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Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on July 21, 2008.

Translated into English by Cathy Hirano


Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, the first part of a ten-book Japanese fantasy series, introduces readers to the interconnected worlds of Sagu and Nayugu. Sagu is the visible world of humans and Nayugu is the invisible world of creatures like Juchi Ro Gai (the Mud Dwellers) and Yona Ro Gai (the Water Dwellers).

Nyunga Ro Im is the Water Spirit from Nayugu that causes rain in both worlds. Once every hundred years, Nyunga Ro Im lays an egg and dies. The egg hatches to become the new Water Spirit and control the weather of the worlds. If the egg is destroyed, Sagu and Nayugu will suffer from a deadly drought. For mysterious reasons, Nyunga Ro Im lays its egg inside one of the To Ro Gai (the Land Dwellers of Sagu) - a human. That human is known as the Moribito, the Guardian of the Spirit.

In this fast-paced, action-packed epic, the Moribito is Prince Chagum, the second son of the Mikado, the ruler of a country known as New Yogo. This is Chagum's tale. He struggles to accept his fate as the Guardian of the Spirit. And he must survive Rarunga the Egg Eater, a horrible creature of Nayugu who can visit Sagu in order to hunt Chagum. Chagum must also survive being hunted by his own father, who believes he has been possessed by a water demon.

This is also Balsa's tale. Balsa is Chagum's brave bodyguard. She is strong in body and spirit, and an expert in the martial arts and a master of the short spear. An amazing female character with an interesting life story!

The first thing I noticed about Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is the beautiful bookmaking. The paper is wonderfully thick (it seems thicker than the paper used for most books). The ink is a delightful dark blue. There are also great illustrations for the cover and for the different parts of the book. (Yes, I love books so much that I get excited about book design and the craftsmanship that goes into making books :o).)

I was actually astonished by how good the writing is. The descriptions in the book are so vivid that every action, every scene, every thought and feeling from a character, and every pearl of wisdom is crystal clear. I daresay that the writing and translation for Moribito is so good, and it stirred my imagination so much, that the book is almost better than if the story had been presented to us as a movie!

Aside from the exciting story and excellent writing, I also enjoyed Moribito because it was refreshing to read Japanese fantasy. (I usually read British fantasy.) And I enjoyed getting a fantastical view of Japanese culture and lifestyle in the Middle Ages.

As a great lover of children's and young adult literature, fantasy, and all things Japanese, I found Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit so good that it is exhilarating.

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