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Seirei no Moribito (Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit) - Episode 3 Review
The story so far:
At the opening of the series, the main character, a skilled spear-wielder from Kanbal by the name of Balsa, is travelling through a land foreign to her: the New Yogo Empire. By coincidence, while crossing a bridge she witnessed a young boy fall into the river. She dove into the water and rescued him, saving his life, but in doing so witnessed a strange blue light being emitted from the boy. She soon found out that this boy was the Imperial Prince, Chagum, and was brought to the Star Palace where she was rewarded generously. There, she also found out the truth about the Imperial Prince. The young boy had been posessed by a water demon, and had since become the subject of multiple assassination attempts ordered to be carried out by the Emperor, his father. The Empress requested that Balsa take Chagum with her, and protect him. Balsa agreed, under the context of wanting to save eight lives to pent for having taken eight lives in the past. The prince's bed chambers were burned to create confusion, and Balsa and the Prince left the palace together that night. After a brief stop at a small village to purchase supplies and rest, the two are again on the move. At the end of the previous episode, however, four hunters sent by the emperor have closed in on the pair.
Summary of Episode 03: "Mortal Combat"
The episode picks up exactly where the previous one left off, which is certainly a good thing considering that we, as viewers, were left at a very climactic moment. No time is wasted, as the hunters immediately engage the pair. Balsa shouts for Chagum to run, while she is forced into combat with the pursuers. The fight that occurrs is one of the series' high points so far. The animation is superb, as I've come to expect due to the first two episodes, and the rice-paddy environment is beautiful. I've become used to watching Shounen anime that contain relatively static backgrounds, and get by on just the bare minimum of frames being drawn. It's absolutely refreshing to see something as detailed and fleshed out as Moribito. The subtleties of the characters' movements, the quality of the animation, and the fact that none of that animation is recycled is truly impressive; and the dynamic "camera" that rotates at times is testament to the fact that the animators cared about their product (and that they had a good sized budget.) It's unreasonable to expect all animes to strive for this level of quality, but it certainly is a treat when one does.
Pedestal that now holds this show's production values aside for a moment, Balsa is eventually overcome by the hunters. She dispatches one of them, but after the head of her spear breaks, she suffers a wound to the stomach, and is forced to flee into the woods. With Balsa unable to continue fighting, the hunters easily capture Chahum. One of them then picks him up, and carries him off alone. It's at this point that we are given background information on his character through flashback. Apparently, he was once shown compassion by the young prince, who offered him something to eat while passing by. This hunter has apparently kept the wrapper of the sweets given to him by the prince for years, and has never allowed the act of kindness to slip from memory. As a result, he has decided to take the prince's life himself, to spare him the shame of being killed by his own father, the emperor. He does this while kneeling in the rain crying over the body of the prince. The whole thing comes off as slightly melodramatic, but it's passable.
In any case, Balsa shows up at the last minute for the save, with a tackle out of desperation. She then carries Chagum off, before collapsing on the ground. She uses the last of her energy to describe to Chagum how to get to the home of Tanda, a man who will be able to help him. Chagum, still struggling to walk himself, climbs the back of a ridge that is shaped like a bear's back, as Balsa instructs him to, where he sees a wolf with bright green eyes sitting on a rock. The wolf frightens him, and it's worth noting that the facial expressions Chagum shows are really telling. The struggle and pain in his eyes are obvious. As Chagum forces himself to keep moving, the wolf eventually leads him to Tanda's hut, almost as if it were a spirit. This isn't addressed in the episode, and perhaps nothing will come of it, but I thought this was quite interesting. No sooner does Chagum arrive at the outside of Tanda's hut, he falls into the marsh and nearly drowns. It is Tanda, just arriving home, who reaches in and pulls him to safety. Chagum then tells Tanda about Balsa's injury.
The episode's final segment acts in juxtaposition with the first segment to book-end the episode with scenes of actions. Two men appear to be having a violent battle near the body of Balsa. Like the first scene of the episode, the animation is excellent. However, as the fight concludes, with one of the men killing the other, a young girl appears in the background, watching the fight. The girl appears to be a child version of Balsa. Close-ups on the adult Balsa's face, as she lie on the ground, suggest that she is remembering something from her past. The episode concludes with Tanda arriving, and calling out Balsa's name, as he checks to make sure she's still alive. At this point, it is clear that nobody aside from Balsa and Tanda are in the area. Cut to ending theme song.
Because I'm reviewing a single episode rather than the series as a whole, and because this is my first time watching this series, I can't comment on the overall story, and I can't say what threads from this episode will be sewn into larger arcs of the series' overall plot. I can only judge the episode with respect to its more tangible aspects (graphics, sound, animation), and whether or not it makes me want to keep watching. Well I've given nothing but praise for how Moribito looks, and I'll take this moment to say that its sound effects are just as good. If I were to nitpick for a complaint, I might say that a slightly more liberal use of music might not have been a bad idea. This is rather minor, however, and doesn't detract from the show's overall quality. As for whether or not I plan to continue watching: Barring any drastic drop in quality, I expect to be done with the entire show by Monday. I've already grown attatched to Balsa, and some of the minor characters. I'm even becoming pleasantly surprised by Chagum's development, and I originally expected him to be little more than a whiny rich kid whom Balsa lugged around.
Episode Rating: 8.75 out of 10.0
You can purchase the complete series on DVD at Amazon by clicking They have it available on Blu-ray as well, but unfortunately it is broken up into two separate releases. The art quality really deserves to be seen in high-definition though. The first Blu-ray is found here.here.