This series is so good that when it ends at episode 45 you'll find yourself wishing for more, I know most who have seen it feel like this.
It starts off innocently with Yoko being accosted at school by a handsome man with long blonde hair who wants to swear allegiance to her. Before she knows it, monsters?!? are attacking her, she's being defended by Keiki, she won't leave her friends and suddenly Yoko and the 2 friends she won't leave have been sucked into another world. Thus begins our journey into the magical land of the 12 kingdoms.
I admit, after the dramatic beginning, I was
expecting this to be like the Escaflowne/El-Hazard type of series. That impression was swept away in under 10 minutes. Escaflowne is a good anime, but 12 Kingdoms is a Great anime.
What sets 12 Kingdoms apart is the detailed explanation of the political, social, economic and philosophical aspects of the kingdom. As the episodes progress, you learn how the kingdoms are organized, why they are structured the way they are, and the good and bad things about each type of government. I've never heard it explained better in any other anime.
The story and characters really suck you in. The more they reveal, the more you want to know and you're eagerly looking forward to each episode to see how the character's will react, secretly hoping for some of them to "grow up", others to "snap out of it", and actually even hoping for a few to "just die". At the beginning, I really wanted to slap Yoko a few times while shouting "deal with it". But by the end of the series Yoko has become the heroine that people identify with and they root for her. There are pivotal scenes that make you stand up and cheer in joy.
There aren't any extraneous "filler" secondary characters. While the motivations of some aren't revealed till much later, for the most part you can understand and sympathize with the "good" secondary characters and grow to hate the "bad guys".
The fantasy world created by the writer is capable of much more exploration via this anime. The plot has many other directions it can go in. Even though the series ended at 45 episodes, I know a lot of us 12 Kingdoms fans would be really happy if they made another 45 episodes as there is still a ton of unused potential - including all the other "unexplored" kingdoms, not to mention the rest of the black kirin story.
Watch this great anime but be prepared to feel sad at the end because there isn't any more to watch! The only flaw it has is that it ended too early.
I decided to start watching the anime The Twelve Kingdoms more out of convenience than genuine enthusiasm - the character designs and the general look of the show lulled me into dismissing it as a generic fantasy anime - an uncharming mix of demon-slaying and silliness (like the terminally unwatchable Orphen). But I was proved wrong, as the show quickly enthralled me, with a beginning that may not have promised a sophisticated story, but which was loaded with hooks to capture its audience: immediately interesting characterisation, a sense of urgency and bewildered excitement, and some original fantasy ideas and elements. Firmly hooked, I embarked on
a story that proved to be rapidly expansive, emotionally gripping, and unrelentingly interesting. Not only was I affected by the gritty profundity of the characters’ plights but I was consistently impressed by the many fascinating details that were woven into the story to bring the fantasy world to life, especially things that the fantasy genre often overlooks.
Much like I found the overlapping worlds of Seirei no Moribito to be an interesting concept, I really enjoyed the way this world of The Twelve Kingdoms was mythically linked to our own - and how the cultural response to the kaikyaku (people from our world who fall into theirs with the passing of a mystical storm) is handled. Although the world has its fantastical oddities and mysteries, the peoples that populate it, their trials and tribulations, their feelings of animosity and companionship, are inescapably human, bringing the creative setting to life with a sense of believability and depth. This is when fantasy is at its best as far as I’m concerned - you can shove as many wizards and dragons into a story as you like and it’ll fall flat without an edge of humanness. For example, I loved the fact that the world had its own language, and that the language barrier between Kaikyaku and the native populace was of great significance, and that the world is filled with as many people eager to take advantage of you as there are apt to be helpful and friendly. The differences in ideologies and cultural outlooks from one kingdom to the next also lend the world a greater sense of realism. All these things combine to create a setting that is alive and vibrant, and easy to become attached to, as one becomes attached to a real city or country with personality.
Unfortunately, the dialogue is often stilted and seemingly unnatural (apparently every character is perfectly able to slip into a casual introspective monologue at the drop of a hat), and at the micro level, there are several small inconsistencies and poorly handled plot points dotted throughout the series which are sometimes distracting. Overall though, the story is woven together with deft hands. The series always has a strong sense of direction and an epic scope, with a story that deals with countless characters across many kingdoms, and yet which never seems bogged down, convoluted or tangential. Many anime series with fantastic plot seem to be unable to write it in a way so that the characters become emotionally involved in a profound way - but The Twelve Kingdoms really stands out from the crowd in this respect. Perhaps this is even more of an achievement given the length of the series - whereas most anime seem drawn out at 26 episodes, this show charges its way veraciously through its plot, with almost no filler to be seen. The only thing I could call filler would be the too frequent use of recapping. Perhaps it’s just because I watched the series in such quick succession, but it really did seem that there was too much time spent showing bits of previous episodes over again. The single biggest gaping flaw in the story is the lack of conclusion in Taiki’s story (leaving me looking to the novels). But for this, the story is wrapped up nicely, even without the originally planned continuation pending further novel releases.
