Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Hardback cover of the novel
(Seirei no Moribito)
Genre Fantasy
Written by Nahoko Uehashi
Published by Kaiseisha (hardcover)
Shinchosha (paperback)
English publisher
Published July 1996
Written by Nahoko Uehashi
Illustrated by Kamui Fujiwara
Published by Square Enix
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Monthly Shōnen Gangan
Original run March 12, 2007 – present
Volumes 2
Anime television series
Directed by Kenji Kamiyama
Written by Kenji Kamiyama
Music by Kenji Kawai
Studio Production I.G
Licensed by
Network NHK-BS2
English network
Original run April 7, 2007 September 29, 2007
Episodes 26
Television drama
Directed by Keiji Kataoka
Written by Sumio Omori
Network NHK
Original run March 19, 2016 April 9, 2016
Episodes 4

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (精霊の守り人 Seirei no Moribito) is the first in the twelve volume Moribito (守り人) series of Japanese fantasy novels by Nahoko Uehashi. It has since been adapted into numerous media, including radio, manga, and anime adaptations. Scholastic released the first novel in English in June 2008. Media Blasters has confirmed that they acquired the rights to the anime.[1] The series premiered on Adult Swim in the U.S. at 1:30 a.m. on August 24, 2008 EST, but was dropped from the schedule without warning or explanation on January 15, 2009 after two runs of the first ten episodes. The program returned to Adult Swim during the summer 2009 line-up with an airing of the entire series.[2]

Plot introduction

Balsa, spear wielder and bodyguard, is a wandering warrior who has vowed to atone for eight deaths in her past by saving an equivalent number of lives. On her journey, she saves Prince Chagum, and is tasked with becoming his bodyguard. His own father, the emperor, has ordered his assassination. The two begin a perilous journey to ensure the survival of the prince. Balsa's complicated past begins to come to light and they uncover Chagum's mysterious connection to a legendary water spirit with the power to destroy the kingdom.


(*) denotes original characters added in the TV animation.


A skilled warrior from the faraway land of Kanbal. She is 30 years old. Balsa claims to be a simple bodyguard-for-hire; in reality she wields her spear in order to save lives in atonement for the eight lives that were taken to protect her when she was a child. Balsa is pragmatic and intelligent and she does not hold much regard for class distinction customs. Despite her deadly skill with a spear, Balsa tries not to kill in combat. As a result her body is covered with scars. At one point it's revealed that she is the daughter of the former Kanbal King's physician who had discovered that the new King had poisoned his predecessor. Worried that his crime would be revealed the new King ordered the physician and his daughter, Balsa, be executed for treason. To protect his daughter the physician asked the one warrior he could trust, Jiguro who was the first of the King's 9 Spears, to take her and run while he stayed behind. Unfortunately the King sent the other 8 Spears (while holding their families hostage) after them. Her guardian was able to protect her but had to kill all 8 of his former comrades to do so. Later he taught Balsa how to use a spear responsibly after seeing her perfectly re-enact the moves she'd seen him use. During their journey, Balsa becomes attached to Chagum and even teaches him some important lessons in life. At the end of the series, she is seen returning to Kanbal for reasons unspecified but is hinted to be putting Jiguro's soul to rest.
The second prince of the Imperial Family, who bears the egg of the water spirit making him the 'guardian of the spirit'. At first it is believed to be the reincarnation of a demon defeated by his ancestor, the first Emperor. Convinced that it would bring misfortune and destruction to the country, Chagum's father secretly condemns him to death. However, before they could assassinate him, his mother, the Second Empress, hires Balsa to hide and protect him. Later, it was revealed that the egg is a water-bestowing spirit that revives the land once every hundred years upon successfully hatching. The real demon that his ancestors defeated was a creature that seeks to consume the egg before it can hatch resulting in the land suffering an extreme drought for a long time. By accepting the job to protect him, Chagum becomes the eighth and final soul Balsa vows to save to complete her atonement. During their journey together, he becomes emotionally attached to Balsa. At the end of the series, he is appointed the crown prince and hailed as a hero for helping the spirit be born. He bids a tearful farewell to Balsa, Tanda, and Madam Torogai as they leave the palace, thanking them for everything they did for him.
An herbalist who lives in the mountains. His skill as a shaman are lacking, but he is an accomplished doctor as he would always tend to Balsa's injuries suffered in battle as they grew up together . He also works as a traveling medicine man, trading his wares with the local towns and cities. Tanda has also had a long standing crush on Balsa that seems to have dated several years before the start of the main story. Balsa acknowledges his feelings for her and in fact feels the same way about him as he does for her, but the two never act on their feelings during the series. At the end of the series, Tanda is seen having dinner with Saya and Tōya, telling them that he will gladly wait for Balsa to return from Kanbal.
An old shaman and Tanda's teacher, who proves to be incredibly competent at taking care of herself. A master of the old ways, she is in-tune with the spirit world, Nayuga. It is this relationship that allowed her to discover the spirit's true identity. She is capable of communicating with denizens of the spirit realm. She is eccentric and unfailingly blunt, but never fails to tell the truth.
Jiguro Musa
Balsa's mentor, caretaker, and bodyguard. Originally the leader and strongest member of the king of Kanbal's 'Nine Spears'; he 'betrayed' his country to save Balsa's life. After fleeing Kanbal, they were pursued by the other eight 'Spears'. In a series of pitched battles, Jiguro was forced to kill the men he considered his best friends. He also trained Balsa to wield a spear honorably and with wisdom, and she later inherited his spear after he died. When Balsa's father asked Jiguro to protect her, he at first refused, but later appeared to save Balsa from two of the Kings assassins. Balsa believes that Jiguro helped her because he could not live with the guilt of not helping his friend, as he believed that not helping someone when you are in a position to do so is the equivalent of harming them yourself.

