精霊の守り人 (Moribito – Guardian of Spirit)

Thirteen years ago, I saw a movie where it showed a woman holding a boy’s hand running away from fire.

Suddenly, I wanted to write a story about a 30 years old woman who protected a child.

Ideas upon ideas flowed in my head, and before I knew it, I had finished writing the story.

Nahoko Uehashi

I first heard about Moribito from L’Arc~en~Ciel, their song entitled Shine was used as the opening song for the anime version of this book. When I saw the opening, I wasn’t impressed with it and decided not to look for the anime. Last year, a friend of mine (used to be my co work) told me that Seirei no Moribito (the title of the anime as well  as the book) was awesome. I became more intrigued after reading the anime review by Kelly of The Gallery of Words.

On July 2011, I was visiting a book sale and found the novel. There were 2 books on the shelf, both already translated into Indonesian. I don’t really like reading translation book, especially books from Japan because the translator translated the book from the English translation not from the Japanese one. In my opinion, it will create double misunderstanding. But…I was so intrigued by William (used to be my co work) and Kelly, so I decided to buy 1 of them. When I opened the book, I was right, it was originally translated into English by Cathy Hirano and then re-translated by Harisa Permatasari. I felt a bit disappointed by this way of translation….but after reading it, I was so happy with Harisa’s translation. She managed to translate it as if the book was really written in Indonesian language…kudos for her. Unfortunately, the Indonesian version had terrible cover!!! it merely edited the anime version of Balsa.

Moribito means Guardian, this book is actually a series. There are 11 volumes but only 2 volumes have been translated to both English and Indonesian (I have bought the Indonesian version two weeks ago because I was so impressed with the first book). It was said that Scholastic (the US publisher) felt disappointed that the book didn’t sell well, they decided to stop translation after book 2. For me, The book is REALLY good, too bad it didn’t sell well. I can only read this wonderful series till volume 2 😦

Moribito series centered on the journey of a woman named Balsa. She was a hired guardian. She used short spear. Her ability in protecting someone and her skill in fighting were well known. In Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Spirit), Balsa visited New Yogo, a city built around 200 years ago. It was said that the Mikado (the term for Emperor) was Gods descendants. The first Mikado of New Yogo, Torugaru, was admired as the man who slaughtered the water spirit. But legends on Torugaru weren’t correct, as always politic played a big part in altering real history.

Balsa learned the truth of the history when she helped the second prince named Chagum. Chagum had been having bad dreams and a shaman told his mother (The Emperor’s second wife) that there was a spirit inside Chagum. Being known as the descendant of Gods, the Mikado couldn’t let people know that his son was possessed by a spirit. He ordered people to kill Chagum. Balsa saved Chagum from the second attempt to kill him.

Knowing how strong Balsa was, the second Empress (Chagum’s mom) asked her to protect her son, she wanted Balsa to take Chagum away from New Yogo. Mikado and the Master Star Diviner (acted as Mikado’s advisory) sent the Royal Hunters to track them down.

Balsa was badly injured when she fought against the hunters but she managed to keep Chagum saved from them. Balsa asked for help from her childhood friend, Tanda. From Tanda and his teacher Torogai (the old Yakoo Shaman), Balsa found out that the spirit inside Chagum was the egg of Nyuga Ro Im, the water spirit. Nyuga Ro Im died in every 100 years, before it died it would laid its eggs and scattered them in both Sagu (human’s world) and Nayugu (spirit’s world). The one in Sagu was laid inside Chagum.

Another spirit called Rarunga was always looking for the egg. Rarunga would kill the carrier and eat the egg. Upon knowing that, Balsa knew she had to protect Chagum from his father’s hunters and Rarunga.

As I have said above, the story is really good. The story is not really a nail-bitting story that grips you so bad and makes you want to know the end as soon as possible. Moribito reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, I want to walk in that world and see all the beauty that the world can deliver for us. It’s a magical world I want to explore leisurely. I am eager to know what will happen to Chagum but at the same time I want to devour the world as a fun imaginary world.

Uehashi-sensei is really good in telling Balsa’s past without disturbing the main story of her protecting Chagum. Her way of picturing both Sagu and Nayugu is very well done, not too descriptive but also not too vague. I really enjoy her style of writing, it made me wonder whether the English translation was written better than the Indonesian one or not.

At first, I wanted to read the second book straight away but I changed my mind. I will read it after my current book and if possible,after watching the anime. I will look for the DVD  soon.

Seirei no Moribito won 2 awards: Beacon Award (2009) and Mildred L. Batchelder Award (2009)

About the author

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.

Book Detail:

Title: Moribito – Guradian of The Spirit (精霊の守り人)
Author: Nahoko Uehashi (上橋 菜穂子)
Language: Indonesian (Original: Japanese)
Pages: 349 pages
Publisher: Penerbit Matahari
Challenge: New Author Challenge 2011, Japanese Literature Challenge 5, Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2011, R.I.P VI


  1. I’ve seen the anime DVD for this one here in the US and I’m always tempted to buy it because I like stories with strong female characters as heroes. They always make me dream of the times I wanted to be like that as a girl in a world that didn’t welcome such roles for women (in the late 1970’s and early 80’s anyway…. things are better now, with lots of positive inspiration for young girls).

    Your nice review has made me ask myself why I still haven’t just watched this one…. so I think I’ll look for it again. Thanks Novia!! 🙂

    1. I can say that she is one of my favorite tough woman character…I don’t really a tough woman acting all mighty and look down on man. Balsa still has the gentleness of a woman and as powerful as man at the same time.

      I hope you can see the anime, I will look for it today

  2. Sounda like a riveting fantasy novel. Too bad there is only translation of two books 😦 Maybe scholastic didn’t promote it properly. I will look out for the anime on animeseason.com. I’m currently watching GTO and that has laruku song Driver’s High at the beginning. It’s perfect for Onizuka!

    1. I thought so too because the book won an award…that only means less promotion.

      GTO, I like the dorama but only managed to watch several episodes of the anime.

  3. It’s a shame that you couldn’t go beyond book 2, as you appeared to have enjoyed it. That’s the way with translations just as you get into a writer, you learn that there’s no more translations.

    1. Yeah I feel said about it. It is a gambling when it comes to series in languages other than English, we never knew whether all the series will be translated or not.
      Fortunately, the series doesn’t have hanging ending…so, it always ends with conclusion. At least that happens in this first volume

  4. Too bad about the translations really. Maybe in the future you will read it in Japanese… German translations of Japanese books are often translated from the English. Odd.
    It does sound like a very engaging story. Maybe I’ll watch the anime.

    1. Amin to that. It might take years for me to be able to read a Japanese novel but, I hope I can do it one day.
      I hope you can find the anime Caroline…I have just finished searching it and couldn’t find it. I have to download it later.

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