Imagine that eight lives were lost at your cause. What would you do? In the case of Balsa, a spear weilding wonderer, she sets out to save eight lives or else her life would remain incomplete. She is on the brink of completing her task with seven down, but her final mission will really put her skills to the test. The crown prince was issued to be assassinated after discovering that a water spirit is using its body as its shell, but the empress refuses to let her son be killed no matter what. She hires Balsa to become her bodyguard even if it means that the water spirit is to fully hatch and bring fathom to the land. Balsa journies with Chagum around the land of the New Yogo empire in constant run of the emporer's assassin while also teaching the young prince the life of a commoner.
Guardian of the Sacred Spirit is a really deceiving anime. The first couple episodes you're treated to some very well choreographed fights that are complimented by some great aesthetic value. Later on though, much of the episodes revolve around Chagum experiencing the life of the common person. Chagum at first struggles with Balsa pushing his body to its limits on a daily basis and tears are shed when no maids are able to assist him in his chores and obstacles, though thanks to the knowledge he was taught by his many tutors, Chagum gets by with his smarts that causes commoner children to flock towards him.
It sounds pretty boring; you're expecting a badass anime where this grown woman kicks assassins ass' who attempt to kill the prince, but instead you get to watch a kid grow up? Well, it actually is pretty fun and rewarding to watch. The characters in Guardian of the Sacred Spirit are just great and rich in personality. Anime characters are most of the time emotional, but the characters here are engineered mostly by logic. It is almost like I am watching a Chinese drama instead. Most of the time when I'm watching anime, I feel like I'm watching young teens transform into adults. Here, everyone starts out as adults, even Chagum and the other kids and teenagers.
The main characters and its supporting cast are really refined and polished. They play their roles almost way too perfectly, I even dare say this is probably the most flawless anime cast out there. Note I didn't say best, just the most flawless. Balsa should be a textbook example of the mentor type character who knows it all. Tanda also plays an excellent role as the lead supporting character. Other supporting characters like Toya, most notable for his buck teeth, and Shuga, seem like your nextdoor neighbours you haven't seen in years.
The acting is just so fluid and rich, and that goes the same for its animation and sounds. The animation in particular is just so crisp in detail, and it doesn't really share any of the typical anime traits of big eyes, ecchi moments, and those comic relief signs (tear drop on the back of head, hanging jaw, falling on the ground with legs hanging in the air). The sounds are of equal value with a classical asian medieval soundtrack that fits the mood well. The anime's serious graphical interface and soundtrack blends well with the direction and theme of the anime.
I have said nothing but great things, but it just so happens its one major flaw really weighs it down from reaching The Twelve Kingdoms and Neon Genesis Evangelion status to the levels of Azumanga Daioh and Wolf's Rain (of course this is just my opinion, I think the latter two animes are great, just two notches down from the two former animes mentioned). What is this flaw anyways? One word; sloooooooooooooooow. I just cannot emphasize how slow this anime is. Sure it is nice that there is a lot of slice of life and light hearted moments, but there was still a story to it. The story moved at such a snail like pace that some of the later episodes felt uninspiring to watch. It is unfortunate this one flaw really barred down what could have easily been an anime next to The Twelve Kingdoms. Everything about it is perfect; its glamorous and realistic animation, its acting, the unforgettable collection of characters, but unfortunately it all moved much too slow. If there was one way to sum Guardian of the Sacred Spirits in just two words while giving a clear picture of what kind of anime it is, it is this: Studio Ghibi. It honestly feels like it was made in their very hands. Fans of Ghibi will easily fall in love with this great anime, but even they may need patience for its pace.