The quiet nature of the show continues, almost lazily, before things start to pick up once again towards the end as Moribito hits the halfway mark.
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.
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, but there’s a good deal of blocking and noise along the way that keeps it from looking clean and fluid. While some amount of noise is expected, it seems to be stronger than it should be and a lot of scenes come across poorly because of it. 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 in the foreground and some great natural architecture in the background. The background setting of the landscape with the statues carved into the rocky wall gives the whole thing a bigger sense of history and time. 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 in 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 booklet, 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 previous volume. 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 at long last hits the halfway mark with this volume and it feels like such a chore to have finally reached this point. That continues to be the biggest stumbling block with this series as the delay between volumes and the number of volumes really whittles down ones enthusiasm for all of it. What again makes a volume like this both enjoyable and difficult is that it is very much in a quiet and introspective mode, dealing with little things and only highlighting areas of growth that are incremental in both Chagum and Balsa. The changes are good to see, but it is slow going yet over quick simply because of how few episodes there are here.
The opening episode wraps up the events between Saya and Toya as Saya is now having an out of body experience and can no longer return to her body. With the bit of trickery played on her and Toya over the marriage contract situation, she’s decided that she no longer wants to participate and has basically retreated into herself, causing the out of body experience where she’s huddled in a corner. Toya has come to help now that he knows the truth, but in the end it’s only Tanda who may be able to help her by trying to force her spirit self back into her body. It’s a dangerous technique but it’s one that opens up the door to the viewer the two worlds that exist and what all is beyond Nayug. It’s an interesting tease that has you wondering how it will be incorporated into later events simply because it’s too intriguing to ignore forevermore. The story of Toya and Saya is thankfully wrapped up rather nicely through all of this, but it’s the bonds we see between Balsa and Tanda that I think resonated the best.
Chagum has an episode to himself which is quite nice as it sets up the potential for the pair moving on. With him being young, even with his family lineage, he’s still a boy and spends time with the other kids in the village. The village is preparing for a festival of sorts and some travelers have come through and they’re putting on a tournament with some wrestling. The son of the main wrestler is a loudmouth of sorts who talks down to those kids of Yogo and makes fun of the Mikado. That pushes Chagum over the edge a bit and the two makes a deal to wrestle each other to show who is better. Balsa is against the idea of Chagum even going to the festival so he doesn’t tell her about this part since he doesn’t want to worry her. She’s simply worried about visitors from around seeing them in the village and causing trouble. Chagum comes across very well in this, earnest about what he believes but not pushy and dominating. Simply clear and forward about it and he won’t back down from stating what he believes. It’s a good growth moment for him, but one that will cost when Balsa eventually deals with him.
Where Moribito manages to shake things up a bit is with the third episode here as Balsa is formally challenged. Initially it’s thought to be someone who is after her and Chagum, but it turns out to be a former opponent who lost to her on a job. Threatening her until she gives in to his demands, he intends to kill everyone who tries to leave the village she’s staying in until he gets the fight with her he wants. He goes so far as to recreate their last encounter, swapping their positions in it of course, and spending a lot of time trying to tweak and torment her before he takes her down entirely. Of course, Balsa has been through so many changes since the two originally fought that she’s not easily phased and that only serves to frustrate him more. Unlike most of the recent episodes, there’s a good bit of action and storytelling provided here and that’s quite welcome since we haven’t seen Balsa really get into it at all for a bit. There’s a real beauty to the design of the fight, particularly the location, which helps it a lot in making it memorable and exciting.
Originally I had felt that Moribito shared a lot of things in common with Twelve Kingdoms. As the show slowly marches on, I’m finding less and less of that as even the slow episodes in that series tended to move things forward more than they do here. Moribito is an interesting and engaging show, but it’s taking a lot of time to be, well, lazy at this point. I can see easily what they’re doing and the why of it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t exactly hugely captivating. I like what they’re doing, I like how they’re growing the core characters and unearthing layers to them, but it feels like it needs a little bit more at this point to really maintain a strong interest. It’s a beautiful show with great characters, but they need to be doing more of something, anything, at this point.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
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.