There is no skirting around the fact that episode 16 of Mushishi is a thoroughly depressing affair.
Every day a woman loses fragments of her memory, whether it be the definition of a sneeze or the identity of her sister, it’s a mysterious problem that only someone like Ginko can solve.
There are some things she never forgets though; the most profound things. Like her worried son, or how to cook, or to be sure to lay out a meal for her husband despite knowing full well that he will never return.
By now it should be clear that every episode of Mushishi begins and ends with a clear purpose, this one is a characterization of human despair. No matter how hard she tries to put her husband out of her mind, this broken wife has been cut deeply by her lover’s betrayal and even a mushi that eats memories can not erase her unwanted echoes of love. The saddest part is not so much how it affects the forgetful mum, more how it clearly depresses her gutted son. He has seen her go through it all and still, despite what his father has done, his mother still lays out a plate of food; a dinner never to be eaten, a broken memory of the saddest times.