Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit- Japanese Fantasy Explored

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Nahoko Uehashi
Translated into English by Cathy Hirano
Winner of the 2009 Batchelder Award

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 controls 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 always 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, 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 text is a delightful dark blue. And there are great illustrations for the cover and inside the book.

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 dare say 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 enjoyed Moribito because it was refreshing to read Japanese 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.
Tarie is a reader, graduate student, editor, and English teacher in the Philippines. She blogs about literature for the young and young at heart at Into the Wardrobe.


Nymeth said...

Oh wow, I want this! It sounds so good! Like you, I love YA and fantasy, and I find Japanese culture very interesting. So what's not to love? The only thing that makes me hesitate is that it has ten volumes...it's not like I need a new series to get hooked on :P But hey, I'll live :P

Tarie said...

Nymeth, don't worry! Only two books have been translated to English so far. And they were published a year apart. Besides, OF COURSE you need to get hooked on a new series. I live for series. LOL. :D

Heather Zundel said...

I've seen this in my favorite little independent book store. I've been eyeing and wanting it for so long. It looks really good. I'm so glad it got such a high recommendation from you!

Have you read The Twelve Kingdom series by Fuyumi Ono? They are also being translated into Enlish and have three books out already.

(I also love the diversity month you are holding. I'm making myself a part of it on my blog). Kudos to your excellent idea.

Tarie said...

Hi, Heather! Oooh, thank you for the recommendation. I'll check out The Twelve Kingdom series. :o)