The production on the series is very well done - far from perfect but, given the length of the series and the scale of the story, I think the studio (Studio Pierrot) did a good job at producing it. The character designs are all very well detailed and attractive, and the battle scenes (excluding the bigger army battles, which would be impossible to animate properly on a tv budget) look really good, occasionally exceptional with brutal choreography and fluid animation. As was typical of this vintage, there are numerous shortcuts taken in the animation and many imperfections, but some leeway has to be given unless one wants to declare all tv anime before digicel to be badly done excluding Bebop. The background art fits the bill, with nice and detailed scenery and a sense of exoticness to the landscape. Beyond a satisfactory visual render for the show, there isn’t much more of note to the production elements, other than perhaps some of the music, which is used sparingly but to good effect. The main theme, which plays in the opening is a great little piece, with an inviting sense of heroism and adventure to it. The voice acting shouldn’t be overlooked, with some voices well and truly making their characters; the sympathetic Taiki, the soft-spoken elegance of the Mt Hou sages, the unbashful heroism of Shoryu, and the earnest performance for the lead character, Youko, whose transformation from an insincere and insecure high school girl to a battle-worn Empress is handled with impressive believability.
Enhanced, no doubt, by these performances, the characterisation and character development in The Twelve Kingdoms is another of its triumphs. With one of the most memorable young heroines in anime, Yoko Nakajima, who is simultaneously easy to relate to and awe inspiring, and a large cast of supporting characters, each of whom have a distinct and interesting personality, this series is a joy to watch for those of us who love stories that flesh out their characters. You’ll swing from feeling pride at your favourite characters’ triumphs, to heart-wrench as they endure hardship and persecution, and lots in between. At the end of the series, you’ll be sad to see the curtains close because it will mean saying goodbye to a cast you have become attached to, whether because they are just likable or because you’ve empathised with them and watched them grow emotionally. I know I finished the series just wishing there’d be more so I could see what happens to Taiki, and what kind of rule Youko will uphold as a full-fledged Empress.
In conclusion, the series is good wholesome entertainment, with strengths in the most important fields of storytelling: plot, and character. The production won’t make your eyes widen, but it keeps up with the rest of the series. Every now and then, things feel a bit disjointed or the writing seems a little forced or unnatural, but with 45 episodes there’s plenty of content to redeem its missteps. Some arcs are more consistently gripping than others, but none of them should ever bore, and all of them had me on the edge of my seat at their climax. When I say arcs, there are only 3 major arcs, and each of them overlap, so don’t think it’s “episodic” in any way. I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy or who is just in search of an anime they can really sink their teeth into: a good old fashioned tale which is neither frivolous nor pretentious.
I started watching this series because so many people said it was like "Saiunkoku Monogatari" (which I love). But, it isn't. In fact, it's nothing like it. Sure they are both Fantasy, with Historical setting. But that's about it as far as comparisons.
At the start I was pretty turned off by the series. I found the lead character, Youko Nakajima, to be utterly annoying. It didn't help any that she cried and cried for like the first 12 episodes straight (okay, maybe 7). But when that was done with, and the new world that we are presented with is explored and explained, things started to
The characters for the most part are pretty interesting. I especially liked Keiki (Youko's Kerin - think man that can turn into what looks like a unicorn), Shouryuu ( King En), Rokuta ( Shouryu's Kerin), Rakushun (a guy that's really a rat) and many more. The characters all have some sort of substance, a majority of them have experienced some kind of hardship. You get to see most of them achieve such sincere growth that I for one couldn't help but to smile at how they turned out after their individual journeys.
The plot of the story is pretty good as well, and the ideas that went into developing the backdrop are to be commended - the author was very imaginative - it works.
However, this series was far too long than was necessary. A few episodes were nothing but recaps of previous episodes, and when i say a few I mean more than 1,2,3,4.... That was annoying and really a waste.
