meganbmoore: (shaman warrior(ess))
[personal profile] meganbmoore
I'm going about this series a little differently from everyone else I know who has/plans to read this book.  That is, I'm reading the book before seeing the anime it's based on.  (And am I right in thinking that the anime hasn't actually been licensed yet?  If so, it's interesting that the book is coming out first.)  I'm curious:  does the anime only cover this first book in the series, or more books from the series?

Anyway, Moribito is about Balsa, a spearwoman who hires herself out as a bodyguard, and has sworn to save eight lives.  You'd think that it'd be easy to save eight lives in a faux ancient Japan,  but apparently, this is eight lives that are saved without taking a life, or ruining one.  Basically, she has to come out eight lives ahead.  I'm actually not quite sure that I buy the explanation, outside of the fact that it provides the valued narrative purpose of providing angst and keeping Balsa and Tanda from getting married until she fulfills her oath.

When Balsa sees the Second Prince, Chagum, knocked into the river, she dives in to save him.  Later, Chagum's mother reveals that the Mikado(emperor) has ordered Chagum to be killed, as the prince is the Moribito, the guardian of the egg of the Water Spirit.   As the existence of the egg challenges the Mikado's status as a descendant of the gods, the Mikado orders his son to be killed before the Imperial line can be dishonored.  In addition, there is the Rarunga, a monster who eats the eggs when they come into being, killing their guardians as they do so.  However, if Chagum can be kept alive and allowed to deliver the egg to its home by Midsummer's Day, then he will be safe from the Rarunga, and no longer a threat to the Mikado.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the Second Queen effectively traps Balsa into being Chagum's bodyguard, though Balsa doesn't seem to mind the manipulations much.  Along the way, they're joined by Tanda, a magic weaver and healer who is Balsa's childhood friend, and Togorai, Tanda's elderly yet badass mentor.

Like a lot (ok, all) of the light novels that I've read, there's something very clunky about the translation, probably because of language barriers (though that doesn't forgive certain crimes in the Twelve Kingdoms novels!)  Like some others, though, the story is strong enough to overcome the clunky translation.

I pretty much knew  that I was a goner when I realized that Balsa was a short range spear fighter.  (No, I don't know the proper term for that, and I'm too lazy to look it up.)  Now, it's no secret that I love fictional people with swords, but there's something about spear fighting that's always just so impressive.  For whatever reason, the fighting style seems to require more strength, dexterity, and endurance than other asian fighting styles, possibly because of the length of the weapon you have to control.  So when it registered that that was Balsa's fighting style (that probably took longer than it should have, as the dust jacket mentioned swords) my fairly high level of interest skyrocketed.

Then, of course, there's the role reversals, though those are all pretty obvious.  Balsa is the wandering warrior with a mission who comes as close as anyone does to needing emotional healing, and she's the one who softens after being given the kid to protect.  Tanda, meanwhile, is the one who waits at home for her to work out her issues and decide to settle down, and serves as her emotional support.  It works well, I think, because, even though she has issues, Balsa isn't ever portrayed as needing a kid to feel whole, or Tanda's healing love to make things better, and Tanda is never indicated to be weak or needy, he's just not a hard travelling warrior.

Also, I possibly cracked up at work when Chagum asked Tanda why he hadn't married Balsa already, and Tanda said it was because Balsa wouldn't marry anyone until she'd fulfilled her oath.  Now, it's pretty common for it to be well known that the only reason the Driven Warrior hasn't settled down with the True Love is because The Quest hasn't been fulfilled yet, I'm just not used to it being put that bluntly, that early, or explained without any hint of mopeyness.  It wasn't until that scene that I really understood why most of my friends who watched the anime have been running around screaming "BALSA AND TANDA NEED TO GET MARRIED AND HAVE BABIES!"  There's something about the honesty and acknowledgement, and the acceptance without piles of angst, that makes it work.  

I was also very, very amused when Chagum basically told Balsa and Tanda to get married and make babies already at the end.  I'm not used to that happening before endless volumes of denial and obliviousness!  This book kept challenging my ideas of romance in Japanese action stuff!  (or just non-shoujo romance stuff...)

