Seirei no Moribito (精霊の守り人) isn’t one of the popular animes. It’ll never win Prom Queen and let’s face it, you won’t find a shirt with its logo at Hot Topic. However, Moribito is beloved by those who have had the good sense to watch it, and darn it, with good reason. Much like another favorite cult show, Firefly, Moribito suffered from network interruption, being dropped without warning after airing only ten episodes. But I’m not here to gripe about networks ruining excellent TV shows. (I’ll save that for a separate post littered with colorful language.)
Instead, let’s delve into all the reasons you need this anime. But first! A summary! Moribito follows Balsa, a bodyguard trying to atone for eight lives she has taken. Her eighth charge is Chagum, a young prince who is believed to be possessed by a water demon and sentenced to death by his father, the Mikado. Balsa steals the prince away from his home and takes him on the road, fending off elite assassins in the process.
Sounds like a typical action anime, right?
For starters, Balsa isn’t your average female lead, especially not in anime. Balsa is intelligent enough to outsmart her pursuers, yet strong enough to fight (and win) when necessary. Moreover, those around her never challenge her gruff, stoic nature. No one criticizes Balsa for her lack of typical feminine traits. Even the assassins respect her skill, not as a woman, but as a spear-wielder.
The other characters shine just as much as Balsa. In fact, I found all the characters enjoyable in their own way. No one is inherently good or evil, each believing that their path is the correct one. That, naturally, creates a wee bit of tension. Chagum, the central character, isn’t too exciting in the early episodes when the focus is on his protection. However, once the plot settles he grows into his own. Tanda is a healer, and his character embodies all of the stereotypical female traits. He is nurturing and quiet, wanting only to settle down and have a family. He’s considered Balsa’s love interest, but I say that in the loosest sense of the term. It’s obvious the two have feelings for one another, but it never takes away the focus from the heart of the story. Tanda’s teacher, Shaman Torogai, is the heart of humor, never afraid to expose her eccentric nature or make a blunt, over-the-top comment. She’s also intelligent and crafty, and she’ll never shy away from taking the low road if it means she gets what she needs.
It’s obvious in Moribito that the world is controlled by men. Men are the rulers, the merchants, the assassins, and the scholars and women are relegated to traditional gender roles. That being said, it’s simply wonderful to watch Balsa and Shaman Torogai outsmart and outmuscle their masculine counterparts. As a girl with “tomboy” stamped all over her face, I couldn’t help but cheer for the women in Moribito.
It isn’t the story that makes Moribito a must-watch, because let’s be honest: there isn’t much that’s innovative in the plot. Rather, it’s the characters, the gorgeous artwork, and the small, quiet moments. If you’re looking for action anime akin to Attack on Titan, steer clear of Moribito. I assure you, no one gets ripped in half and eaten. After the first three episodes, the action slows down considerably, and that’s fine by me. More than the characters’ traits, it was heartening to see each of their physical flaws. Balsa isn’t traditionally attractive. Torogai is squat, dour, and bug-eyed. There’s even a charming character with a massive overbite. And Tanda has hair that needs to be did or I may just go insane, girl.
Oh, look. I even found the series on Hulu for all of you. Get to watching and then shower me with gratitude in the comments.
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Correction 9/10/2014: The English dubbed version was dropped after ten episodes by Cartoon Network in January 2009. The program returned to Adult Swim during the summer 2009 line-up with an airing of the entire series. All 26 episodes can be watched on Hulu in Japanese with English subtitles.