I finished re-watching this series for the 4th time at least: this Seirei no Moribito review is thus somewhat belated.
It’s still very entertaining, especially the realistic fight scenes. There were times when I wanted to fast forward through an episode because I already knew what was going to happen, but once the episode began I just watched it normally because it was good.
When I read the wiki article about it, I was surprised it came from a novel. Generally novel adaptations are tricky to do, although at least they are given more freedom than light novels (demographic limitations). Originally written as a fantasy novel for children, it is said to appeal to adults. Later it was adapted to a manga and then the anime which we see today. The anime was so well constructed I thought for sure it had to be an original script and character design work.
Single parent raising a child is one of the themes in the anime, but the material isn’t about the themes so much as it uses plot development to illustrate realistic characters living in a realistic setting. It reminds me of another anime adapted from a novel: http://www.anime-planet.com/anime/from-the-new-world. The world is a fantasy construct similar to Japanese legends about demons and spirits; yet the culture of the world would be very familiar to a feudal history buff.
Warrior virtues were featured, which appeals to me given my interests and hobbies. It is certainly easier to use killing techniques vs non-lethal ones, as non-lethal techniques have a higher chance of getting the user killed and is not particularly easy to apply either. But that just means for a warrior, there is a higher level that can be achieved even if you can win all life and death duels. The 1 on multiple enemies tactic is also applicable, in both the anime as well as physical life scenarios. The sheer maneuverability of the spear users, usage of leg attacks in combination with weapon attacks, is also consistent with Ancient Chinese and Asian martial techniques designed for the battlefield. When students like me learned the bo and bojutsu (long staff techniques), I always did wonder how long it would take to predict which part of the staff a blocked sword would slide off into, thus allowing me to extract from fingers from that area. Since a long staff is held with both hands at the 1/3rd mark on both ends, there are no metal guards protecting the hands from enemy objects. One reason I prefer the sword over the staff is because even though the staff has more range, it is more difficult to learn how to use at all ranges. The staff and spear is very easy for beginners to learn how to use, at its maximum distance (in Eve we might call that kiting range). But in brawling range, where the enemy is right in front of you in arm distance, the number of tricks you need to pull off in staff techniques are no joke. The spear or staff is considered a peasant or lowly infantry’s weapon, not something aristocrats or cavalry used. Mostly because it is made of wood and thus can be more easily crafted than a pure bar of metal that a sword requires. Although the war naginatas used by the Chinese and the women samurai, were probably partially or fully metal.
The Japanese artistic usage of women as weapons of mass destruction, both on a serious and joking manner, may be from their feudal era where samurai were expected to fight, male or women. In the Western or US sphere, the frontiers woman utilizing a gun for home defense would be the closest approximation. Something so far from our mainstream Hollywood culture, that it takes effort to recall or apply for those that were not born or raised in that kind of atmosphere.
The characters and character construction doesn’t feel designed for larger than life people. It’s not about the greatest soldier or warrior, nor is it about an Emperor, nor is it about the Emperor’s son that is brought up on the streets as a peasant. The themes are prismatic and flare like a fractal design. They support strong human emotions, but I don’t get the feeling it has a specific message other than the title itself. One may take each individual character and build a story on it, but as you see more and more characters the stories begin to interweave and support each other. In that sense, it feels a lot more like a family drama or slice of life production.
A close Western comparison would be the Croods movie. American popular concepts for raising children is a little bit strange. I’ve seen it in the mainstream enough times that I’m getting suspicious. Of course not everyone behaves like that, just as not everyone behaves like Moribito’s parents in Japan. However, mainstream art and communication tends to influence people more than democracies wish to accept.
P.S. One extra thing in the anime I considered an omake, was the howl or yell the primary protagonist and warrior did in calling out an enemy above. It really felt like a kiai or a sonic projection using chi gong: manipulation of air and energy production in the body. It’s things like that that make me want to read the novel, to see if any additional details or instructions were given.