On the precipice of a cataclysmic drought, the Star Readers of the Shin Yogo Empire must devise a plan to avoid widespread famine. It is written in ancient myths that the first emperor, along with eight warriors, slew a water demon to avoid a great drought and save the land that was to become Shin Yogo. If a water demon was to appear once more, its death could bring salvation. However, the water demon manifests itself within the body of the emperor's son, Prince Chagum—by the emperor's order, Chagum is to be sacrificed to save the empire.
Meanwhile, a mysterious spear-wielding mercenary named Balsa arrives in Shin Yogo on business. After saving Chagum from a thinly veiled assassination attempt, she is tasked by Chagum's mother to protect him from the emperor and his hunters. Bound by a sacred vow she once made, Balsa accepts.
Seirei no Moribito follows Balsa as she embarks on her journey to protect Chagum, exploring the beauty of life, nature, family, and the bonds that form between strangers.
Seriei no Moribito (or Guardian of the Sacred Spirit), is not your normal anime. It began life as the first in the ten volume Moribito series of fantasy novel written by Uehashi Nahoko, and although these novels were intended for children, they gained many adult fans. In fact, the novels proved to be so popular that they the first volume was adapted into a manga, an anime (directed by Kamiyama Kenji, who directed Ghost in the Shell SAC and 2nd Gig), and even a radio drama. The novel is also scheduled for release in english in mid 2008 because of the immense popularity of the
Seirei no Moribito has some of the smoothest and most fluid animation of any anime produced over the last few years. Production I.G. managed to produce one of the best looking anime of 2007, and with it, managed to introduce one of the most unique and interesting female leads in anime.
The colour palette is very "Ghibli-esque" as it mainly uses greens, browns, blues, etc, but Production I.G. has made good use of them for the characters and environements, and the overall effect gives the show a feeling more reminiscent of "Monoke Hime" or "Gedo Senki" than anything else.
Character designs are exceptional throughout the show, most especially the main and immediate supporting characters. Balsa is exceptionally well designed, and far more realistic than many other fantasy female leads. Her character is fairly muscular and stocky, yet without the extremely toned muscles shown in most other fantasies. Facially too, the designers went for realism more than anything else. Balsa is not beautiful, but not ugly either. She's plain (in a sense), and is most definitely a woman, not a girl.
The other characters are also designed very much with realism in mind, and this actually helps to pull the viewer into the show in a big way. It's also nice to see that attention was paid to the animals in the show as well, and it makes a nice change to see a horse in anime that actually looks like a real horse.
One thing that should be mentioned here is the design influences. Many people relate thise series to China and Japan because of the very obvious visual references to those countries (i.e. the palace, the emperor, the ninjas, etc), however this is really only a small part of the whole. In truth, Seirei no Moribito isn't simply based on China and Japan, but is actually based on the greater Indo-Chinese region. This is reflected in the differing facial structures, customs, practices, etc, that are seen in the show. Balsa and Jiguro are originally from Kanbal, a country that shows a number of elements of Northern India/ Kashmir, Nepal and Tibet. This influence also extends to Balsa and Jiguro's fighting style, which is very different to that of the stories other combatants. The backgounds, still scenes, the rural settings, even the mountainous regions and jungles, are very clearly based on a region of South-East Asia stretching from India to Japan, and it's a rarity to find this kind of scope or depth of detail in anime.
The animation quality throughout the show never really lets up, and the action sequences are especially impressive. The fights are swift and well executed, and the movements of the combatants is especially impressive during the action scenes. Production I.G. have also paid attention to the different combat styles used in the show as well, and have managed to include these in the animation, which gives the fights a far more "authentic" feel.
Each episode opens with a very nice, and rather catchy, J-rock/pop ballad called "Shine", which was performed by L'Arc-en-Ciel but never released as a single. The rest of the music in the show (composed by the famous Kawai Kenji), adds to the atmosphere and overall feel of the show. The dramatic moments, fights, and even the slow-paced scenes are all emphasized with some great background music.
The sound effects are exceptional in this show, especially as this is more of a "historical" fantasy. The background noises, the grunts, clucks, whinnies, and other noises of the various animals, the clash of steel on steel, etc, breathe life into the series, and makes the setting that much more "real".
