Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seirei no Moribito: I Really Wanted to Like it

I have watched a ton of fantasy shows. By a ton I mean that the vast majority of the shows I've watched have been fantasy or contained fantastical elements. Seirei no Moribito promised to be another good fantasy show and even though I've been getting a little sick of the genre I decided I would go ahead and watch it anyway. I mean it got good reviews on MAL () and it was written by Uehashi Nahoko who wrote one of my favorite shows: Kemono no Souja Erin. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. At this point, I'm not sure if it's because I'm jaded or if it's because the show is legitimately boring, but I couldn't get into it. I dropped it after 5 episodes so I'm not going to be able to account for the entire show, but I'll comment on the bit of it that I watched. (This is probably going to be a very short post that doesn't include any pictures of some weird half-naked, purple-haired girl posing in her underwear. Sorry otaku.)

I couldn't even find any interesting pictures.

These are the reasons I think this show went sour on me. I'm happy for someone to disagree with me and encourage me to continue watching-I mean who knows it could just have a really slow start-but they'd have to give me a good reason to do so.

Synopsis courtesy of MAL:

At a time when the balance of nature still held the civilizations of mankind in thrall, a single drought could spell the end of a society and doom its inhabitants to piteous deaths. Prince Chagum has been imbued with the power to stave off the drought and bring new life to his empire. However, this is a suspicious time, and he is accused of possession by an evil spirit.

Court advisors only see one solution. Chagum must be put to death by his own father's hand. His salvation is in the form of Balsa, a spear woman and mercenary from Kanbal, the kingdom across the mountains. Her skills are legendary, and although reluctant, she is held by a mysterious vow to save eight souls before she dies. Can she fend off an entire empire and make Chagum her eighth soul?

I think this show fell flat for me because I'm getting to the point where I've become disenchanted with fantasy in general. However, that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed Death Note, Fate/Zero, and Madoka Magica, all of which were either fantasy or contained fantasy elements. Therefore, I think it's a logical conclusion that this particular show played a significant role in my distaste as opposed to my general waning interest in the genre. There are a few reasons I think that Seirei no Moribito wasn't working for me. I think it had to do with the very generic fantasy setting. From the get go we had a warrior woman, royalty, the wise witch figure, and sketchy "priest-esque" figures. These are standard tropes in all fantasy be it in literature or other mediums. Because of this, one has to do something radical with either the characters or the world.

I'm a badass cliche. I don't need help from anyone.

If you take a look at The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell, he outlines all of the character archetypes that commonly appear in epic fantasy literature (these archetypes are drawn from Jungian theory). The goal of a writer is to use these archetypes as a baseline and then expand upon them to make compelling and unique characters. Nahoko failed on this level at least from my preliminary impressions of the characters. Balsa is the stereotypical "too independent for her own good" warrior woman whose job is to protect the helpless and naive prince who has been possessed by a spirit. This story sounds all too familiar even if presented in a different format or with slight variations on the central plot. Not to mention, you could see the inevitable romance between Balsa and Tanda coming up from a mile away. This isn't uncommon in any genre, usually the love interests are pretty obvious, but my gripe with this is that there is literally no chemistry between the two characters.

Wow I just can't get over that chemistry.

What made it a bit worse was the fact that there was some promise of action, and the plot idea in theory wasn't bad. I mean come on there's a prince with some sort of water spirit egg lodged in his guts, they could have used that to bring in the action a bit earlier. The problem is, there was very little interesting action within the first five episodes and the show spent way too long on rising action and setting. Perhaps my exasperation stemmed from the fact that I didn't really care about any of the characters. However even if that was lacking, some of the excitement could have been made up with more intriguing action. For example, at the beginning, Balsa saves the prince from drowning, but the way the scene runs, there is never any doubt that she is going to save him, there is no suspense at all. Due to the premise of the show, there were a lot of things at stake. The prince would have been killed if captured and brought back to the palace and the world was on the brink of a horrible drought, but Balsa and the others were kind of like "oh okay, that's cool, whatever". In spite of all the rising conflict, the characters didn't behave as if the situation was dire. They were taking their sweet, leisurely time getting a plan together and while the atmosphere should have been filled with frantic energy, there was very little if any of that present. Balsa was injured, but it would have been much more dramatic and interesting if she had gotten up, completely neglected healing time, and dragged the prince off with her to somewhere far away where they would be safe. Obviously that's just an example, but as my writing professor loved to pound into our heads: characters are defined by the choices they make. Controversial choices make for interesting characters-something this show didn't seem to understand.

Essentially, all of these criticisms tie back to the main point and the overarching reason why I couldn't enjoy the show or bring myself to watch past the first five episodes: it was generic. The characters were uninspired and cliched and the plot was far too familiar. I had actually considered watching this show a year or so back, but decided against it because I suspected that it might turn out to be like this. I'm not sure why I changed my mind, but I probably should have gone with my first impressions seeing as how I was incredibly unimpressed by the content.

I will admit that I am definitely jaded and perhaps this type show is more appealing to people who didn't read 153 fantasy novels last year most of which contained similar characters and settings just not in visual form (I'm swear I'm not trying to brag. I legitimately think this is a gross amount of books). The problem is, when you're so inundated with a specific genre, it all begins to blur together and the tropes begin to stick out more frequently. On that note, If anyone disagrees with my comments or has completed watching the show and would like to add their own opinions that would be greatly appreciated. After all, I really did want to like this show and in theory, I should have liked this show, but for some reason it left a bad taste in my mouth.
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