Reflections on Seirei no Moribito: dull or delightful?

An (evil) part of me will always demand an epic train-wreck, a sensational massacre of violence, death and angst, but deep down, I always knew it would never happen with straight-laced Seirei no Moribito – it was certainly predictable; morally as straight as an arrow, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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As any fans of Evangelion will attest, it’s rare to finish an anime series and find ourselves contented enough to walk away knowing “everything is tied up into a neat little package”, yet that is the case with the recently concluded Guardian of the Sacred Spirit (a.k.a Seirei no Moribito). An (evil) part of me will always demand an epic train-wreck, a sensational massacre of violence, death and angst, but deep down, I always knew it would never happen with straight-laced Seirei no Moribito – it was certainly predictable; morally as straight as an arrow, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve read a lot of the criticism aimed at Balsa and co.; “dull” and “disappointing” immediately spring to mind. Indeed, given our expectations were blazed by the ferocious opening three episodes, it’s understandable to feel disappointed when an apparently action-packed siege suddenly transforms into an aimless vacation; reading that Production I.G. greatly expanded the midsection of the original novel explains this notable lull in adrenaline and tension.

Like everyone else, I felt frustrated by waiting for the pace to pick up, yet I never grew tired of Seirei no Moribito. Often I had trouble motivating myself to physically sit down and watch an episode, yet within minutes I would feel relaxed; almost spirited away by the serene fantasy and the bristling green countryside; the plot was always a safe bet, a no-brainer, but the rippling atmosphere of the series, it’s ethereal tones, cultures and sounds would render me completely at ease.

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On that point, one of my favourite episodes was number twenty – Balsa et all journey from a remote village hidden by green fields and sparkling blue waterfalls; for minutes the dialogue is minimal to none as the party look back on the rural settlements and Kenji Kawai’s wistful melodies swirl-away in the background. It’s hard not to be taken aback by such peaceful depictions of the simple life; one person’s “dull” is another’s diamond.

Though the story’s clear focus is to follow Chagum’s development from pampered kid to worthy prince, I was more interested by Tanda’s presence – or rather, his growing feelings for Balsa (and visa-versa). As you can imagine, the transition from childhood friend to adult love interest is never easy, and often we’re left feeling uncomfortable (and even embarrassed) as the romantic tension between the two almost-siblings becomes obvious even to their tween-aged prince. Indeed, it’s precisely this attraction that undercuts their every interaction with an adorably timid facade, as both Tanda and Balsa desperately try to ignore the obvious signs of lurrrrrv.

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Aside from the aforementioned fireworks in episode three, the big action highlight is an awe-inspiring flashback to godly warrior Jiguro’s adoption of Balsa, and take it from me; his skills with the spear are without rival. In one breath-taking sequence, poetically surrounded by rocky mountains and falling snow, he alone takes on (and kills) six of his fellow warriors.

When Seirei no Moribito does action, it’s spine-tingling, but such scenes are so few and far between. It’s not an action series at all; I’m tempted to say “slice of life”, but that’s not right either. It’s hard to pin down to any neatly labelled genre – alongside everything else I’ve already mentioned, there are strong elements of fantasy, politics and religion. What I can say is Seirei no Moribito’s main strength is its atmosphere; the feelings conjured by wind swept fields, the quiet rustling of wildlife and Kenji Kawai’s sweeping and emotive soundtrack (which is clearly channeling Toshio Masuda’s brilliant work on Mushishi). If you’re ready to calm yourself, brew a hot drink and set aside an afternoon or two, Seirei no Moribito is fine means of whiling away a stressed mind.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

19 thoughts on “Reflections on Seirei no Moribito: dull or delightful?”

  1. Pingback: World of Anime » Reflections on Seirei no Moribito: dull or delightful?
  2. Oh I was about to ask you what happened to SnM.
    I completely agree with you. People kept on expecting so much out of the show after the exceptional episode 3. Yet in that sense it failed, but it did offer a lot more. After realizing that its not an action show I started to warm up to it especially since the characters are so likable. Everyone is so realistic none are aggravating, none feature high pitched “moe” voices (Thank god) even Saya the obligatory kawaii (loli if I may) didn’t make me cringe not even once because I found her genuinely cute, really.
    Of course the production values IMO are unmatched. I’ve never seen such consistent high quality animation and art (Kyoto-animation is an exception just because) in such an epic show. Every frame, every design, every expression is treated with exceptional skill and precision. Quite the feat considering the fluctuating quality of many shows’ quality when it comes to artistic approach, this show just never lets up the moment you start till the conclusion. The music By Kenji Kawai was excellent too it fits in with the show perfectly. Gah in a nutshell I love this show! I hope theres some kind of continuation.

  3. Another series that passed me by (I’ve made amends with Dennou Coil before it was over entirely, at least). The screenshots suggest incredibly lush visuals, and I’m certainly interested in a superficial sense, but I also love serene anime. Mushishi has forever changed my tastes in that respect, I think, and I’m always looking for the next lulling, beautiful experience to melt into before bedtime. Seirei no Moribito is definitely on The List.

  4. bateszi u need to see 12 kingdoms. as for my thoughts on SnM, they’re on ur other thread. SnM made me feel the same way i did after Superman Returns.

  5. I didn’t watch this because I heard too many mixed opinions and I was already following a lot of series in the spring. But maybe I will give this try when I find the chance. I usually enjoy slow and relaxing series.

    And I am not sure of this series relation to 12 Kingdoms but I agree with the above comment that it is a must see.

