Also known as Seirei no Moribito and Guardian of the Sacred Spirit
After finally getting around to reading, collating stuff from the novel + anime, and tweaking, here’s a little review of book 1, as promised. ^^
In this entry, I won’t be writing a detailed summary of the book since the story is pretty much the same as the anime adaptation (save for several anime-original episodes). I just included some of the story’s highlights and some of my notes/comments that I jotted down while reading the book. I also compared the book a bit with the anime adaptation by Production IG (yes, I re-watched the series while/after reading, too :3)…
So, um, if you haven’t read the book or seen the series: **SPOILERS ALERT**
A QUICK 411…. Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito) is the 1st of 10 books in the Moribito series written by Nahoko Uehashi. It was first published in Japan in 1996. It was translated into English by Cathy Hirano with illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, which was published in North America by Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine in 2008.
The book’s art was pretty good (although I very much prefer the character design by Gatou Asou that was used in the anime adaptation). The book also has some pretty classy page designs with a blue color theme, and a dark blue font to boot. It also has a helpful “list of characters” and “list of places and terms” in the latter pages of the book, followed by a note from the author. The novel is divided into 3 parts and an epilogue.
Part 1 (The Chrysalis) has 5 chapters: It starts with Balsa saving Chagum from drowning and ends with the fight against the elite warriors. Part 2 (Rarunga) has 5 chapters: It starts with Tanda rescuing Balsa and tending to her injuries and ends with the reunion with Torogai and getting ready to move to the hunting cave for the winter. Part 3 (Midsummer’s Day) has 9 chapters: It starts with the events at the hunting cave and ends with the successful birth of the water spirit and Chagum’s return to the palace. The Epilogue indicates that Balsa is going back to Kanbal [which will be the main story of the 2nd book, Guardian of the Darkness (Yami no Moribito), which I’ll also write a review/summary of].
RANDOM NOTES/COMMENTS WHILE READING THE BOOK:
- In book 1, Tanda is 28, Balsa is 30, Shuga is 20, Chagum is 11 (turned 12 over winter), Toya is around 15-16 years old, Torogai is around 70.
- Jiguro was mentioned in passing as early as part 2, chapter I
- Tanda wasn’t introduced until part 2, chapter 1 when he came to rescue Balsa and attend to her injuries (he visited town and passed by Toya and Saya’s place in episode 1).
- In the book, Balsa has more sense of humor and a bit more affectionate
- Sagum, the First Prince, was not mentioned until part 2, chapter II
- Toya and Saya only appeared in part 1 of the book (they got much more screentime in the anime).
- After saving Chagum from drowning, there was no hostile encounter with soldiers looking for Balsa. Part 1 chapter 2 begins with Balsa already at the palace as the Second Queen’s guest to show gratitude for saving Chagum.
- The Second Queen wrote to Master Torogai to ask about Chagum’s condition; Torogai replied that Chagum can survive if he manages to keep the water spirit alive until the midsummer solstice.
- More detailed backstory regarding Toragaru, the first Mikado and founder of the New Yogo Empire.
- No earring memento from the Second Queen to Chagum (as seen in episode 1).
- In the book, Balsa didn’t mention her vow of saving 8 lives to the Second Queen.
- In the book, there was an incident of Chagum sleepwalking while they were hiding in Toya’s place. When Balsa wakes him up, he says he had the urge to “go home” (to the water). In the anime, Chagum glowed and seemed like he was having a bad dream so Balsa woke him up.
- More detailed backstory on how Balsa saved Toya and Saya and became friends with them, with emphasis on Balsa’s kindness despite her fierceness and toughness.
- No mention of hiding the treasure she received from the Second Queen (she hid some of it somewhere near Toya’s house and in a graveyard(?) in the anime). In book 2, it was mentioned in passing that Balsa entrusted it to Tanda for safekeeping.
- It was noted that Balsa wears a leather vest underneath her clothes, which is wrapped around her torso and functions as something like an armor to minimize body injury while fighting.
- Elite warriors’ descendants, each called by number (which serves as their codenames while in the Mikado’s elite force) Mon = 1, Jin = 2, Zen = 3, all the way to Sune = 8. They did all the secret missions and stuff for the Mikado.
- Pretty detailed description of the fight against the 4 elite warriors sent to kill Balsa and retrieve Chagum, making it sound a tad bit more brutal in the book, like when Balsa injured one of the warriors in the face with her blade (though not too brutal since it’s classified as children’s literature ;P). The fight scenes were awesome in the book, but they were even more awesome to see animated! ^_^
- There was no mention of Balsa’s loose spear blade while fighting nor did it come flying off (as seen in episode 3… probably added for a more dramatic effect, and as a segue for the swordsmith episode).
- When they were attacked, Balsa did not tell Chagum to run into the forest (as seen in episode 3). Instead, she fought the elite warriors while Chagum was somewhere near them.
- Balsa did not have a Jiguro hallucination while she was almost dying in the forest (as seen in episode 3).
- No Jin backstory, and no trying to kill Chagum himself to spare the Mikado the grief of having to kill his own son (as seen in episode 3). Mon was the one whose backstory was mentioned in the book (i.e., a previous mission he did as an assassin for the Mikado, how Mon’s father trained him as his successor to serve in the elite force while he was still a kid, etc.)
- In the book, Jin witnesses the power of the water spirit’s egg while walking along the river on the way to the Star Palace’s secret entrance to take Chagum to the Mikado.
- Balsa gets Chagum back after a spear vs. sword fight with Jin (in episode 3, she somewhat sneaks up on him and smacks his head with a stone, knocking him out).
- Tanda knows quite a bit about Nyunga Ro Im as he was told a tale about it by his grandmother. Remembers being told that the one who carries the creature will die if he fails to protect the spirit’s egg.
- It wasn’t until part 2 of the book when Balsa’s vow was mentioned (Tanda mentioned it in passing to Chagum, although he did not tell Chagum the details, saying it should be Balsa to do that).
- Backstory from Nina regarding the nahji, water spirit, and Rarunga was in the book but adapted differently in the anime. In the book, it was just Tanda who went to visit his grandfather’s Yakoo friends. Also, there was no incident of Chagum attempting to run away with Nina (as seen in episode 18).
- No manhunt for Balsa, and no “fake death” for Balsa and Chagum (as seen in episodes 5 and 6). Generally speaking, episodes 5 to 17 were anime-original episodes.
- In the anime, it was mentioned that Balsa and Tanda had an argument about her killing others to save someone else’s life, and since then Balsa had never killed an opponent again. I’m not too sure, but I don’t remember that part being mentioned in the book (I’d have to double check it when I read it again).
- In the book, the First Prince, Sagum, was never close with Chagum. In fact Sagum disdained Chagum. In the anime, they were quite close with each other.
- Karuna Yonsa – Balsa’s father, physician to the King of Kanbal; friends with Jiguro. His daughter’s life was threatened by Prince Rogsam if Karuna refused to poison the King (Rogsam’s brother).
- In book 1 , Jiguro Musa was a martial arts instructor to Kanbal’s evil Rogsam. (Book 2 elaborates on this: Jiguro was one of the King’s 9 spears and the best of them all. He was also the martial arts instructor to Rogsam)
- More Tanda x Balsa moments… ~hooray! ^_^
- At the hunting cave, Chagum becomes frustrated about his forced duty to be the guardian of the spirit. It came to the point when he yelled a lot and tended to be very irritable towards everyone.
- Much more Shuga screentime and involvement in the anime. In the entirety of the book, Shuga never met Balsa. He just stayed in the Star Palace to decipher the secret tome. He did not accompany the elite warriors to fight against Rarunga and save Chagum (as seen in episode 23). However, like in the anime, Shuga was basically a good guy who wishes for Chagum’s safety and to learn as much as he can from Yakoo wisdom to improve his knowledge.
- In the book, during the midsummer solstice, Mon took Torogai to the Star Palace in the Capital to talk to the Master Star Reader (Shuga talked to Torogai in his Master’s place). It was only Jin and Zen who went with Tanda and Balsa to pursue Chagum and fight the Rarunga. The other elite warriors got injured when the Rarunga previously attacked. In the anime, Shuga went with the warriors to the place of celebration and met Torogai there, while the 4 elite warrios assisted Balsa in protecting Chagum from Rarunga.
- Different circumstance why Torogai contacted Tanda through the water dwellers… While having a conversation with Torogai at the Star Palace, she and Shuga realize that Sahnan is the place of celebration. Since they won’t make it in time if they travel to Sahnan from the capital, so Torogai contacted Tanda through the water dwellers.
- When Chagum drank the Sig Salua nectar to attract the Rarunga, it was noted that he reeked of Sig Salua’s scent afterwards, which was why the Rarunga manages to track him.
- No mention of Balsa, Tanda, Jin, and Zen drinking the nectar of Sig Salua (as seen in episode 24). In the book, Tanda can see the Rarunga because he was a magic weaver apprentice. I have no idea how Balsa, Jin and Zen could see and fight the Rarunga (or I might have missed it, I’ll check again when I re-read it).
