Final Thoughts: Seirei no Moribito


Nice scenery- shame about the plot.

With his life under threat from his own father, Second Prince Chagum flees the palace in the company of the legendary female bodyguard Balsa, a woman who has sworn to repay those who died because of her by saving one life for each of them. Now Chagum must learn to live the life of a commoner, even as Balsa protects him from the inevitable wave of assassins, whilst various powers try to find the truth behind the so-called ‘water fiend’ that possessed Chagum and forced him into this situation in the first place.

Despite not rating it highly in my spring preview, when it first started, the future looked bright for Seirei no Moribito- admittedly, the tale of a prince and a bodyguard running away from the Eight Evil Men glimpsed on the website didn’t feel like something that would take up twenty-six episodes, but even so, the early episodes had much to offer. The settings were beautifully animated, the characters ranged from inoffensive to likable and the action scene in episode three was so fluid and well choreographed that it blew away most of the competition.

Unfortunately, after such a promising start, my relationship with the series was to quickly go downhill. Complacent after the strong beginning, Seirei was quickly to sink into a whole new regime, one that could be summarised quite simply as Sitting and Talking. Week after week, this was all the characters seemed to do- the villains sat around and talked about plans to catch Balsa; Balsa and Chagum sat with their allies and discussed the plot, and even supporting character Shuga spent all his time sitting in the royal archives, reading texts and occasionally talking to his superiors. For some, the slow pace was charming, but sadly for me, it was just frustratingly dull- and yet, having persevered with the series for week after week in the hopes of improvement, I felt I had to see it through to the end.

That being said, I’ll go so far as to admit that it wasn’t all bad, and indeed even in those days of endless monotony, there were still a few notable scenes- those being Balsa’s flashback episode (and accompanying action sequence) and the final battle between the Eight Not-So-Evil-After-All Men and the monstrous La Lunga. Sadly, such moments were few and far between, oases in a desert where the plot never advanced and the characters never did anything.

Although on paper it has many cast members, the focus of the series is always on Balsa and Chagum- although perhaps this is just as well when many of the characters seem to be as lacklustre as the plot. The only truly memorable supporting character is Torogai, an older shaman who isn’t afraid to dive right into the middle of peril if it means she can see something interesting. As for Balsa and Chagum themselves, they are certainly inoffensive and generally well developed, but in general they just do not stand out.

When it comes to visuals, Seirei at least manages to get one thing right- no matter its other flaws, the settings are always sumptuously detailed and attractive. Less attention is given to the character designs, which are solid rather than complex or distinctive- although at least this fits the tone of the series. The series’ music is largely forgettable.

Final Thoughts
If it had been a two hour movie without all the extraneous filler, Seirei no Moribito would have been excellent, but as a twenty-six episode series, it just doesn’t work. The good moments are too few and far between to justify wading through the reams of dullness and monotony- just marvel at screencaps of the beautiful scenery and leave it at that.
Tier: Wood

The judges’ verdict
Beige:
Dull, dull, dull.
Pink: When it started, I thought it was going somewhere, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t. Seirei no Moribito- more like Seirei no Yawn.
Blue: What was up with all that messing around? We want to see action scenes like the one in episode three.
Orange: Well, it was a lot like Watching Paint Dry, wasn’t it?

14 thoughts on “Final Thoughts: Seirei no Moribito

  1. Pink: “more like Seirei no Yawn.”

    Wow, really? I’m sure that sounded a lot more clever in your head.

    Overall, it was a decent review. I don’t agree with most of it, but at least I can see where you’re coming from. Like you said yourself, some people find well-written dialogue and quiet reflection “charming”, while others would just prefer the characters to stab some more people.

    If you’re in the first group, this series will be an absolute gem. And, obviously, if you were expecting non-stop action and wanted to forgo solid character development and storytelling, then I can definitely see how one would be disappointed.

    PS: What’s the point of the “judges” anyway? Do they do anything else but offer up unfunny 1 or 2 line quips already stated in the actual review?

  2. Alas, I truly must be an action-hungry shallow fan, which is why I love Aria, Kino’s Journey, Ichigo Mashimaro, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Someday’s Dreamers and their ilk (as you should know from reading my Sixty Anime list). I love a series which excels in quiet simplicity and touching character moments, but sadly I do not find pointless sitting and talking and “oh, ten episodes we went after Chagum and failed, but now we have come up with a new mission- we’ll try to capture Chagum!” to hold the same appeal.

    The judges are an experimental way of doing a summary although they write from perspectives more exaggerated than my own. It’s just a bit of fun.

  3. Karura: “I love a series which excels in quiet simplicity and touching character moments”

    Judging by your list and what you look for in anime, I’m still scratchin’ my head over how you found SnM so boring. If anything, the series is the epitome of “quiet simplicity” (i.e., Balsa slowly integrating Chagum into country life) and “touching character moments” (i.e., Chagum first realizing that he was fated to die a horrible death and his eventual confrontation with Balsa, the trio’s slow development into a close-knit family, Balsa’s history with Jiguro, Bucktooth kid’s sacrifice, Balsa and Tanda’s quiet understanding of each other).

    Also, I’m in no way saying you have to find those moments as refreshing as I did, but I’m just trying to understand why you didn’t. Granted, the political aspects sort of bored me as well, but that was only a fraction of what the show was about. To bury it on that alone would be a little questionable.

    …And before I sound like a total fanboy, I didn’t think SnM was the end all of anime, but I did appreciate it for what it managed to accomplish, even despite the few flaws in pacing. I agree it isn’t perfect, but it’s nowhere as bland and boring as you’re trying to portray it.

