Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit | A Soft-Spoken Masterpiece

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit | A Soft-Spoken Masterpiece

December 14, 2019 17 By William Hollis


(yelling) Sometimes a movie or a book or TV show comes
along and affirms your worldview, and while that may sound dangerous like an
echo chamber, it can be just the opposite if you see the
world in a different way. If you, for example, enjoy violent media but
know it’s ravaging your soul, and simultaneously believe that violence is
not inherent to the human condition. Such an idea is not often expressed in popular
culture, and that’s part of what makes Moribito: Guardian
of the Spirit is so very special to me. It carries this message and that’s astounding. As mentioned, it’s rare enough for a work
of media to speak to you directly. But for that work, a television show in this
case, to also be so acutely appealing in its depiction
of a physically superior, tactically intelligent woman protagonist, and then for that television show to be a
masterpiece of storytelling, emotionally overwhelming and thematically
resonant– several years later, it comes to occupy my
thoughts now and again, and I loathe myself for not finding the words
to express my appreciation. This is one attempt, and will probably not
be the last. Initially striking and then lasting is the
show’s beauty– light fantasy visuals matching a breathtaking
tale of ‘making peace’ in a number of ways: with one’s past, with the fear of a powerful
kingdom, and with violence itself. This amazing protagonist is Balsa, a bodyguard
who borders on silent but says as much with her narrowed eyes as
she does with her quips and observations. She is tasked with protecting a young boy
while on a quest to make amends for eight people she murdered
in her past– keeping this child safe from assassins while
‘finding another way,’ a better way to survive, or even exist with
herself, one that doesn’t involve killing. That’s the foundation of the show and that’s
such a humanistic premise, but it’s maximized by the follow-through– the driving force of waging peace reaches
the highest level of this society in a quest to defeat a mysterious, supernatural element that requires we share knowledge and get back
in touch with our cultural roots. It’s one of those narratives that could save the world but that also somehow doesn’t point fingers, being far too preoccupied by its intimate and uplifting relationships and teary-eyed tragedies. And it all comes back to Balsa, who’s just
so effortlessly cool, one of my favorite characters. She’s funny and mysterious and compassionate
and very powerful, and she’s on a great journey with a past
and a future, but attending to an urgent present that is
very much worth addressing. There are themes of motherhood and parenthood, so a western analogue to Moribito could be
Steven Universe, though the two are quite disparate tonally. Uh, maybe The Last of Us? Both have that kind of aching sadness throughout. All great things, all three of those, but Moribito touched my heart in
a way that only Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has since. It was like… Kill la Kill, Moribito, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
for me, in terms of external embodiments of my soul, media that people accidentally made with me
in mind and I have difficulty reconciling. You can find Moribito on Amazon, but a word
of warning: just as we around the world are accustomed
to think the Asian accent is funny, the theme song does the L and R switch and
may be kind of jarring at first or second blush. But it’s very earnest, just like the show– I actually like the song– but it’s different, you know. And it’s kind of futuristic tone for the whole of it, as we may find our more improved selves by watching the show to the final bittersweet scene, and not laugh at something that to my ears
at least, does sound kind of off. Even still.