- Fight against Rarunga is much more dramatic in the anime, but more kicka$$ fighting details in the book, especially Balsa’s and Tanda’s heroic efforts.
- Water spirit’s egg popped out of Chagum’s mouth on its own; no need for it to be extracted. Also, it was Tanda who threw the egg up in the air to be retrieved by the nahji (in episode 25, Tanda and Balsa extracted the egg from Chagum’s body and it was Balsa who threw it to the nahji)
- Most of the dialogue in the final episode were in the book including the talk they were having at the campfire and the “Farewell, Chagum” part, but there was no order from the Mikado to assassinate Balsa after saving Chagum. Also, Balsa and company did not go back to the palace with Chagum nor were they rewarded. They parted ways and said their goodbyes at the Yamakage Bridge since only royalty and their servants are allowed to cross it.
- Except for Toya and Saya’s appearance in the final episode, the book’s Epilogue was pretty much the same in the anime: With Balsa on her way to Kanbal, walking in the rain and saying she would have loved to have eaten some of Tanda’s vegetable stew before she left.
There’s only so much I can take while going back and forth with reading the book, re-watching the series and taking notes, then re-reading the book… so kindly pardon me if I might have forgotten to include some of the other differences and details.
Impressions: While reading the book, I realized that there are actually quite a number of anime-original episodes/”fillers” — like the one with the swordsmith, Toya teaching Chagum to be an ordinary boy, Saya’s soul leaving her body, Balsa and Chagum faking their deaths… — basically from episodes 5 to 17. Shuga, Toya, Saya, and Jin had more screentime and they tinkered a bit with Shuga and Jin while not including Mon’s backstory. It seems that some of the events were excerpts from the book, and Production IG expanded the story to explain stuff. These episodes were probably supposed to help explain the situation and explore the characters’ personalities to add more depth to the characters.
In this regard, I think most of those anime-original episodes served their purpose (although as much as I absolutely love the anime adaptation to bits, there were still a couple of episodes that I think I’d rather they didn’t include as “fillers”). I liked how they connected the swordsmith in episode 8 with Balsa and Jiguro’s story; I thought that helped the viewers to understand better all the trouble Balsa and Jiguro went through for most of their life while running away from Rogsam’s evilness. I also liked episode 11 which involved the Sig Salua blossom that was the key to Saya’s soul returning to her body. I thought that gave a pretty good insight to how the world of Nayug and Sagu are connected and showed us a way how one can cross over in between. It also helped explain how Balsa, Tanda and the warriors were able to see and fight the Rarunga, since how they managed to see and touch the Rarunga in the book was not explained much.
So, overall, despite the filler episodes, I think Production IG did a good job in tying these fillers with the episodes directly adapted from the book, because by the time the anime ended, the dots in the storyline were connected.
Also of note, with regard to more details in Balsa and Jiguro’s backstory, it appears to me that IG included excerpts from book 2 (like the details of the conspiracy to poison the King of Kanbal, Rogsam’s evilness, Balsa’s vow to save eight souls while Jiguro was in his deathbed, to name a few).
In rough summary, here’s what the anime adaptation covered from the 1st book:
- Episode 1 (part 1, chapters I and II)
- Episode 2 (part 1, chapters III and IV)
- Episode 3 (part 1, chapters V and VI)
- Episode 4 (part 2, chapters I, II and III)
- Episodes 5 to 17 (anime original episodes), although some of the events in episodes 14 to 16 were mentioned in the book (like Shuga deciphering the secret tomes and learning more about the water spirit and Sagum’s death), but it seems Production IG added in most of the other details. So, in general, I think these episodes were anime original with bits of excerpts from the book.
- Episodes 18 and 19 (part 2, chapter IV with some excerpts from part 3, chapter III)
- Episodes 20 to 22 (part 3, chapters I, II and III, with some excerpts from parts 1 and 2 from book 2)
- Episode 23 (part 3, chapter IV with some excerpts from chapter III)
- Episode 24 (part 3, chapter V, VI, VII)
- Episode 25 (part 3, chapter VIII)
- Episode 26 (part 3, chapter IX and Epilogue)
- see episode list
I hope my chapter-to-episode estimates are accurate enough (I’m probably about 90.7% sure… ^^;)
TO WRAP IT UP… Except for the anime-original episodes and a few other stuff that were changed, I think the anime adaptation was as faithful as it could be with the book.
It’s actually quite a good read and I enjoyed it, although I might be a bit biased since I’m fond of reading children’s literature and I totally loved the animated series. ;P
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