Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (精霊の守り人 Seirei no Moribito?) is the first in the ten volume Guardian (守り人 Moribito?) series of Japanese fantasy novels, written 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. The series premiered on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block 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. It has returned to Adult Swim during Summer 2009 for the entire series run.
Balsa the spear woman is a wandering warrior, who takes on the task of saving lives in atonement for a past sin. On her journey, she happens to save a prince and is tasked with becoming his bodyguard. Her services as bodyguard become necessary, as his father, the emperor, wants him dead.
- (*) denotes original characters added in the TV animation.
- A skilled warrior from the faraway land of Kanbal. 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. She is 30 years old. 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.She becomes attached to Chagum.
- The second prince of the Imperial Family. Chagum bears the egg of the water 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, hired 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. The real demon that his ancestors defeated was a creature that seeks to consume the egg before it can hatch.He becomes emotionally attached to Balsa.
- His life is the last for Balsa's atonement to be finished.
- An herbalist who lives in the mountains. His skill as a shaman is lacking, but he is a good doctor due to always having to stitch up Balsa after her many battles. He also works as a traveling medicine man, trading his wares with the local towns and cities. He has a crush on Balsa.
- An old shaman and Tanda's teacher. 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.
- 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 and she later 'inherited' his spear after he died.
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".
- 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. She has a crush on Toya.
- The Blue Hand* (Aoi-te)
- A slave trader acquainted with Balsa. Balsa buys slaves from him to serve as decoys when escaping from the manhunt.
- 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.
The Palace (Ōgi-no-Kami)
- Mikado (The Emperor)
- 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 a Water Spirit), and the belief that only the Emperor knows this method.
- Ni-no-Kisaki (The Second Empress)
- Mother to Chagum, she was the one who requested Balsa to become Chagum's bodyguard.
- Ichi-no-Kisaki (The First Empress)
- (In the anime) Chagum's older brother. 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.
- Chagum's tutor; the youngest master star diviner in history. He is amongst 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.
- Sagum's tutor, later entrusted by Shuga with the responsibility of organizing the translations of the Secret Tome.
The Hunters (Karyūdo)
- Mon (No.1)
- One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve prince Chagum after Balsa leaves with him. Head of the hunters.
- Jin (No.2)
- One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve prince 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 favour in return for the kindness that the prince showed him earlier in his life.
- Zen (No.3)
- One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve prince Chagum after Balsa leaves with him.
- Yun (No.4)
- One of the initial pursuers sent to retrieve prince 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 Toya's record books and completely memorized the contents.
- Sune* Also one of the warrior's and is very skilled when it comes to archery.
- Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Spirit) (ISBN 978-4035401506, 1996-07) (Bunko ISBN 978-4101302720, 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.
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 premièred 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 have acquired the license to the anime and Scholastic announced they have US distribution rights to the novels. After Geneon discontinued its 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.
As of June 13, 2009, the series is back on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in the United States at 1:30am Sundays, but was moved to 2:30a.m. Eastern time, swapping it with Fullmetal Alchemist in November.
- Media Blasters Rescues Seirei no Moribito License
- "Adult Swim Removed Moribito from Weekend Schedule". Anime News Network. January 16, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
- Interview with Cathy Hirano
- "Geneon Snags "Moribito", Original novels coming too". animeOnline. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
- (Japanese) official site of the novels
- (Japanese) official site of the anime
- (Japanese) Production I.G. site
- Production I.G. site
- Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia