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Literature / Moribito

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Cover of the first Japanese edition of Guardian of the Spirit; 1996

Moribito (守り人シリーズ) is a series of Japanese fantasy novels written between 1996 and 2018 by Nahoko Uehashi.

The series follows the adventures of Balsa Yonsa, a wandering warrior woman in a Redemption Quest to save eight lives, and Chagum, the second prince of the kingdom of New Yogo, in a diverse Asian-inspired universe divided into Sagu the human world and Nayugu the Spirit World.

In addition to the main series of novels, there are spin-offs, a guidebook, and a cookbook.

You might be interested to read The Beast Player, another novel series by the same author.

Main Books:


Other Books:

  • Balsa's Table, a Spin-Off Cookbook that includes recipes from novels by Nahoko Uehashi. (August 2009)
  • All About Moribito: The Complete Guide to the Moribito Series, which includes two short stories. (June 2011)


  • A 2-season radio drama series, written by Satoshi Maruo and broadcast by NHK FM Broadcast from August 2006 to April 2007.

Anime and Manga

  • A manga adaptation of Guardian of the Spirit by Kamui Fujiwara. It was serialized in Square Enix's magazine Monthy Shonen Gangan from May 2007 to July 2008.
  • An anime television adaptation of Guardian of the Spirit produced by Production I.G and broadcast by NHK since April 2007.
  • Jin: Guardian of the Spirit Anime Side Story, a manga spin-off of the anime written by Miki Kanae and illustrated by Gatou Asou and serialized in Young Gangan in 2008.
  • A manga adaptation of Guardian of the Darkness by Yū. It was serialized in Asahi Shimbun Publications' magazine Nemuki+ from 2014 to 2017.

Live-Action TV

  • A Japanese live-action drama that ran for 22 episodes across three seasons from March 2016 to January 2018: Guardian of the Spirit, The Anguish of the Destroyers, and Balsa's Fate, plus Gaiden, a bonus episode that takes place between the first two seasons. All seasons received fansubs by earth_colors.


  • A stage play adaptation of Guardian of the Spirit written by Tete Inoue and directed by Takashi Isshiki is scheduled to be performed from July 29, 2022, to August 6 at the Nissay Theatre Family Festival 2023.

Moribito provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    The novels as a whole 
  • The Chains of Commanding: The Mikado must stay aloof and distant from everyone, including his own family, in order to rule the kingdom of New Yogo effectively. Or at least that's the attitude of the court; several characters question this at times.
  • Family Theme Naming: The three princes of New Yogo are named Sagum, Chagum, and Tugum.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: New Yogo is a counterpart of Heian-era Japan, complete with the immigrant Yogo people and the indigenous Yakoo people who resemble the Ainu. Balsa's homeland of Kanbal resembles Mongolia or Tibet. There's also very heavy influence of Goryeo Korea on the setting, not that they were that different at the time. Overall, the author wanted to evoke a general Far East flavor rather than a specific counterpart culture.
  • Food Porn: Every dish looks just so delicious and tasty that you start drooling. Look no further than the luxurious lavish meal Balsa gets served in Guardian of the Spirit. In Japan, the novel series even includes a cookbook.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • Six of the main novels are titled "______ no Moribito" ("Guardian of ______").
    • Two of the main novels, which focus on Chagum's adventures without Balsa, are titled "______ no Tabibito" ("Traveler of ______").
    • The spin-off books are titled "______ Yuku Mono".
  • Named After First Installment: The series is named after the last word in the original Japanese title of the first novel, Guardian of the Spirit.
  • Spirit World: Nayugu is the spiritual companion of Sagu the mortal realm. At times, the two overlap while, at others, they can be years apart. In the anime, one of the only ways to see it or physically enter it is by drinking the sap of a Sig Salua blossom. Nayugu seems very alien but magnificent to cast and viewers.
  • Standard Royal Court: New Yogo features the Mikado, the royal children, the three queens, the head of the military, and the Master Star Reader who is the Mikado's pet scientist, advisor, and head of the intelligence at the same time. Court proceedings are not decadent but ritualized and cold.
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub: The official translation leaves the word 'Mikado' (an alternative title of the Emperor of Japan) intact in all instances without explanation.
  • Wuxia: It's a fantasy/adventure epic about a wandering spearwoman seeking to atone for the eight lives she took by saving eight lives in return — who eventually finds herself acting as both guardian and bodyguard to a banished prince in order to save a kingdom. It's easily on par with the likes of Princess Mononoke and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word: "Moribito" means "guardian" in Japanese, and the English release titled it Moribito. This is likely to give it a more distinctive title than the straight translation while reminding audiences of what it means.

    Guardian of the God 
  • Demonic Possession: Asla becomes possessed by a really dangerous bloodthirsty monster that happens to be worshipped as a god by a certain tribe living in the deep forests of Lota Kingdom.
  • Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: The novel ends with a mere twelve-year-old girl Asla sealing a bloodthirsty 'god' inside her body in order not to let it kill even more people.

    Guardian of Heaven and Earth 
  • Bittersweet Ending: Chagum becomes new Mikado after defeating the Talsh empire and the death of his father. Balsa and Tanda finally become a proper pair as well. But, on the other hand, it's still unknown if Balsa and Chagum see each other again after the finale of Guardian of Heaven and Earth as they part ways in the second volume.

    The radio drama 
  • Audio Adaptation: Satoshi Maruo adapted Guardian of the Spirit and Guardian of the Darkness into a radio drama series broadcast by NHK.
  • New Season, New Name: The radio drama changes from Guardian of the Spirit to Guardian of the Darkness in Season 2.

    The live-action drama 
  • Adaptation Title Change: The drama is based on the novel series of the same name, but it has the same original Japanese title as the first novel, Guardian of the Spirit.
  • Named After First Installment: The drama is named in Japanese after the first book of its source Guardian of the Spirit, which is part of the book series of the same English title.
  • New Season, New Name: The three seasons are subtitled Guardian of the Spirit, The Anguish of the Destroyers, and Balsa's Fate respectively. In Japanese, though, the series has the same title as Guardian of the Spirit and only the latter two have subtitles.