Moribito Review

As Moribito begins its second half, it leaves behind the flirtation with filler content which dominated the previous few episodes and gets back to its core plot: figuring out what, exactly, must be done with the mystical egg within Prince Chagum and what role he must play in helping to avoid the upcoming drought. The only distraction from this course is a two episode flashback arc detailing Balsa's past with Jiguro, but it is so well-executed and plays so directly into Balsa's underlying motivations for what she is doing in the current time that no one should have issue with it. In fact, execution is the word of the day for the series as a whole; no fantasy anime series made to date brings all of its story elements and production aspects together better than Moribito does, especially in its second half.

Such a grandiose statement may sound like hyperbole, but that is only true if the series cannot back up such a claim. This one can. Moribito is, without question, one of the best-looking anime series of any type ever made. It is Production I.G's visual masterpiece, complete with rich coloring, distinctive and beautifully-rendered character designs that even convincingly de-age characters (and my, wasn't Balsa a cutie at younger ages!), gorgeous selections of background art, and even inventive critter designs when dealing with the Ra Runga, important birds, and other spirits from Nayug. The artistry consistently stays on model, never showing the flaws that most other series eventually do, and even integrates its occasional use of CG effects very smoothly, which is an important consideration given the presence of some massed troop movement scenes. Its animation is crisp and smoothly-flowing, including dynamic and fully-detailed fight scenes that, surprisingly, never take shortcuts. That Production I.G was able to create a movie-grade effort on a series budget is, frankly, astonishing.

Its fully orchestrated musical score is the only aspect of the series which is not brilliant, but even so it does its job very well. Scenes that are supposed to be intense never lack for intensity, and the deep, resonating beats suit the tone of the series well. Prominent towards the end is an insert song intended to represent a Yaku children's song relevant to the plot, which provides a nice complement to critical late scenes.

Even the most impressive visuals and music would not matter much if the story and writing were not there, but that is another of Moribito's strengths. This is a story with two distinct angles: one is the relationship that Balsa forms with Chagum and her motivations behind what she does, the other is the unraveling of a mystical puzzle whose true nature has been blurred by history. Both aspects can fascinate. Balsa's stern but caring and devoted treatment of Chagum established her as a motherly figure for Chagum earlier in the series, a dynamic which continues to allow Chagum to grow as a person and gives him the strength to face the deadly trials that befall him late in the series. Moreso than before, certain key scenes give the impression that Balsa's protection of Chagum is much more than just a job; it is a solemn commitment, the same kind that Jiguro made towards her when he took on the damning task of having to protect her during her childhood; as that two-episode arc plays out, the parallels between Balsa's childhood situation and Chagum's become increasingly clear, which also makes it absolutely clear why she took on this task in the first place and why she is reluctant to kill.

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