Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Balsa makes her living as a bodyguard, but unlike anyone else in her profession, she swore an oath to never kill again. She's intent on saving 8 lives to atone for 8 deaths she feels responsible for, and has saved 7 thus far. This leads to her taking an unusual but very dangerous job that she may never finish. A prince harbors a water demon egg within him, and is now sentenced to death (discreetly). His mother asks Balsa to take him from the palace and look after him.
In a way, Balsa becomes his new parent. Escaping wasn't even the hard part, it's the persistence of the soldiers pursuing her who she can never shake off her trail for long. There's also the water demon. What happens if it hatches and will the prince survive? Stories suggest if Balsa protects him, the kingdom will go to ruin, but is that the truth?
Something about the start didn't quite jive with me. It was moving really slow for an action title. After 3 or 4 episodes it dawned on me that this wasn't an action title at all. That's right, an anime featuring a spear wielding bodyguard as the lead heroine is a drama. After I changed my expectations, I found the story of Moribito to be better told than expected. Unlike most anime, Moribito is based off of a novel, and detail in the story reflects this. Moribito is however very slow paced and obviously padded to fill out 26 episodes but the it's methods are rather subtle. Filler segments involve walking around, reading, and backdrop panning. All this adds up over time. If you're accustomed to a faster pace in anime, Moribito may test your patience. It not enough of a detractor to pass it over for that reason.
The biggest strength of Moribito lies in its characters. Balsa is a spear wielding bodyguard, so her oath to not kill struck me as idiotic. However her practicality regarding her oath makes it oddly realistic and an interesting plot point. Her character particularly shines in her growth as a mother - although possibly the most ass kicking mom on the planet. Few (if any) titles capture the relationship between mother and child as well as portrayed between Balsa and Chagum, a stand out feature of the show. It helps that Chagum is actually likable and not especially bland as I would have expected. Rounding this out is Balsa's long time friend Tanda: a guy harboring feelings for Balsa for so long, with so much pent up love, Balsa probably won't be able to walk for a week once they finally hook up. Whenever that finally happens.
This anime sports fairly high and consistently good production values for a TV series. A setting akin to that of ancient China adds an interesting flavor to the setting, with a lot of detail in the dress, customs, and music.
What you get out of Moribito depends on expectations, and tolerance for pacing. It is not an action title, so better to skip if that's what you desire. The story is well told, although predictable, but as a character driven title, that's not a big deal. While I didn't expect much from Moribito, it impressed me with characters and relationships done very well in ways anime rarely does.
Jiguro: Saving a life is is much more difficult than taking one. Are you trying to become a hero? From time to time people think they want a hero to lay down their life for them. But Saving people just happens, it's not something you set out to do.
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