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Mee's Forest

Entry updated 13 March 2023. Tagged: TV.

Chinese animated webseries (2009-2010). Original title Xiaomi De Senlin. Wawayu Cartoon. Directed by Busifan (real name Zhigang Yang). Sixteen 6- to 11-minute episodes. Colour.

A beggar child training to become a monk washes in a forest river; the monk accompanying him, Shifu, admits they may be lost, but tells the boy to wait whilst he collects alms. When he does not return the boy searches for him, only finding their hat, which he reluctantly lends to a man named Lord Jiu. Noticing the boy has a worm crawling under his skin – which had entered whilst he bathed – Jiu says this will likely prove fatal but he will ask the locals, the Jihao, if there is a cure: he names the boy Xiaomi and leaves him in the care of Dami, a large yeti-like being (see Apes as Human). However, Xiaomi becomes separated from Dami and enters a cave system (see Underground), many of whose tunnels are filled by a vast worm-like creature called the mother pupa. Embedded in this creature is a man, who refers to the boy's parasite (see Parasitism and Symbiosis) as one of the many anomalies outside the cave; Xiaomi also meets a pharmacist studying the pupa and the hunter Ghostface, named after the white bug-shell mask he wears – it helps him to survive, but he has to fight against losing his Identity. From Ghostface and the pharmacist's talk we learn the mother pupa is dying but her rebirth is anticipated.

Ten years ago the region had been the site of a building project by Boss Luo, but the appearance of Monsters called bugbeasts had caused him to flee, leaving his workers behind. They became the Jihao, who learnt to exploit the bugbeasts to survive; the region's other inhabitants withdrew or died. Boss Luo wants his territory back, so sends three men to kill the mother pupa, the source of the bugbeasts; she is in a symbiotic relationship with the forest (see Ecology) and the bugbeasts appear to be her response to the environmental damage caused by Boss Luo's project. The three men – reluctantly – team up with an arrogant youth and they poison the pupa, whose death causes considerable subsidence as the tunnels collapse. The pupa's corpse births more creatures, and one kills Boss Luo's men. Meanwhile Xiaomi's parasite – who now controls him – has become self-aware (see Intelligence), complaining its host is malnourished ("God knows how long it will take to bloom") and wishing to become part of the new mother pupa. A giant maggot – another product of the pupa's death – appears and Xiamoni joins it, but after eating some blue mushrooms the maggot melts; its face flies off like a butterfly, leaving the possessed Xiaomi feeling abandoned. Shortly after Lord Jiu finds Xiaomi is back to normal, his parasite having died; Shifu has reappeared: he had been afflicted by a similar parasite, from which he has also recovered ("I awoke as if from a dream, and we separated"). Shifu and Jiu reflect on events: "All is change, all things lack self"; and on the pupa, "Just like everyone else, it's only trying to live."

Though the character animation is fairly simple, the overall effect is impressive, with a rich, interesting story – albeit one which feels incomplete. Produced by a small, independent studio, this flash animation series was expensive to produce, so it was decided to bring it to a close earlier than intended. Though the ending is reasonably satisfactory there is a sense of much being left untold in terms of world building and character backstory. The works of Hayao Miyazaki are clearly an influence, as are his environmental concerns. Set in China's past, with an imagined ecosystem and wildlife, but no Magic (save perhaps for some Invisibility), this notable animation might be classed as Science Fantasy, with some Horror elements. [SP]


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