Moribito Episode Eight “The Swordsmith”–Review

We start this episode with Chagum being woken up by the sound of Balsa practicing with her spear. Balsa has an errand to run in town; finally getting her spear repaired. This is also intended to be a bit of an educational trip for Chagum, who has never had the opportunity to see how ordinary people live. Chagum asks where one goes to have a spear repaired, and Balsa replies with “a swordsmith.” During the trip into town Balsa and Chagum have a discussion about steel, which is one of Yogo’s main exports, smithies and a superstition that a warrior must never see weapons being forged, or they will never become powerful. (This leads to Balsa teasing Chagum a little.)

It turns out that Balsa is a longtime customer of this particular swordsmith, and that he had repaired the spear used by Balsa’s protector Jiguro. The swordsmith examines her spear and tells her that he’d going to have to make her a new spear. He also wants to know the story behind the rumors, and states he wants to know the truth, or he won’t be able help her.

Balsa states that the rumors are in some sense true. (He asked if she had taken up arms against the court. This is true, though her reasons for it are entirely good.) The swordsmith warns her that he’ll have to report that she’s still alive, and asks Balsa what she plans to do about it. Balsa states that she’ll stay right there in the shop until he makes her a new spear. There’s some more back and forth conversation where the swordsmith questions her about the situation, but Balsa is not talking. Using the excuse of arriving customers, the swordsmith manages to maneuver her and Chagum into the storage room, locking the door behind them and stating that he wants to hear both sides of the story.

The swordsmith’s customers turn out to be the Emperor’s black ops team. The swordsmith questions them about the manhunt, using the excuse of the swords having been badly damaged. The black ops guy states that he was with the Imperial Guard and the beaten up swords were the result of constant practice. (The swordsmith probably thinks this is the most ridiculous lie ever told.) They talk some more, and the swordsmith points the black ops guys in the direction of the storage room where Balsa and Chagum are.

Balsa is understandably in a panic, but immediately grabs two of the swords in the room, passing one to Chagum and getting ready to defend herself. However, as the black ops guy reaches the door, the swordsmith tells him to wait a moment. He asks a question of an oddly philosophical or artisanal bent; What makes a Yogo sword so special? The younger of the two black ops guys, Jin goes into a great deal of detail considering the craftsmanship of a sword, with the older guy, Mon, backing him up. The swordsmith’s answer is more philosophical in nature, and involves the attitude of the person wielding the sword being what makes the sword special. The swordsmith further states that part of what makes the sword special is the relationship between the swordsmith and the person wielding the sword, and that he feels that it would be possible to create an “ultimate sword.”

The black ops guys state that the swordsman’s swords are masterpieces, but the swordsmith does not agree. He considers his swords of inferior quality because they are merely lethal weapons. He wants to create a sword that “severs the bonds of karma” but does not kill. Of course, he hasn’t found the right warrior for whom he can create such a weapon. As a result he is very selective of whom he makes his swords for.

The older of the two black ops guys is a little amazed by this, and asks the swordsmith if he’s ever encountered a warrior worthy of such a weapon. The swordsmith states that he knew one warrior who he might have possibly been able to make the ultimate sword for. The swordsmith talks about this warrior and it’s revealed that the warrior is Jiguro, Balsa’s protector when she was a child. In order to protect Balsa, Jiguro was forced to kill his best friends, who had been sent to kill him. (Which is the reason why Balsa has sworn to save the lives of eight people; she blames herself for her protector having to kill his friends.)

The swordsmith made a sword for this warrior, but the sword was not the ultimate weapon he’d been aiming for. (The swordsmith feels that it was mostly because his skills hadn’t matured at that point in time.)

The black ops guys are very curious as to why this warrior bothered to go through the hardship and pain of fleeing his home country and then killing his friends for the sake of a child he wasn’t even related to. The swordsmith agrees that this is very puzzling. Then the older black ops guy asks an oblique question concerning Balsa’s earlier actions during the first encounter. (Where Balsa refused to strike any lethal blows while protecting Chagum, and also refused to give up attempting to rescue him from the black ops team.)

The swordsmith is immediately interested about Balsa’s extreme reluctance to kill. He questions the black ops guy about what happened to the warrior he was talking about, and the black ops guy states that the warrior died. He sounds slightly regretful about it, and states that he believes that the warrior (Balsa) would have been worthy of such a weapon. The swordsmith apologizes to the black ops guys for keeping them waiting, and goes to the storage room for the swords. Balsa and Chagum quickly hide, and the swordsmith retrieves the swords for the two black ops guys.

As they get ready to leave, the older black ops guy notices the wrapped up spear. He questions the swordsmith about it because generally speaking, spears are somewhat beneath a swordsmith’s skill. The swordsmith states that he works on whatever strikes his fancy to work on, even spears. The two black ops guys leave, and Balsa comes out of the storage room.

She obliquely thanks the old guy for not ratting on her. The swordsmith tells her she can go home in a slightly dismissive tone, then lightens it by stating that he’s heard both sides of the story. She can come back in seven days to pick up her new spear. We end with Balsa seven days later, practicing with her new spear while Chagum and Tanda watch.

One of the things I like about Moribito is the slow reveals. There is very little information dumping, and the writers assume that you’ll be able to keep up. In the next episode, Shuga becomes extremely determined to continue is research concerning the drought sign and the spirit that has possessed Chagum.

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