starlady: (king)
[personal profile] starlady
Uehashi Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.. Trans. Cathy Hirano. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2008.

I read this book because [personal profile] meganbmoore liked it. I liked it too.

But first let me indulge my inner literal bibliophile: OMG PRETTY BOOK IS PRETTY. The cover! The paper stock! The two-color printing! The interior illustrations and decorations! The slip jacket! Arthur A. Levine does books right.

Apparently this novel has already been turned into a manga and an anime--has anyone read or watched either? What did you think? Me, I liked the story, but I wasn't wild about the translation, though I've requested the next book in the series from my library despite its weaknesses.

I guess that means I liked the story! I did, really; wandering spearwoman Balsa is minding her own business crossing a bridge in not!Kyoto one day when she sees a kid fall off the bridge upstream reserved for royalty, dives in to save him, and realizes later that he is Chagum, the Second Prince. Later Chagum's mother the Second Queen reveals to Balsa that Chagum's father the Mikado is trying to kill his son because the water spirit of the country has laid its egg in Chagum, making him the Guardian of the Spirit, a Moribito. Balsa, who is a moribito specializing in people, agrees to take the prince away from the capital and out of the clutches of his father's Hunters, who are in fact at the will of the Star Readers, who more or less control the government of the country. For allies, Balsa has her old friends Torogai and Tanda, magic weavers of the country's indigenous Yakoo population. Can they keep Chagum safe from the Hunters and from Rarunga, the egg eater, and deliver the country from a hundred-year drought?

Anyway, Balsa is pretty awesome. It's made abundantly clear in the narrative that she is a wandering warrior because she made a vow to save eight lives (for a very thorough definition of "save"), which is the only reason she and Tanda don't get married, and everyone seems to accept that as that. So she wanders around being an absolutely amazing fighter and he stays home in the mountains studying magic. It works. (Also, Tanda's mentor Torogai is one badass old lady, I just want to note.)

And though the book only touches on these lightly, I did like the themes of politics, propaganda, history, deception and traditions preserved unknowingly (as well as the loss of culture Yakoo face as they gradually assimilate out of discrete existence). I also enjoyed the cod-northeast Asia setting (is it ever possible for the emperor to rule as well as to reign, incidentally?), though a lot of the names just seem weird, particularly when held up against unvarnished Japanese names such as Aoike Pond (which the translator in me screams is redundant).

Speaking of the translation, Cathy Hirano (who lives on Shikoku! which the jacket mentions for authenticity points!) is a prize-winning translator, and she does a pretty good job, but there's something about her phrasing that strips the prose of a lot of affect, and there's at least one place where her unimaginative translation of a standard Japanese construction ("thank God" for でよかった, for those of you playing along at home) imputes an extra layer of meaning to the narrative that is completely unsupported by the rest of the text. But given that it is essentially laziness that has me reading this book in English at all, I am satisfied despite these minor failings. And, you know, we need a) more fantasy in translation; b) more fantasy where women aren't punished for being badass warriors; c) more fantasy by chromatic authors; and d) more Asian fantasy, so on all these counts I have to recommend the book.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 20:58 (UTC)
inkstone: sakura & sword tip (blade & blossom)
From: [personal profile] inkstone
The anime is amazing. I love the anime! Actually, I prefer the anime to the book, which almost never happens! But some of Balsa's backstory in the anime is taken from the second book, so maybe read that first?

Here! Have a YouTube vid:

IG put a lot of money into the production and you can tell. Sadly, the anime didn't do so well. :(

And also sadly, the rest of the series after the second book will not be translated. :((
Edited (because I forgot comments don't like video embedding!) Date: 2010-03-31 20:59 (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 21:02 (UTC)
inkstone: girl holding a bird over half her face (bird)
From: [personal profile] inkstone
It's the usual "Not enough sales" schtick, IIRC. [personal profile] nijibug posted some about it a few months ago.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 21:10 (UTC)
inkstone: sakura & sword tip (blade & blossom)
From: [personal profile] inkstone
The anime's character design for Balsa was great. She looks strong enough to swing around that spear but she's scarred and tough and muscle-y. It's awesome.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 21:49 (UTC)
nijibug: Chihaya & Saya (magatama gold)
From: [personal profile] nijibug

Also, a response from the translator:


(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 22:36 (UTC)
nijibug: Saya & Chihaya (Default)
From: [personal profile] nijibug

Oh, and normally I am a proponent of good dubs, but in Moribito's case, 1) the dub is not good and, 2) the acting in the original is excellent. (Just a fair warning, since I was disappointed by the dubbing. I'm pretty sure you plan on watching the original anyway ♥ )

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-03 13:11 (UTC)
dancing_serpent: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dancing_serpent
Haven't read or watched it yet, but I noticed there's a small [community profile] moribito comm here on DW.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 22:03 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
watched the whole anime series. it's likable, but quiet and slow at times. there are some really nicely animated fights in the beginning, but while i was expecting more action, it wasn't totally about that (i guess that's a spoiler).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 22:05 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't mind slow. The DW commenters are rabid fans of the anime, though, and from the Youtube vid one shared the action scenes look, well, amazing.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-31 22:30 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
as i recall, it's a series i watched chunks of at a time. i just skimmed through my lj posts. it did have some lovely backgrounds. hope you find hq videos somewhere.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-01 08:04 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I watched the anime a while ago already and adored it, and also watched the anime adaptation of another novel by the same writer: Kemono no Souja Erin, and I dare Say Erin was even better.
I got both listed in my amazon wish list for an eternity now, I really gotta buy them already, I want to read the novels already!!!!! *my bookworm self is revealed to the world now...I am a novel devourer*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-01 09:08 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, and if you don't know about The Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi Ono, I STRONGLY advise you to try it out! :D
I own the whole thing (watched the anime and then bought all the novels afterward), it's a Fantasy novel too and it's beyond words really(the anime is a masterpiece too btw).
It starts off with Yoko Nakajima discovering she is the queen of the kingdom of Kei (I'm REALLY resuming here...) and from that point on, her path to become a worthy queen, politics, wars/rebellions, the bonds/relations with others countries, and then we also have whole novels dedicated to the monarchs of the others kingdoms (no, NOT all of them, they focus on some of them...) and so on. It's a world with magic in which the rulers are chosen by Kirin, mythological beasts born on the sacred Mt Hou which is located in the 'middle' of that world. There are also extended stories about some of the Kirin, totally awesome :D
Well, I'm no good at resuming things and there is just far too much material, so don't judge it on my post aha~

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-01 12:59 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I saw the first couple episodes of Twelve Kingdoms a few years ago. It is pretty amazing.


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