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守り人 [Moribito] #1

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

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You've never read a fantasy novel like this one! The deep well of Japanese myth merges with the Western fantasy tradition for a novel that's as rich in place and culture as it is hard to put down.

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river -- and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy -- the Prince Chagum -- on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince's own father.

248 pages, Hardcover

First published July 1, 1996

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About the author

Nahoko Uehashi

84 books310 followers
Nahoko Uehashi is the author of ten books in the Moribito series, which have sold more than a million copies and won many major literary awards in her native Japan. An associate professor at a Japanese university, she has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and studies indigenous peoples in Australia. She lives near Tokyo, Japan.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 430 reviews
Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,201 followers
September 6, 2020
> 4.5 stars

This book is slightly old now, and it was published in the time where diverse (and #ownvoices) fantasy often wasn’t given the time of the day, so it’s not that well-known either. But it’s brilliant, and needs more love! And as Asian fantasy and diverse fantasy overall is becoming so incredibly popular, with releases like Girls of Paper and Fire and Flame in the Mist, this novel is perfect for those looking for more Japanese fantasy.

Moribito presents truly memorable characters in Balsa and Chagum. Two unlikely companions - an older warrior woman and a young prince - travel to deliver the egg of the water spirit to the location where it must be hatched. It’s a simple story interceded with perspectives from other characters, such as star readers and an old witch, and feels very much like a timeless piece of fantasy writing that appeals to children and adults.

The book - or the US hardcover, at least - is beautifully designed inside and out, and I just have to acknowledge this because genuinely it’s one of the most beautiful books inside that I’ve seen, ever.

Also, the anime adaption of this is truly stunning and the music is epic, so if you read this, that soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment.
Profile Image for Cyna.
219 reviews263 followers
July 10, 2012
So I thought this was going to be a short one, because, well, the book is pretty short, and I didn't think I had much to say about it. Then I started writing, and NGL, totally fangirling, but I don't even care, because this series is fucking awesome, y'all. While Moribito isn't perfect, it was a genuinely pleasurable reading experience, and I would gladly commit gratuitous acts of imaginary violence to have more like it.

For those who skipped the summary, Moribito is the story of Balsa, a thirty-year-old bodyguard, who is tasked with protecting a prince after it's discovered that he carries a water spirit inside of him, which must hatch in order to prevent the country from suffering a terrible drought. The book follows their quest to ensure both the survival of the prince, Chagum, and the development of the spirit within him.

The thing you should probably be aware of, as a reader, is that Moribito is, for the most part, a children's book. I've seen it on some urban fantasy lists on Goodreads, and expecting it to be something along the lines of, say, the Mercy Thompson or even Vampire Academy series isn't quite accurate. It's a fairytale, a fantasy adventure for children, with all of the sweet magic, creatures, and world-building that this implies. That doesn't mean that it's not still enjoyable for adults, but it's definitely not the GrittyGrittyMurderANGSTSexLoveManFest that a lot of UF titles are. Think of it like a Pixar movie - it works for kids, but has enough meat and emotional relevance to appeal to adults as well.

The prose, storyline, and focus are simpler. The side characters can be a little flat. I'm not sure if it's a result of the translation, or the prose itself, but the writing can be heavy on the "tell" side, and there are more than a few eyebrow-raising anachronisms that I suspect might be the result of localization. The story isn't terribly complex or deep.

But - and it's a big BUT - Moribito is more than worth the read for the joy of it; for the main characters, for their problems, for their bonds and their journey together, and oh sweet baby Cheesus, for Balsa.

I love Balsa. Over the course of two books and one anime series, she's easily become one of my favorite characters, and you'll all be receiving invitations to witness our glorious marital union within the month. There is just so much about her that is awesome: she's thirty, she's a bodyguard, she has lines on her face and bags under her eyes, she's honest and brave and noble, she can take out a team of highly-trained assassins on her own, she's rough around the edges, and holy fucking shit of surprises, her life does not revolve around romance, but she loves and defends the people who've collected around her and become her family.

Balsa is basically the kind of female hero I want to read about more often. She's so wonderfully competent, at her job, in the decisions she makes, as a leader, that it makes me want to cry, and not a little because truly competent female heroines are so rare...

Read full review at You're Killing.Us.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,006 followers
April 14, 2013
Originally reviewed on Kirkus' Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog

“Your Highness,” she said. “I’ve already explained that no matter how much you might give me, it’s no good to me if I’m dead. Forgive my rudeness, but I must speak plainly. You have dealt me an unfair and cowardly blow.”
The queen went pale and began to tremble violently. “What do you mean?”
“I saved the prince’s life, yet you reward me by taking my life. What would you call that but unfair and cowardly?”

On the prosperous, island kingdom of Yogo, the divine king Mikado rules absolute, his veins carrying the precious blood of the god Ten no kami. When the Mikado’s son, the Second Prince Chagnum, is thrown from his carriage in a freak accident, he’s nearly killed; luckily for Chagnum, a traveling warrior named Balsa is in the right place at the right time and saves him from certain death.

A bodyguard-for-hire renowned for her fierceness with a spear, Balsa is rewarded for her good deed by being invited by the Second Queen to the palace—where she is promptly ambushed and implored by the desperate queen to protect her son. The carriage incident was no accident, and the Second Queen is convinced that the Mikado and his Star Reader priests are trying to kill her son for the good of the kingdom, as they believe Chagnum is possessed by a water demon that will cause a catastrophic drought. As fierce as Balsa may be, she cannot leave the innocent Chagnum to such a horrible fate, and accepts the role as his bodyguard. Little does Balsa know that Chagnum’s survival will determine the destiny of the kingdom, and the secret of the young prince’s “possession” will unlock the forgotten truth behind Yogo’s layered and rewritten past.

This review can be summed up in a single word: wow.

After reading and striking out with so many new superhero books (not to mention culturally appropriative “Japanese-inspired” fantasy novels), it was with a wary eye that I picked this book as the subject for my Kirkus contribution this week.* Thankfully, Guardian of the Spirit was a soothing balm for my frayed patience. A beloved best-seller in its native country of publication, Japan, the Moribito books have since been adapted into a manga series, an anime series and a radio drama, and finally made their way to the United States in 2008. It’s easy to see why Balsa and her cohorts have found such a strong following across languages and formats—suffice it to say, dear readers, this book completely rocks.

You may be wondering where superheroes fit in, as by all counts Guardian of the Spirit appears to be a feudal Japanese-type fantasy novel (right?). In my opinion, Balsa is—without a doubt—a superhero and on a hero’s journey. Though she has no superpowers per se, Balsa is an incredibly skilled warrior (though not infallible and clearly mortal) and, most importantly, she fights to protect those who have no protectors. She’s female, she’s 30 years old (another point in the awesome column), and she’s a bonafide badass with a chip on her shoulder.**

What’s so intriguing about Balsa as a character, however, is her surprising empathy; she’s not just a badass killing machine with no heart, nor is she reduced to a matronly figure (as, unfortunately, older female superheroes often seem to be labeled). No, Balsa is strong without being abrasive, and she’s emotionally genuine without being pigeonholed as a motherly role model. Nor is Balsa objectified or sexualized—she’s underestimated by other warriors (who see her as an easy target, alone on the road as she is), but I love that she’s appreciated and valued for her bravery, her heart and her skill.

The same appraising awesomeness can be said for the other main female character in the text (a surprise assumption that I don’t want to ruin). Furthermore, author Nahoko Uehashi (a professor of ethnology at the Kawamura Gakuen Women’s University in Japan) pays careful attention to Balsa’s Japanese-inspired world and the different ethnicities and beliefs of the people in that world. Religious tolerance, displaced indigenous people, traditions and histories rewritten by the victors are all major themes in Guardian of the Spirit, and each executed to perfection.

This all sounds rather introspective and clinical, doesn’t it? Allow me to fix that, because really, Guardian of the Spirit is an action book. Uehashi has an unparalleled talent for explosive action sequences (it’s easy to see how this book lends itself to an anime series!) to compliment her fast-moving, high-stakes plot, and paints vivid images of Balsa throwing her shuriken and whipping her spear around in a brilliant flash of silver and blood as she battles iron-clad men and tentacled monsters alike.***

And the best part? The best part is that there is a second book, a translated manga series, and a dubbed and subtitled anime series waiting for any new fans just discovering the magic of Moribito. I, for one, cannot wait for more of Balsa and her friends.

In Book Smugglerish, 9 flashing spears out of 10.

* I’m looking at you Stormdancer and Daughter of the Flames.

** Though you may be thinking Wonder Woman, Balsa is actually more akin to Batman: same traumatic backstory, same very human/non-superpowered background, same sharp edges and violence.

*** Big time props must also be given to Cathy Hirano, who does a phenomenal job in this English translation.
Profile Image for Nhi Nguyễn.
967 reviews1,267 followers
May 17, 2020
Câu chuyện mở đầu bằng sự kiện Balsa - một nữ vệ sĩ chuyên dùng giáo - vô tình cứu được Nhị hoàng tử Chagum của vương quốc Tân Yogo khỏi dòng nước dữ. Thế nhưng, nguy hiểm bủa vây lấy hoàng tử chưa dừng lại ở đó, khi triều đình tin là cậu bé bị yêu tinh nhập, Nhà vua quyết tâm trừ khử chính máu mủ của mình để không làm ảnh hưởng đến hình ảnh của hoàng gia. Nhị phi - mẹ của hoàng tử Chagum - vì muốn cứu lấy tính mạng của con mình, đã nhờ Balsa dẫn cậu bé đi trốn thoát và bảo vệ Chagum khỏi nanh vuốt săn đuổi của “thợ săn” được chính chồng bà phái đi. Trên con đường trốn chạy cùng Chagum, Balsa cũng dần phát hiện ra sự thật về chàng hoàng tử nhỏ, người gánh vác một số phận kỳ lạ, khi hóa ra cậu chính là “người bảo hộ tinh linh” Nyunga-ro-Chaga, mang trong mình trứng của loài sinh vật Nyunga-ro-Imu thuộc thế giới Nyugu mà mắt thường không nhìn thấy được.

Từ trước đến nay, các tác phẩm thuộc thể loại tiểu thuyết giả tưởng (fantasy) phổ biến nhất ở Việt Nam hầu như là của các tác giả phương Tây, đặt trong những bối cảnh đậm chất Tây phương. Vì lẽ đó, “Người Bảo Hộ Tinh Linh” của tác giả người Nhật Uehashi Nahoko đã thổi một luồng gió mới vào thị hiếu đọc fantasy của độc giả Việt. Với trí tưởng tượng cực kỳ phong phú của mình, tác giả đã dựng nên một vương quốc Tân Yogo mang đầy đủ linh hồn và phong vị của Nhật Bản, với một lịch sử hình thành pha trộn giữa truyền thuyết và những sự thật bị che giấu. Để rồi từ đó, độc giả không khỏi ngỡ ngàng trước một sự thật mà bao đời nay vẫn vậy: lịch sử là câu chuyện được viết nên bởi những kẻ chiến thắng.

Ngòi bút điêu luyện, uyển chuyển của Uehashi Nahoko, kết hợp cùng những hình vẽ minh họa xuất sắc của Futaki Makiko - họa sĩ đã gia nhập Studio Ghibli - đã tạo nên một câu chuyện tràn đầy hấp dẫn. Hành trình Balsa cùng Chagum chạy trốn “thợ săn” triều đình, đồng thời phải bảo vệ tính mạng của Chagum và giúp cậu mang trứng của Nyunga-ro-Imu một cách an toàn cho đến ngày trứng nở, đã được miêu tả vô cùng sống động, tràn đầy những khúc quanh và ngã rẽ. Độc giả sẽ không biết tình huống nào, vận may hay khó khăn nào sẽ xảy ra cho Balsa và Chagum. Những cảnh phản kháng lại sự truy đuổi, hay tự vệ chống lại sinh vật muốn ăn trứng của Nyunga-ro-Imu, một lần nữa đã thể hiện tài năng của nữ vệ sĩ Balsa dày dạn kinh nghiệm chiến đấu. Đồng thời chúng cũng phản ánh khả năng sử dụng ngôn ngữ kỳ tài của tác giả, tạo nên những trường đoạn giao chiến mãn nhãn, không thua gì những thước phim hành động đặc sắc nhất.

Tuy nhiên, nếu đây chỉ thuần là một câu chuyện phiêu lưu, mạo hiểm với khởi đầu và đích đến trong một thế giới giả tưởng, thì có lẽ “Người Bảo Hộ Tinh Linh” cũng chỉ như bao tác phẩm fantasy khác. Cuốn tiểu thuyết đã làm được nhiều hơn thế, khi nó có thể chạm đến được những tầng sâu cảm xúc của các nhân vật. Với chàng hoàng tử nhỏ Chagum, độc giả có thể nhận thấy sự chuyển biến tâm lý, tình cảm của cậu bé qua từng chặng đường, từng gian lao mà cậu đã trải qua cùng Balsa. Từ vị thế là một hoàng tử không thiếu kẻ hầu người hạ, sống trong cung điện chăn ấm nệm êm, Chagum phải dấn thân vào một hành trình không biết ngày mai sẽ ra sao để bảo vệ mạng sống của chính mình và hoàn thành sứ mệnh “bảo hộ tinh linh”. Hành trình ấy trui rèn một cậu bé từ chỗ vẫn còn được bảo bọc, chở che, chưa quen với khó khăn, nguy hiểm trở thành một cậu thiếu niên có thể tự đứng trên đôi chân của mình.

Nhưng rồi giữa quá trình trưởng thành ấy của Chagum, độc giả cũng không thể không có những phút giây cảm thấy xót xa cho cậu bé, cho chàng hoàng tử ban đầu có có cha có mẹ, nhưng rồi phút chốc trở thành như thể trẻ mồ côi. Cha thì ra sức muốn diệt trừ cậu, còn mẹ cậu thì phải đành đoạn giao phó tính mạng cậu vào tay người khác bảo vệ. Hòa trộn trong sự xót xa ấy là nỗi tức giận của chính Chagum, tại sao cậu lại phải gánh vác số phận như thế này, số phận bảo hộ tinh linh đầy nguy hiểm và chông gai, một số phận mà cậu không hề chọn lựa.

