Seirei no Moribito / Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
Rated: 13+ :: Released: 11 November 2008
Director: various :: Starring: Mabuki Andou, Naoto Adachi; Cindy Robinson and Mona Marshall
By Hannah Krueger
26 February 2009 Seirei no Moribito has all the makings of a good show a solid plot, good characters, beautiful art and excellent fight scenes but, in the end, it falls flat.
First, a brief summary: Balsa (a spear-wielding wandering female bodyguard) is passing through the New Yogo Empire, and happens to save the life of Chagum (the Second Prince). That night, she is called to the palace by the Second Empress, who wishes for her to flee with and protect the life of Chagum who the Emperor is determined to kill because he believes the boy to be possessed by a water demon. Balsa agrees and quickly leaves with Chagum; however, all is not what it seems.
The characters are probably the most interesting thing about this show. None of them are simply good or evil, even those who would pursue and kill Chagum; they're all fleshed out human beings, with rational reasons behind their decisions. What's even more interesting is that when these characters make their decisions, they actually make sense and fit the situations. For instance, none of Balsa's actions or decisions are superfluous, and it's wonderful seeing a female character of this sort.
It's also an incredibly well-built world. How the empire is run, the culture and history of the world, the different ethnic groups and religions, city and country life they're all fully realized over the course of the series. In general, the level of detail is amazingly intricate, and it's here that it becomes very evident that the source material for this show was originally a novel Seirei no Moribito was adapted from the first of a 10-volume series. And despite the somewhat clichιd plot (RE: protect the special child), Seirei no Moribito is one of the most solid stories I've seen of this type in a good long time.
The art of Moribito is also of an extremely high-quality. Backgrounds are intricately detailed, the animation is well-done and character designs aren't incongruous with who the characters actually are. Meaning, Balsa looks like a bodyguard, and Chagum looks like a prince in hiding; they are exactly who they should be.
However, where this series really shines is in the action scenes. Think of any animated action series you might've watched recently or grew up with. Now keep that thought in your head, and look up "Moribito fight scenes" on YouTube. You will notice the differences instantly. There is no skimping on the details; every moment of the fight is animated, from beginning to end. This series is now the standard on which I base all fight scenes; every action series should look this good.
The music was very unobtrusive for the most part; I really only noticed it if it was going out of its way to be heard. Such as, there's a folk song towards the end of the series, but that winds up becoming integral to the plot. Plus, it's a nice little song that I occasionally find myself listening to. Beyond that, the opening and closing themes ("Shine" and "Itoshii Hito e," respectively) are decent enough, but they're far from outstanding.
By all standards, I should really like this series. But, here's the thing: I assumed, from the first episode on, that Seirei no Moribito would be a show of high standards; when it lived up to that, I wasn't that surprised. To some degree, though, I hoped that it would go beyond my expectations and it didn't. This is probably why I'm left feeling not all that enthusiastic about it. It's a good watch, but nothing outstanding in the genre and nothing I'd recommend going out of your way to see. This is a solid series with a good plot and characters, a well-built world, beautiful art and wonderfully done fight scenes, but it doesn't leave you with anything more than an "it was okay" feeling. I suspect it worked better as a novel, so give that a look instead.