There were quite a few side stories in the entire series (which is good) except one of the most major stories was never resolved. It was simply left...open..I kept wondering if somehow it flew past me and I didn't realize, but after looking back thoroughly, I can say nothing came of it. I am talking about Taiki, the Kirin who disappeared along with his King. This was the start of a great side story, and it was disappointing to see that it wasn't followed through.
Instead of wasting so much film to recap past episodes, surely it could have been used to do better justice to the novel and resolve Taiki's story.
And to conclude, the very last episode was by far the worst episode of them all. All it did was pretty much recap the previous 2 episodes...word for word, picture for picture. If you watch episode 43 and 44, you've watched episode 45. Keiki, who is a very instrumental character, was pretty much left out of a majority of the episodes, and wasn't even granted the respect of being shown at the end.
So, while this was a good story, with awesome characters, it's not a show that I would be inclined to watch again, nor can i say it was enjoyable.
On a good note, I've decided to go out and get the novel. So I guess the anime has done it's job to get me interested in the original source.
If an anime is cancelled before it finishes, can you still hold its lack of completeness against it? This is a question that I am groping for an answer for. The thing is, I can see a huge spread of problems with Juuni Kokuki but I can also see some real plus points too. For a series in which a character says “half of life is hardship, the other half happiness”, it certainly lives by its word.
An oft-repeated phrase when you look at any halfway decent review of this series is ‘character development’, and to a certain extent this is
true. The extent to which the characters change across the series, and the difference between them when they enter and when they leave the story, is in truth fairly striking compared to most other anime. However it seems a little bit like a mistake to call it development in all cases. With unfortunate frequency, characters stumble from one hitch to another and simply have total changes of their emotional alignment. First a character wants to meet the queen, then she decides that’s a daft idea, then she wants the queen to heal her friend, then she wants to kill her, then she decides she’s OK after all and supports her. All of this is very sudden and pretty much lacking in a rational grounding, meaning most of the characters come across as reactionary, incredibly irresolute and lacking in anything like consistency. Youko’s an exception to this, for the lamentably common reason that, since she’s the main character, everything revolves around her. Sadly this means it takes her the entire third story arc to finally decide to do several things that were such obvious solutions to her problems that I felt compelled to shout them at her when she failed to do them in the first episode of that story.
This development is also somewhat undermined when certain characters develop nicely, others develop and then abruptly fall out of the overall story permanently, still others have believable characterisation become a victim of storytelling convenience, and a pivotal supporting character throughout the entire series completely fails to develop at all, remaining resolutely reticent and daft in a way that I suspected (and was later proven correct in my suspicions) was occuring solely to make the story happen. Nonetheless, despite the problems, the development of many of the characters, especially Youko, is compelling, and remains so throughout the series.
Juuni Kokuki has four story arcs; the first and best is broadly a setup arc, but the second, while interesting, is not only almost entirely unrelated but also incomplete. The third picks up events shortly after the first arc by dint of transforming the story into a novel but tortuous take on the ‘unskilled outsider suddenly gains power, learns to deal with it’ type of story, and the fourth is both unrelated to the main plot and largely uninteresting, not to mention short. This basically means that filler episodes are avoided entirely, in favour of entire filler arcs, and seems a pretty unconventional treatment of narrative. This is of course not a bad thing per se, but given the huge gaps in subjective time for the audience, waiting as they are to find out how the story all fits together and ultimately not actually finding out, this comes across as a failed experiment, and the second and fourth arcs seem in retrospect to just be in the way of the ‘real’ plot. In actual fact, this is faithful to the novels, in which Youko takes a smaller role - for the anime she, along with many other characters, was promoted in importance. However you can't have it both ways, and in trying I feel the series suffers somewhat.
One further impediment to the series’ ability to connect with the audience is its shotgun approach to language. Most characters have two names at least (some several more), many names and terms are apparently established, then apparently discarded for large tracts of time, and suddenly reclaimed for use just as unexpectedly, and the audience is expected to keep up with this. Presumably this is why it was decided to make the first recap episode take the form of one character teaching the protagonist the meaning of many of these. Not only that, but most of these names and terms are Chinese-derived, so they sound and feel significantly different from Japanese and, since I have somewhat developed an ear for Japanese thanks to anime, for me at least, they completely fail to stick in the mind. So when the Taiki sends a Kaikyaku through a Shoku from Kei to Wa because they are Taika (or something), you might have to give up on understanding and just say “whatever” to yourself. I’m sure this is a brilliant way to paper over logical cracks. If you find yourself loving this series, you might want to seek out Wikipedia’s list of Juuni Kokuki terminology and use it as a cheat sheet – I certainly wish I had.
Narrative structure is further toyed with by Juuni Kokuki in the unusual way it adapts a long story to an episodic format, in that it doesn’t. That is to say, at the end of the episode, the scene simply ends and the ending credits play; no attempt to create a climax or cliffhanger is made for the majority of the series. Next episode, the opening credits play, a small recap plays and the story picks up where it left off. This makes it pretty good for marathons or binge watches, and tends to instill that ‘just one more episode…’ feeling in a way that narrative buildups, which fairly often end up cumbersome and obvious, fail to, at least for me.
Fantasy fiction is hard to do well, and in my view requires a very solid systematic vision of the stories’ universe and how it all interrelates to actually work well. This generally is why I like fantasy novels but detest games with fantasy settings – narrative in games may be improving greatly, but it still has many a country mile to go to catch up with literature. The biggest problem fantasy game narrative has is its tendency to deus ex machina their way out of every problem with a combination of magic and arbitrary rules, while those are generally impossible to pull off without committing obvious fail in print. That Juuni Kokuki comes from novels, I thought, would work in its favour. This is indeed true for maybe the first ten or so episodes, the best part of the series in my opinion, until the giant deus ex machina silliness appears. This is fundamental to both the story and my opinion of it, so the next paragraph will discuss this in terms that cannot exist outside spoiler warnings.
The inhabitants of the Twelve Kingdoms do not have children like us. There’s basically a kind of tree that grows them whenever a couple make a formal wish. Yes, babies grow on trees. Animals too. The people, therefore, do not have babies, or make love in any way – yet there is still marriage and parentage, and the family seems to function in a very familiar way. There are even brothels for some reason. Procreation is such a giant part of living creatures behaviour, not to mention biology, that I just can’t let this go. When this appeared in the story, it was like a giant flashing caption saying THIS IS JUST A STORY had appeared; I knew then that whatever else this series did, by asking the audience to swallow this ill-conceived (ahem), wholly unnecessary and, frankly, bullshit story device, it wasn’t going to be able to dig itself out of the pit of Just Plain Ridiculous that it had dug itself. All the subsequent explanation of this as a world in which the gods take a much more active role than ours falls flat for me, coming across as an excuse, plain and simple.
I first began to suspect that this would happen when I saw the world map, but until this deus ex machina bombing occurred, I had some hope for this being credible. That being said, by comparison with most people I think I’m pretty harsh about stuff like this, so don’t necessarily take this as unequivocally bad. Perhaps I’m just closeminded in some ways. If you can tolerate outlandish ideas easily, you are far more likely to greatly enjoy this series, because it is fairly serious about telling an involved, interesting and gripping story, it simply hangs it on some pretty peculiar premises.
One thing that struck me while watching this is the lack of concentration on action in the traditional ‘clashing swords, crashing cars’ showpiece sense, in opposition to pretty much every other fantasy series I can think of. Juuni Kokuki is a commendably grown up series in this sense – it does have a fair amount of fighting in it, but it never becomes either a huge focus of the series, nor does attention become so diverted from it that it becomes a bore to watch. Instead the relationships between the characters, their ideologies, and their own opinion of themselves, as evidenced by their development, are the point.
Being produced by NHK, Japan’s public service channel, the prominence of ethical decisions over action is somewhat explicable, even predictable. The thoroughness with which this is covered, however, is beyond most such fare in both ambition and realisation, and thus a major point in its favour. The script is one way in which this series manages to score a major coup, especially in later parts where the story finally begins to flag. The phrase "I don't need a scabbard for my mind" in particular, struck a chord for me. Voice talent (Japanese; I have no idea about the English cast) is as good as I have come to expect from anime, particularly the ever-dependable Aya Hisakawa as our heroine Youko.
I was somewhat surprised when, during my research for this review, I realised that Juuni Kokuki animators Studio Pierrot’s best known works are called Naruto and Bleach, a couple of little-known shows you may just have heard of. This at least explains the look of the show, which is not very impressive, and appears far older than its 2002-3 airing dates might lead one to expect (it also explains the reliance on a massive web of obscure terminology, like both of those two long running shows, in all their Bankai-no-jutsu glory). Design philosophy focuses rather rigidly and uncreatively on the Chinese mythological aspect of the story, with a few fairly generic fantasy addons, some lacklustre creatures and what seems to me a very garish choice of colour palette. However, unless prettiness is of paramount importance to you, given that the focus is on narrative rather than visual aspects of the programme anyway, this is not as important as one might think and ought not to be a real disrecommendation. I have heard some praise for the series music, and that in my view is totally undeserved. I found it generic, intrusive and overly bombastic generally, with an uninspired classical style plus some token chinese overtones and inexplicable electronica from time to time (some of which I’m certain was sampled by Kajiura Yuki for her Xenosaga II soundtrack - but that’s another article entirely), a lamentable fully orchestral opening and an intrusive ending theme that grew from merely irritating to fully hateful over my watching period.