It goes without saying that the star of the show is Balsa, the spear wielding warrior woman, and Balsa, as a character, is one of the strongest and most unique female leads in any anime. She is muscular and stocky, possess many skills (not the least of which is her formidable fighting ability), has a strong sense of right and wrong, is very rarely indecisive, and is sensible in many ways. As I've said earlier, Balsa is no beauty, and this again sets her apart from many other female leads, as the designers generally try to make lead women in anime "attractive" to male audiences.
Chagum, on the other hand, is exactly how you would expect a young prince to be, but without the arrogance (which makes a nice change). What makes this series really work though, is the attention to character development that both Balsa and Chagum receive, and how, as each of them develops, their relationship with each other changes.
There are several other characters who appear throughout the series (Tanda, Touya, Saya, Jiguro, etc), all of whom receive a certain amount of development because of their association with Balsa. The nice thing about the development of the supporting characters is that it is often directly linked to the development of either Balsa or Chagum, or both in some cases. This is most especially true in the case of Jiguro, who was Balsa's guardian and mentor as a child, and is the one who taught her how to fight with a spear. The various references and flashbacks to this character slowly begin to make sense as the series progresses, and with this clarity it is possible to understand Balsa's character even more.
There is a downside to the characters though, in that there are other characters who receive little to no development. In addition to that, the characters who do receive development rarely get it continuously. Strangely enough though, this does very little to impact on the story or the viewers enjoyment of the show.
The story is actually a nice role reversal of the typical "rescue the princess" scenario and, although it's meant to be a serious fantasy action drama, there are some genuinely humourous moments.
The story flows at a nice steady pace throughout the series, and although it does slow down from time to time, these are effectively the times when the majority of the character development happens. The premise was good on the whole, and although the story at times seems more like stock fantasy, there are enough differences, as well as some great character development, sound and animation, to make watching this a worthwhile experience.
This isn't a light-hearted series, but it also doesn't become overly dramatic. It doesn't focus so much on action that it gives up areas of the story, and it never lets the story become so bland that you get bored of watching. It's an interesting show to watch and the pacing of the show, as well as the slow delve into Balsa's past, serve to ensure that you keep watching.
Although the plot may be simplistic at times, this isn't really a show that suffers from it, especially as the show itself is more character driven than anything else. The main focus of the show, from beginning to end, are the characters. This is emphasized by the fact that the action and drama clearly take second place to each of the characters.
Overall I'd recommend this show to any Ghibli fan, and also to anyone who like shows like Claymore, Slayers, or even Rurouni Kenshin or Sword of the Stranger. It's an extremely enjoyable example of how good a fantasy series can get if you do it right, and because of it's characters, it will appeal to fans of many different genres.
Seirei no Moribito was one of those rare anime that I commenced with an unshakeable sense of anticipation and with high expectations. I can never resist the urge to assume a show will be spectacular based on the staff or studio involved, even if my hopes have all-too-often been crushed (as was the case with Darker than Black). So, when I heard that Kenji Kamiyama, who is largely responsible for some of the finer creative inputs for both seasons of Gits SAC, was going to be heading this show with Production I.G, it instantly became my single most anticipated series of the year. By the
time the trailer came along I was well and truly brimming with excitement. However, the show that I got was both different to what I had hoped, and also not as memorable or entertaining. On some levels, the show is a resounding achievement, and there are moments dispersed throughout when it reaches remarkable heights of excitement, emotion and splendour. Yet, when looked at as a whole, the show has failings that can not be ignored; most notably, flaws in the pacing and the build-up of the story.
The element of Seirei no Moribito that most screams for attention is its stunning production, and here is where my faith in Kamiyama is affirmed. The entire series has maintained an unprecedented quality of art and animation. It has the look and feel of a (good) movie, with a sweeping cinematic mode of directing that befits the stories’ expansive fantasy world, and stunningly realised landscapes that bring the show to life. More so than in any other anime I can recall, the background art in Seirei no Moribito left a profound impression on me - this could well be the finest example of background art in anime, not just for its level of detail, but for the way it is used to enhance the atmosphere of the show and draw the viewer in to its vibrant and striking settings. On top of this, the cel animation, while it could quite easily have been blessed with a higher level of detail to match its surroundings, is amazingly fluid and vital when it needs to be. The use of cel-shaded CG has been popularised among IG’s producers it seems, and it’s generally put to good use in Seirei, to animate hordes of extras in scenes such as in the towns, or when the palace assembles its army. This means that these scenes are bought to life in a way that would otherwise not be possible with a tv anime budget, successfully avoiding the common anime trap of either having a surprising absence of people in the background, or have large crowds of people inexplicably still. Unfortunately, it sticks out a bit too much on a number of occasions, providing a nagging distraction.