  6. @Ivy: I’m hoping for a continuation too. At least, it’s in the right hands – after all, Production IG and Kenji Kamiyama have spent the last half a decade working on the various stories of Stand Alone Complex – so here’s hoping they see the same potential in Balsa’s adventures.

    And though episode three was great, it’s almost been a curse on the series since. It pushed expectations in completely the wrong direction and came a little too early in the episode count too. I’m sure many people had quit watching by the time we leave the water-mill.

    @Hige: It’s hard say Seirei no Moribito is completely like Mushishi. It’s often serene and beautiful, yet the characterisation and story are a lot more straight forward and familiar. The first three episodes will completely blow you away, but after then it calms down and becomes a much more cerebral fantasy/drama.

    @kauldron26: 12 kingdoms is on my List to finish. One of my great regrets is that I watched at least 20+ episodes last year but at some point, my interest kinda faded. Often I’d watch it after work, and all the constant references to Chinese mythology, landscapes and politics would send me to sleep; I’m not saying it was boring, but it’s much more of a weekend marathon kind of show.

    @Kim: Watch Haibane Renmei and PlanetES first, you’ll love both. PlanetES is one of the first fansubs I watched through to completion and honestly, it’ll melt your heart.

  7. it was really a great series i hope there is a sequel

    ps: give HxH a trie also the manga is back and its awesome
    i know i said that alot sorry

  8. Yes Haibane Renmei and PlanetES come first. I already watched up to episode 6 of Haibane Renmei and I love it so far. And I am just waiting for PlanetES to arrive in the mail to start that.

    I ended up deciding to finally watch Haibane because you compared the relationship of Reki and Rakka to Isako and Yasako so thanks for that. :)

  9. I loved Serei no Moribito, but I agree that certain expectations were raised that never really got fulfilled. However, the way I see it is, just because a great slower paced story threw in a few moments of thrilling action doesn’t mean it should be penalized. If anything, it was an unexpected bonus.

  10. I love Seirei no Morbito. True, most people are disappointed expecting it would be jam-packed with action but on the contrary, Seirei no Moribito is plot-focused. It’s character-focused too, delving especially on Balsa and Chagum but the other characters shine as well. I wish Production IG would animate the rest of the books. I want more of Balsa and Chagum.

  11. I agree to almost every point you made abt. SnM. Balsa & Co.’s world was brought to life so vividly and beautifully.

  12. For those of us who live in the real world and only vacation within anime, the length and breadth of action was gratifying. Yes, gratifying. Finally, a show of myth and legend where the humans are human. Far, far too often, an otherwise entertaining romp features a ‘human’ character that battles round the clock, impervious to injury, stress, and exhaustion. Even those that take a sword would usually walk it off. Where I live, in Los Angeles, (the smoggy one, not one drawn with clean lines and mecha): if you’re struck hard, you fall, and probably bleed. If you’re hit with a bat or pipe, you’re not getting up. If you’re stabbed or shot, you’re going to die. The gods behind Seirei no Moribito understand that. They took me through a fantastical story with characters I could respect. They gave me powerful figures (king, queens, princes, grand mages) of real majesty – without the unrealistic hubris, levity and sillyness so often suggested. The warriors portrayed were tough. I mean really, honestly, tough. They weren’t beanpoles with god-powers. They weren’t monologuers or psychotic. They were highly skilled, highly disciplined street fighters. It all rang true. It seemed like something that could happen, but could never be witnessed.

    I’m old school. I read Heinlen and Tolkien, Faulkner and Marquez when I was younger. I enjoy anime, but only when it’s mature. I like my imagined worlds ones where I can find the tokens of my reality. Those who didn’t like this series: it wasn’t silly enough for them. Every couple of months, I find myself Googling “like Seirei no Moribito” or “Seirei no Moribito sequel” in the hopes of finding some article or blog entry that points me towards my next fix. I haven’t found a match yet, (though I’ve stumbled upon Mushichi and other acceptable substitutes) but I will probably continue to search. Because SnM was that good.

  13. Originally Posted By benevida
    Every couple of months, I find myself Googling “like Seirei no Moribito” or “Seirei no Moribito sequel” in the hopes of finding some article or blog entry that points me towards my next fix. I haven’t found a match yet, (though I’ve stumbled upon Mushichi and other acceptable substitutes) but I will probably continue to search.

    Thanks for such a glowing and well-written comment, benevida. With regards to your search, I suggest you look into The Twelve Kingdoms (a.k.a Juuni Kokki). Because, if you haven’t seen it already, be prepared for another very detailed, thorough vacation into your beloved worlds of fantasy.

  14. I am in total agreement with Benevida. I myself have been getting tired of watching animes which seemed intriguing or exciting but which plot or characters just annoyed me with the lack of depth or realism. I’ve read all the comments above and will give 12 kingdoms a go after this. But yes, I, too am now on the wait for a Seirei No Moribito sequel.

    :)

  15. I agree with Benevida…I search for news of the sequel (or a rumor at least) every 2 weeks or so. It’s disappointing to see how many ppl missed this show because I honestly believe its one of the best anime out there period

  16. I by all means agree, this show needs to continue. The way they left off directly states there’s more to be told. I just wonder if they ever, will animate the second part, Yami no Moribito. I would love to see Balsa fully explore her buried past in Kanbal, and all the complications involved with it.

    Oh well, If or until then I’ll just read what happens in the novels.

  17. mentality (to survive) with determination (to be stronger) and learn (to be wise) : claymore

    mentality (to live … as what they believe) with determination (that’s the right thing to do) and wise decision (as warrior & normal human with good philosophy) : moribito

    moribito as a man = samurai x

    claymore as a kid : naruto

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