that got me all fired up, and wanting to write fanfics or hunt down art. But it's peaceful, and calm, and something from Del Rey that's a change from the things they've been licensing lately. Those who like stories, and don't mind a few scares or tears, will love reading Mushishi.