Mania Grade: A+
2 Comments | Add
Rate & Share:
- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B-
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Media Blasters
- MSRP: 34.99
- Running time: 175
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit Part 4
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit Part 4 DVD Review
By Sean Connolly
March 04, 2010
Release Date: December 08, 2009
The thrilling conclusion to a wonderful story has arrived.
What They Say
Escaping into the wilderness, Chagum, Balsa, Tanda and Madam Togarai reach a remote hideaway built into a cave. There, they plan to hole up for the winter and prepare for spring, when Rarunga will arrive to tear the egg from Chagum. Balsa finally reveals her past to Chagum, the story of Jiguro, master spear-wielder of Kanbal. The story of Jiguro is the story of Balsa growing up, and the secret behind the eight deaths that weigh on her shoulders. With Balsa's sorrow on his mind, Chagum is determined to learn all he can before the spring comes, including how to fight. But can Chagum the boy become a man in time to face the power of Rarunga?
Infused with the power of the Egg, Chagum sets off to the Land of Feasting on pure instinct. Unable to keep up with him, Balsa, Shuga and the Hunters race against time, tracking their way through the forest. Rarunga the Egg Eater rises up from Nayug to tear Chagum apart, but the immortal monster has to get past Balsa's spear first. Shuga's research has also let him equip the Hunters with weapons that will let them fight. However, Rarunga is not a single monster but a species, and each and every one of them is coming for Chagum. Balsa and the thers must somehow survive until dawn against a relentless tide of supernatural attackers!
Things remained relatively unchanged throughout the run of this show. 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.
Like the audio, the visual quality in this set remained on par with 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. The minor issues remained throughout the entire run of the show, but I honestly could not care less . The visuals are incredibly rich and the animation in this last set of episodes was lovely.
The cover art for the series remains pleasant to the eye. Volume seven features Balsa standing at the forefront as the Shin-Yoko hunters stand at the ready by her side. Volume eight has Chagum looking handsome in his regal outfit with Balsa smiling in approval. Everything else remains consistent with the previous volumes.
The menu options are set against the same artwork you see on the DVD covers. Selection is quick, easy and gets you into the show quickly.
Finally, we have some extras of note. The extra on volume seven is a nice promotional clip for the show. Presumably before it aired. The extras on volume eight are the best in the series. A press conference with the original author, director and part of the voice cast as well as a discussion panel involving both the director and author. Both extras are very interesting as there are plenty of meaty tidbits about the production from the different perspectives involved. Considering how good this show is, getting these extras was very nice.
Content (Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers): The major driving force behind Balsa's character and life had largely gone unexplained prior to this set. We knew that she was raised by a man named Jiguro and that she was making amends due to events that transpired during that time. In episodes 21 and 22, we're treated to a narrative from Balsa herself about those events. We learn of her simple life as a young girl in Kanbal, her father and the events that found her in the care of the young elite spear-wielder, Jiguro. Who were the eight souls? What were the circumstances behind her decision to atone those eight lives? How profound of an impact did Jiguro have on her life?
Through these events, we clearly see the parallels between her situation with Jiguro and Chagum's situation with Balsa. The reasons and motivations behind the decisions of both Jirugo and Balsa become crystal clear to us and to Chagum. In fact, these episodes act as a sort of therapy for both characters. For Balsa, it was a story she needed to tell. Perhaps to remind and steel herself for the events yet to come. For Chagum, it was a story he needed to hear to better understand his caretaker and to realize that doing the right thing is rarely an easy road to travel. Yet, it is a road that must be traveled.
As winter gives way to spring, the time comes for Chagum and our cast to confront fate. Both Balsa's group and Shuga's star-readers have done their best to prepare for this event, but the way things unfold still manages to surprise. The events leading to the birth of the water spirit twist and turn in many different ways that keep both the viewer and the characters on their toes. Who knew that the water spirit would willingly call forth the Egg-Eater? Who knew that there were many more than just one? How do you fight them? Why is Chagum hopping around on trees like a hyper-active ninja? Is it truly Chagum's fate to be torn apart by the Rarunga after all?
This is an aspect of the production that I have failed to touch on in the past. Rarely is anything ever handed to these characters. All of them have had to work for the knowledge they have gained and the battles they have won. There is careful attention paid to the strategy, planning and execution of almost every event in the show. This has been clear since the very start of the series where Balsa carefully analyzed the fighting patterns of the Hunters pursuing her. Another example is the meticulous execution of the Hunters working to discover Balsa's watermill hideout. Shuga's entire character is based on research, analysis, discovery and faith. His constant search for the truth led him to discover that major facets of the kingdom's existence was built on lies. Not to mention realizing that Chagum was alive when the entire kingdom thought him dead.
The characters constantly take each action into consideration and were not afraid to change course, or even their opinions of things based on the actions around them. Sure, their actions can be wrong but they learn from these mistakes and adapt. This kind of intelligence is rarely seen and is just another example of the strength of this production.
Throughout this series, I have been constantly taken aback by Production I.G.'s work. You just don't see this level of execution in a television series very often. If you do, it's very likely another Production I.G. work (such as Le Chevalier D'Eon). Moribito is visually stunning. Each aspect of the visuals are consistently high quality and complimentary of each other. The characters are beautifully rich, distinctive and appealing to the eye. These characters play within a gorgeous world, both natural and supernatural, filled with lovely background art and its use of CG is smart and very smooth. Finally, the animation is crisp and smooth. Combined with the strong story and writing, Production I.G. took no short cuts with this work and its quality shines bright.
In the Press Conference extra includes in volume eight, the director Kenji Kamiyama stated that he hoped that this adaptation of Guardian of the Spirit would be "satisfactory." I would like to tell Mr. Kamiyama that he was wrong. This adaptation is not simply "satisfactory." Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is "exemplary." It is a full bodied fantasy tale that stands as one of the best of the past decade in not only its genre but the entire medium.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promotional Video, Press Conference, Discussion Panel
Samsung PN50A400 50" Plasma HDTV, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver, Yamaha 5.1 Surround Sound Speakers, PlayStation 3 Slim via HDMI @720p