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Interview with novelist Nahoko Uehashi

Nahoko Uehashi
Assistant professor of Kawamura Gakuen Women's University, specialized in the Australian aborigines. Uehashi writes unique fantasy novels from the viewpoint of cultural anthropology. Her career as a novelist started with Seirei no Ki (Tree of the Spirit, 1989), and continued with Tsuki no mori ni, Kami yo nemure (Sleep in the Woods of the Moon, Oh God, 1991, 25th New Artist Award) and Koteki no Kanata (Beyond the Fox's Flute, 2003, 42nd Noma Children's Books Award). The Asian syle fantasy epic Moribito (Guardian) series started in 1996, and is still expanding today. The whole corpus counts now 10 volumes, that grossed 400,000 copies sold in Japan. The Guardian series has also received many awards, including Noma Children's Books Award, Sankei Children's Book Award, Nippon Broadcasting System Award and Iwaya Sazanami Literary Award.

When I first read the original story, I was totally impressed by the characters who lived powerfully and positively with an innate, down to earth vitality.
(Kenji Kamiyama)

It's been ten years since the book Guardian of the Spirit was first published. How do you feel about your novel being adapted into a different media by other people?
I've heard quite often that the original author is never content with an anime based on his or her book. But I, to set a precedent, feel that the anime Guardian of the Spirit is wonderful from the bottom of my heart. I am so happy that they've created it in such a way. I think you can see why when you watch the show. The staff is not concerned about being catchy or cute, but they have faithfully recreated the world of Guardian of the Spirit in detail.

Nevertheless, from a novel to an animated show, the storytelling style changes radically.
My field of study is cultural anthropology, and one thing that people from every corner of the world have in common is definitely the love for telling stories of any variety and kind. But people don't simply create stories. They express them in many different communicative forms such as music and paintings. I find this very interesting. So I am extremely happy that my own story has encouraged a talented director like Kenji Kamiyama to create "something" and was actually transformed into an anime. After watching 26 episodes, I think the viewers would feel they saw a unique piece of work that they'd never experienced before.

How would you describe Balsa, the protagonist?
I just can't bear the cliché of "an innocent child becomes a grown-up and loses something important." It doesn't happen that way. I think it's wonderful that because one matures, one can protect someone and live on through gaining various experiences. In other words, grown-ups are so cool because they are grown-ups. And I wanted to write that in my story. That's why I created Balsa. Director Kamiyama's Balsa represents precisely what I wanted her to be. I hope you will look forward to and embrace the entire series.

© Nahoko UEHASHI/KAISEI-SHA/Guardian of the Spirit Committee