Kōsenkyō Downtown (Ōgi-no-Shimo)

An orphan boy and friend of Balsa, whom he regards as his elder sister. It is later discovered that he and Saya were saved by Balsa, and that is how they became acquainted. This may be the reason why Tōya claims that he would go "through fire and water for Balsa". He is very clever for his age, often haggling with merchants to lower their prices and is always successful in doing so. He teaches Chagum how to barter with merchants as well the basics of gambling.
An orphan girl who is a friend of Balsa. Due to Balsa staying at their hut, she and Tōya have to leave the city and end up following Balsa because they would be troubled if the pursuers were to find them again. It is later found out that she has a crush on Tōya.
The Blue Hand (Aoi-te)*
A slave trader acquainted with Balsa due to her guarding VIPs who did various things which hurt the slavery business. Balsa uses the money she got from the Empress to buy and free a bunch of slaves from him. This allows her to not only free the slaves, but by journeying home the former slaves create a lot of false leads for the Emperor's men to waste time and attention running them down and away from Balsa and the prince.
The Swordsmith*
A highly skilled smith who forges swords for guards of the imperial court. He was the smith that created Jiguro's spear that Balsa inherited. While reluctant to repair her spear allowing her to fight and kill, he does so after finding out from Mon and Jin that when she had overwhelmed them in an earlier battle, she did so without killing anyone deliberately even though it would have been faster and easier for her to do so.

The Palace (Ōgi-no-Kami)

The Emperor (Mikado)
Due to the belief that Chagum was possessed and that the possession was the reason for the Drought Sign being seen, he ordered Chagum to be killed. The Emperor is the only one able to kill Chagum due to fact that was how his ancestor ascended the throne, by killing an evil water spirit, and the belief that only the Emperor could successfully kill it.
The Second Empress (Ni-no-Kisaki)
Mother to Chagum, she was the one who requested Balsa to become Chagum's bodyguard. While he is on the run she is held under 'house arrest' for helping him escape.
The First Empress (Ichi-no-Kisaki)
The mother of Sagum.
Chagum's older brother and the heir to the throne, who cares deeply for Chagum. When Chagum's belongings were ordered burned after Chagum was presumed dead, Sagum took over the task to protect Chagum's things. He dies from overwork in his responsibilities as Crown Prince before being able to see Chagum alive again. In the book, there was no mention of him being close to Chagum, and he dies of illness.

Star Diviners

The youngest master star diviner in history and Chagum's tutor. He is among the only three people aware of the hunters that serve in the Emperor's shadow. He investigates the real cause of the drought sign and Chagum's supposed death in secret. When he was growing up he had lived in a fishing village, as a result, he is skilled in riding a horse.
A star diviner and Prince Sagum's tutor. He is stubbornly dismissive of the events that have been occurring since rumors emerged that Prince Chagum was possessed by a water demon. However, Shuga respects Gakai as a scholar and sincerely requests his help to decipher the tablets in the Star Chamber in order to save Prince Chagum after Sagum's untimely death. At the end of the series, he thanks Prince Sagum for guiding him in helping to save Chagum's life.
The chief master star diviner, later entrusted by Shuga with the responsibility of organizing the translations of the Secret Tome. He is dismissive of the knowledge of shamans and looks down at the possible advantage of consulting them for advice. While he does not believe that Prince Chagum should be killed, he does believe that the water spirit in the child is dangerous and must be dealt with.

The Hunters (Karyūdo)

Mon (No.1)
One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve Chagum after Balsa leaves with him. He is the head of the hunters, and he respects Balsa as an opponent, particularly when he realizes that she has elected not to kill any of her enemies in spite of the advantage it will offer her in order to protect Chagum. During the penultimate episode, Mon and the other Hunters acknowledge Balsa as a hero and proudly stand beside her in battle.
Jin (No.2)
One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve Chagum after Balsa leaves with him. After securing the prince, Jin attempts to kill him so that Chagum need not die by his own father's hands; knowing though that this act of insubordination would mean Jin's own death. He deems it a favor in return for the kindness that the prince showed him earlier in his life. He uses blowdarts as his weapon.
Zen (No.3)
One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve Chagum after Balsa leaves with him. He survives the encounter due to Balsa's vow never to take a human life and takes on the identity of the "Chief", a client who quickly wins the trust of Tōya so that Shuga and the hunters can track down Chagum and Balsa.
Yun (No.4)
One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve Chagum after Balsa leaves with him, which apparently left him with a scar on his nose. He also appears to have a superb photographic memory, as he was able to skim through one of Tōya's order record books and completely memorized the contents.
One of the warriors who wields dual broadswords, but he was defeated by Madam Torogai.
One of the warriors who uses a chain and sickle weapon, but he was also defeated by Madam Torogai.
Taga* (No.7)
Another hunter who is very skilled in archery.
Sune (No.8)
Also another hunter who is very skilled in archery.



The novel was first published in hardback by Kaiseisha as children's literature, but it had many adult fans. Shinchosha republished it in bunkobon format in March 2007.

Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Spirit) (ISBN 978-4035401506, 1996-07) (Bunko ISBN 978-4-10-130272-0, 2007-03)
Adapted into the anime series. Balsa is hired to protect a prince with a mysterious spirit living inside him.
Published in English by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in the summer of 2008; translated by Cathy Hirano.[3]

Radio drama

NHK-FM Radio Drama "Youth Adventure" (Seishun Adventure)

The Guardian of the Spirit (2006) 10 episodes 7/8/2006–13/8/2006 weekdays 22:45–23:00
The Guardian of Darkness 10 (2007) 10 episodes 16/4/2007–27/4/2007 weekdays 22:45–23:00


The series has been adapted into an anime television series, produced by Production I.G and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, which premiered in Japan on NHK from April 7, 2007. The anime runs 26 episodes and is based entirely on the first novel in the Guardian series, and greatly expands the midsection of the novel.

At the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 in March, Geneon announced that they had acquired the license to the anime and Scholastic announced they had US distribution rights to the novels.[4] After Geneon discontinued its US distribution division, the rights transferred to Media Blasters. The series premiered in the United States at 1:30 a.m. on August 24, 2008 on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, but was dropped from the schedule without warning or explanation on January 15, 2009 after two runs of the first ten episodes. On June 13, 2009, the series was back on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in the United States at 1:30am Sundays, but was moved to 2:30 a.m. Eastern time,[5] swapping it with Fullmetal Alchemist in November. On January 8, 2014, Viz Media announced that they have acquired the series and will be re-releasing the series on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as airing the series on their broadcasting channel, Neon Alley beginning on January 17, 2014.[6]

The series feature two theme songs. The opening title is Shine by L'Arc - en - Ciel, while Sachi Tainaka performs Itoshii Hito e for ending title.


  1. "Media Blasters Rescues Seirei no Moribito License". Anime News Network. 2013-02-14. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  2. "Adult Swim Removed Moribito from Weekend Schedule". Anime News Network. January 16, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
  3. Interview with Cathy Hirano
  4. "Geneon Snags "Moribito", Original novels coming too". animeOnline. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
  5. "Schedule". Adult Swim. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  6. "Viz Media Adds Moribito Fantasy Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
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