Seirei no Moribito is one of my all-time favorite series. It's way, way up there. It has so much going for it, all the elements that make a great series. The graphics and scenery are absolutely gorgeous. Vibrant colors and when possible, fantastical colors and shapes. The character design is great. The plot is unique and well-written. The music is way beyond awesome. Two of my all-time favorite soundtracks are the two from this series. Kenji Kawai did the music, and along with Yoko Kanno, he's one of my favorite composers. He did the music for Sky Crawlers, Eden of the East, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, to name a few. Sorry, I tend to get carried away about music. Anyway, if you haven't seen this anime series, you should. If you haven't and plan to, consider this a warning. Don't read farther because I'm going to disclose basically the whole plot in the next several paragraphs.
Seirei is a story which takes place in a normal universe (Sagu) that interacts with another, fantastical universe (Nayug). The two are intimately connected. For example, Sagu has two moons, one of which is Nayug's sun. Most people live normal lives in Sagu, totally unaware of the existence of Nayug. The exception to this rule are the shamans of the Yaku people who can occasionally see and interact with Nayug.
The story takes place in a land (Yogo) which is ruled by an emperor who has two sons. The setting is feudal-Chinese-like. The two main characters in the story are Balsa and Chagum, shown to the right. At the beginning of the story, the life of Chagum, the emperor's younger son, is saved by a woman named Balsa, who is a wandering warrior/bodyguard. Come to find out Chagum's father the Mikado (emperor) has given orders for Chagum to be killed because Chagum is possessed, and no prince of the realm can be tainted by possession. So, in repayment for saving Chagum's life, Chagum's mother begs Balsa to flee with him and protect him. Balsa agrees because her own life was saved in a similar manner when she was a child, and the story begins.
The plot of the story is unique in that it goes well beyond the woman bodyguard protecting the prince plot line. The "demon" possessing Chagum turns out to be the egg of a water spirit from Nayug. Every 100 years the Nayug water spirit who provides all rain for Sagu lays an egg and dies. The egg must hatch or Sagu will never have rain again. Yet the hatching of the egg has not ever been accomplished without killing the child bearing the egg. This is problematic for Balsa who has promised to keep Chagum alive. On top of this, for almost the first half of the series, the servants of the emperor believe that the drought will come if they DO NOT kill Chagum.
The plot is intricately interwoven. The characters and their actions are real and believable, even when Chagum is suspended over a miles deep cavern surrounded by winged creatures larger than he is, as he carries the egg and is pulled between Sagu and Nayug. Surrounding and aiding Balsa and Chagum are a Shaman named Torogai, her apprentice who is also a Yaku healer and friend of Balsa's named Tanda, and two orphan kids named Toya and Saya. Arrayed against them are the Mikado, his main star seer and his eight secret warriors, two of which are with Balsa in the picture to the left. Chagum's tutor and friend, Shuga, starts out on the emperor's side, but along the way he works to find the information necessary to prove that Chagum must not be killed but rather protected while the egg hatches. He convinces the Mikado and his minions of these facts, aided by the fact that the first prince, who is physically frail, dies. The necessity for the empire to have a living prince aids Shuga's cause.
With Torogai's help, Balsa stages her and Chagum's deaths early in the story, so they are free to live a relatively normal life at first, with Chagum learning to be a commoner. About the time Shuga realizes Chagum is still alive and must be kept that way, Torogai realizes that the hatching of the egg will probably kill him. Both groups scramble to find more information from 100 and 200-year old tales and records.
In the end, everyone ends up working together to save Chagum. Balsa and the eight warriors, Shuga and Torogai and Tanda. Shuga is pictured to the left here. One of my favorite things about this series is that nobody dies (other than the frail older prince). They actually find a way to keep Chagum alive while allowing the egg to hatch. Another favorite thing is Tanda. Tanda is the guy in dark green at the top left side of the picture at the top of the post. He's a very down-to-earth, dependable guy who discovers the important answers they need to save Chagum at the end. He's also known Balsa almost her entire life and is still patiently waiting on her to give up the warrior life and settle down, which occasionally makes him comic relief.
The end is wonderful, and bittersweet enough to make me cry. Not that hard, I know. Still. Chagum goes back to being the Crown Prince, losing all connection with the commoners that helped him. Balsa goes back on the wandering-warrior road, to lay one last ghost Tanda says as he prepares to wait for her again.
It's really a great series. I highly recommend it.