I am a horrible oral-storyteller. Always have been, and probably always will be. If I am allowed to get my thoughts all straightened out, take my time and WRITE a story, hey, no problems there, but looking somebody in the face and telling a story? No. Godawful. As a kid I remember trying to entertain my friends and my sister Jaime with made up tales that in my head rivaled anything from the Brothers Grimm or Judy Blume, yet as I tried to narrate my epic anecdotes I would get confused with the order of plot points, characters would get lost in the mire, and eventually the whole scenario would grind to a halt as I tried to sort out everything that I had previously accounted and try to remember just where the fuck I was originally intending to go with the whole thing. What made me remember my own oral failures (tee-hee! Wait, that's not funny...) is of course Production IG's load-blowingly, hugely budgeted show Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit (aka Seirei no Moribito). It's like the director tapped directly into my own shortcomings and put them all to ink and paint. Amazing.
No, Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit is not really all that bad, it's simply just not told very well. This thing should have been 13 episodes (maybe 15 tops) long. There is a fantastic 6 or 7 episode start with lots of gloriously animated action, plenty of drama, and a very intriguing cast of characters who seem to be caught up in a prophesy that spells doom for an entire nation. DOOOOOOOOOOM! But then things slooooooooooooow dooooooooooooown to a ssssssssnnnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllll's pace in order to (I'm guessing) flesh all the characters out. (Only without any real fleshing.) Honestly, guys, you can dig deeper into a persona's psyche with some well-placed adventure here and there, or at the very least some storytelling that actually advances the plot. I've seen it done. True story.
Anyway, for ten episodes after that great start it feels like nothing but pure filler material. Think of the episodes of Naruto between when Sousuke ran away and the time Naruto grows up a few years. That's what these ten episodes feel like... Like they're just killing time until they get to the meat and potatoes of the story. It's like they were thinking, "Act 1! We have to give it plenty of drama and ass-kicking fighting and stunts! Hook the viewers from the start. Act 2..... Well, shit. Do we have to? Okay, fine. Say, how many episodes is this thing?... 26?! Oh crap.... Can't we just stop it cold for like 10 or 11? Do you think the viewers would notice if we did? I mean, we'll make it up to them with Act 3, which is going to be the French Tickler to the anime fanboys' clits! Rock and roll!" And really, Act 3 doesn't even live up to its potential either. After floundering along for almost a dozen episodes it just can't pick itself up in time for the grand finale, which isn't even all that grand.
What's Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit about, you ponder? It's mostly about Balsa, the spear-wielding, kind of butch, bad-ass yojimbo who looks like a grown-up Saya from Blood - The Last Vampire (big puffy lips and all). Balsa has made it her duty in life to save 8 innocent lives in order to make up for 8 that were taken because of her a long time ago. Her wanderings throughout this fantasy world that Moribito takes place in eventually bring her to the gates of an empire where the Empress hires her to protect her little princey-pooh from some pretty heinous assassination plots due to the fact that he was mysteriously impregnated with the egg of a water god that's prophesied to destroy the land with drought and famine when it's born. Yeah.
Balsa accepts the job when it becomes apparent that everybody in the palace (except for the Empress) is a total scrote and a half. Our heroine makes short work of the kingdom's elite force, and escapes with Prince Chagum out into the wilderness.... No, just kidding, despite the fact that the entire nation is on the lookout for an amazonian spear-toting warrioress who only wears red, and the holy second son of the Emperor, Balsa thinks it's a smart idea to live just about a mile or so away from the chief city, and make good friends with all the social (and rumor-spreading) locals in between their frequent trips into the capital proper.
True, the palace thinks that Balsa and Chagum are dead at this point, but why in the Seven Gods of Bukkake's names would Balsa (a pretty smart cookie) bring the prince back to the place he just escaped from (where soldiers who know her and a ton who've seen the kid's holy face patrol) to "hide" him? Take the fucker to a place that's never seen him or even knows he exists! It's not like they need to "hide a tree in a forest." Why take the chance? And she still walks around all day with her giant spear in hand... NOBODY else in town carries one. How can this NOT make her stick out like Larry Bird in 12th Century Peking?
But I digress. This is about the time that things come to a complete stop, storytelling-wise. (I thought of putting this series away and not finishing it at several points [I actually restarted Cowboy Bebop before giving Moribito its final chance] — this show became "who-gives-a-shit" boring.) We then take over 10 full episodes to get to know (well, not really — but I'll get to that below) Balsa, Chagum (who every peasant and rumor-monger knows by his real name, which gets frequently called out in bustling public squares), Balsa's medicine man/childhood friend, and Tohya and Saya (Balsa's two early-teen associates). I must put this on record: I wanted that buck-toothed, whiney, pussy, beeny boy Tohya to fucking die. He's the world's biggest goddamn loser. First of all, his entire upper row of teeth is so malformed that the front 4 poke out of his mouth at close to a 90-degree angle, even when his pie hole is closed. Secondly, he's a complete pussy who throws hissy fits whenever he's (easily) tricked or made to look foolish (which is about 5 times per episode he's featured in). Thirdly, Chagum, the pampered prince who only recently began living amongst the commoners, has 10Xs the street smarts as Tohya, who's lived his entire life in the ghetto, supposedly scraping a living for himself and Saya, his younger sister complex. Ugh, so many (read, waaaaaaay too many) plot points were centered on this loser.
