Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – The Lie About The Past Revealed

A Special Treasure

Moribito is a very special show because it is one of the most mature shows that one could ask for. It breaks a lot of territory that anime sticks to. We have a protagonist that is a woman and almost thirty years old. She is young enough to be a fantastic action character, but also mature and world-weary enough to know what to do at the right moments for maximum success. Well, for the most part. Everyone has their blind spots. There is just something different about this show in everything it goes for and how it presents itself.

I can keep going on with that. This is a fantasy sort of anime that takes place in a more asian environment than a lot of others. Japan also likes playing in the Tolkien, westernized fantasy experience for the most part. You can count the number of anime with asian fantasies on your hand. Then there is that playing into digging into explorations into imperialism from casual ways to seeing what the long term effects are in that realm of beliefs and the interesting watercycle that plays into all of that because the show just runs on that.


So yeah, this feels like a somewhat unknown show despite the fact that it was on adult swim and despite the fact that it got a dvd release back then and then a blu-ray release recently. There are fans of this show and some people will remember it deeply. I still don’t think it ever made it into the mainstream at all and that is so sad because it deserves to get a little more attention. I suppose it has, but it feels like something that so many modern audiences would be able to really dive into and enjoy. I’m still a small rock in the middle of an ocean, but I want to help people in knowing about it on some level. 

The Story of Moribito

The main selling point of this show is Balsa herself. She is a spear warrior from Kanbal who showed up in the kingdom of Yogo just as something terrible happened to the prince Chagum. As in, during a ceremony as a person who refuses the Yogo tradition of royalty blinding commoners, sees Chagum fall into a river and immediately saves him from it. She is immediately taken in by the second queen for her deed and is forced into the position where she has to protect Chagum from any forces trying to kill him. It’s a mother and son show.

So why is the imperial family of Yogo trying to kill Prince Chagum? Because they believe that Chagum is carrying a being inside of himself that will completely destroy everything. So there is the set of Moribito. It’s a mother and son show, a show about re-evaluating lost traditions and culture, a story about saving the world from a drought, a coming of age story,  and a story about people living their everyday lives in between all of that. It really is a show that, in two cours, does so much more than people would ever imagine but in ways that feel completely natural. 

Amazing World Building

The best part of Moribito for me is how much of a living, breathing world it is. For instance, the show could just be about characters moving around the city and it would be great. There are two characters, Toya and Saya, who basically live by making deals with other people and eventually form their own delivery business that seems profitable. Those episodes of Toya and Chagum who made deals trying to scam some random stall owners for food to get them for a cheaper price. Or the gambling episode with Chagum. Plus the festivals. You can live in this city easily.

Which is interesting to say because that is only the tip of the iceberg of the country of Yogo. There is the way nobles that live in a castle are treated compared to commoners. Or even little hints of royal lives when trying to make policy to govern a company better. Plus the concept of lore and expressions for certain people. Or the entire villages of civilians who refuse to live with the traditions that Yogo has set down for them. Plus the feeling of different countries by what they wear and how they carry themselves. I love that feeling where everything feels natural. 

Intelligent Characters Are Everywhere

I also love how smart the characters in this show are. No one is dumb, but people can easily be misguided and pushed into the wrong direction. Or they are intelligent in some ways while not knowing about some other things. It really is cool to see that sort of implementation for it there too. It’s not just people knowing things like Death Note or Code Geass, there are a lot of interesting worldly experiences and just general education for it. It makes sense for people who do a job to be good at it is what I am trying to say. It just flows naturally.

I love that the supposed bad guys that Balsa and Chagum had to escape were geniuses and actually put up a fight. There is some hot blooded nature to some characters, but the leader is a person that imposes a lot of thinking in trying to understand their enemy to know where they would go or how they would act in the situation they are in. Plus, research and actual intelligence gathering. For the entire show until these legendary warriors sided with Balsa at the end, they were always on the verge of actually catching Balsa because they did everything right. It makes that sense of tension feel real and palpable. 

The Story of Prince Chagum

Over the course of a few months, you can see Chagum start as a little boy and turn into someone who deserves to be the prince. First, he is put into this world that is strange to him. He is from royalty and he doesn’t understand the concept of money or has a lot of trouble understanding the other kids he is living next to. It’s really cool seeing him watch some gambling and figuring out the scam that was going on while getting people to be on his side. Or him figuring out how to use the other person’s strength against them. He’s really smart.

Then he slowly gains some experience and is so trustworthy of a person. Sure, he is still a young boy and is very attached to his family. But he has that responsibility of carrying the egg for the entire world to not fall into any sort of drought. So seeing him accept that responsibility before never knowing anything about it to slowly gain something from his experience with Balsa is what is pushing him towards being an actual person who can lead a nation. I can see and appreciate all of it by being under the guidance of someone like Balsa who knows how to let Chagum grow. 

When The Past Comes To Bite

The major theme of Moribito is the past coming to bite you. The entire show is based on misremembering or locking away older stories and backgrounds and then re-evaluating them. The plot with the egg revolves around that because ancient Yogoian beliefs say that the creature from the egg is bad, so Chagum needs to be killed off. Finding out the truth and having characters discover the realities through actually looking through old logs of stories and historical accounts is what saves the day. It’s about reversing the aspects of cultural places through some colonialism that happened a long time ago.

This is also true for Balsa herself because she is dealing with things from her past that still come out to bite her. At thirty years old, Balsa is still dealing with the sins of her past because she wants to save the same amount of lives that were sacrificed to keep her alive. Eight in fact and Chagum is the last one and she never tries to kill to keep that thinking true. There are even people from her past trying to kill her and a lot of her relationships are damaged from what she binds herself with. Would her life have been easier if she killed yes but also no, because Balsa is well trained but she isn’t the kind of person that would survive off of that. Balsa does have some of her past solved, but we still don’t know what that means yet. We need a sequel.

Concluding Moribito

So yeah, Moribito is a beautiful looking show for the most part. I love the clothing designs, the look and movements of the worlds around them, the settings, and every sort of design decision being placed there. The character designs are great too and there is some insane looking action in so many cool bits of fluid action for them too. Or battle through forests and rice fields. But then there is the conclusion of the show’s first cour which looks like it was as cheaply animated as possible despite the huge emotional impacts of everything that was going on there too. But it was the writing of that moment that sold it so thank goodness for that.

I’ve said a lot of good things about Moribito and I will continue to say good things about Moribito until I can’t. Even writing this post, I still don’t think I have said enough about it yet. Yeah, I don’t want to make this blog post longer than it actually is. I really don’t have a lot of negative things to say about this show either because they all feel like nitpicks to me. Maybe some character relationships don’t work well, but still a nitpick. It’s not a flawless show, but it is just such a wonderful show that does everything right and everyone should check out this show because it really does have almost everything that people would enjoy.

6 comments

  1. Man, I love this anime. Recently I did give it a rewatch and it’s every bit as fantastic as I remembered it being. Having Balsa as the protagonist is part of what really sells it to me above great, because she’s such an interesting main character! Even though you mentioned how the characters pursuing her were smart, I’d always be rooting for her to escape and find a happy closure with Chagum and her own story because she very much deserved it. I also find it quite challenging to put it into words why this is such a magnificent series, but you’re right when you say that people should give it a chance. Once you start watching you just can’t stop. Amazing anime.

    Liked by 1 person

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