Also, on a completely different note from any of the above, I have to whine a bit about the books packaging.  At a glance, it's great: about 250 pages, catchy cover that suits the book, smaller dimensions(and appropriately lowered price) than most hardback books.  If you know what I mean, reading hardbacks that size is usually fairly like reading your average trade sized book.  Moribito, however, has a really heavy paper stock that almost makes it feel like reading a huge hardcover.  In fact, when I got home, I pulled the latest Dresden Files book off the shelf(it's been out 2 months now and I still haven't read it...I am a bad fan!) and weighed them one in each hand, and they were about the same.  The Dresden Files book has larger dimensions, and is 150 pages larger.

Incidentally, the author's note mentions there's also a manga adaptation.  Does anyone know anything about that?

Date: 2008-06-13 08:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
To the manga, I found only this, not sure if it helps:
"The next Young Gangan issue, on sale on April 18, will feature the Jin: Anime Seirei no Moribito Gaiden manga written by Miki Nakae. This side story will center on the character Jin from the Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito) anime and will feature the art of the anime's character designer, Gatou Asou."
Since it's a side story, I don't know if this is the same, as the one mentioned by the author. Still, by title it's the same, if you look at the site of Gangan.

Date: 2008-06-13 03:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hmm...interesting that it's based on Jin. The character was decent, but didn't make a huge impact in the book.


Date: 2008-06-13 10:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay, let's see.

1. The anime has been licensed. It was originally licensedb y Geneon but when they ceased their US distribution, is languished in limbo for months. But a couple months ago, Media Blasters rescued it. I think that's the main reason why the novel came out first. It, of course, fits in very, very well with the rest of Media Blasters' catalog.

2. Unfortunately, the anime only covers the first book in the series. It apparently didn't do well enough in Japan to win a second season.

3. There is a manga adaptation. Not just the Jin sidestory mentioned above but an actual manga adaptation of this book. It's being scanslated slowly by TMI Scans.

4. And as one of those people who runs around screaming BALSA AND TANDA NEED TO GET MARRIED AND HAVE BABIES, now do you see?!

Date: 2008-06-13 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
1. Ah, thay's good. I'm sure I'll want shiny DVDs eventually.

2. Why is it that most of the animes I really want to last longer don't...

4. I don't uite feel inspired to dothat myself, but I understand the need now.

Date: 2008-06-13 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
4. I think that reaction is inspired more by the anime than by the book. It's still there in the book but the anime made me wibble in multiple places.

Date: 2008-06-13 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There's no real proper term for a Japanese spear-fighter as near as I can tell, since it was used by many different classes (Samurai, Genin, Ashigaru, etc). The specific training for it is called "Sojutsu" though, if that helps.

To add on about the licensing, it should also be broadcast on the Cartoon Network in addition to being released on DVD. I don't think they've announced when it will air, though.

Date: 2008-06-13 01:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
August release on CN, apparently. I had to venture into fandom to find out, and the extreme negativity over its release on Cartoon Network was simply depressing.

Date: 2008-06-13 04:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Ah...what, exactly, are the objections to it being released in a medium that will give it wider exposure, and hopefully increase the safety of the book series, and possibly influebce a manga release?

Date: 2008-06-13 04:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I believe the general idea is that non-action shows don't do well on Cartoon Network, and since Seirei is not an action show (it is a show built mostly on characterization and such, despite having some of the finest animated action sequences put out in the past decade or so) it will bomb horribly and anime is doomed and Japan will spontaneously re-enact the sinking of Atlantis, thus stopping the flow of new Naruto & Bleach forever.

Date: 2008-06-13 04:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And there we have one of the many reasons I try to remember that fandom is rather like a rabid animal, nd one I with to avoid.

(Love the fans, try to ignore the fandoms...that's my motto.)

Date: 2009-06-19 05:13 pm (UTC)
nijibug: Chihaya & Saya (magatama gold)
From: [personal profile] nijibug
Ah, I see you enjoyed Moribito, too ♥
(another Cathy Hirano translation; this one was the recipient of the '09 Batchelder Award)

If you've seen the anime, it actually includes material from both Guardian of the Spirit and Guardian of the Darkness (Book 2). If you haven't seen the anime, I highly recommend it - Miyazaki-quality stuff. :]


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