Archive for March 2nd, 2008

Seirei no Moribito (again): Sayonara, Chagum

Sorry for making two posts on the exact same show in a row, but, uh, watching Seirei no Moribito was pretty much the only thing I did of use today. So, yeah.

The latter half of this series is a coming-of-age tale. Chagum begins the story at 11, and he is still a child; by the end of the series, he is 12 and for all intents and purposes is an adult. It’s kind of reminiscent of a Japanese version of His Dark Materials, in a way (without the theologizing, of course), which is probably the best way to describe it (the alternative being Japanese Harry Potter, which doesn’t seem to fit). We see the progression from a Chagum who does not want to die to a Chagum who will sacrifice himself if it means the lives of his kingdom. I can’t help but want to see what kind of emperor Chagum will be when his father dies. He’s put in a unique perspective: not only is he strong and willing to sacrifice himself for his country, but he’s seen how the commoners live. Benevolent emperor ahoy.

And I’m sure I’m not the only person who got birthing labor undertones during the scene where the Egg is extracted from Chagum–they seemed to spread that analogy on pretty thick, there. But I liked the whole sequence leading up to the Egg’s birth–it was marvelously paced for me. It didn’t drag on, but it didn’t try to cram the entire sequence into a single episode either. The series has always been about a slow, contemplative pace, which (in case you hadn’t noticed) is something I highly enjoy in anime. The ending isn’t what’s important in a story–it’s the getting there. If Seirei no Moribito had been a 13 episode series, it wouldn’t have even been half as much fun. It’s the opposite of Nishi no Yoki Majo, in a sense: sometimes it’s not the content that makes or breaks a series, it’s the presentation of the content that can turn a good story into a bad one. The pacing here is slow, but it’s just enough to make you want to watch the next episode. The fact that nearly every episode ends on a cliffhanger helps a lot, too.

The final thing that I want to say here is: I must have been stupid as hell to drop it initially. Back when it aired, Production I.G. had the reputation with me of churning out action-fests that didn’t really appeal to me. I’m not a Ghost in the Shell fan for whatever reason (I’m thinking more of the movies here, though–I can’t remember the half of Standalone Complex I watched years ago, and should probably go watch that), and I remember liking the first half of Otogizoshi, but that’s it from their catalog I liked. Now it’s more like “stop making series I want to watch” so, uh, I dunno. Probably I changed or something.

This will be the last time I mention how much I want the Seirei no Moribito novel to come out here. Since this series only covers the first novel, and it had an ending, I wonder what the other nine books are about…

Seirei no Moribito: The Weak Win by Guile, The Strong Win by Killing, The Balsa…Well, She Just Wins

Yes, I am catching up on Seirei no Moribito, and I am loving it. I have seen 11-15 today (and will probably go watch some more after this post, as it’s getting terribly addictive) and I have been roundly impressed by it. As mentioned before, the first few episodes are duplicitous and make you think that Production I.G. is doing another action-filled bloodfest. That would be a lie, but anyone who’s seen the series knows this already. It’s instead a tale of political intrigue and motherly instincts, two topics that you wouldn’t normally see paired together quite so close. Both the characters of Balsa and Chagum are highly complex, with Chagum being somewhat atypical for what you would normally see in the “divine” son of an Emperor, and Balsa being…well, Balsa.

Balsa is the epitome of the noble warrior–I’m not well-read on samurai culture, but she seems to take the concept of bushido even further than normal. I think. Don’t quote me on that, though. What I mean is, Balsa is a noble warrior–she has learned from her past and tried to make amends. She is an expert at the spear, yet she refuses to kill anyone, as she swore to protect as many lives as she killed. Chagum is, of course, the last of these lives, and she will not stand for anything getting in the way of that.

Which brings me to episode 13, “Neither Man nor Tiger”. I think this episode moved me profoundly–not necessarily with its content, but rather in the synchronization of the direction and the writing. This episode revolves around a former enemy of Balsa’s, Kalbo, who spots her on the street and challenges her to a duel to the death. The condition for the duel is that if she doesn’t show up, he will kill the first traveler past a certain point at sundown every day that she does not show. She refuses at first, and, rather than fighting him, takes on the duty herself of protecting the hapless travelers who are his first targets.

As Balsa shepherds them, though, Kalbo harasses her and prevents her from resting–the same trick she had played on him the last time they fought. As the night wears on, Balsa grows ever more angry at the treatment Kalbo is giving the travelers (a schoolmistress and her guide), essentially treating them as pawns in the game between the two. She ends up challenging him to a fight, wherein she kills him, and marches off. The schoolmistress, however, finds that Kalbo is not dead, and sends her guide off to chase after Balsa to tell her the news.

The whole episode was almost poetic in execution. It gives you a clear glimpse into what drives Balsa at the moment: she has vowed never to kill again, but when danger is placed not to herself, but to Chagum (in the sense that if Kalbo is not killed, he will inform the state that the prince is alive), Balsa forgets all reason (and her vows) and seriously tries to kill Kalbo, both for the threat to Chagum and for the wanton endangerment to the travelers. She’s not a perfect human–she’s still prone to fits of anger and poor judgement–but I think that is what makes her much easier to relate to than a gung-ho super-badass lead character. Arguably, this weakness makes her substantively more “gar” than those sorts. The latter type is fun to watch, but in the end, at least with me, relating to a character in some way can only be a good thing.

Lamentably, I only have 11 more episodes left, but I intend to finish it soon, I’ve been procrastinating on it far too long. The book release is far off, too, and there’s nine other novels in the series. Maybe it’ll catch on in America with the youth audience, leading to the (re-)licensing of the anime. One can only hope.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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March 2008