I think this show’s production also excels in a way that people generally don’t give credit for, and that is the expertise with which it is directed - Kenji Kamiyama’s style of directing is a subtle yet effective one. Unlike the in-your-face stylistic shots of Akiyuki Shinbo’s work (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Tsukuyomi MoonPhase, Petite Cossette), Kamiyama has presented this series in a conventional yet fresh manner. The fight sequences, particularly those in the third episode, exemplify this, where the use of camera angles serves to make the fight more engaging while not drawing from the choreography. The wide and distant shots used in and around the palace are excellent at creating its cold, detached atmosphere, and the overall choice of shots is amazingly good at highlighting the show’s beautiful scenery. As he did with his directing work on Gits SAC, Kamiyama has created a visually captivating series.
The music was a surprising achievement from the veteran, Kenji Kawai, whose scores I generally find bland and uninspired. I’m not sure why this anime marked such a great deviation from his usual standards, but the music in Seirei no Moribito is a really crucial contributor to its dramatic impact - from the urgent and threatening battle theme, to the quiet and hauntingly evocative tracks, the music delivers in every respect. I’m shocked to say that his work here was more compelling than much of Yoko Kanno’s recent work, and he wasn’t even creating music with real instruments. Fitting with the visual style of the show, the score music is very much produced in a traditional cinematic way, which does this show justice.
Unfortunately, the show’s content fails to live up to its gloss, and I think this is mainly a failure of the pacing of the script rather than of the story itself (which comes from a novel series). The bare plot is an accomplished exploration of life and adulthood, and of the connection between humanity and nature. It is set in a fantasy world, but at its core it depicts a very down-to-earth, human ordeal. Fortunately, the intricacies and depth to the characters and their relationships is well incorporated into the show - the connection formed between Balsa and Chagum gives the show most of its emotional weight. The other thing that I found to be well written is the development of Chagum himself, as he is torn from his palace life and forced to experience life and shoulder responsibility. It is satisfying to see him grow as a person as the show progresses. Perhaps the egg inside of him is a parallel to his rearing into adulthood. The problem lies in the amount of time the show takes to achieve this development, and in the unsatisfying climax.
My appreciation of a good story stems from its sense of direction toward a climax that brings together all of the crucial plot threads from throughout the show and culminates them in a burst of excitement of drama that pays off the time the viewer has spent watching it develop. Instead, the big event that the show had supposedly been leading up to was a rushed affair with a surprising lack of tension or emotional potency. The show did not have any filler per se, but by the time the conclusion was wrapped up I felt that a lot of the show’s time was poorly spent on redundant subtleties of its character development. The trailer gave a very different impression to what was delivered. Balsa and Chagum living together was nice a pleasant affair, but it lacked a sense of tension or danger that ultimately dragged down the middle of the show. The exploration of Balsa’s character was far too spontaneous and vague for my liking. I did get a strong sense of her character from her actions throughout the show, but I really think she had a lot more potential and that we were never given the kind of insight into her that was frequently hinted at.
All in all, this show left me feeling unsatisfied, like being left hungry after a serving of fine food. The show is of undeniable quality; however the writers behind it failed to capitalise on its full potential, through sloppy pacing that made its stand-out moments seem like a tease, and through its inability to deliver a conclusion that sends off the show at its peak. I recommend this show to anyone with an ounce of patience, as the subtle development of the characters and their companionship is ultimately its most rewarding component. I think this show also succeeds in its fantasy elements - its portrayal of two intersecting worlds is fascinating. Don’t go into this series expecting non-stop, heart-pounding action, because it’s a laidback show about the endearing strength of the human spirit with only intermittent bursts of excitement.
My favourite anime of 2007. I decided to check this out solely on Production I.G's involvement, those nice guys behind one of the best anime in the world: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
The animation for this show was superb all the way through, which is nice for a TV anime. Each episode looked gorgeous, so I liked the consistency. The unique alternate fantasy setting and protagonist of this series were a nice departure from anime convention.
The main character is a wandering thirty year old spear-wielding woman who bodyguards people for a living. She basically ends up as a guardian
of a prince who's possessed by a water spirit. His father, the emperor, orders his death to save the land from a drought, and thus the being-on-the-run-from-awesome-assassins template begins.