While I first gradually became interested in and then gradually fell out with the story as I plodded my way through it, to a point where I was actually moderately glad it was over, I can’t say it wasn’t an enjoyable journey. On balance, I am glad I watched it more than I am sorry, but not by an enormous margin. Action-lovers should steer clear, drama lovers should ask themselves how much preposterousness tolerance they possess, and fantasy enthusiasts should dive right in and enjoy the rather refreshing change of emphasis. However, prospective watchers should bear in mind that this is essentially an uncompleted story.
Yoko Nakajima is a timid, proper high school student with a lot of expectations on her plate. In her home life, her parents are strict, with nothing but the highest standards for her. Her school life is even worse, as she’s the class president, with teachers breathing down her neck and an entire class room looking up to her with equal parts pride and scrutiny. One day, a tall, mysterious stranger appears right in the middle of class, and kneels before her, proclaiming her to be his queen! Before she can explain this to her bewildered homeroom, a demon attacks, and
chases the two of them to the school roof, where Yoko... Along with two of her supposed friends... are ripped from the world they know, and transported to a parallel world known as The Twelve Kingdoms!
Now, with a darker complexion and an altered face,Yoko is alone in a dangerous and unfamiliar world. Will she ever be able to find her friends, return home, or even figure out what in the world happened to her?
I haven’t really talked about Studio Pierrot before, at least not by name, but I’ve seen enough of their work to know that they have an abysmal track record when it comes to animation. They did Saiyuki, a show whose animation quality I blasted over a year ago, and if that’s not enough to deter you, they’re the company who produced Naruto. Yes, The Twelve Kingdoms comes from the same stock as the ugly, ugly ninja show where people jumping from tree to tree look like cardboard cut-outs on popsicle sticks. They’ve proven with Yuyu Hakusho that they DO know how to manage a low budget, and in 2014, they’ve proven with Tokyo Ghoul that they can, in fact, look amazing.
Well, Twelve Kingdoms is no Tokyo Ghoul, but Thank God, it’s no Naruto, either. The animation is definitely cheap, and there are some moments where the character artwork is so clumsy it will make you cringe, but for the most part, it looks passable. Passable, of course, does not mean good... Movements are stiff and seldom look natural, key frames are constant, characters frequently appear off model, and a lot of action scenes are dominated by speed lines. It’s a series from the early 2000s, but it looks like it’s from the mid nineties, is what I’m trying to say. It’s not all bad, though... There are several combat scenes that are solidly animated, but they’re the exception that proves the rule. Thoughtful angles and exquisite lighting are used to beautiful effect, however, and unlike several other shows I’ve seen, this never feels like the obvious compensation that it is. Great care was clearly taken with every shot, taking what could have been a jarring visual experience and making it a lot easier to swallow.
An equal amount of care was clearly taken with the dub, which is a surprise, since it was done by the infamous Media Blasters. Even their good dubs are tolerable at best, with some notable examples being Berserk and Squidgirl, so it may not be entirely a stretch to say that the dub for The Twelve Kingdoms could be their masterpiece. Taking liberally from the Pioneer stable of actors, they went with a grounded, natural sound, without a single ridiculous or exaggerated performance in sight.
Our main character is played by Dorothy Elias-Fahn, a prolific character voice actor who’s probably most well known for her performance of Meryl Strife from Trigun. Yoko is by far the most important role she’s ever had in any single project, and with that, it’s also likely the most screen time her voice has ever had. They couldn’t have cast her better, as Fahn carries every single stage of Yoko’s development with depth and sincerity, from a whimpering pushover all the way to the strong warrior she eventually becomes.
While the rest of the cast doesn’t perform quite as amazingly as Fahn, they’re still pretty much all outstanding. Much like His and Her Circumstances, Twelve Kingdoms’s dub is a veritable who’s who of classic actors, with some very well known names from Wendee Lee to Michael McConnohie popping up not only in named roles, but frequently in the background, as well. Karen Strassmen, Kate Higgins and Mela Lee play at their very best in complex supporting roles throughout the majority of the story, and their respective dynamics with Fahn are portrayed remarkably.
