Secret Santa 2013 – Seirei no Moribito

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“No candy? Worst pinata ever”

I almost didn’t make it on time for the annual Secret Santa hosted by Reverse Thieves. There was a vicious ice storm recently that took out the power for a huge chunk of the city – including me. The ice was so bad that it caused entire trees to fall down and take power lines with them. So although I have power after 3 days of no heating, internet or light, there is still a giant tree that fell into my yard from across the street. Anyways, to cut the drama short, I survived the Canadian Ice Apocalypse and managed to finish the rest of the series in the nick of time!

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This year I received Seirei no Moribito as my Secret Santa suggestion. It was already on my “plan to watch” list so I had already been convinced by others it would be good. The other 2 series I was suggested to watch (Flower of Evil and Dusk Maiden of Amnesia) were the right genre of show for what I usually like…but were shows I had tried before and dropped. My secret santa did their homework on what I like, but unfortunately got someone who drops a ton of shows and doesn’t put them on MAL. Oops. So all in all, that is how I arrived at the conclusion to watch Seirei no Moribito – a drama/adventure story that greatly surpassed my expectations. Any spoilers will be hidden in spoiler tags.

In a nutshell, Seirei no Moribito is about a prince named Chagum who is possessed by a water dragon that is said to cause an eternal drought. The only way around this, as passed down from the legends, is to kill the vessel of the spirit. Not too pleased with this, his mother (the queen) begs a wandering bodyguard named Balsa to protect him for the rest of his life. She agrees, they run away, and eventually figure out how the heck to avoid letting the land get all dry and crusty and everyone is happy. It’s an effective formula that allows from some nice motherly bonding between the two as Chagum grows up and learns about how the 99% live.

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Awww, they grow up so fast

My favourite part about Seirei no Moribito is that there are antagonists, but no permanent villains. Aside from some vagrants who pop in for maybe a single episode to challenge Balsa to a deathmatch, there is no constant rival for her to face off against. In most anime, you can point to one person and accuse them of being evil or wanting to take over the world, but this isn’t the case in Seirei no Moribito. Everyone just wants to avoid a rather nasty curse and make sure the prince is safe – that’s all. Everyone just goes about it in very different ways, and this is what causes conflict. Balsa wants to find a way to keep Chagum alive even though he’s possessed by the water dragon, whereas the mikado wants to kill him quickly to avoid the curse and save his people. It’s hard to say any of them are right or wrong, because they both have the best of intentions.

I really appreciate how realistic their motives are – not some bullshit “we must collect all 7 gems to fight the dragon because of reasons!” plot device with lacklustre villains who have signature evil laughs. Seirei no Moribito has an airtight plot without confusion, filler, nonsense or loopholes. At least, not any I can detect. Everyone just wants food, man! No one wants a drought! It’s just a lack of information about how one should deal with a water dragon that leads to a conflict.

In the end, it’s a lot more easy to pin the “bad guy” title (if you must) on the mikado. This isn’t actually the case, but he generally fills out this role, sending out assassins to kill Chagum and Balsa in the beginning. You’d think assassins would have a pretty cut and dry role as being the villain here, but there is a lot of time spent making them seem compassionate. We get to see them have nostalgia over how kind the prince was to them as a child and even praise Balsa as being a strong, merciful warrior. They are not ruthless heathens who won’t think twice about slitting a little boy’s neck to stop a drought – they are greatly pained by the task of having to kill the prince that they hold so dearly to their hearts.

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Pretty Blue Bow assassin is my favourite character because he channels lolita while slitting throats :3

It’s actually quite amazing how the so-called “villains” deeply respect the heroes of the show. The fact that the star readers try to find an alternate method to stop the curse instead of throwing their hands up and thinking “Welp, might as well stab the little bugger” shows that they care. Show ▼

It’s little touches at humanizing everyone that create such a wonderfully complex story that switches between Balsa and Chagum on the run and how the various residents of the palace try to cope with the impending curse. You end up rooting for everyone to succeed because everyone is just a wonderful, endlessly intriguing character. Time is split evenly letting you get to know the motives, personality, quirks, and morals of all of these seemingly disparate characters. You know how sometimes you have characters you don’t like much because they’re just so annoying you want to dunk their heads into a vat of acid? There is no one like that in Seirei no Moribito. There are no assholes you have to grate your teeth just to endure scenes with. Everyone is literally the nicest person ever and it’s so wonderful.

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I don’t know how they pulled it off without being unrealistic, but everyone acts logically, sensibly, and compassionately. Everyone is so smart! You will never watch a scene and roll your eyes halfway out of skull as you question how they could do something so foolish. They’re all incredibly smart, yet they don’t run the risk of being all-powerful characters who are already at the pinnacle of development such as Gatchaman Crowd‘s Hajime. They still have flaws, but they’re all incredibly street smart and kind. It’s rare to find a single person who acts cruelly towards Balsa (aside from her morbid past with Jiguro). It’s like the world is populated with saints exclusively.

They all go to great lengths to help Balsa, who is an officially outlawed bodyguard with a ransom on her head for “killing” the prince. Her friends bend over backwards for her – leaving their homes, housing her, helping her escape, getting her supplies, making spears and generally risking their lives willingly without even being asked to. You could say it’s because they owe her, but even total strangers will risk their lives to give her life-changing advice or to protect her from assassins.

