Reviews: Seirei No Moribito
It's Got it all... Except an Audience
I'll apologize in advance, if this review comes across as Fan Myopia, but I feel it really needs to be said: "where's the love?" I mean, this series got everything an anime fan could want and then some, especially if you're into wuxia, or fantasy/adventure in general. For starters, it looks absolutely amazing, I can't emphasis that enough. The artwork, animation, and the painstaking attention to detail has to be seen to be believed. The production values are equal, if not greater, than in some animated films - and yes, that inclueds works from Studio Ghibli. But Moribito is more than just a pretty face. After all, there's gotta be an engrossing narrative and an imaginative setting to go along with it, and Moribito delivers on both fronts. The series spends a fair amount of time immersing you in the world of Sayug. You'll gradually become steeped in its lore as the truth behind the legends concerning the Water Spirit's egg gestating in Chagum's body comes to light. As well as the Ra Runga, which Balsa and her companions must protect him from. And there's enough grey on both sides that neither can be considered truly villainous. However, you shouldn't approach Moribito expecting plentiful action. The emphasis here, is more on World Building, Character Development, and plot progression. Fights only take place when they can't be avoided, so prepare to spend many episodes with Balsa and Chagum on the run, watching as they settle into their lives as fugitives. If that sounds boring, you couldn't be more mistaken. Balsa and Chagum's characterization and progressive development are among the highlights of Moribito. Balsa isn't your typical action heroine. Sure, she knows how to handle herself in a fight, but her real strength lies in her conviction. At the same time, she never seems invincible and has limitations. These moments serve to make her feel more like a person, rather than just some badass we're meant to root for. Ditto that for Chagum. It's a shame that I don't have the word space to adequately cover all the nuances of the show's finer points, 'cuz there's just so much to love about it. If only it had an audience to appreciate it.
Really, really good
This is absolutely fantastic in every way. The art is gorgeous, the setting is incredibly well crafted, the characters are three-dimensional and likeable, the story is excellent, the action is appropriate and well done, and even the dubbed voice acting shows careful time and attention. It's just long enough to do what it needs to do, with virtually no filler, and it has a satisfying ending that wraps up all the loose ends that need wrapping. As a final note, the fight choreography is the best I've seen in an animated series, exceeding even something like Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you have any interest in anything tangentially related to the series, you owe it to yourself to check this out, and even if you don't, this is the rare offering that is likely to be appreciated even by non-fans of the genre. Thumbs up!
Maybe the Best
Where to begin? While there is no such thing as a perfect story, Guardian (Moribito) comes so close that the distinction isn't worth mentioning. It takes, what could have been, stereotypical characters and situations and uses them in a way that's full of depth, emotion, and originality. Even those who are not Anime fans can still watch this, become engrossed, and come away feeling like it was a worthwhile endeavor. It's best viewed on a large screen with high resolution for several reasons: first, there are minute details that will be missed (like the two tears that fall from Tanda's face during the funeral scene); and second because watching lush and beautiful scenery on a tiny screen is almost unpardonable. While there are those who have very strong opinions about dub and sub options, I believe this series should be viewed with the original Japanese language and subtitles. Given that the English dubbing isn't horrible (as in many cases), you still miss quite a bit of nuance and inflection used by the Japanese voice actors that simple doesn't exist in the dubbed version. Also, there's Balsa's voice... you'd be hard pressed to find an English speaking actor who can reproduce her deep and resonant tonal quality while retaining a feminine feel. I've always believed that good storytelling was about causing the reader or viewer to become so engrossed that they actually develop concern for the character(s). Guardian does this so well that before you realize what's happened, you're sitting on the edge of your seat, shouting at the screen. In every respect, this story is what visual entertainment should be at it best. Thus far I've watched this series from beginning to end not fewer than three times and it remains fresh and entertaining even now.