#1 The premise is too random
Living among humans are so-called “hosts” who have been infected by bug-like parasites known as “Mushi”. These creatures can be summoned and most hosts can sort-of control them, but society sees them (and their hosts) as dangerous monsters. The Special Environmental Preservation Bureau (SEPB) exists to hunt down these hosts, as killing the Mushi will free the infected person, though it will also turn them into mindless drones with no will or memories of their own. A number of hosts have therefore banded together as a rebel force looking to secure a place in society for their kind.
Like I said, it’s not bad stuff and certainly reminds me of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte on numerous fronts. It’s just that the powers the Mushi grant are weird, with most of them appearing as giant monsters that fight alongside their host or go on a rampage when uncontrolled. Then again, some hosts use the power of their Mushi to grant them abilities, like a girl that can use hers to enter the world of computers or the main character that uses his Mushi to empower his gun. You can see how this quickly stops making sense.
The parasitic qualities of the Mushi are also weirdly handled. In Parasyte they literally overtake a host’s body and become a new person altogether, but in Mushi-Uta the Mushi “feed on the dreams of their host” and what does that even mean, it’s not like you ever run out of dreams. The rivalry between the rebels and the SEPB also makes little sense, as the latter exclusively employs hosts themselves and has them go undercover in society. If there are apparently means to make hosts safe enough that they can be government-employed and attend school or hold normal jobs, then I don’t see why there is even a conflict going on at all.
#2 Our main duo (trio?)
Already in the very first episode it became obvious that the characters in Mushi-Uta were going to be… problematic, specifically the duo of Daisuke and Shiika, alongside third wheel Rina. While I’ll admit the characters certainly aren’t generic and had a few surprises in store as they further developed, I just never found a click with them and couldn’t get invested in their stupid romance story.
Daisuke is secretly the SEPB’s most powerful dude that goes into battle wearing discount Fallout cosplay and who acts rude and violently towards everybody, yet when he goes to school he is this listless klutz with 0 charisma, but who very much makes an effort to make genuine friends he cares about. At first I just thought he was determined to keep up a secret identity, but then he spots Shiika by the end of the first episode, whereupon he excitedly jumps in front of an oncoming train, attracting a lot of attention, and then giddily runs away with his confused love interest in tow. There is simply no consistency to him and we never really learn anything about him that would be actually interesting, like why he feels the SEPB is the better party in the conflict or what he hopes to achieve.
Shiika and Rina don’t have this issue to quite the degree Daisuke does, yet I wasn’t fond of them either. Rina is initially hostile and constantly irritated, literally shouting and picking a fight with Daisuke as he’s just minding his own business. I thought she was meant to be a tsundere, but at some point she just suddenly calmed down and became this regular schoolgirl with no remarkable personality quirks. Shiika, then, is just really neutral and honestly kind of bland. She is meant to play a central role in the story, only to be constantly side-lined because she doesn’t do or say anything of actual relevance, due to her being rather soft-spoken and introverted. Kind of a waste, as a few scenes hinted at what an interesting character she could have been.
#3 The animation looks like this
Yeah, I get it, animation is hard and sometimes you are going to see things mess up a little. The point is I didn’t pause randomly on this specific image, this was on screen for a good few seconds. Unless I happened to be looking away or admiring the admittedly nice background design amidst this important discussion between two main characters, there is no way I wouldn’t have noticed the messed up face.
While the fight scenes are just kind of okay and the character designs are passable, it seems to be faces that the animators struggled with the most. In a lot of scenes it looked like faces were stretching or melting together, see also the picture I used in the segment above.
#4 Too much downtime
After the opening sequence where a host flees from the SEPB, it takes til about halfway through episode 3 before something exciting happens again, after which episode 5, 6, and 7 are all downtime and plot again. This a recurring pattern, where Mushi-Uta has its sparse, few action scenes kept apart by a lot of slow-boiling plot development and laidback interactions between the characters at school or home. I understand you can’t have action and excitement all the time, nor would I ask for such a thing, but it would go a long way if these “fun” bits were actually entertaining or the story actually worth expanding upon.
The lack of an interesting support cast and the lackluster personalities of the three main characters leaves a lot of the calmer scenes just kind of dull. Ideally this time would be used for character arcs or revealing new sides of the characters we didn’t know about yet. Instead, let’s go do karaoke with support characters we didn’t give a name or personality, or let’s take Shiika on a date where we just kind of sit and walk around. It’s honestly just time wasted, and a lot of the build-up for the story ends up amounting to nothing either. We got 3 whole episodes dedicated to introducing Kasuo and her crew, none of which do anything that permanently alters the course of the story or have any involvement in the show’s finale.
Variety is the spice of life, but if you use the wrong spices you’re just kind of ruining your food.
#5 Mushi-Uta ends in the middle of nowhere
The last two episodes of Mushi-Uta were a chore to get through due to the rough animation, the confusing directing work, but also because it slowly became clear we weren’t going to get much closure on anything. While I won’t spoil how it unfolds, the situation briefly escalates into a lot of violence, some named characters die, no major villains are defeated and then the story just ends on restoring status quo. We wasted a whole lot of time on setting up 3 core villains, only to end the show on only giving us a glimpse of one and not even trying to attack it.
Mushi-Uta is a mediocre show in many regards, yet even the crappiest of anime can at least conclude with the common decency of stitching together some ending. By the end of the show none of the main characters have seriously changed their ways, none of them have achieved their goals, and the world hasn’t been changed in the slightest by their recent exploits.