The true fate of the Guardian of the Spirit is revealed and Chagum's resolve is put to the test.
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 in immediate 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.
Things remain relatively unchanged between sets. Included on the disc are English and Japanese 2.0 stereo (192 kbps) mixes and 5.1 mixes (448/386 kbps). Again, I pretty much completely ignored the 2.0 tracks while performing some spot checks here and there. Both the English and Japanese 5.1 tracks sound strong with very good directional clarity. The dialogue throughout the show is still clear with good placement.
In addition, Mabuki Ando and Naoto Adachi's performances as Balsa and Chagum are stellar in this set of episodes. Cindy Robinson and Mona Marshall perform well here as well.
Like the audio, the visual quality in this set remains about the same as the previous volumes. This show is presented in a 1:78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen playback. The encode averages between 7-8 Mbps throughout the entire set.
There are some minor issues (minor blocking and the ending is still the worst offender on the disc), but you forget about them when settling into the show. The backgrounds are still incredibly rich as the setting shifts into Yakoo territory. Lush, untouched forests and mountains combined with ethnic look of the Yakoo villagers make for lovely scenery.
The cover art for the series remains pleasant to the eye. Both covers feature Balsa as she is confronted with two of the Shin-Yogo Hunters in volume five and Chagum threatens her with her spear on the cover of volume six. Everything else remains consistent with the previous volumes.
The menu options are set against the same artwork you see on the DVD covers. The music repeats after each selection, which is always a little pet peeve of mine, but we're all used to it by now. Selection is quick, easy and gets you into the show quickly.
There are no extras on either volume five or six. Bummer.
Content (Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
If the last set of episodes were about Chagum's growth as a young man forced to adapt to a normal, everyday life as a commoner, this set of episodes chronicles another hurdle in the life of our young protagonist. The Yakoo Elder, Torogai, has conferenced with the water spirits to discover the true fate of the Guardian of the Spirit. It seems that the Guardian is not killed by the simple fact that they harbor the egg. However, they are threatened by a monster that exists in-between the human and spirit world that looks to feed on the egg of the water spirit. She takes this knowledge to Balsa and Tanda and formulates a plan to find out more about this "egg eater" by meeting with the last of the Yakoo settlements that pass on their knowledge via an oral history.
Meanwhile, the Star Reader Shuga is frantic in his attempt to prove that Chagum could be alive. In a last gasp efforts, he has arranged to look into the deepest secrets of the Shin-Yoko Empire which are kept in stone tablets in a secret, underground chamber in their temple. After extensive research, he discovered that not only is Chagum alive but he found that the entire history of the Empire is based on a lie. To confirm his suspicions, he leads the Empire's Hunters to track down his whereabouts and bring him back to the Empire for protection.
From this point on, the two groups play an intriguing game of cat and mouse. The Hunters' ability for intelligence gathering and tracking are put on full display as they methodically discover the location of Balsa's home and where her group is headed. In response, Balsa is even more resolute in her protection of Chagum and accelerates in providing him with a solid foundation of skills to become a strong enough man to confront his fate. The twist that is introduced here is a chance meeting between Shuga and Chagum in the bustling city streets of Ogi no Shimo. This was the first time in quite awhile that Chagum has encountered anyone from the Empire and he learns of many events that both shake his resolve in his fate and in his situation with Balsa. His world is thrown upside down and he retreats into himself in an attempt to digest the information thrown his way.
Just as he begins to feel comfortable with his new life with Balsa, an anvil falls on his head. I really felt for this poor child here. In a freak encounter, he learns that not only has his brother, the Prince, died but that his fate is quite possibly much, much worse than he initially thought. Information is being kept from him and his trust in his bodyguard has been shaken. When his party reached the Yakoo village, he completely buckles underneath the weight of the truth.
The climax of this set of episodes is really well done and two-fold. Shuga and his Hunters reach the village and demand they hand over Chagum. Coming to their aid, the crafty old crone Torogai confronts the group with a healthy dose of common sense, informing them that Chagum has until the next spring until he is confronted with his fate. If Shuga believed he can protect him, he has until then to find a way. Meanwhile, Chagum had run away from the village to return to the Empire. He is found by Balsa who states that in order for him to return to his old life, he will have to go through her. She gives him her spear and he takes it up with every intention of leaving. The emotional pay off of this scene is wonderful and is the one of the great examples of why Balsa is such a fantastic character.
If I have any qualms with this set of episodes, it happened early on. As I said before, Shuga took it upon himself to research the history of the Water Spirit in an attempt to find some ray of hope that Chagum may be alive. To do this, he entered a secret room that houses numerous stone epitaphs that detail the history of the Empire. There, he discovered many surprising facts that no one else in the Empire knew. Not the Mikado and not even the Master Star Reader, who oversees these epitaphs. I don't know about you, but if there such a wealth of information about the true history of the Shin-Yoko and the nature of the Water Spirit, that would have been the first place I would have checked. Torogai quickly becomes my third favorite character in the show by reading my mind by telling Shuga this while I was thinking it.
Brain fart aside, I had a fantastic time watching this collection of "Moribito" episodes. Events unfolded so well that it was impossible to take my eyes off of it. There is so much action going on and not one bit of it involved the clashing of sword or spear. Chagum's character continues to evolve and Balsa is a joy to watch. Everything is coming together here as the best fantasy series of 2009 heads towards the finish line.
Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Samsung PN50A400 50" Plasma HDTV, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver, Yamaha 5.1 Surround Sound Speakers, PlayStation 3 Slim via HDMI @720p