The assassins are awesome in this case simply because they get time to develop as characters. Not as much as the main characters, but still depicted as a cohesive unit of honourable and professional men, as opposed to remaining faceless goons who obey orders like automatons. Balsa is usually one step ahead of them but they're hot on her heels for most of the anime and this is due to their skill and cunning, not stupid errors on Balsa's behalf.
This characterization extends to the land most of the story is set in, so you are actually concerned about the impending doom, as opposed to many other generic anime where you really couldn't care less.
The story is laden with feeling. Episode 17 for example has one of the most touching moments I've ever seen in anime, its a very brief sequence but it really put a lump in my throat. But what follows is even more emotional, with Balsa's back story and the inevitable climax...there are really amazing moments spread out through the story, where in any other anime they would be mishandled, but in this production they hit all the right beats. I was teary eyed many a time I'm not ashamed to admit.
Seirei no Moribito has a very well written story, great direction and fantastic fight scenes, while bravely eschewing most anime narrative clichés as best as it can for 26 episodes. It does this because its adapted from a fantasy novel, and I hope they adapt the rest of the books in the series.
Its a testament to everyone involved in this production, from the writer to the animators, that a story can be so epic and yet not even have a typical antagonist. In fact it wouldnt be too far off to say that we dont really see a villain in Seirei no Moribito. Yet the conflict and drama is monumental, which makes it all the more remarkable. Sure there are characters you wouldnt want to have tea with, but the anime steers clear of generic cliches, there's no black and white good versus bad plot, no easy resolution to everyone's troubles.
Seirei no Moribito charts a rites of passage, a life-altering journey, the symbiotic relationship between man and nature. The characters struggle, they run and ultimately have to face their destiny head on. It's inspiring. Why? Because the anime never talks down to the viewer, because it retains its dignity, it doesnt follow the trends of today, it sticks to the source material as best as it can.
The only bad thing I can say about this show is that the beginning credits sequence is bland and the song is too, but then I don't like L'arc-en-ciel at all. The short sequence halfway through each episode signalling an advert break is very cool though, it slowly charts the birth of the water spirit.
If you like the medium of anime at all, you must watch this. If you're looking for tons of action, you'll be disappointed because this has a story to tell, and it will tell it in its own pace designed to develop characters, and yet it still has some of the best action scenes I've ever seen in my life. If you have any taste at all, you'll enjoy this masterful example of Production I.G's contribution to anime.
Seirei no Moribito is a Fantasy, Action, Adventure about the journey faced by a female warrior and prince and their growing platonic relationship. It is undeniably a great series offering a well-written adventurous experience however this isn’t as action-packed or spectacular as some may hope to be.
The story follows a female warrior (Balsa) who has been hired to protect the Prince of Yogo (Chagum), whose life is in constant danger. The main story is nicely crafted in the first 6 episodes, where a lot of developments occur and some back story is given on the characters. From then on the pacing of the story changes
dramatically, as it moves onto slow character building and plot filling. Sure there are some fairly pointless or dull episodes but they all have a purpose in the progression of the storyline. Later on, when the foundations the for the ending has been laid and everything has been explained, the series reaches it’s climax and is able to bring things to a reasonable ending that many anime series fail to do.
The series has a satisfying batch of important characters that cannot be simply described as people on the side of good or evil, but rather be described as people on the polar opposites of society that are striving for what they believe in. Balsa and Chagum are the central roles, which the story revolves around and both of them develop equally well throughout their adventure. Balsa, a sort of affectionate Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), is one that will leave a huge impression on you even after finishing. The rest of the characters aren’t as well developed but they all bring something to the story and their voice actors do a good job on them as well.
With Production I.G. behind the making of this series you’d know to expect great things in the animation & sound department. The visuals are splendid; with lush greenery environments, incredibly detailed buildings and well implemented CG effects. The character designs are also very realistic and the characters themselves move so fluidly.
As for the sounds, due to the historical setting this anime utilizes a variety of ambient sounds perfectly and the SFX are great as well. The music is also impressive and exciting to listen to when there’s some action, and not to forget the adorable, traditional insert song later on.
Overall this adventure anime managed to fulfill its purpose in creating a fantasy world for us to observe its characters experience it. Certainly this is an experience I greatly enjoyed and even with a few dull moments, here and there, I was pretty satisfied with what I got. Sadly once the journey is over and the series ended it does leave one with; to some extent feeling empty inside, after the anti-climatic ending. Nevertheless that shouldn’t deter anyone from watching this superb fantasy adventure.
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