  4. Sagacious C: I actually find it hard to explain myself, but I’m planning an editorial about why I loved certain ‘nothing happens’ series and found others not to my liking. Can’t say when it’ll be done, but keep an eye out for it.

  5. According to my resources, the anime greatly expanded upon the mid-section of the original novel, which is what apparently killed Seirei no Moribito for you. Me, I loved the show a whole lot, intend to buy the novel the moment it comes out in English, and fervently pray that the rest of the novels in the series get animated adaptations, too. Balsa is one of the best, most interesting anime protagonists I’ve seen in a long time.

  6. +1 for Krypto

    Though have the novels been annouced yet ??

    I’d be surprised yet delighted if they get translated. I mean it took a hell of a long time for them to release Twelve kingdoms that had a big fanbase so seirei no moribito that only a minority seem to appreciate ? I am doubtuful…

  7. Yeah, I read somewhere that the first novel should be out next summer. Right, here’s what Seirei’s Wikipedia article says: “Will be published in English by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in the summer of 2008; translated by Cathy Hirano.”

  8. wow… that was disappointing… ~sigh~ im surprised so many of y’all liked chagum. somewhere along the line i stopped caring about everything, but tanda and balsa’s relationship. i hate being crushed with disappointment. if anything seirei no moribito has numbed my thirst for great anime. how everything led up to them fighting gigantic squids… omg… saddest thing is that they show had so much potential, and moments of greatness. what happened to the philosophical themes about murder?? that did not even play into anything… i was hoping chagum would commit patricide, and contemplate on what it means to take a life. and for fucks sake i hate balsa for not even seeming to pay attention to the one person that has been there for her for 20 yrs. yet she knew chagum for what a year? yet tanda gets no love? ugh… this reminds me of how upset i was after bakumatsu.

    moribito: 7/10

    if u want to watch fantasy done well, fantasy as a masterpiece watch 12 kingdoms, 12 kingdoms puts moribito to shame. funny thing is that i wouldnt have been so mad if the first 3 eps werent so good. la lunga turns out to be gigantic squids… the highlight of the show?

    “if you cant see me as the cure, then there is not point waiting” every guy that has ever been in love knows exactly what tanda felt at that moment.

  9. Although some times the seires gets a bit dull, but I think all the “fillers” were a little more than just talk about catching Balsa or running away from the evil men. Had an interesting disccusion with Boulayman, and even though we may not completely agree with each other (Boulayman, forgive me if i got the wrong idea xD), but Seirei no Moribito is a little more than just an endless chase. Personally there were little things I enjoyed to see as the series progressed, like chagum growing up and how Balsa deals with him. In fact the last episode nearly had me in tears. But yeah, that’s just me perhaps I am thinking a little too deep into this ^^;;

    From reading your post though, I do see why some people may not like it, such as yourself. Nevertheless, Nice review >;3

  10. @Kauldron

    In defense against raised criticism:

    (1) The “justification” behind murder was never that central of a theme. It played into part when Balsa initially thought she killed her “stalker”, but that was more of a facet than the main focus of the series. Balsa didn’t necessarily avoid killing because she thought it was morally wrong, but because it would’ve foiled her journey of “redemption”. If you meant the whole point of the “Jiguro” tale, it was wrapped up pretty well near the latter episodes, and the meaning behind it emphasized when Chagum realized why Balsa had told him the story.

    I’d agree in that the flashback story would’ve been better if it was fleshed out more early on, but its ultimate message couldn’t have been delivered at a more perfect time in the story.

    (2) Just because you were hoping for a particular plot direction (Chagum suicide) doesn’t necessarily make the show flawed for not following your prediction. For what it’s worth, even though Chagum struggled in dealing with his “fated” death, he eventually did come to peace with sacrificing himself if need be.

    (3) To say that Tanda gets “no love” is a bit unfair. They have a quiet understanding for each other, like family. Just because Balsa doesn’t want to give up her life as a warrior/journeyman and settle down immediately doesn’t necessarily entail she has no feelings for Tanda. I thought it was actually pretty evident that they displayed clear signs of concern for each other.

    Not every relationship must end with the guy getting the girl. Yes, it’s sad for Tanda, but like I mentioned before, just because it wasn’t the happily-ever-after relationship you envisioned, doesn’t make it a fault with the show.

    (4) I guess the La Lunga shoulda been cooler after all the build up, but at least it didn’t look like the generic monster designs you see in most anime. Oh, and they’re more like crabs than squids, I would say.

  11. I rather like this series. It lacks all the obsene extreme blood and gore as well as overly suggestive. It actually has a bold willing female heroine kinda like Grenadier but more mature and responsible. Great ideals and interesting plot. Although i’m only on episode 11 i’m sure it’ll continue being a likable and attention grabbing series.

  12. Oh, come on. Not a great anime? Please do point out three anime of this year that were better than this one. I suppose for people like you color judges think Claymore, or even Devil May Cry to be the epitome of anime. Sorry, but gore wouldn’t suit this one.

    MAYBE it was a little drawn out in the middle. But the strange thing is, I never quite noticed that. That is, until I came here. Must be because I’m a little of a slow person myself.

  13. Three decent anime of 2007: Dennou Coil, Oh! Edo Rocket, Baccano- happy?

    And for the record, I didn’t like Claymore and didn’t watch Devil May Cry, and Aria is one of my favourite anime. But then again Akari’s adventures in Neo Venezia are just the kind of mindless gore-fest I must like, according to you.

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