Dear Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano and Yuko Shimizu,

Moribito II:  Guardian of the Darkness – Nahoko Uehashi, trans. Cathy Hirano, illust. Yuko Shimizu – 272 pages

“For many years, through countless fights, Balsa has survived. The evil King Rogsam tried to kill her when she was only six. Eight assassins pursued her in the long flight that followed. But her mentor, Jiguro, protected her until his death, and then Balsa became a bodyguard herself, helping other people survive the challenges they face. When she returns to her native country of Kanbal, she hopes to see Jiguro’s family and her own for the first time in many years. But what should be a simple visit of truth and reconciliation becomes a fight for her life when she learns that King Rogsam framed Jiguro for the deaths of the eight assassins—as well as a crime that threatens the very existence of Kanbal. With the help of two Kanbalese children, Balsa must unwind the conspiracy surrounding Jiguro and the mystery of the Guardians of the Darkness, before it’s too late.”  –from

Ever since I picked up the first Moribito, Balsa has been a personal heroine who remains very close to my heart.  I think part of it is that though Moribito and now Moribito II are definitely YA, Balsa herself is very close to me in age.  She’s a young woman who isn’t old enough to settle down with the childhood friend who loves her, and who still has a lot of journeying to do before she figures out what she’s doing with herself, but she also isn’t young enough to be carefree.  In the first book, she started as a bodyguard to a runaway child prince, and wound up a little more maternal than I think she might have planned; in Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, she must face her past and shoulder the responsibility of redeeming her family and her dead sensei and guardian.  She walks the line between typical YA heroine and grown-up really nicely, in a way I can really identify with.

Anyway, I love Balsa, and I think by writing through a nearing-30-year-old protagonist, you’re capturing a kind of story that wouldn’t necessarily happen otherwise.  I read YA partly because I love stories of teens saving the day and doing things on their own and being capable, but this has a different (and entirely pleasant) feel.  That said, I wonder how Balsa comes off to a teen audience–do they care that she’s almost thirty?  Would someone who isn’t 27 herself not find it different?  I wonder.

This is turning into a very long ramble, but it’s because I really like this book, I love Balsa, and I find the translation really interesting.  I’m sure I’ve said this before, but there’s a certain quality of storytelling in YA I’ve read translated from Japanese that I find different from American YA lit, and I don’t know if it’s just the way any Japanese prose is when translated to English, or if it’s specific to what I’ve read…but it’s always a really different experience, sort of distant but still totally engaging at the same time.  Also, let’s not forget, the art was just as breathtaking in this volume as it was in the first–the whole design of the book is beautiful, and I want to shove it in the faces of everyone who owns a Kindle and say “here, look at this, can you get this on a machine?”

So, without a doubt, five stars again for you three and for Balsa!



Wanna check out this title for yourself?  Try the Indie Bound or ABC bookstore finders!


8 Responses to Dear Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano and Yuko Shimizu,

  1. Yuko says:

    This is so nice of you. Thank you so much. I read both of the books thoroughly (in Japanese) before illustrating, and I was surprised how deep the message of the stories were. I especially enjoyed the second one as well. I agree. These books are not just for kids. I hope the rest of the series get published in the US as well.

    • abigapple says:

      Oh, I’m really glad you somehow stumbled on my review! Your art in these books is so beautiful, it really enhances the whole experience. Thanks so much for the comment, it’s wonderful to know you got my letter. 🙂

    • abigapple says:

      I almost forgot–your covers on The Unwritten are so amazing, too! I always look forward to seeing what the next cover will look like.

  2. Cathy says:

    Thanks from me, too! I stumbled across this by accident but am really glad I did. It makes the translating worth while to know that people read and love the books and Balsa like I do. (And Yuko Shimizu’s artwork is awesome!)

    • abigapple says:

      I’m glad you stumbled across it, too! I’ve read a lot of fiction in translation lately, and it’s made me appreciate more fully how difficult that must be to do with both linguistic and stylistic accuracy. Are you working on further Balsa novels? I’m quite attached to her now! 😉

      Thanks for stopping by to comment!

    • I have long been an Uehashi fan myself, and just stumbled across this site. It seems an awful lot of people are stumbling in here, no?

      Cathy, I would very much like to talk to you, but your SWET email doesn’t seem to work any more. Could you possibly drop me an email direct?
      Edward Lipsett

    • Scot Eaton says:

      First, I’d like to say that I agree with everything in this article, and wish I would have written it myself.

      Second, Cathy, I have been searching around on the internet for almost a half hour trying to find a way to contact you and offer you encouragement. Sometimes, I wonder whether the brilliance of this book comes from Uehashi’s writing style or your own. Without a doubt, your translations are the best I have ever read in any genre. I’m also wondering what I can do to help see this series put back into publication. What can I do that will make Scholastic listen?

      Feel free to email me with a response, or just reply here. My email is scot.eaton [at]

  3. Felipe Villela says:

    I’m certainly without words at finding Cathy and Yuko here.
    I can really say that, like abigapple, I hold balsa very close to my heart.

    For some time I tried to find someone here in brazil that I could pay to translate the third book for me, but the prices are totally out of my reach. I love the series so much that I want to learn Japanese just so I can read it all!

    I searched many times about the third book translation but never found much info. It’s been an year and 8 months now since the first book. I just sent an email to Arthur A. Levine Books about the continuation of the series, then I found this site.

    Thanks a lot for all you guys work.

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