Đồng hành cùng Chagum là Balsa, một nữ chiến binh ba mươi tuổi song hành cùng một cậu bé vừa bước vào ngưỡng tuổi thiếu niên - một cặp nhân vật bất xứng về tuổi tác, địa vị, hoàn cảnh sống trước kia, cũng như kinh nghiệm sinh tồn. Thế nhưng, tận sâu bên trong hai nhân vật, độc giả vẫn sẽ thấy được một điểm chung rất người, tràn đầy cảm xúc mà cả hai đều sở hữu. Đó là cái cách mà họ phản ứng với số phận đã áp đặt lên họ. Hình ảnh Chagum tức giận lao đầu vào người cưu mang cậu là Balsa, sau những hiểm nguy mà việc mang trứng Nyunga-ro-Imu gây ra cho cậu, gợi nhớ đến đau lòng về một Balsa trước đây, khi còn là một cô bé, cũng đã lao đầu vào người đã cưu mang mình là thầy Jiguro, tức giận trước cái số phận đã vận lên cô, chia cắt cô khỏi gia đình mình.

Chủ đề số phận tác động lên con người và những gì chúng ta có thể làm trước số phận không do mình chọn lựa là chủ đề xuyên suốt nhất trong tác phẩm này, là phần hồn tạo nên chiều sâu cho “Người Bảo Hộ Tinh Linh”. Đoạn kết với một số phận bất ngờ khác dành cho Chagum - một số phận mà cậu không hề chọn nữa - sau khi số phận “bảo hộ tinh linh” của cậu kết thúc đã nhấn mạnh thêm chủ đề trên. Và những gì Balsa suy ngẫm và đúc kết ở Chương Cuối, cũng chính là những gì mà tác giả có thể trả lời cho độc giả của bà xoay quanh hai chữ “số phận” và câu hỏi “tại sao”, để lại một dư âm khó phai mờ về triết lý cuộc sống:

“Có những lúc thế giới xung quanh mình bị thay đổi bởi những điều có hỏi “tại sao” cũng không tài nào hiểu được. Trong bàn tay to lớn ấy, con người chỉ có cách cố vật lộn, liều mạng mà sống tiếp mà thôi. Ai cũng phải cố sống sao cho đúng với bản thân mình. Không có cách sống nào là không bao giờ phải hối hận cả.”
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,834 followers
May 31, 2008
No one can look you in the eye and tell you that kids today don't read Japanese literature. A simple stroll by the manga section of any well-stocked bookstore will put your mind to rest on that particular matter. But what the kids aren't reading these days is Japanese prose. How many novels for kids, translated from Japanese, can you come up with off the top of your head? Living as we do at a time when children's literature is profitable and all encompassing, you would think that publishers would be scrambling to fill the sudden need kids have for all things Japanese. I get ten-year-olds at my Reference Desk asking for information about Japan all the time and manga made it cool. Now it's time to expand their little craniums with some quality literature. Quality literature that involves egg-eating monsters, glorious fight sequences, strong female characters, and a clear-headed view of how politicians warp history to serve their own ends. Looking for a new kind of fantasy for the kiddies? Talk up something with a little more oomph. Talk up Moribito.

I'm sure you've heard of soldiers for hire, but bodyguards for hire? That's the job Balsa has had for years, and anyone who has ever met her will tell you that she's good at what she does. In fact, saving people is so ingrained in her that when she sees a prince thrown off a high bridge into the raging waters below she immediately saves his life. No good deed goes unpunished, however, and soon enough Balsa is roped into guarding the prince full time. It seems that the boy is carrying some kind of spirit within himself, and his father the Mikado is determined to kill his boy for the sake of the empire. To save him, Balsa will need to find out the truth behind long-forgotten ancient legends and fight off the Mikado's secret fighting force in order to save not just a prince, but an entire country as well.

I'm an adult reviewer of children's books. As such I'm supposed to carry around with me this lofty air, deigning me to be the guardian of great children's literature, and so on, and so on, and so forth. There's always that feeling that while I can judge a book from a critical standpoint, I'm not actually supposed to enjoy the book, per say. But I really loved reading Moribito. I did! From start to finish I found it fun, intelligent, and really well put together. Some authors never really establish a firm grasp on the world in which their characters inhabit. Others, like Ms. Uehashi, flesh it out so well that you're half convinced that you could buy a plane ticket there, should the fancy strike you. Uehashi also tackles several aspects of this book particularly well. She writes remarkable fight scenes, knows how to create three-dimensional characters (so that you're trying to determine if a villain is bad or just misinformed), and manages to tell kids a little something about powerful people and their weaknesses that in a lesser writer's hands might have turned didactic, or worse, dull. Instead, the reader is sucked into the book right from the start and you'll find your sleeping and eating cast aside in lieu of getting just one more chapter down.

Getting back to that comment I made about the villains in this piece, Uehashi has the uncanny ability to slip easily from one character's mind to another without forcing her narrative to become herky jerky. She recognizes that few people in this world would describe themselves as villains. As such, almost everyone in this book is under the distinct impression that what they are working towards is the greater good. Except, ironically enough, Balsa.

Why is it that whenever I run across a woman who becomes a hero in a physical sense, be it in film, television, or literature, the temptation is to always compare her to Buffy the Vampire Slayer right off the bat? Because that's the feeling Balsa creates in a reader. She exudes confidence. When you first see her she acts without hesitation in rescuing the prince. Too often when an author writes a tough female heroine, you end up in a head full of doubts and quibbles. What I liked about Balsa was the she was basically a jock. She's good at the physical stuff, at making decisions, and at protecting people. The subtleties of personal relationships and the like are not for her. Still, when you run across a heroine this singular your brain sometimes tries to think of similar characters so that you'll have some point of reference. At one point I even thought about comparing her to Kiki Strike . . . until I realized that for all her tough-woman attitudes, we feel much closer to Balsa than most females in other books. Uehashi really makes her likeable and strong in ways that stick with you.

Extra crispy and delicious kudos to the translation done by Cathy Hirano, by the way. Every once in a while I would have to punch my own leg to remind myself that I wasn't reading the original text. But how often do you find a translator willing to come up with sentences like, "Fire was anathema to a creature accustomed to living in the cold, dark mud,"? Not often enough.

People will tell you that boys won't read novels with girls on the cover. Not even one with a full repertoire of kicks, punches, dodges, and feints at her disposal. This is not always true but it is often the case (I've seen it first-hand). Moribito, in spite of its thirty-year-old female protagonist, may have an advantage over other books though, in part because it has a lot of points in its favor. First of all, the Moribito series (ten books in total) is very popular in Japan. The first book was even adapted into an animated series, and that's something you can talk up. Should this novel do well in sales, I could even see an adapted manga version being written/transferred to America as a companion piece. If a librarian/bookseller/teacher/parent wanted a kid to read this book, all they'd have to do would be to stress the action sequences (and the slam bang beginning will help in this matter), the Japanese heritage, and the cool anime series. Sell it to them well and those kids that already love Jeff Stone's The Five Ancestors series will come crawling back for more. This is a book that deserves to be discovered.

Ages 9-14.
Profile Image for Aravena.
602 reviews32 followers
November 29, 2017
Moribito is a rare kind of story that....

(1) has everything (action, drama, fantasy, politic, slice of life, romance); and
(2) makes all of them work.

Revolving around a female bodyguard and a prince she's entrusted with, the narrative of Moribito is as elegant as it gets. I always love it when an author can deliver a deep and substantial storyline in very accessible format, and Nahoko Uehashi sure is terrific at that. The book strikes a difficult balance by being a child-friendly reading thanks to its easily digestible prose, while also presenting a rich setting, meaty themes with real life parallels, and mature characterization. Furthermore, Uehashi displays a strong grasp of plotting and consistent cause-and-effect dynamics, which many writers often neglect.

Before we get further to the specifics, let's meet the heroine:

"Before all else, Balsa is a warrior."

Balsa is a pretty unique fantasy protagonist by virtue of (a) being a woman, (b) being thirty, and (c) having spear as her weapon of choice. It's also great that she comes off as a believable and likable character, instead of some Ultra Powerful Perfect Being. I love the way she fights; she can overcome disadvantageous situation not by relying on brute force or some random magical power, but through combination of skill, stratagem, and emotional intelligence. Balsa is fierce as hell--but she's also sincere, humorous, and humane in ways that I find relatable.

The world of Moribito is just as engaging as its heroine. In her endnote, Uehashi explains that she wanted to create a setting that combines the fantasy world of her imagination with the cultural aspects of her hometown and actual real life. The result is New Yogo, a land with its own set of folklore, political structure, and history, as well as the intriguing concept of dual worlds--Sagu (physical world) and Nayugu (mythical/spiritual world). Stellar bits of world-building are scattered all over Moribito, as characters take in their surroundings, discuss the origins of their folklore, or traverse the heart-rending beauty of Nayugu.

While this book is nominally a fantasy work, this isn't a story where characters fly, throw energy balls at each other, and teleport all over the place. Instead, it has a more spiritual feel in its fantastical elements, using its own lore and a range of magical creatures as platform for symbolism and exploration of realistic issues. How should we act against a force of nature; how we perceive the icons in our myths and legends; how can we gain new insight by not settling with old preconceptions--these are the questions asked in the book, as they're weaved seamlessly into the storyline and its main conflict.

The characters are yet another mark of Moribito's excellence. Just as you'll learn to love Balsa, you'll also love Tanda, her longtime friend as well as a gentle and gifted man; and Chagum, the prince who gradually matures during his difficult plight. Supporting characters are presented with clearly defined motivations and perspectives, and in "Why Moribito is So Great, Reason #2375": .

Moribito: Guardian of Spirit is a poignant journey, and I enjoy every bit of its poetic world-building, sociocultural tangents, and emotional bonding between its memorable characters. I enjoy every page of it.

(the images used here are from the anime adaptation of the book. Interestingly, despite being an adaptation, the anime might be a more complete version of the story as it adds extra sub-plot and events that lend even more nuances to the characters. Still, it all started with the extremely strong foundation of plot and characters in this book, which makes it a worthy read for aspiring fantasy novelists or those of us who simply want to read a good ol' story).
Profile Image for La Nave Invisible.
323 reviews166 followers
October 1, 2019
Que Japón es un país con una gran producción cultural es por todos conocido: sus películas, sus videojuegos, su manga y su anime se traducen constantemente a otros idiomas. También su narrativa es reconocida, y cada vez más autores se pueden encontrar en español. Sin embargo, Japón también tiene una gran producción de literatura de fantasía y ciencia ficción que apenas es conocida en el extranjero.

Hoy me gustaría empezar hablando de una de las más famosas: Nahoko Uehashi.

Publicó su primera obra, 精霊の木 (Seirei no ki), en 1989, y esta la lanzó a la fama mientras aún estaba estudiando en la universidad. Desde entonces ha publicado alrededor de una veintena de novelas y ganado premios tanto en Japón como en el extranjero; como el Premio Andersen, que reconoce la trayectoria de autores que han hecho una contribución a la literatura infantil a nivel mundial.

La mayoría de sus novelas de fantasía se agrupan en distintas sagas. La más famosa, y la única que podemos disfrutar, al menos parcialmente, en castellano, es 守り人シリーズ (Moribito). Esta saga ha vendido más de un millón y medio de libros y se ha adaptado al manga, al anime y al radioteatro.

En España están traducidos los tres primeros tomos (de diez) por la editorial SM, mientras que el anime ha sido licenciado por Selecta Visión.

Continúa en... https://lanaveinvisible.com/2018/02/2...
Profile Image for neverblossom.
328 reviews1,150 followers
March 14, 2021
updated 140321.


Tại sao một cuốn fantasy hay thế này lại có thể không nổi hả các bạn mình ới ời?

Tớ chọn Người bảo hộ tinh linh vì bìa, trường hợp hiếm hoi luôn, tức là khi đọc cuốn sách này thì tớ mù mịt về tất cả mọi thứ chỉ trừ cái bìa ôi chao trông đẹp một cách bí ẩn thế đúng chuẩn gu mình. Nhưng nếu bìa hợp gu mười phần thì nội dung chắc hợp gu mười một phần bởi nó hay trên mức kỳ vọng của tớ ấy.

Người bảo hộ tinh linh là câu chuyện kể về Balsa – một nữ vệ sĩ cực oách và cực giỏi chuyên dùng giáo làm vũ khí. Trong một lần đi “hóng gió dạo” trên đỉnh núi xa xăm, cô vô tình phát hiện ra vị hoàng tử trẻ Chagum gặp tai nạn mà xả thân lao xuống cứu. Nhưng ai ngờ rằng Chagum chính là “người bảo hộ tinh linh”, một đứa trẻ gánh vác số phận kì lạ mà sau này nó đã thay đổi cả cuộc đời của cậu lẫn của Balsa, khiến cả hai nghiễm nhiên bị săn đuổi bởi những cái bóng của con người và của những thế lực siêu nhiên. Vậy rốt cuộc sứ mệnh của đứa trẻ này là gì? Và tại sao tinh linh được mệnh danh “kẻ bảo hộ nước” trăm năm đẻ trứng một lần là thứ gì mà lại liên quan đến đứa trẻ ấy?

Người bảo hộ tinh linh thuộc thể loại fantasy nhưng là fantasy thấm đượm hương vị ma thuật thần linh phương Đông. Nói Người bảo hộ tinh linh là làn gió đối với tớ cũng được, vì trước giờ quen đọc fantasy phương Tây thôi nên giờ chuyển sang Người bảo hộ tinh linh tự nhiên thấm nhuần yếu tố phương Đông ấy, thích mê. Tác giả Uehashi Nahoko quả thật sở hữu trí tưởng tượng vô cùng phong phú khi bà đã tạo dựng ra một vương quốc Tân Yogo với bản hùng ca ca ngợi vị vua dũng mãnh của họ đã có công đẩy lùi thủy yêu tàn ác bảo vệ dân làng. Tuy nhiên liệu có đúng không khi truyền thuyết do kẻ mạnh lưu lại, còn truyền thuyết của kẻ yếu, về cơ bản, thì luôn bị bóp méo? Điều tớ ưng ở cuốn sách này là cách Uehashi Nahoko khéo léo lèo lái người đọc song song giữa quá khứ và hiện tại, giữa truyền thuyết và sự thật, giữa cái thiện và cái ác, đan xen cả yếu tố ma mị và kỳ ảo vô cùng của đất nước Nhật Bản. Các phân đoạn hành động được miêu tả sinh động và mượt mà, những cuộc truy đuổi thót tim và các cuộc giao chiến chẳng kém gì phim hành động chiếu rạp đã đủ để khắc dấu trong lòng tớ rằng ngôn từ của tác giả thực sự rất sống động và tạo được sức hấp dẫn, tất thảy đều chứng minh tác giả Uehashi Nahoko là một người kể chuyện có tài.

Điểm sáng tiếp theo là tuyến nhân vật, trời ơi, ưng quá ưng, lâu lắm rồi mới đọc được câu chuyện mà nhân vật nào cũng thích hết từ chính đến phụ. Tác giả đã khai thác được sâu sắc suy nghĩ và cảm xúc nhân vật xuyên suốt cả câu chuyện. Đó là Balsa, một nữ vệ sĩ, một chiến binh quả cảm cận kề tuổi ba mươi mang theo lời hứa phải cứu cho đủ tám mạng người. Đó là Chagum, một đứa nhỏ, một hoàng tử trẻ bỗng nhiên bị tước đoạt hết ngôi vị, mất cả mẹ lẫn cha vì gánh vác trên mình sứ mệnh “người bảo hộ tinh linh”. Đó là Tanda, bậc thầy dược thảo, người luôn sát cánh và hỗ trợ Balsa với trọng trách bảo vệ mạng sống cho hoàng tử trẻ. Ngoài ra những nhân vật được gán với danh “kẻ xấu” sẽ có một khúc ngoặt không ngờ tới ở cuối truyện mà tớ đánh giá là cực hay. Chúng ta sẽ được chứng kiến quá trình trưởng thành trong suy nghĩ, nhận thức và hành động của các nhân vật suốt chặng đường gian nan mà nổi bật nhất phải kể đến Chagum, một vị hoàng tử trẻ được bao bọc và nuông chiều, từ bé đã được sống trong nhung lụa và có kẻ hầu người hạ, giờ đây phải tự xoay sở và đứng trên đôi chân của mình.

Và điểm sáng đáng giá nhất là thông điệp của tác giả Uehashi Nahoko truyền tải qua Người bảo hộ tinh linh, về cách mà các nhân vật đã mạnh mẽ đứng lên và chiến đấu, tuy họ có lúc yếu mềm và có lúc tưởng chừng muốn gục ngã và khuất phục, song họ vẫn kiên cường đứng lên và nhất quyết không đầu hàng. Bởi “Ai cũng phải cố sống sao cho đúng với bản thân mình. Không có cách sống nào là không bao giờ phải hối hận cả”.

Nhìn chung, Người bảo hộ tinh linh là một cuốn sách hơn cả ổn và tớ mong mọi người biết đến ẻm nhiều hơn. Bìa đẹp, dịch mượt và trơn tru như cỗ máy được tra dầu, nội dung hay và hấp dẫn thì tội gì lại không quất liền tay hả các bạn ới ời? Highly recommend cho bạn bè gần xa, đặc biệt là bạn nào khoái nghiền ngẫm thể loại fantasy, nhất là fantasy thấm đượm yếu tố phương Đông nhé.
Profile Image for Shira Glassman.
Author 26 books510 followers
July 11, 2016
Loved this. Someone recommended it to me because there's a prominent warrior woman in my series, so they thought Balsa would appeal to me. She does, but I like the book for many reasons besides her. What I loved most was the way two factions who start out the book at odds with each other wind up learning that they're actually on the same side against a real enemy. I liked the ultimate message of how two sides had to combine two pieces of a legend in order to defeat the Plot Thing.

Balsa rescues, protects, nurtures, and trains a boy in this story, which combines so many elements dear to me: women as rescuers, women rescuing men, the juxtaposition of strength with nurturing instead of being opposite, and a boy having a female mentor (because why not? Except we hardly ever get to see that.)

The settings in this book are vivid and colorful, whether cityscape, palace, or mountain refuge. I also didn't find the speculative elements of the worldbuilding too stressful to comprehend, which for me is an important piece of information when choosing my SFF reading material.
Profile Image for branewurms.
138 reviews39 followers
July 29, 2011
4 1/2 stars. It wasn't perfect, but man, it was really damn good. The prose is smooth, although a little flat, and the book relied a little too heavily on introspection as a method of relaying information, I think. But it was really gripping, and wow, the expertise of the author really shines through in the worldbuilding. I was also surprised at how well the themes of colonialism and such were handled - and how clearly deliberately thought out they were. This ain't your standard poor lost prince narrative. Uehashi is obviously conscious of this stuff and knows what she's doing.

Need I even mention the awesomeness of the whole AWESOME HARD-BITTEN BADASS SPEAR-WIELDING BODYGUARD LADY for a main character thing? Or the bonus of her gentle healer figure of a male love interest? Who she can't seem to settle down with, because, omg y'all, ~fighting is in her bones~. Gender-role reversals ftw! Like I said, Uehashi is conscious of this stuff and knows what she's doing.

(...Although it must be said, I am still a little confused at having a 30 year old woman as the main character of a YA series. Not that I have a problem with it, mind you! I'm just confused.)

Oh, and the action scenes! The action scenes were fantastic. I usually have a lot of trouble following what's going on in fight scenes in prose form, but in this book they were so clear, and they flowed so well! These are the sorts of action scenes you study to find out how it's done.

I was surprised by how much more I liked the book than the anime. I only watched about half the anime before getting distracted from it - the anime certainly had a well-told storyline, with excellent characterization and world building, etc., but somehow it just never engaged me much emotionally. The original book is much tighter and faster paced, and while the anime admittedly used its extra space for more in-depth, nuanced characterization, the book was just somehow far more gripping to me.
April 15, 2018
The last time I read and reviewed this book was back in 2010, when my posts included spoiler-filled synopses that were as long or longer than the reviews themselves. I figured that a new review was in order, especially since my opinion of this book has improved.

After Balsa, a female bodyguard, rescues young Prince Chagum from drowning, she finds herself being roped into being his protector. Chagum is believed to be possessed by the same creature that once caused a terrible drought. It's thought that the drought will be averted if Chagum is killed, so the Mikado himself has ordered several assassination attempts against him. Chagum's mother, the Second Queen, enlists Balsa's help to save him.

While Balsa attempts to hide Chagum and keep him safe from his pursuers, she also seeks out several friends in the hope of figuring out what's going on so that she can somehow both save Chagum's life and prevent the drought.

The first time I read this book was, I think, too soon after having seen the anime. They're both good, but the time I spent noting similarities and differences to the anime made it hard to judge the book on its own merits (yes, I know the book came first, but my first exposure to the story was the anime).

Balsa makes me wish more than the first two books in this series had been translated into English. She's a great character - an experienced and talented warrior with an intriguing past. In general, the book had some nice gender role reversal, with its female stoic warrior character and male healer interested in the spirit world. There was a hint of potential romance between Balsa and Tanda, the healer, but it was handled in a very low-drama way. Tanda was a little frustrated at Balsa's lack of desire to settle down, but it never got to the point of wrecking their friendship.

The "found family" aspect involving Balsa, Tanda, and Chagum was nice. I enjoyed that restful period of the story before everybody had to worry about Chagum's safety again, and it was nice to see Chagum becoming more comfortable and confident in his life as a commoner.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the way the setting and its history mattered. This was very much a story about how knowledge is lost or changed over time. Near the beginning of the book, readers get the history of how New Yogo was founded, but it's entirely from the perspective of the Yogoese, who are currently the area's dominant ethnic group. Later on, readers get more sides of the story - the secret history that only the Star Readers know (which is, again, Yogoese history) and Yakoo stories.

