Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Part 1 Blu-ray delivers stunning video and great audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
Balsa the spearwoman is a wandering warrior, who takes on the task of saving lives, in atonement for a past sin. On her journey, she happens to save a prince, and is tasked with becoming his bodyguard. And he is going to need one, for his own father, the emperor, wants him dead.
For more about Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Part 1 and the Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Part 1 Blu-ray release, see Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Part 1 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
When girls became grrrls and girl power became grrrl power, probably no one was thinking of the "grrrl" as evoking an
animalistic roar, despite such books as Clarissa Pinkola EstÚs' Women Who Run With the Wolves which lionized
(sorry, couldn't resist) powerful women in myth and archetype. It's rather interesting to note from a sociopolitical
context that Japan, a nation and culture known for sex roles which typically espouse submissive females, has given rise
to anime, where powerful women are a dime a dozen, and girlŚor grrrlŚpower is a standard trope. Moribito:
Guardian of the Spirit offers yet another kick-ass female heroine, in this instance a mercenary bodyguard named
Balsa (it's no coincidence it's a strong but supple wood), who in the series' first episode, is recruited, somewhat against
her will, to guard the Emeperor's young son, who may be host to a redemptive spirit, but who is feared to be
possessed and has thus been marked for assassination by the Emperor himself. The boy's mother entreats Balsa to
keep the boy alive, combing pleas with threats until Balsa relents, realizing she probably has no choice in the matter
anyway. In the ensuing conversation, Balsa reveals that she's trying to atone for a long ago mistake that led to the
deaths of eight people, and that to do penance, she has set out on a quest to save eight people. She's already
managed to rescue seven, which means the young boy, Chagum, will be her redemptive eighth if she can manage to
shepherd him to safety. That's basically the gist of Moribito: Guardain of the Spirit, which in its first season
plays out as a languid but often quite involving extended "road movie," with Balsa and Chagam journeying from village
to village, meeting various friends and foes, and learning about each other as their own relationship slowly develops.
What might have been a standard series with little to recommend it becomes a surprisingly compelling piece, especially
from a visual perspective, under the assured direction of anime master Kenji Kamiyama, who helped to reinvigorate the
Ghost in the Shell frnachise with his Stand Alone Complex reboot.
Moribito began life as a well received book series by Nahoko Uehashi which became a sensation not just in
but which emigrated to the United States courtesy of Scholastic Books to give Harry Potter a run for his fantasy
money. The series has stretched to eleven books, but it was the first book, Guardian of the Spirit, which has
attracted the most attention and has been adapted as a manga and this often beautifully wrought anime. Moribito:
Guardian of the Spirit had a brief but incisive run on Adult Swim several years ago, where it attracted a cult
which has since blossomed into a rather profound fan base who have come to appreciate the series' relaxed pace and
soothing, incredibly filmic visuals, visuals which are often more redolent of feature films than episodic weekly television
In fact it's that very relaxed pace which may turn off some prospective viewers who, seeing that the series features a
spear-wielding kick-ass heroine, might assume that Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is one knock down, drag out
fight after another. There's no denying the fact that the series does have some battle elements, but this is not a
Yu-Gi-Oh or Yu Yu Hakusho outing where the entire raison d'ŕtre of the series seems to be
matches between good and evil. Instead this is much more of a character piece, as we begin to understand what
motivates Balsa as we also watch Chagum grow and change as he has to come face to face with the fact that he may
be his people's savior despite those in power believing that he may in fact be a demonic presence. The series also
works well within the confines of something like an anime version of The Fugitive, where our heroes are on the
run, wrongly accused of something, and trying to evade capture at every turn.
If you can get past the fact that Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit isn't an in your face sort of anime, there are a
wealth of pleasures to enjoy here, most notably the absolutely gorgeous animation. Kenji Kamiyami teamed with
Production I.G on Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit as he did with the Ghost in the Shell outings, but if
anything the look of Moribito is vastly more sumptuous, due perhaps at least in part to the series' setting in
ancient feudal times. Carefully rendered backgrounds, often filled with incredible detail, and really finely drawn
characters, all contribute to an often magical ambience throughout the series. Everything from crystalline waving grass
to the flitting of a bug which dips and darts around Balsa make this a very involving series from a purely visual
You'd probably never guess Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is an interlaced presentation considering the beauty of its AVC encoded
(1080i) transfer in 1.78:1, and the good news is there is nary a combing artifact to be found in this extremely fluid and filmic presentation.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit contains some of the finest animation in recent anime, with extremely well detailed character designs and
exceptionally rendered backgrounds, and they all look splendid on this Blu-ray. Line detail is exceptional throughout, and the minimal digital
elements blend perfectly with the traditionally animated fare. While the storytelling in this series can be langorous, there's always a wealth of
splendor to take in in virtually every episode, and the best thing about the series is the impeccable attention to the very smallest details, like
dust mites glinting in the sun or gradations of light as sun streams through thatched huts. This is one extremely nice looking anime series and
its Blu-ray debut sparkles appropriately.
Both the original Japanese language track as well as an unusually well done English dub are presented in two lossless offerings, DTS-HD Master
Audio 2.0 stereo mixes and nicely immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes. While dialogue in the surround mixes is routinely mixed forward,
we do get occasional directionality. Late in this set's episodes, to give just one example, when Balsa is attempting to save two travelers being
threatened by an old rival of hers, voices ping pong nicely from rear to front channels as the two attempt to regain control of a horse the rival
has shot with stone. The most immersive elements in this series are the finely detailed ambient environmental noises which populate virtually
every episode with a wealth of pleasant and soothing sounds like rustling leaves, running water and the sounds of birdsong. The series is also
not shy about utilizing LFE, both in terms of underscore and some nice rattle-worthy sound effects which up the sonic activity in several action
sequences. Dialogue is very clear and well prioritized and the voice work in the English dub is especially well handled.
I was frankly surprised by how sucked in I was by this Blu-ray presentation of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. While I had caught a few
episodes on Adult Swim back in the day, and had thought the series okay if unspectacular then, I was immediately struck this time, perhaps due
to the beautiful high definition presentation, by how striking this series is from a visual standpoint. It took about three episodes to fully relax
into this series' more laid back rhythms, but even in the most ostensibly slow moments, there's so much to see most people won't get
too fidgety. The series is at its midpoint in this first release and things are starting to come to a head vis a vis Chagum's destiny
and Balsa's attempts to atone for what she sees as past sins. While the journey thus far may not have been incredibly eventful, it's been
remarkably enjoyable, and this series and Blu-ray come Highly recommended.
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