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But the ultimate draw to the show (and thus, the ultimate nice guy) is Chagum. What would you expect from a newly kidnapped prince who has lived his entire life with a silver spoon in his mouth? I would imagine someone whiny, prissy, angry, useless and possibly depressed. Chagum gets over losing his whole family, being cursed with a life-ending spirit and living his entire life with a stranger as soon as he sets foot outside of that door. I was waiting for him to crack right at the beginning, but it never happened.

There was one moment that made me realize just how unbreakable Chagum was, and that’s when an injured Balsa orders him to climb a mountain in a thunderstorm without her help. Now, most of the time when you take a pampered rich kid and tell them to scale a slick mountain while avoiding assassins and wolves, they would complain. Not Chagum. He’ll fuck up those wolves and just punch the mountain into sand. That’s just who he is. This was the moment that made me realize that Chagum may be a prince, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be the most metal 10 year old in existence.

Throughout the series, he continues to be insanely mature. He not only doesn’t complain, but once Balsa lets him wander off a bit he starts doing good deeds all around. He stops gamblers who are rigging games, yells at some country bumpkins to not kill frogs, and settles fights with foreigners who insult the mikado. Basically – he always does the morally correct thing, and he pulls it off without a hitch like a true hero. It’s his growth over time that’s really a delight to watch. Every character in the show is so focused around his protection that he makes for a convenient hub point of discussion and the development of all the characters surrounding him.

I feel like I’ve seen a lot of recent anime that just don’t make a lick of sense. They jump around too quickly and linger too much in all the wrong places, and the motivations for characters are all too convenient. It’s amazing how much bad writing there is out there. Meanwhile, this show had a whole episode that was a conversation between a blacksmith and some warriors sitting down and I never got bored. No fancy directing, barely any movement except for talking, and no panty shots – just three dudes chatting about swords. But it was the most interesting conversation about swords I’d ever heard in my entire life. The dialogue is well-written and flows so incredibly well that it’s just like being a voyeur and listening to someone’s conversation in a busy restaurant. You can’t help but want to listen.

Seirei no Moribito is technically very solid. It’s incredibly consistent, entertaining, and pleasant to watch. It’s not only clever – it’s got some wonderful animation to back up some wicked fights. It’s not too often you get to see spears in action, which is a nice bonus. I’m kind of amazed at how good this looks considering that it’s an older show. All in all, I loved this show and if you have some know…you might want to pretend you got the same Secret Santa as me and give it a try. Thanks again, mysterious anime-giver! Merry Christmas!

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The one moment it almost turned into a reverse harem anime


A neuroscience graduate, black belt, and all-around nerd. You'll either find me in my lab or curled up in my rilakkuma kigurumi watching anime.
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8 Responses to “Secret Santa 2013 – Seirei no Moribito”

  1. Joojoobees says:

    Yeah, I loved this one, too. I rewatch that third episode every once in a while just for the kick of it. I think it is awesome from start to finish. Really intelligent action scenes. A killer back story that just shreds you emotionally.

    Another episode that has always fascinated me is #8 “Swordsmith”, which hangs on a really interesting idea.

    Obviously I don’t want to go into details because people should experience the show for themselves. It kicks ass!

  2. skylion says:

    Merry Christmas OC. I am so glad you got out of the Canadian Ice Apocalypse. I would have loved to hear your tales of how you defeated your enemies, the vicious Ice Trolls The Tree that Knows no Bounds, and the Dead Internet Connection with the Power of the Moosejaw and Awesome Neurology, this tale of your enjoyment of your Secret Santa will do.

    And does it do. You’ve got a fan. This stuff is right up my alley. Thank you.

    My best to you and yours. And again, I’m happy you guys are doing better in the Great White North. I was getting a bit worried…

  3. Highway says:

    I’ve seen this one recommended, and also have it on my Plan To Watch list, but haven’t really gotten around to it. Maybe I should put it off for another 10 months and hope someone recommends it for next year’s SS. 🙂

  4. Kyokai says:

    Good to know you are in one piece and doing your thang. Merry Christmas!

    You’ve got my convinced, putting this on my watch list because Chagum seems like a badass dude. :3

  5. Rathje says:

    I saw a clip of the fight between Balsa and the assassins in the rice fields on YouTube, and I immediately knew I was watching something special.

    It was like no other fight in anime I’d ever seen. I mean, for one thing – spear fight! How often do you see that done well? For another, the economy of movement – no useless showmanship. And everyone was good. The assassins didn’t just stand around waiting their turn to get dealt with. Honestly, I was just as impressed with the assassins as I was with the hero – even while she was taking on all of them.

    It was like watching how the pros do it.

    I’ve seen other impressive fights in anime – like the stuff in Black Lagoon, or Sword of the Stranger. But honestly, this was better. It was just so much more human in nature.

  6. BlackBriar says:

    I survived the Canadian Ice Apocalypse

    That sounds really dangerous and depressing for such a short amount of time.

    It seems this show would be a nice watch. What really got my attention is that the views and motives on each side are not entirely right nor wrong which makes for good psychological warfare.

  7. akagami says:

    Just to offer a different view point, while I found the story decent and Balsa to be very interesting, I on the other hand found Chagum to be very annoying. If you like his character then you’ll enjoy the show, as it had lots of other things (good action scenes, and what others have said above). Personally I couldn’t deal with Chagum, and annoying characters are usually deal-breakers for me.

    Take it for what its worth, but the rest of the show was enough for me to at least finish watching it (instead of dropping it).

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