Anime DVD Review: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series is a four-disc set that includes all 26 episodes of the series. The first and third discs include seven episodes, while the second and fourth discs include six episodes and bonus features. For audio, you can choose to watch with the English dub, the English dub with English subtitles, the original Japanese audio, or the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: August 26, 2014

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is based off of the first of a series of Japanese fantasy novels written by Nahoko Uehashi. The story follows Balsa, a female spear wielder and bodyguard who serves as a wandering warrior; she vows to atone for eight deaths in her past by saving an equivalent number of lives.

In the first episode, Balsa saves Prince Chagum, who has been the victim of assassination attempts ordered by his father. Chagum bears an egg of the water spirit, and it’s believed that this will be a reincarnation of a demon who had been defeated by Chagum’s ancestor. Chagum’s mother hires Balsa to hide and protect Chagum in an attempt to save his life; it’s revealed that if Balsa succeeds, Chagum will be the eighth life that she’s saved.

Balsa and Chagum travel together trying to elude capture by the emperor’s forces. Along the way, they receive help from Toya and Saya (two orphaned children who know Balsa), Tanda (an herbalist who is a long-time friend of Balsa’s), and Torogai (an old shaman and Tanda’s teacher). As the series progresses, both Torogai and the emperor’s Star Diviners discover that there have been misunderstandings about the egg and the water spirit, and must work together to find a way to allow the egg to hatch without killing Chagum.

Overall, I was rather impressed by the storytelling in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. It was a very solid story, and I never found myself questioning whether or not the series was contradicting itself. Also, many of the characters were very well developed, which allowed the audience to care about them and want to follow their adventures. I can also say that within its 26 episode run, there truly isn’t any “filler”; everything that appeared in the episodes ended being important for either plot or concept revelations in the overarching story.

Knowing that Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is only based on the first book in the series, I was a little concerned about whether or not it would have a proper ending. For the most part, I thought the series ended well; my main issue is that there was one loose end that was never tied up, which was whether or not Balsa and Tanda ever ended up together in a relationship. The series did such a great job building up their chemistry that the lack of a clear answer was a little disappointing.

The animation in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit was well done and looked very impressive. The first episode contained a lot of detail and looked very lush, and I was afraid of how the animation might potentially deteriorate as the series continued. While the animation didn’t stay to the high level that was seen in Episode One, it was only a minor deterioration in quality that took place throughout the rest of the series. I didn’t see any evidence of the animators trying to cut corners or any signs of animators rushing through their work.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is a well told and executed fantasy anime series, and it’s one I would highly recommend to anime viewers for both its writing and its animation.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the second disc includes five bonus features, while the fourth disc has four bonus features. Both discs have a textless version of the opening credits and a textless version of the ending credits. However, if you watch them with the Japanese audio and English subtitles, then you will see the subtitles when watching them.

The second disc also has the original Japanese trailers; there are three trailers in all, with a runtime of about seven minutes. The trailers include the original Japanese audio, and I was surprised to discover that there English subtitles included; usually when I see Japanese trailers on a VIZ Media release, the subtitles aren’t included.

The “Full Promo Film” runs for about five minutes, and it’s kind of like a trailer, except this gives more of an explanation for the overarching story of the series. The “Pilot Film” runs for about three minutes, which includes footage from the series, some early animation that didn’t make it into the final production, and interviews with Nahoko Uehashi (the author of the book) and Kenji Kamiyama (the director for the anime series).

Disc Four includes a press conference that runs for about seven-and-a-half minutes, which includes appearances by Nahoko Uehashi, Kenji Kamiyama, Mabuki Andou (Balsa’s voice actress), Naoto Adachi (Chagum’s voice actor), and Sachi Tainaka (the performer for the series’ ending theme song).

“Discussion Panel With English Credits” runs for 20 minutes; roughly the first half is the actual discussion panel, while the second half was the English credits for Episodes 8-11 of the series. From what I’ve been able to tell, these bonus features had originally been included on Media Blasters’ release of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, which would explain the English credits. I don’t know if VIZ Media was under contract to leave this bonus feature as it was from the Media Blasters release or not, but I can only hope that’s the explanation for leaving those credits tacked onto the discussion panel.

The discussion panel itself featured Nahoko Uehashi, Kenji Kamiyama, and the animation supervisor. This panel was done in a way where the question is shown on the screen as the panelists answer them. During these 10 minutes, they discuss the planning process, what animation supervisors look for, the type of person that Kamiyama is, their hopes for the anime version, and how they want the work to be viewed. Overall, this wasn’t too bad for what it was.

If you’ve seen Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit but haven’t added it to your anime home video collection yet, I would recommend purchasing either this DVD set or the Blu-ray pressing if you have the ability to watch Blu-rays. While the Media Blasters release of the complete series is still available at retailers such as Right Stuf, it’s retailing for about $130. VIZ Media’s release is much more economical; you get the same content, but it’s only retailing for about $45 for the DVD set and $50 for the Blu-ray set.

I wrote this review after watching a review copy of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series that was provided to me by VIZ Media.

Additional post about Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit:

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