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Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit Hardcover – June 1, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5 Up—This fantasy takes place in a land reminiscent of ancient Japan, populated by the indigenous Yakoo people and the immigrant Yogo who now rule. Both peoples tell a story of a child and a water spirit but with much different details. For the Yogo, the child was possessed by a water demon, while for the Yakoo, the water spirit was essential to prevent a horrendous drought. Now, it seems that this spirit has returned and is somehow living in Prince Chagum, and his father feels that he must have his son assassinated to defeat the demon. Chagum's mother prevails upon Balsa, a bodyguard-for-hire, to flee the capital with Chagum. Balsa is wounded after fighting off four of the assassins and seeks shelter with her friend Tanda, a healer. As she begins to train Chagum in life outside the palace, Tanda and his teacher Torogai begin researching Yakoo folklore and employing magic to discover more about this water spirit. In the meantime, the Yogo Star Readers research their records. Only through their combined studies are they able to learn the nature of the true danger and the means to defeat it. Whether from the original or through the translation, there are a few rough spots in the dialogue. Still, this book should appeal to fans of medieval and fantasy manga and of Usagi Yojimbo. The forthcoming manga and anime will also create interest.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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From Booklist

This Japanese import features many familiar martial-arts fantasy elements: magic, nonstop action, swordplay, a puzzling myth, dangerous plot twists, and a strong-willed, flawed hero on a quest. What’s surprising is that the “hero” is a slightly wrinkled, weather-beaten, thirty-year-old heroine: Balsa Spear-wielder, an itinerant bodyguard. After Balsa saves Chagum, the son of the Mikado, following a freak accident, Chagum’s mother hires Balsa to protect him; she is certain that Chagum will be murdered because he is host to a mythical creature, a fact that belies the divine nature of the Mikado. Balsa must solve a mystery involving the creature and protect Chagum from both the Mikado’s elite forces and an otherworldly monster. Guardian will sell itself in booktalks: the story is intriguing, and Balsa is a smart, crotchety, fully realized heroine. Even the minor characters are interesting. Uehashi’s Moribito series is enormously popular in Japan, and if the remaining nine stories are as enjoyable as this one, boys and girls here will be clamoring to read them. Grades 6-9. --Chris Sherman
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 840L (What's this?)
  • Series: Moribito (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; Tra edition (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545005426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545005425
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lode Sword on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was first introduced to the "Moribito" series by watching the highly acclaimed anime adaptation of this story (Seirei no Moribito) back in the Fall. I enjoyed it greatly, and when I discovered Seirei no Moribito was actually an adaptation of the first book of an already existing series, I decided to give it a try, despite the target audience being children and young adults (although this story is also popular among adults in Japan, not to mention I wanted to know if Balsa succeeds in her personal quest, if Tanda finally bags her, etc.).

I'll have to admit that I'm a little biased, and preferred the anime adaptation over the original book, as the story and characters were a bit more fleshed out (i.e. Balsa is a bit stricter, yet still like a warm, surrogate mother/teacher, Chagum learns street smarts from Toya, Toya and Saya play more of a role, Sagum is present and kinder, the political conspiracy had a little more meat to it, Tanda and Balsa's romantic frustrations are more apparent, some extra fillers etc.), but this story is still a fine read for younger audiences as well as fans of the anime series (that aren't ashamed to read a kids' book). The story can easily be read in one or two days (have your lazy kids read it for a book report!), and even has an informative "Moribito Dictionary" for the multitude of unique foreign words, countries, and characters of the Moribito universe.

My only gripe about the book was the material used as the book jacket. Rather than the glossy jackets typically used on hardcover books, the texture was more of a hybrid between a paper bag and a comic book page.

A parting message to fans of the anime series: Yes, it's an easy read (it's virtually a kids' book, after all), but if you're wondering about what happens to Balsa, Tanda, Chagum, Yogo, etc., wait until the next few volumes are released stateside.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Balsa is a bodyguard who hires out her services to protect those who can pay her, but when she is asked to take care of the thirteen-year-old Second Prince of New Yogo, Chagum, she becomes swept up in events beyond her control. His mother, the Second Queen, tells Balsa that Chagum has become involved in mystical happenings connected to the founding of New Yogo, and may be possessed by a water demon that the founding king purportedly slew over 200 years ago. Chagum's possession by this demon calls into question everything that the rulers of New Yogo have always said about their divine right to lead this kingdom, and as a result, Chagum's father, the king, wants him dead. Balsa must agree to guard Chagum, or lose her life for knowing too much.

Balsa and Chagum must attempt to escape the warriors sent after them by the king and find out more about the exact details of the water spirit that has possessed Chagum. They discover contradictory legends surrounding the original water spirit, one told by the Yogoese, another told by the Yakoo, who inhabited the land of New Yogo before the Yogoese came to settle there. Either legend could be right, and both of them agree only upon one detail: if the correct path is not followed, New Yogo will suffer a terrible drought that will cause poor harvests and mass starvation.

Set in a fantasy world analogous to medieval Japan, this story sprawls through the lives and perspectives of many different characters. Though it focuses mainly on Balsa and reveals details about her own past and her reasons for becoming a warrior, it also deals with Chagum's experiences in the world outside of the palace, the perspective of a healer named Tanda, a master mystic, Torogai, and many more.
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