Our main characters, each one awesome in their own way.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito) is a rather beautiful 26-episode anime that aired in 2007, based off a series of books that follow the adventures of a woman named Balsa Yonsa, who acts as a bodyguard for hire. She gains the attention of the Queen of the New Yoga empire after rescuing her son, Prince Chagum, from nearly drowning, who reveals that she wants Balsa to take him and run as far away as possible to avoid him being killed by assassins sent by his own father, due to the belief that if the spirit within him hatches it will lead to a drought that will ruin the realm. Balsa agrees, fakes his death, and protects him while looking for a way to solve the mystery behind the spirit within him.
This is one of my favorite anime that I have recently stumbled across. It has a near-perfect blend of story, setting, characters, artwork, and music that makes it unique and a timeless classic that deserves more attention that it got. So I’m going to review it here and list all of the good points, in the hopes that it gains more attention.
The premise of the story is that Balsa must protect Chagum until the threat of the drought has passed. Because his family assumes this means that the spirit within him is responsible and are trying to kill him to avoid it from coming to pass, she fakes his death for the first half of the series and raises him in place of his mother. Through this we get to see how life unfolds for the people of this land and series.
The latter half of the series delves into unraveling how to avoid the drought coming to pass, exploring the role of spirits in nature and how hiding events of the past can be devastating for the future. Everyone who had been antagonistic until now works together for the betterment of the realm. And through that the series reaches a climax that is both satisfying and somber at the same time.
It’s a good premise where the antagonist isn’t something that can be killed off, but a part of the cycle of nature, and everyone does what they can to ensure life goes on. The fact that the series had 26-episodes allowed for time to pass at a decent pace. Nothing felt overly rushed, and the extra time allowed for both the main and side characters to be fleshed out well enough.
The setting is a fictional version of the early centuries of Asia, mostly set in the New Yogo Empire. There’s a blend of different people from different walks of life and culture, and each one is represented well. No one is a standard invader or victim, though the story doesn’t shy away from things like there being a slave-trade in that setting.
The differences between the Empire and the indigenous people are actually relevant to the plot as well, such as the Yaku being largely spiritual and having most of their legends and history passed down through oral tradition, while the Empire focuses on advancements in science (they have flamethrowers by the end of the series) and have their history recorded in tablets. Both of these have benefits and downsides in regards to their livelihoods and influences, as revealed when one of the things needed to avoid the drought coming to pass is that a species of bird that has been driven near-extinct because of the Empire’s expansion and that because the oral traditions haven’t been passed down well some things have been forever lost.
The characters of the story are… wonderful. They’re well-developed over the course of the anime, each revealing more of themselves and their personalities. Everyone wants to do what they can to ensure that things are resolved peacefully, so no one comes off as being evil for the sake of being evil… except one minor antagonist in what passes for filler, anyway.
Main character-wise, Balsa is one of the best female characters in anime. She’s a strong, independent woman that doesn’t spend all her time pining over someone, but also has a nurturing side that doesn’t go overboard. She shows respect when given, but won’t hesitate to speak her mind and accepts the consequences of her actions. More women should be like her and if I ever do an analysis on strong female characters, she’s getting the spotlight.
As for Chagum, based on the premise alone, I expected him to be a whiny prince who learns to mature over the course of the series going in. I was wrong. He starts out very mature for his age, able to grasp the hardships involved with what Balsa has to do and that he has to leave the life he had behind in order to survive. While he does have a moment where he lapses into being a little whiny, it’s understandable given what he learns and he quickly moves on to being even more awesome.
Tanda is… an interesting inversion of the standard love interest. He’s essentially waiting for Balsa to do what she sets out to before she’ll settle down with him and it frustrates him to no end. But he does what he needs to and supports her and the others, despite the risk it brings to him.
Torogai is a straight-forward magic-weaver that doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind to everyone, whether they’re royalty or children. She’s largely someone who seeks the truth and will do with is necessary to find it, which aligns with the goals of Shuga, the Star-Reader who seeks to avert the prophecy without needing the Prince to be killed .
Toya and Saya are orphans that feel indebted to Balsa and won’t hesitate to help her if asked. They help Chagum grow accustomed to normal life over the course of the series and have their own dreams. I felt that their presence was a bonus to the story and that they were actually pretty okay for supporting characters.
The Hunters are the main antagonists for the first part of the series, working under the Emperor’s orders to kill Chagum. It is made abundantly clear that none of them desire that outcome, but they do as ordered and pursue Balsa. They come to respect her over the course of their battles and each one has their own talent, such as the one with a photographic memory.
Animation & Sound
The animation is solid over the course of the series, fluid and crisp. Watch any of the fight scenes and see just how beautifully it blends with the choreography, adding to the brilliance of them. Then there are times when it gets downright gorgeous, such as when Tanda visits the spirit world by accident.
As for the music, let me say that there are one or two music tracks that you will remember for years to come. My favorite happens to be when something heavy or action-like is happening, with the track adding to the suspense and visual displays. I have to give my props to the series for it.
Without beating around the bush, watch this anime. It looks beautiful, sound beautiful, has decent character development, and a plot that ends up resolved without any unnecessary bloodshed. There are episodes that don’t feel as story-heavy as they could be, I’ll admit, but they do add to the world and people in it.