I will start by saying that Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit presented a moral dilemma for us here at Reverse Thieves. We want try to review as much licensed material as possible in its licensed from. Media Blasters has not released the DVDs of Moribito but they are playing going to be playing it on Cartoon Network starting the 24th of this month. This is great because Moribito was based on a series of popular children’s novels but also has a solid mature feeling. It’s not the normal type of show for TV. And therein lies the dilemma. If no one talks about this show before it gets on TV there is a chance this will go under the radar and be taken off as quickly as it was placed on. So we decided to take a sneak peak at Moribito in hopes of getting people to watch this on TV. If this does well enough it will hopefully lead to a little more diversity of anime on American television.
So here we are towing the line, we are giving you our impressions of the first six episodes before they even air. It was already mentioned as one of the most overlooked shows in the recent seasons and that is a good enough reason for me to think this peek at it is necessary. But honestly I can’t wait to buy the DVDs of this show! It brings so many things that I love to the table, include a few that endeared me to Story of Saiunkoku. You really get that historical-esque feel, the world setting is very well done. We get some politics, danger, mystery, and some really great fighting sequences. And not to be overlooked a strong female character! But I’m getting ahead of us.
So, Moribito starts with Balsa a foreign bodyguard making her way into town to get some maintenance work done on her spear. While crossing the bridge into town she see a cart with a noble plunge into the river after the animal hitched to the cart goes berserk. Balsa throws herself into the river and saves the young noble who turns out to be Chagum, the Prince of the land. That night is approached by royal guards and is taken to the palace to be rewarded. She soon learns that she was not invited to the palace simply to get a reward for saving the Prince’s life. It seems that this incident on the bridge was not an accident but one of several attempts on the Prince’s life. The Empress asks Balsa to take Chagum, flee the palace, and protect him from the man trying to take his life, The Emperor.
Wow, if this woman keeps up the pace she has in the first six episodes she will be on my bad-ass list. Those fights in episode 3 were awesome. Balsa has a mysterious past but we do know she killed many people and is now trying to atone for it. She is a fierce fighter without killing anyone. She has a strong sense of duty and loyalty but she often pushes herself too hard. Balsa doesn’t come off as feminine but she certainly has a motherly quality about her. I look forward to seeing that develop more.
Balsa is at an interesting age. Being 30 she is old enough to be mature but still young enough to be on the top of her game. She is not the stereotypical teenage protagonist so she has had enough time to build a good amount of life and combat experience and a fearsome well earned reputation as a bodyguard. She is nowhere close to the most feminine character but there is a mother wolf nature to her protection of Chagum. She has a past filled with tragedy but she uses it to fuel her present as opposed to dwelling on or running from it. That is a refreshing change change of pace and makes her as strong a female character as her fighting ability does. She is an amazing fighter, a seasoned strategist, and an emotionally strong woman while still coming off as human with faults and vulnerabilities.
Chagum we are only scratching the surface of in these few episodes. We know he has supernatural abilities but he doesn’t control them and we know this is the reason for his persecution. He is certainly the child of royalty as the scene in which he doesn’t even realize the feeling in his stomach is hunger demonstrates well. But so far he hasn’t come off as a spoiled brat who’s demands must be met. He will be good to see grow and hopefully come into his own as he becomes more aware of the real world around him.
I enjoyed the fact that all of the characters have realistic motivations for their actions. There are no Snidely Whiplash villains. The Emperor has just as many good reason to kill the prince and he does feel remorse over doing what he thinks is right. When Shuga, the Star Diviner is brought into the conspiracy he is convinced in a realistic and plausible manner.
Many people get involved in this story, the cast is not vast (yet) but there are certainly a lot of players. This often happens with politically tied plots, so I only expect it to get more complex as we go along. Some of the most notable are Tanda a childhood friend of Balsa who is a healer; a shaman who has a grave prediction about the prince; a group of deadly hunters who are looking for Balsa and Chagum; and a young star diviner who is pulled into the plot against the prince.
The opening song is very catchy, it’s has a good deal of English lyrics, and it has nice accompanying animation. They would be very foolish to try to throw on a new opening.
I am a sucker for openings, even more so when the song is done by a band I love. L’arc en Ciel’s Shine has a great beat and sets a nice tone for the series. GREAT. OPENING. SONG. I assume this will be intact for the TV broadcast but I don’t know for sure. Everything from the opening to the fights looks great! The characters all have their own unique look and so we see a great variety.
I am firmly convinced that if you want to watch really good animation in a TV anime the shows to watch are the family friendly shows based on popular novels. Like Story of Saiunkoku this has lush well animated character designs. It obviously had a high budget and they never skimp on anything. Every episode so far has been a pleasure to watch. Production I.G. shines brightly once again. I did happen to notice that there is a wide variety of attractiveness in character designs. You have characters that range from very beautiful to very ugly and everywhere in between. In fact mostly in between. I feel all too often either everyone in a show look very good looking or extremely plain. It’s nice to see a show where the curve is closer to reality.
I recently read the novel that Seirei no Moribito as well. In an unexpected turn of events it seems that the anime is actually a more detailed telling of the story in the novel. The novel has a fast pace that while never rushed also never stops at any point either. It seems that the anime takes the plot of the novel and lets the story breath and grow more than it did in the novel. So far the anime has not taken any liberties that I think would infuriate fans of the novel. If anything I think fans of the novel will enjoy getting to spend more time with characters they loved.