Moribito: An Anime with a Fully Clothed Heroine

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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.