But my biggest gripe with these middle episodes is how little the plot and characters develop in them. I really wouldn't have minded the lack of excitement or action if the people I was watching grew with each episodic experience, building up all their gained life-lessons into a soul-searching, fantastic grand finale... But no. Really, only Prince Chagum grows any. Every other character is the exact same in the end as they were when we first met them. This holds especially true for Balsa and her childhood man-friend (who it's clear wants to bang the bushido-shit out of her, but he knows if he tries she'd kill him with her thighs).
During the middle episodes we do get to see Chagum's old tutor walking slowly around the palace trying to figure out the truth behind the whole "water demon egg" inside the prince (who he alone thinks may be alive)... But all of the info gathered by this Sephiroth clone could have been confined quite conveniently in one fully dedicated chapter... with some plot padding (the time devoted to Sephi really only takes up around 10 important minutes of exposition [spread out over those boring 10 episodes]).
Oh, and that's the kicker of this thing, the reason the Emperor wants his son Chagum dead is a GOOD ONE. It's to save the entire nation. If Chagum lives, the egg lives, and the prophesy claims that the nation will wither and die in drought and famine! Balsa's reasons for keeping the prince alive are naive and selfish. There is no reason at all to think that this drought can be avoided if the prince is kept alive (and still inside the capital at that). Anyway, if you can't figure out the "twist" of this thing (Psssssst, the water god egg isn't really evil, and it actually prevents the drought... Don't tell anyone), then you're an idiot. It was obvious to me (and everyone I saw it with) the instant Balsa was explained the original situation by the Empress. But, whatever.
I did like Balsa and Chagum, and I really liked Balsa's man-friend's sensei (that old, bitter, batty woman). Good characters all. I also really liked the Navy SEALs elite force that goes after the prince and his yojimbo. They were decent antagonists for most of the story. I hated pretty much everyone else. All the royals are double-crossing assholes (see the last episode for unarguable proof of this. Like with the orders that the Emperor gave to Sephi [and some of his private army] to act on after Balsa saves the world, and most especially his son — Jesus... Did they have anybody go over this script before putting it to film?! So, after spending 20 episodes searching and hoping against all hope that Prince Chagum was alive, and after going against the Emperor's very will to do so.... Sephi fucking attempts to betray his young master in the end, AFTER all hope is saved, and the world and the Prince are out of danger, just because the Emperor then tells him to??!!? What the goddamn fuck?!?!), and of course Tohya.
I also hated that the entire plot revolves around the mistranslation of some Holy Text. Really? Hasn't that been done to death already? I hated the stalled plotline of the second act (which culminated in a few snoozy episodes of the heroes HYBERNATING THROUGH THE WINTER in a cave in the mountains), and I really hated the false sense of urgency in the final act. I mean, the mistranslation is figured out, the royal army is then told to save Chagum and help Balsa, and... really, there's no threat anymore. Oh, but THEN we get the invisible clawed demons from out of nowhere. It just felt tacked on. They kept TELLING us that there is tension (and it's URGENT!!!1111!!), but there really isn't any. It just fizzles.
Holy SHIT, holmes! They used Blurry Eyes from DNA^2 for the opening of this Moribito show! That is the fashizzle to my nizzle! The rest of this thang left me high and dry... Well, the brownies left me high, and the dry martini left me dry... but you gets what I's sayin'.
I thought this whole show was a little lame. Like when you gets all excited about AC-DC comin' to town, but then when you get to the club it ain't Angus and Brian and Malcolm hitting the stage, instead it's AB-CD, a shitty coverband. You get pissed as a Soup Nazi at first, but then you say, "What the fuck, they might not be that bad." But... Well, it turns out that they are. Then you have to trash the place with ninja stars and shit, yo. Moribito is kinda like that... Except with wimpy samurai women who refuse to kill bad guys, and mongrel children with horrible dentistry who act like 'tardy shitkickers all the time. Not my idea of anything even remotely connected to "fun."
Arrrrrrr. Never liked ninjas. Ninja movies, ninja shows, ninja books, real ninjas, cardboard cut-outs of ninjas... Hate them all actually. I especially hate them when the ninja show in question be as boring as an old, dried up turd just sitting there. Arrrrrrrrr... Sitting there, mocking me constipation.... Arrrrrrrr. SIX days! Six days, boyo! Can you even imagine? I've tried prune juice... thick, rich, refried beans by the bowlful.... There was even a time when I had a mule kick me in the intestines, just hoping to knock something loose... Arrrrrrrr. It did... Mostly just some internal bleeding. Might try some Draino if this lasts another day... Arrrrrr. Knowin' me own luck, I'll just shit meself in me sleep tonight......