The Red String : 1. Ginko x Tanyu

I have a fondness for couples with subtle romance and those that are developed in side stories or when the romance is between side characters. This series of posts is going to include more or less minor canon couples that have won my heart and need more love. And so here I present you for the first post with:

Ginko and Tanyu from Mushishi

A man with one emerald eye and one filled with darkness. Snow lies on his head and smoke arises from his mouth. He wanders from one place to another through thick forests like the stream of Light flows freely in nature. One day he was called to a house of a scribe, a young woman with jet black hair and a cursed leg. And after that day, he would come visit ever so often and not just to scan through the huge archive in that house… 

The individuals

At first, one might think of Ginko as one- dimensional, since he’s pretty stoic and is seen as a wise solitary figure throughout the series, helping people solve their problems. That’s not the case though. Especially, if you have read the manga, you get a glimpse of a younger Ginko making a grave mistake in The Bed of Grass. His mistakes and failures as well as his lack of memory from his younger years, after crossing paths with some mysterious mushi, makes him what he is now. From an orphan without a past, a lost and desperate child, he grew into someone who doesn’t just live. Ginko has come in terms with the fleeting nature of life and his own nature that forces him to never stop being on the move. This man with studiousness and curiosity to unravel nature’s unseen mysteries is a master of his art, a mushi-shi who loves his job. A man with kindness and understanding who doesn’t talk much, yet very serious and straightforward when the situation calls for it.

His facial expressions are almost indiscernible, but this doesn’t mean he has none. You just have to be very vigilant to notice the slight upwards curve on his mouth or his mouth opening in weird shapes; the upper eyelid straightening and curving, his thin eyebrow plunging down or raising. Heck, he also gets some chibi form in the last episodes. We’ve seen him smiling to Mio and her daughter in The Offshore Shrine and being very strict with another mushi-shi in The Journey to the Field of Fire. He’s shown yearning for a permanent home only to have him witness another mushishi who tied himself to a place as the master of the mountain having a sad end. He’s shown bargaining and playfully chatting with Adashino as well as scolding him and patting his shoulder to show support. Ginko is humane in every aspect.

“A girl who is drowning in a sea of words”- that’s how Ginko described Tanyu, the fourth scribe of the Karibusa family that bears the weight of sealing the forbidden mushi in their bodies. The young lady is handicapped from the moment she was born – she can’t walk due to the mushi residing in her right leg. She’s the definition of loneliness, perhaps even more than Ginko: not being able to catch up with other children playing, thus not making friends; living only with Tama in a house that appears to stand in the middle of nowhere; writing down the stories of the mushishi who kill mushi in order to fight her curse,  but in the process hurting her soul with the abundance of death that surrounds her, especially in that poorly-litten underground library; her only friends being the bookworm mushi that destroy the paper and she has to copy the scrolls again using her very strong memory; bearing the weight of people living for her and being pressed into following a path, like Tama, the old mushishi, and Kumado, the young man who is practically an empty cocoon, living only because of a man-made mushi … That scene in The Sea of Ink where the text from the scrolls has gone wild and she stands in the middle of the room really captures the essence of her life.
Yet, she still tries to hang in there and manages to smile wholeheartedly when Shimi work up their little tricks- they are like her favorite pet (!) We see what a tender and caring soul she has, when she worries about Tama and Kumado, and with what strength has she come to accept her situation and fight, even though the curse might not die with her, much more before her. In The Ragged Road (manga story) where we meet Kumado, we get a taste of how insistent and quite assertive she is in her efforts to elicit and then ‘teach’ feelings to Kumado or even ‘care’ for him (she sent Ginko to ‘supervise’ his actions in one case). Tanyu is an optimist who loves life and its variety, and wishes of a future she gets free from the pain in her leg.
The couple 
This illustration makes me melancholic and fills me with warmth at the same time.
A cool guy and an elegant young lady, both witty, both seeking human warmth… what else is there to make them the perfect couple? They care for each other, find comfort in each other, laugh and share sadness together. Their relationship is really beautiful in its tragicness, since both are forced to have a symbiotic nature with the mushi in their bodies; Tanyu is bound to a certain place and Ginko can’t settle down. Meaning that they can’t live together. Their first encounter and last scene of The Sea of Ink are very revealing about the feelings in their hearts.
Tanyu who’s fed up with killing stories dismisses a smiling Ginko at the beginning, thinking he’d tell the same kind of stories. But when he starts narrating, she gets enchanted. Isn’t the atmosphere one of love at first sight? Tanyu gets Ginko in the library ‘for him only’ without Tama’s permission and minutes later she says she’ll persuade her. Tanyu asks of Ginko to come again and he accepts “gladly”. Sure she found a source of relief and he a “treasure chest of a mushishi”, yet I can’t get out of my mind their smiles and Tanyu’s boldness. In the last scene of the episode Tanyu’s wish to travel with Ginko is in reality a confession, isn’t it? The fact she hurries to say she’s just kidding not to become a burden, confirms it. She tags at her robe with a caressing motion, like to brace herself for his answer.
Then Ginko looks at her intently, turns his head, exhales, ‘hmph’-es thoughtfully and… gives the ok without any awkwardness, without any sign of pity. His hesitation lies in his ability to stay alive until Tanyu gets free. I’m sure he understands her feelings and is pretty sure about them. He isn’t surprised with her words; I’d rather say he tries to figure out how to express himself more appropriately. I also think that there’s a chance he really wanted to hear those words. If he didn’t have any special feelings for her, would he offer her a piggyback ride? He could simply aid her with her crutches. And although he is a practical man, having her on his back, feeling her warmth, her hands around his neck and her voice tingling his ear is way too physical to be practical. I find it cute how his head is turned to the other side while she’s on his back, like he’s a bit flustered inside, getting shy from his heart beating faster than usual… 🙂
Shipping them together and hoping for them to become an item -and not just mentally- isn’t a case of simply a romantic heart. Tanyu talks about descendants and we know that Nui had a husband and a child that she visited when she could, because she was like Ginko (she attracted mushi to her). I like to fantasize about Tanyu and Ginko being intimately tender with each other. To think that Tanyu decides to be a bit more bold and say that she might be a cripple and he a traveler, but they are still a woman and a man – I certainly can imagine such words coming out of her mouth. She could convince Tama, too – it seems she does it pretty often. It’s the awareness of their respective whereabouts and the inhibitions stemming from it that holds them back from taking the next step. I’d love to see a one-shot about them finding happiness together the way they can…

Great fanfictions for more love ❤ (links and excerpts)

Snow by Chrikaru (3 chapters)

They would sit close together in the darkness long after he stopped speaking, the silence between them full of all the things they could never say aloud. The line of warmth where their knees almost touched, an unconscious movement that stopped a breath away from being a caress; something delicate that they could never acknowledge.

orthography/cartography by Lupin (oneshot)

[…]’forever’ might have been a word that he used; now it seems naive, if not deceitful. Yet Tanyuu still speaks of the future, her optimism warm as the sun-touched fields they rest in – and even if autumn is already in the air, the moment feels almost like a promise.

Ephemera by octopendigenue (oneshot)

“It’s a scroll to look at, not write about. Open it, open it.” Here, impatient flicking of his cigarette.[…] “That doctor owed me a favor again. He has the original, of course, but I got him to track down its cousin.” “Thank you, really this time. And thank your friend. It’s beautiful.” “True, that. One of a kind.” But he’s watching her face.

Symbiotic Nature by Jess Idres (oneshot)

“It not unusual to have an affinity to mushi.  They’re living things too.”  He leaned back on the mat to resume his gaze at the ceiling. “Yet so many tell me to hate them…and I suspect I should, with this horrible black mark.”  She touched her leg with more than a little shame. “It’s human nature.  And Mushi nature too.”

The Spring Thaw by coprime (oneshot)

“Have you been keeping busy?” Tanyuu asked. “Eh, more or less. Mushi are very good at making trouble.” Tanyuu smiled impishly. “But they still don’t cause as much trouble as people, right?” Ginko laughed at that and shook his head no. Tanyuu laughed too, with such cheeriness that Ginko couldn’t help but return her smile.


Notes and other facts:
1. Ginko is hot in a sophisticated way and Tanyu is really such a cutie 🙂
2. They make smoking very appealing (though they don’t do it because they like it). I really like Tanyu’s pipe. I’d like to have one someday.
3. I get the hots when I hear them speak… such warm and serene voices.
4. Ginko’s real name was Yoki.
5. Tanyu wears a lot of purple clothes. Purple is a color denoting royalty, since the purple dye was expensive. She sure comes from a respected and wealthy family.
6. Ginko’s western clothes are the ‘leftovers’ from a first draft of the story which was meant to be set in modern day. I think it also really stresses his character (practical) and his wandering life.

> Akane x Kazuo is another pairing I love but won’t be included in this series of posts since I have already mentioned them in My-Hime post

8 thoughts on “The Red String : 1. Ginko x Tanyu

  1. Thanks for your good words!
    Ginko can't stay with Tanyu exactly because he attracts mushi. If he stays in one place the balance of the system will fall out and more problems will arise for the people who lives with. Remember, mushi aren't always benevolent, and the reason he smokes is because otherwise mushi swarm around him, not just like to 'hang around him'. If you watch more episodes, you'll see Ginko denying staying in a place for too long for this exact reason many times.


  2. This is a very thorough review, what else can I add. Just like you, this is also one of my favourite episodes. I truly love the subtle hints between Ginko and Tanyu and also wish we get to see them together. I don't see any reason why not, since Ginko attracts mushi and Tanyu needs to write mushi stories, so definitely Ginko can stay with her.


  3. I have yet to finish the anime so I'm unfamiliar with Tanyu, but I think the tragic beauty persists throughout the story. The episode of “Those Who Inhale the Dew” stays with me in the sense of subtle and beautiful sedation to [cold] melancholy. If anything, the tone at the end of the episode is quite relative to Ginko's existence. The overall feeeling is one of mono no aware's finer aspects, and I can understand how it would translate romantically between subtly tragic individuals.

    Thanks for the music, that was nice.


  4. Since it's episodic, you can just randomly select an episode, right? Just go to episode 20, unless you want to take things slow, in your way.

    Oh yeah, 'Those who inhale the dew' is another fav along with 'the offline shore' – I might try to have 2-3 more editorials about Mushishi. We'll see.

    I wonder how similar Ginko's life is… he doesn't make the extra mile of going the other way to avoid the pains life brings. But I sure get what you mean about the feeling 🙂

    Very happy that you enjoyed the music *waves tail*. I tried to make a long read enjoyable enough so as not to have drop outs at some points >.< Plus, romance needs atmosphere and I thought 'why not try it'?


  5. Thanks for your good words! *waves tail*

    As I said I really love those two. So like a person in love notices whatever makes the love interest appear even more gorgeous, this way I paid attention to the details, too. I wanted to write about them in light that no other has approached them. 🙂


  6. Nice post. This is definitely one of my favorite episodes from the series. I do so love the characters in this show. Also, I can really appreciate how much attention you must have put to detail when you watched the episode – quite insightful.


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