Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit Vol. #5 (of 8) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Changes are afoot in the palace as Shuga discovers a shocking truth much as Torogai does in Nayug.

What They Say
Shuga and Shaman Torogai both embark on their own quests to determine the true nature of the Water Spirit, each risking their lives against very different threats. Facing starvation locked in a secret vault, Shuga comes to the same shocking conclusion as Torogai, and learns the real tragic future of Chagum. Meanwhile, the Hunters find Balsa, putting everyone inimmediate peril. Balsa is forced to flee, but Chagum won't leave after learning what's happened to his brother back in the royal palace! Torn between his two lives, Chagum is lost as the torch comes down on his new home.

The Review!
Media Blasters has a pretty good selection of mixes here with four audio tracks, two of which are relatively unnecessary if DVD players are built properly. The Japanese and English language mixes are presented in both a 5.1 mix and a 2.0 mix to ensure the best overall playback. The stereo mixes are done in a standard minimal 192kbps encoding while the 5.1 mixes get the full 448kbps. The 5.1 mixes almost feel like overkill for a lot of this since it’s basic dialogue and little more for the bulk of the episodes. When the big action scenes do kick in, the mix comes across a bit more dynamic but not in a way where it’s really strong. The mix is used more for accent and clarity of placement more than overall impact. We only spent a little bit of time on the stereo mixes and they came across well, stronger with the forward soundstage, but there isn’t a huge world of difference between the two.

Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With very strong production values by Production I.G., the transfer for this is pretty disappointing in a lot of ways. The bitrate hovers in the sixes and sevens for a lot of it, and unlike some of the earlier discs, there’s far less blockiness and noise to be found here. While some amount of noise is expected, it seems to be stronger than it should be in some scenes and the ending sequence in particular, where it shifts from the dark blue to the lighter blue with the headshot of Chagum, really showcases a good deal of banding and blocking as it goes along. Colors look good in general and there isn’t any over saturation nor is there any visible cross coloration.

This release is another sideways piece from the company which looks great with its artwork of Balsa and the a few eight warriors behind her as a fire blazes behind them. There’s a lot of detail here and a very strong defined look that eludes many other shows. The downside is that they put it in a large jewel case that’s keepcase sized. Other than a few music releases in the US and a number of Japanese releases, you don’t see these kinds of cases often. They’re thinner than keepcases but the non-standard aspect is certainly going to annoy some, especially those that try to transition them to regular keepcases since they don’t fit all that well. The back cover is nicely done with the background from the front cover extended here along with a few shots from the show. The summary runs through the predictable basics of what to expect and there’s a listing of the discs extras as well. The production information and technical grid is solid as always and comes across in a very easy to read fashion.

The front cover for this release doubles as the booklet as well. The interior opens up to several pieces of character concept design items. There’s nothing on the back of the panel though which keeps it from feeling like anything truly worthwhile. It’s not a bad insert, but it’s very minimal overall.

The menu design was one that while basic could be quite serviceable if not for the poor look of it. The static image of Balsa from the front cover is used here to goof effect overall and it avoids the fuzzy feeling that we had with the early volumes. The navigation strip is simple, especially as the sole extra is listed along the top level, and submenu navigation is easy. Language selection is awkward since once you make a selection, it doesn’t really show what’s selected in any way. The disc didn’t read our player presets and defaulted to English stereo with sign/song subtitles.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Moribito slides past the halfway mark with this set of episodes, four of them this time, and we start to get some answers as to what's going on. Or at the very least, partial answers that hint at the larger truths that may be out there yet to come. Chagum and Balsa have been settled for a bit but even with them in this position, they're still essentially on the run. Now that the halfway point is here, they're starting to change the direction and make some active movements towards making sure that Chagum is well protected and that they all understand what's at stake here.

Much of what makes up this set of episodes deals in discoveries, and they are important discovers that really do matter. The most fascinating part really deals with Torogai who has gone to Nayug to communicate with the water spirits so she can try and figure out what's going on with Chagum and the egg. The world below isn't quite as detailed as some other shows, but there's a number of fascinating moments here as we see the old woman communicating with the spirits and trying to make her way back to the real world. The creatures under here aren't too far to the extreme, but when a fire spirit appears and starts to chase her in an attempt to stop her from returning with her discoveries, it gets a lot more tense.

What she does discover there is quite useful, as it turns out that the egg is actually pretty benign and it will hatch on the right day and at the right place. What Chagum has to watch out for is the Rarunga, a creature from the Nayug which seeks out the eggs to devour them and those that are their protection. While the egg won't hurt Chagum and that's very important, learning that there is a predator that will be hunting down Chagum to get to the egg keeps a fair amount of tension in the air. And with all that Chagum has gone through, it's not exactly something they want to reveal to him just yet when Torogai makes her way back to Balsa and Tanda.

As a nice balance to this, a good bit of time is spent with Shuga back at the palace as well as he continues his work in secret below ground to understand the past of Shin-Yogo. His discoveries about much of their known history being a lie has put him on the right path and learning that the egg and Chagum's role is of more significance than originally believed gives him the motivation to continue pushing for finding him and correcting the errors of the assassination attempt made on him. Doing all of this in secret, hiding it from the star master by getting the servants there to help, makes it all a very difficult process and one that has him trapped down below for some time. But it's a crucial time as he learns so much about Chagum's role which he may be able to use to convince others of the right path.

In Summary:
All the threads of the series are starting to come together at this point, with Chagum growing into his role and becoming more self assured after his time with Balsa. There are some good little moments of political intrigue at the castle and the warriors have some small but really enjoyable scenes as they deal with trying to find Chagum after discovering that he's still alive. Balsa and Tanda make out the weakest here with little screen time overall but everything is progressing well as the pieces are moving across the board as they start to understand their roles. The discoveries here are game changers as it puts people previously on opposite sides on the same side, though they can't quite admit to that yet. These episodes are good throughout as they add a bit more to the world of Moribito as well as keeping fairly tight with the story.

Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit