Thanks to my children, I have developed a love for manga and anime. In comparison to American style animation (cartoons), I enjoy the darker more abstract themes characteristic of Japanese animation (anime). What I don’t enjoy however, are the sexual undertones and overtones common in much anime, as well as the negative hyper-sexualized portrayals of women. As you might imagine, much anime is off limits for my family. Anime that appeal most to me have clean colorful but not too bright aesthetics and a sophisticated storyline.
I know, that’s a lot of qualifiers: nice art, good story, sans weak, giggling, half-naked women. That pretty much nixes probably 9/10 of all anime, but we love some of the art forms and the deeper stories, so we wait and keep our eyes peeled for the gems.
For my family, one such gem was Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit written by Nahoko Uehashi with illustrations by Kamui Fujiwara. Moribito is a twenty-six episode production that has everything I love in a story: a strong woman who is fully clothed, purpose, a little magic, character growth, and a satisfactory end.
Balsa is a traveling spear woman who happens upon an accident where Chagum, second prince of the Imperial Family, is thrown into the river when the ox pulling his carriage is spooked. Balsa saves Chagum and is rewarded with room and board in the royal palace overnight. While at the royal palace, Balsa is told by the Second Empress, Chagum’s mother, of a plot to kill him. Under duress, Balsa agrees to spirit him away for his protection. A deeper conspiracy is at work here, and this unfolds over the course of the series.
There are several interesting characters, not the least of which is Balsa herself. We eventually learn how she, a woman, comes to learn to wield a spear so well that her name is feared all over the region. We meet an old sorceress named Torogai, who reminds me a lot of Yoda in both appearance and sage attitude. Tanda, an herbalist, is a long time friend of Balsa who would with an interest in a more permanent relationship with the wanderer.
We watched the series online at Hulu and enjoyed every minute of it. Moribito has plenty of action, drama, and even some comic relief. This series has something for both children and adults. Check it out and tell me what you think.