The Yakoo were the people who originally lived in the area where New Yogo was founded. (Supposedly they fled out of fear when the Yogoese peacefully tried to contact them, and I think the Yakoo side of the story agreed with this or at least didn't refute it, but I don't buy it.) They'd lost much of their culture and traditions, and what was left was sometimes mixed with Yogoese culture to an uncertain degree. It gave me shivers to think how close everyone came to not having the knowledge they needed during the chase at the end of the book.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed rereading this. I haven't read the next book in the series yet, but I'm now looking forward to it even more.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Profile Image for Emily M.
374 reviews20 followers
August 29, 2022
OK, now THIS is my flavor of YA! We've got a badass female protagonist, excellent fight scenes (seriously, we need more heroes who use spears), fun side characters, and just a hint of romantic tension to add flavor.
The basic gist is that wandering bodyguard-for-hire Balsa rescues a young prince from an accident and ends up being charged by his mother with protecting him from his own father. Chagum is carrying the egg of some kind of spirit, and the Mikado fears that discovery of this fact will destabilize the country. Balsa fights off the first group of ninja assassins sent after them, and then she and magic-weaver Torogai and her apprentice/healer/Balsa's love interest Tanda set about figuring out what this spirit egg really is.
Categorizing this as YA does feel appropriate despite the fact that none of the characters are teenagers: Balsa and Tanda are in their 30's, Chagum is 12, Torogai ~70. That's mainly because of the reading level (elegant in its simplicity) and the general tone (scarier and more realistic fight scenes than you'd see in most middle-grade, but you can also tell 1/3 of the way in that things are probably going to turn out OK). The themes, too, are fitting for, say, a 12-16 year-old audience, although it isn't a classic coming-of-age story. Chagum definitely becomes more mature over the course of the tale, but in a lot of ways so does everyone else. Balsa, for example, reflects on why it is that she keeps fighting - a habit that both connects her to Tanda (because he keeps patching her up when she gets wounded) and separates them. Torogai and the Star Readers, too, discover that even the old and wise can still have much to learn.
I think I would have liked this as a teen, since I tended to prefer the books that let me escape teenage angst for a while and gave me a glimpse of what life might be like beyond that. "Adults feel out of their depth sometimes too" is simultaneously both a scary and a comforting thought. Of course, reading this as someone closer to Balsa's age, her part of the story becomes even more relatable. You can see how she's pulled in different directions - she is amazingly good at fighting and on some level craves it, but she knows her body can't do this forever, and in caring for Chagum alongside Tanda she gets a taste of what it might be like to create the kind of peaceful, loving family life she never really got to have growing up.
Profile Image for Maya.
260 reviews85 followers
July 10, 2012
The Moribito (= Guardian) series is one of my favorite works, not only of Asian Fantasy, but of the fantasy genre in general. The world-building, the characters, the story, everything about it is not only, imho, original and creative, but also worked perfectly for me. I will try to express what fascinated me the first time I visited the worlds of Nayugu and Sagu, and what still impresses me after reading (and watching) the story multiple times.

First of all there's the world-building. The book is barely 250 pages long, yet Nahoko Uehashi seemingly effortlessly creates a world more complex and more realistic than others manage in a whole series. I believe that due to her professional formation as an anthropologist, she has this vast pool of knowledge about history and how society works and develops over time, which allows her to create convincing settings without even having to do any specific research anymore.

The world of Guardian of the Spirit is ridiculously complete. Uehashi has it all in her head. From the customs of the different people, to their national history, to their folk songs, to their food, to the animals living in the region. The different plates, mostly prepared by Tanda, are described so precisely, they even published a cooking book with all the meals that appear in the series.

And that's only the realistic part of the setting. The "fantastic" part concerns the two worlds of Nayugu and Sagu. They work like two sides of a coin, but a coin with a few holes here and there. Sagu could be pretty much our world a few centuries ago (it is based on ancient Japan), most of the supernatural stuff comes from Nayugu. Unfortunately the inhabitants of Sagu have mostly forgotten how to deal with the monsters Nayugu throws at them, which is what the story is all about.

So, the characters. I adore Balsa and Chagum. They are an odd pair and both absolutely loveable. Balsa being a 30-year-old bodyguard for hire is not only an extremely unique main character, but also a complex one. She is so strong, but has a vulnerable side as well. She has a tragic past, without being all traumatized. And thanks to teaming up with Chagum we even see her developing a maternal side. This character development as they get to know and to care for each other is very touching, but never cheesy.

Chagum is an equally strong character, even if in a completely different way. He is smart and mature, yet not unrealistically so. Child characters have a tendency to become annoying, which is certainly not the case here.

The secondary characters like Tanda, Shuga and Torogai are diverse, intriguing and nicely developed as well. Tanda especially is such a loyal soul, who supports Balsa without expecting anything in return.

I'm not a fan of fighting scenes, but in this book they're quite refreshing and well constructed. Uehashi does a great job describing Balsa's spear-wielding techniques and adds little twists and tricks here and there to keep things interesting.

Finally, as you can probably guess from the shortness of the book, the story is very fast-paced. Uehashi wastes no time and drops the reader directly in the middle of the first, life-altering meeting of Balsa and Chagum. Then we get a brief explanation of the situation, and off they go, running and fighting for their lives non-stop while trying to find a way out of their dilemma.

But actually, no. I've read other similarly short books in which not nearly as much happens (hello Balefire, House of Night ...). Guardian of the Spirit is not short because the author has nothing to say, but because she has a very concise and straightforward writing style. Probably a bit too much so for some readers, but Balsa's story will at least most definitely never bore you. In my opinion the writing also "flows" pretty smoothly and is rather pleasant to read. Cathy Hirano does a great job with the translation, yet again.

I have very little to criticize in this book. My main criticism being that it is too short. But I have to admit the construction of the story is not exactly perfect. Guardian of the Spirit is the contrary of all these books that keep characters from realizing the most obvious things for the whole story. For example, at one point a character remembers the complete creation myth of the country and recites it, basically for the reader. I believe this could have been presented a bit more intriguingly. There are other things that are directly presented to the reader, when he maybe could have been kept guessing a bit more – because all these things are very well thought-through, so it almost feels like a shame to present them in the most obvious way.

While there are more installments in the series, set in the same world, that tell the continuation of Balsa's story, this first book has a clear resolution and can be read as a stand-alone without a problem.

Guardian of the Spirit is an adventure story, but also a story about different cultures meeting and mutually assimilating each other, mixing to create something new, of understanding between different people on a larger scale and humans on an individual level. I can recommend it to anybody looking for a fresh and creative read. Given its shortness, you risk very little joining Balsa and Chagum on their journey and I dare say you won't regret investing the few hours this book takes to read.
Profile Image for Elena Meneses.
292 reviews38 followers
November 19, 2022
Me gustó un montón este libro, y creo que más gente debería conocerlo. Me encantaron los personajes, la historia está bien buena, y sobre todo me encantó la relación que tiene Balsa (la protagonista) con Chagum (el príncipe de 10 años al que debe proteger). Me encanta como los dos crecen en su viaje, y que en menos de 300 páginas crearan una historia y una cultura muy interesante.
3 reviews
December 30, 2019
I came to this book after having watched the anime and falling love with the characters and story. I was hoping that the book would be more expansive than the anime adaption, but in this case, it seems to be the other way round. Still, it was an enjoyable read and despite it quite evidently being aimed at younger readers, I'm glad to have it in my collection!
Profile Image for Roya.
282 reviews329 followers
March 1, 2017
Reminded me of Ursula LeGuin, but not as powerful. LeGuin's philosophy runs much deeper. Uehashi is a good storyteller with a painfully ordinary plot, and only a little bit of depth which I suspect will be deepened in the next books of the series.
Profile Image for Mery.
Author 40 books209 followers
June 21, 2010
Guardian of the Sacred Spirit, judulnya keren. Penjaga Roh. Moribito kalau bahasa Yogonya.

Baca ini membuat kita terlempar dalam dunia yang dibuat oleh imajinasi Nahoko Uehashi. Dunia yang melibatkan Jepang dan mitos-mitos kunonya. Dunia yang isinya ada pendekar wanita, kerajaan kecil, dan para penafsir bintang.

Suatu tempat pada abad pertengahan, bernama New Yogo, kerajaan baru yang muncul ketika seorang raja muda bernama Tarugaru datang ke tempat itu membangun kerajaannya sendiri dengan bimbingan seorang penafsir bintang bernama Kainan Nanai. Kerajaan itu muncul tanpa memandang sekeliling meluluhlantahkan pemukiman primitif yang dikenal dengan nama suku Yokoo.

Sebagaimana penduduk primitif yang dijajah bangsa asing, mereka melarikan diri ke pegunungan bukannya melawan hak mereka. Para penguasa baru itu meleburkan seluruh sejarah mereka, mitos mereka hingga akhirnya 2 abad kemudian bagaikan senjata makan tuan, para penguasa baru itu ketar ketir ketika mitos bangsa yokoo muncul ke dunia mereka.

Balsa, seorang pendekar wanita diberi tugas untuk melindungi Pangeran Kedua dari kerajaan New Yogo, bernama Chagum. Dipercayakan bahwa di dalam tubuh Chagum terdapat Nyung Ro Im atau telur roh awan. Roh yang menurut bangsa Yokoo adalah roh pembawa hujan yang membuat negara mereka subur.
Dengan bantuan Tanda, seorang ahli tenung, Balsa menyelamatkan Chagum dari kejaran Rarunga sang pemangsa telur. Dan dengan adanya kejadian ini, terkuak pula mitos dan sejarah yang sebenarnya mengenai kerajaan new yogo.

Sukaaa sukaaa sukaaa banget sama ceritanya. Aku kira sang Moribitonya si Balsa ternyata Chagum. Duh keren banget sih Balsa ini. Jago berantem gitu ^^

Endingnya bikin aku menangis terharu.

Aku suka covernya, pembatas bukunya, dan ilustrasinya.
Hiks hiks Matahati oh Matahati kenapa kau begitu tega? Andai Spooks Series juga begini nasibnya description
Profile Image for Norain.
300 reviews24 followers
June 5, 2020
This would have been better if it was written as an adult fiction with all the grit and gore. As it is, Moribito is tame. People who realistically could have died given the situations (fighting a monster, hiding a fugitive, etc) are left with at most some injuries and that leaves me feeling rather unsatisfied.

Also, the writing is flat. If it is not short, I might have called it boring. But, being a translator myself, I do not want be that one guy who blames the translator when a translated fiction does not meet his expectation.

But Balsa is awesome - a thirty-year-old woman who wields a spear and works as a bodyguard. And I love the bond she builds with Chagum, the prince she is paid to protect. Probably shed some tears at certain parts of the story because of them.

Also, there are commentaries in there somewhere about history and politics. The Yogoese people who come and set up a country on the Yakoo land are similar to how the Japanese took Japan over from the native Ainu. The author talks about how history is written by the victors, about how two cultures may have different believes about the same thing, and about respecting the belief of others and co-existing in harmony.

Will definitely read the sequel.
Profile Image for Feby.
Author 3 books19 followers
January 18, 2011
Kisah mengenai seorang bodyguard cewek bernama Balsa, yang dapat tugas (atau pemaksaan) melindungi seorang pangeran kedua kerajaan New Yogo, Chagum, yang diincar nyawanya oleh ayahnya sendiri akibat diduga dirasuki roh jahat, demi melindungi reputasi sang ayah. Tetapi belakangan diketahui ternyata yang ada dalam tugas Chagum adalah telur makhluk penjaga air dan roh jahat yang ditakuti oleh kerajaannya adalah Rarunga, si pemakan telur. Jadilah cerita bergulir bagaimana para tokoh kita menghadapi si rarunga.

Intinya sih begitu. Aku cukup puas dengan bacaan segar ini. Balsa yang tadinya kubayangkan sebagai tokoh superwoman, ternyata punya sisi kemanusiaan yang gimana ya... sangat manusia. Ketergantungannya pada nafsu untuk bertarung, yang dicoba diselubunginya dengan alasan menebus dosa. Sementara Chagum yang tegar, berubah dari pangeran manja menjadi anak lelaki yang kuat.

Aku sudah sempat nonton animenya, tapi kurasa jauh lebih bagus novelnya ini. Pujian juga untuk Matahati, karena terjemahannya yang apik ini. ^^
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Laura.
96 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2016
This is an international book that has been translated from Japanese to English, but doesn't miss a beat with the translation. After Balsa saves the young prince from drowning in a river, his mother the Second Queen, hires Balsa to protect Chagum, the 11-year-old prince. She fears his life is in danger because of a spirit that lives inside him. Balsa agrees to protect the child from his father the Mikado, and the dangerous spirit hunter Rarunga. As the pair narrowly escape danger at every turn we learn the truth about the spirit living inside Chagum and the lost history of Yakoo people.

Appropriate for grades 6 and up, Moribito is an excellent story that will capture any fantasy lover's attention. I loved the adventure, the strong female protagonist, the secondary characters, and the resolution to this story. At times the folklore and fantasy related storyline became a bit complicated and needed a reread to ensure comprehension, it doesn't slow the reader down too much. A must for anime and manga readers (even though it isn't a graphic novel).
Profile Image for Ozsaur.
793 reviews
June 17, 2022
Balsa is a wandering bodyguard looking for work. She gets more than she bargained for when she saves the life of a young prince.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, with a cast of interesting characters, and a fun supernatural story line. It has a fast pace that middle school readers will enjoy.

Balsa is a well trained bodyguard who is also wily, and determined. She is told that the prince has some sort of creature inside of him, but figuring out what it is is only the beginning of the mystery. In order to save the prince, Balsa must enlist the help of her friends who are all interesting themselves, and make a great team. Torogai in particular made me smile. Torogai's favorite thing to do is cause mischief.

This is a good book for anyone, but a good pick for middle school kids who like manga, anime, Japanese culture, or women who are warriors.
Profile Image for Cristian1185.
305 reviews22 followers
November 17, 2022
Moribito, El guardián del espíritu nos sitúa en en el país de Nuevo Yogo, tierra que abunda en mitos, leyendas y sucesos históricos que posibilitan recrear las narrativas fundamentales que dan cuerpo a la identidad del país y otorgan la legitimidad del ejercicio del poder del Mikado, sujeto investido con la figura de la autoridad imperial. Sin embargo, extraños acontecimientos ponen a prueba la historia oficial del país, poniendo incluso en peligro la integridad de todo el pueblo, no importando si estos son guerreros, campesinos, chamanes, o incluso la misma familia imperial. Un punto de inflexión que tendrá como protagonista a Balsa, guardaespalda a sueldo, quien tendrá un rol protagónico en los eventos de vital importancia que se narran en este libro.

El mundo que construye Uehashi está inspirado en una interesante diversidad de recursos vinculados con la literatura de fantasía, la religión sintoista japonesa y las características generales que presentó Japón en su periodo feudal. Sus personajes representan roles clásicos delimitados, por ejemplo, por el arquetipo del héroe, el mentor, entre otros, personajes quienes protagonizan un viaje que tiene por finalidad comprender los designios del mundo místico que hace su entrada a partir de Chagum y el espíritu de Nyunga Ro im, quienes son portadores de la posible salvación de un mundo cíclico que debe cumplir sus fases de forma armónica contra todo peligro y amenaza.

Un texto ágil de leer, que presenta una historia sencilla, pero no menos valiosa en cuanto la narración utiliza interesantes recursos para enriquecer la trama principal, permitiendo a quienes lean el libro, interesarse, quizás, por los aspectos que inspiran a la obra misma, sin perder la experiencia de leer una historia entretenida. Sólo hubiese querido más episodios de acción, sin desmerecer que, al utilizar la introspección y la historia biográfica de los personajes en diversos momentos de la lectura, es posible profundizar en sus respectivos perfiles y quizás servir la obra misma como punto inicial para los demás tomos que componen esta saga.
Profile Image for Rinaldo.
259 reviews52 followers
August 21, 2020

Moribito Tells the story of Balsa, a female bodyguard expert in wielding spear. It has been adapted into manga, anime, and live action drama. Maybe having watched the anime adaptation made me biased towards this book, but this book offer additional depth and nuance.

In this book Balsa took a mission to protect Chagum, the Second Prince of New Yogo. Allegedly possessed by a water demon, attempts had been made towards Chagum’s life, followed by freak incidents involving water. Yet, as we learn the truth, it is slowly revealed that the being possessed Chagum might be benevolent and tied to the survival of the country. Together with her friends, Balsa uncovered the true history of New Yogo.

There are a lot to be loved about this book, from Balsa’s unique blend of badassery and motherly side, Chagum’s unusual coming of an age arc, to fascinating lore and world building regarding New Yogo and the being that possessed Chagum. I read that Nahoko Uehashi is a scholar in anthropology and ethnic studies, and this shows in how she built a compelling world with its own folklore and mythology. (As a rule of thumb, I personally believe that writers who are/were studying anthropology make worldbuilders who are capable to depict complex and organic societies and capture empathetic humanity, examples being Ursula K. Le Guin and Steven Erikson).

While I’m missing the more fleshed out anime depiction of secondary characters like Jiguro and Sagum, this book gives better focus on the metaphysics of the world, along with the complexity of sociohistorical relationship between New Yogoese and the indigenous Yakoo people.

And while the prose in this book is on the simpler side befitting YA and light novel, Moribito offers a lot of nuances and depth, along with interesting lore and compelling characters.
Profile Image for Ele.
351 reviews33 followers
February 26, 2021
Some things I liked about this book:

- Balsa, the female heroine of this novel, is strong and battle-hardened yet still well-written - sadly unlike the vast majority of such characters

- The main characters all could easily fall under the 'chosen one' trope, but didn't read like it. They just feel so overtly 'special', which made the story feel much more real.

- There's a minor romance plotline, but it isn't forced in and just a nice little touch. In fact, it's not even a plotline. The love interest isn't even one of the main focal characters.

- Despite being YA, none of the main characters are teenagers. For some reason, children's novels are often about adults or teens, adult novels about teens and children, but how often do you see books for teens that aren't about teens?

- I loved the writing. It was simple yet captivating, and the action packed scens were expertly done.

- The world-building was artfully done. Uehashi doesn't overwhelm the reader with information, but I found that I fully comprehended this world and its functions.

-The characters could be called 'morally ambigious', but I wouldn't. They're just human.
Profile Image for Chechu Rebota.
150 reviews
August 11, 2017
Una gran sorpresa, normalmente las novelas ligeras (un estilo literario puramente japones destinado a adolescentes y a leerse en un santiamén) suelen tener un estilo pobre, para hacer avanzar la historia se apoyan más en los diálogos que en la narración de la acción y en la descripción de las escenas, por lo que la mayoría parecen guiones más que una narración literaria.

Moribito: el guardián del espíritu , pese a darle una gran importancia al diálogo presenta una narrativa más elaborada, lo que permite unas escenas de acción entendibles y fáciles de seguir. Es cierto que una vez Balsa y Chagum se encuentran con Tanda el libro pierde ritmo, pero pese a ello la historia no deja de avanzar y aprovecha para perfilar mejor a los personajes, haciéndolos mucho más interesantes.

Una lectura muy entretenida, que presenta a unos personajes interesantes entre los que destaca una protagonista femenina realmente fuerte y carismática.
Profile Image for Katharine Ott.
1,764 reviews26 followers
November 1, 2020
"Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit" - written by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano and first published in Japan in 1996, this edition by Scholastic in 2008. "There are none in the trade who do not know the name of Balsa, Spear-wielder." This action-packed YA novel is the first in a series which also became an animated television series. Balsa is an exceptionally talented fighter, both with her spear and the martial arts, and this outing has her spiriting the Second Crown Prince away from his home, where dangers lurks. A folklore/fantasy story line about a special egg complicates their efforts, but Balsa has magically skilled friends who join the fight. Although all imaginary, the setting and characters evoke Japan from the Middle Ages. I enjoyed this exciting story with its gifted heroine.
Profile Image for Leah.
277 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2019
I really loved this book. Both Balsa and Chagum are great characters. I especially like that none of the characters tried to hide things from Chagum but rather included him in everything, even when it would hurt him emotionally.

As far as the Japanese there are a lot of old-times/classical-ish Japanese being spoken by the royal characters but most of the chapters do not include them so it's not so bad. There's a lot of hiragana used in place of Kanji and every time a term is used again in a different chapter the story-explanation is written in parentheses which made this an easier read as far as fantasy goes.
Profile Image for Steph.
1,081 reviews17 followers
April 1, 2019
Magic, spiritual ties to another world, a reverence for nature, warriors, emperors with star readers and shadow assassins, a spirit egg, sacred birds, and a crown prince chosen to protect this menagerie of life occupy the pages of Moribito.

Balsa, a warrior, saves the life of the Chagum, the twelve year old crown prince. The mother, believing that someone is attempting to assassinate her son, hands Chagum over to Balsa for protection. Into the lives of a warrior and magic weavers, Chagum comes to understand the history of his land, the politics of his land, and the interconnectedness of all life in order to survive.

If you enjoy sword fights, adventure, fantasy, and using the sacred elements of life to fight evil, this book will be up your alley.

Beautiful Passage:
We don't know how Nyunga Ro Im lays its egg in someone from Sagu, or how it chooses that person. But look around at this world, how perfectly it's made. Flowers can't move, yet the insects come to them and spread their pollen. Trees can't move either, but birds and animals eat their fruit and carry their seeds far and wide. There must be something about Chagum that makes him suitable for the job of carrying the egg. Torgai only shares a tenth of what she knows, but if she felt there was any danger, she would have told me. Don't worry. It'll be alright."
Profile Image for Elysia.
295 reviews53 followers
May 14, 2019
I read this years and years ago and can't remember anything about it but I think I enjoyed it- super helpful I know. The cover design was really well done though, it was published in hardback with a parchment-like dust jacket and thats the only thing I remember about it.
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