Mushi-shi Season 2 Episode 4 Recap – “The Hand that Caresses the Night”
This was one of the most intense and unsettling episodes of anime I have ever seen. I was seriously wary of sleeping after I watched this episode. And this series is not a horror anime either. The atmosphere, the music and the tension were just the right fit for a dark and harrowing experience.
As we open, Ginko is wandering through a forest when he smells what he thinks could be Kouki (the golden sake from episode 1) or fruit wine. However, this Kouki’s taken on a sour note. Out of the dark recesses of the forest comes a human figure in shadow. Ginko is suddenly frozen in place, unable to control his body to move a muscle. You can tell by the look in his eyes he is petrified. I don’t know about you, but if Ginko is frightened by something, then it’s automatically an authentic threat.
As the figure gets closer it appears to be a man. Seeing that Ginko is human, he releases him, but not without being menacingly threatening. Ginko is still worried though, as even if he appeared to be a human hunter, he had no weapons to be seen. Only that sweet smell that seemed so ominous.
Come morning he reaches a town, but is hungry with a hankering for meat. One of the vendors says they haven’t had much luck hunting lately. A young boy is selling meat off to the side, but the vendor warns Ginko that their meat is always rotten. When Ginko draws near he sees that the meat really is rotten. The boy tells Ginko he has fresher meat at home, so Ginko follows him back to his house.
The house is smothered in the same smell that he encountered from last night. A murder of crows circle overhead. Usuke (the young boy) calls out to his older brother Tatsu, who is the man Ginko was cornered by last night. The meat they have is just as rotten, so Tatsu confidently goes off to catch Ginko something fresh. Ginko tails him from a distance. Tatsu seems to be able to lure a deer to come straight to him without any resistance. He then grabs the deer’s face with his hand and begins to squeeze – but Ginko stops him. The mystery of why their meats smells rotten and tastes bad is solved.
Ginko explains to Tatsu that he has been tainted with Fuki, in the form of a circle shaped mark on his hand. Fuki is the Sake of Decay, the opposite of Kouki, which is the essence of all life. It smells like fruit wine and usually causes death for those who ingest it. There are some people though who have a high tolerance level for it, like Tatsu, and as it turns out, his father.
Those with the ability can lure their prey with the sweet smell and then subdue and kill them without any defiance. The catch is that those around the tainted person can die from the toxicity. The boy’s grandma died coughing up blood and Usuke has been suffering the same illness for some time. Ginko has some good news though; the solution is to drink enough Kouki, which will dissipate the Fuki. He’ll be back in a month with some Kouki (presumably he is going to the brewer from episode 1) for both brothers. He warns them both to drink it no matter what, as he hints they know what happened to their father. Something traumatic obviously, but with this show, that’s no surprise. Tatsu seems reluctant to do so though, and as Ginko leaves he places his hand over Usuke’s head and creepily says “I haven’t changed, have I?” If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine I don’t know what will.
What follows next is some of the most memorable and disturbing animation I’ve seen. The month is up and Ginko has returned. Usuke is happy to see him, but urges him to give the medicine to Tatsu first. They follow a trail of dead animals that with the animation, looks incredibly chilling. Tatsu is becoming just like his father was in his last days, killing animals they didn’t even need to. They find Tatsu, but he refuses the Kouki and uses his ability on Ginko, freezing him in place and moving sinisterly forward.
I’m not going to ruin the end of the episode, as it’s something you have to see for yourself to truly enjoy. The concept that a non-sentient anti-matter as an antagonist is sincerely off-putting, as you have no idea what it’s next move is. The climax of the episode is truly intense and even a bit frightening. At the very least it will unsettle you. I’ll leave you with a complete recommendation for this episode.