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I really like these covers btw.

The translated Moribito novels

As I observed a couple of years agoMoribito: Guardian of the Spirit from 2007 is an outstanding show from beginning to end.”

So how do the light novels by Nahoko Uehashi stack up against the anime? To find out I borrowed them from a friend in Perth [1], and the answers are surprising.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is well translated, and flows well, but the lack of depth in this version of the story really surprised me. Granted that it is a light novel, but even so this is one case where the story needed a lot more to be effective.

It isn’t a bad story, but I did find it somewhat lacking in the emotional resonance that the anime excelled at. The skeleton of it is there, but not the meat.

Fortunately the anime expanded considerably on the first novel, partly by inserting at entire story arc into the first half. This added a lot of depth to the characterisations of Balsa and Chagum, and also allowed for more development of the motivations of the supporting characters.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is best enjoyed by visualising the anime as you read it, and bringing that resonance with you.

Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness

In one sense Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness suffers from the same brevity as its predecessor, but also benefits from being a sequel. Much of the world building is already in place, and Ms Uehashi is extending it to new lands and a new society: Kanbal, the land of Balsa’s birth.

This serves Guardian of the Depths well as the reader is already invested in Balsa as a heroine [2], and this is a story that plays well to the Balsa’s strengths and maturity [3].

The extended world building gives rise to some fascinating mythology, some really nasty politics, and an interesting take on what can go horribly wrong when the two collide [4].

What really makes the story sing is the theme of redemption that must be earnt, or fought for, particularly for Balsa. This is very well handled within the available space, and it is a story I would dearly love to see animated [5].


Overall I think that Guardian of the Depths is a much stronger novel than Guardian of the Spirit, and makes me wish for translations of the later novels [6].

That said, both novels are worth reading in their own right, and I’d like to thank my friend in Perth for lending them to me. I may look at acquiring my own copies, if only to encourage Scholastic books to translate the rest.

[1] Yes, this is yet another example of my reading habits being tied to travelling to science fiction conventions.

[2] Balsa is one of the best adult female leads in anime in the last several years.

[3] I said adult female lead, I meant adult female lead.

[4] Yes, I am once again being cryptic in an attempt to keep a review spoiler free. Deal with it. 🙂

[5] This is doubly true if Guardian of the Darkness is expanded as effectively as Guardian of the Spirit.

[6] Survey, i.e. Wikipedia, says that there are currently 12 novels written. These are the only two that have been translated thus far.