At a Glance: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is the tale of Balsa, a warrior woman, and a prince she is asked by the queen to take into hiding and protect. The boy is sought by people trying to kill him because he has a water spirit inside him, and certain people are talking like that means that some day, the spirit will break free and cause a drought. So, the prince and Balsa have to travel incognito and she has to help him not get killed, and he wants to learn to become stronger and more independent. We meet a male friend of Balsa's who works as a medicine man, so there's a hint of relationship tension. It seems like a standard fantasy adventure more or less, with the main point of interest being that it follows a female warrior in a time and place when female warriors are rare.
Political intrigue brews, and the boy develops tension between wanting to stay alive and wanting what's best for the people of his country (which could mean him being not so alive). And he wants to be independent, even though he acknowledges he is weak, naive, and dependent on Balsa to keep him safe. So, the coming-of-age aspect of this story is very nicely done, if you like that sort of thing.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (AKA: Seirei no Moribito)
Novel Series by Nahoko Uehashi
Manga by Nahoko Uehashi, Television Drama
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is... okay. It's not a bad anime, there's basically nothing technically wrong with it. But it's not necessarily good either. It's not that compelling, it doesn't have a lot of unexpected plot developments (although it may just be that I haven't seen enough, although I have watched more than 5 episodes total and still saw what was more or less a dull, slow plot). It's skillfully animated and very nice looking. I liked that Balsa was more quiet and maternal than the typical "warrior woman" in western media like Xena or Wonder Woman. She wasn't out to prove how tough she is, she just wanted to survive in a merciless world.
It's a safe anime. It's not super innovative; it has a plot that was probably ripped out of a Shinto folktale and it feels like a pretty standard fantasy/historical adventure anime. Characters move from place to place, people try to kill them, they fight back, they run, rinse, and repeat. That's the same as in Trigun or Scrapped Princess. The only main difference here is the gender role reversal. Balsa is a warrior, the "damsel in distress" is a boy, and the supporting healer character (similar to Megumi in Rurouni Kenshin or Winry in Fullmetal Alchemist) is male. But the main problem is that it makes no real difference. It just seems like the creators wanted to make a gender role reversal story for the sake of it, but the characters' genders are not really that important to the plot, so it ends up not mattering very much.
But, this show is kind of worth watching for atmosphere, sort of like Aria. It's pretty, it's sometimes exciting, just don't expect anything too wild. It's emotionally subtle and mature, which is nice in a world full of anime protagonists who scream a lot.