While I've always enjoyed Japanese cinema, especially in the fantasy and anime genres, when I heard that Katsuhiro Ôtomo had a live-action film at Sundance, it became one of my must-sees. His film Akira is one of the most popular animated films in the world, and a pillarstone of Japanese animation. It helped give rise to the popularity of Japanese animation that continues to this day with films like Spirited Away and Ghost in the Shell, and I couldn't wait to see how this foray into live-action was. Fittingly, it is an adaptation of the 'Mushishi' manga from Japan, and I wasn't disappointed with this film.
Bugmaster is a multi-layered film that tells the story of a young boy as he grows from an orphan into a 'bugmaster' (mushishi), a sort of doctor/alchemist who treats problems caused by 'bugs,' or spirits. He travels from village to village in turn-of-the-centry Japan, diagnosing symptoms and then selling remedies from a sort of combination backpack/chest of drawers that he carries around on his back. He doesn't deal in martial arts, which I quite frankly expected him to bust into at any moment. He's a bit like Caine from Kung Fu, except without the butt-kicking.