Now, the premise of this show isn’t exactly unique. High school girl gets magically transported to another world(resembling feudal Japan, of course) by a mysterious handsome stranger... Honestly, even I hesitated when I read it, and while the tone of the first few episodes had me hooked, I was still worried that all the familiar details would eventually lead down a path to the same old tropes that similar shows like Inuyasha, Fushigi Yugi, and Escaflowne have already trodden. But Twelve Kingdoms distinguishes itself from these titles by how stone cold serious it takes it’s content, wasting absolutely zero time trying to entice the viewer through any other means. There’s no romance or bishounen to attract female viewers, and there’s no robots or nudity to attract male viewers. There’s basically no fanservice whatsoever, except possibly for the furry extremists out there, and even then, I don’t think that was intentional. No, this series places all of it’s bets on it’s own story, a bold move that it’s more than capable of backing up.
The story, for the most part, follows Yoko as she adjusts to this new world as well as to her destiny within it. This makes room not only for some smoothly executed world-building, which i’ll get to later, but for some truly inspired character development for not only Yoko, but for three other prominent supporting characters, all of whom have their own lessons to learn and flaws to face. All four of them start out as pathetic, arrogant, self-pitying little shells, only to be gradually molded by the hells they go through, both internal and external, into much more competent and likable people. They get worse before they get better, because that’s life, but as they travel, they gain perspective by interacting with those far less fortunate than themselves... one of whom is Rakushun, the most loveable anthropomorphic rodent since Mickey Mouse.
And yet, unlike most action shows where a character faces their flaw and immediately overcomes it, the flaws our heroines face never really go away... They can never be truly conquered, only admitted and dealt with, especially in the case of Yoko herself. No matter how far you think she’s grown, an old demon is never far away, just waiting for her to waver so he can rear his ugly head once more.
And when I say these characters go through hell, I mean it. This show can get really dark when it wants to... Scratch that, this show can get freaking bleak, often with little to no hope in sight. It explores topics like famine, tyranny, corruption and Draconian law, peppered with the occasional slaughter of men, women and children alike. The only pulled punch in sight is the fact that you don’t actually see the executions on screen. You don’t need to see them, after all... With the right tone, a field of gravestones or the look of despair amongst an exhausted population can carry more weight than a million bloody dismemberings, and Twelve Kingdoms understands this perfectly well, as the effects of tyrannical leadership on an unfortunate community are thoroughly portrayed, in both figurative and very literal ways.
In short, The Twelve Kingdoms has the makings of an epic, with everything you’d look for within one... The themes of leadership, responsibility, and perserverence are played masterfully, and the heavily spiritual world steeped in Chinese mythology always has new details to offer both the characters as well as the viewer. World-building is at it’s best when it’s being explained to the viewer and a character at the same time, and in this case, every new detail... From the King’s connection to the very land he rules all the way down to the way babies are born... is given to us at the exact time it needs to, with consistent relevance to the plot, and with clues to the bigger reveals being offered every so often in the seemingly innocuous dialogue between the world’s residents.
However, that’s not to say the story is without it’s flaws... It’s adapted from an old novel series, and in addition to the novels containing the main story, they also decided to adapt two of the side stories... Neither of which cast our heroine as anything other than the listener. These little detours are nicely told, very enjoyable stories in their own rights, and I’m sure they would have made a couple of decent OVAs... But no, they’re right there in the story, and while they’re really fine on their own, they offer nothing to justify the damage they do to the pacing of the series. They don’t reveal any important plot-related information that couldn’t have been delivered otherwise, and they could have easily just been left out without hurting the series at all, especially when you consider the fact that only one of the characters within them ever shows up again.
And since I brought them up, I also have to bring up the way the series ends. I won’t reveal any important details, such as whether the ending is a happy or tragic one, but what I will tell you is that out of this 45 episode anime, episodes 39 and 40 bring the series to the most satisfying conclusion you could hope for. So, with five episodes left, I was kind of hoping they’d tie up some old loose ends, show how the conclusion effected various characters, and maybe bring the story itself to a nice, tight close. Nope! Episodes 41-44 contain the second detour story, and while it’s a perfectly fine story in it’s own right, but it was glaringly out of place. And the final episode? I kid you not... The final episode, 45, is a recap of what happened in episode 41-44. Yes, an episode-long recap of the previous four episodes.
I’ve heard rumors that this series was intended to continue past episode 45, which would make sense since the novels are still being released to this day, but even if that was the case, you don’t spend an entire episode recapping a story arc right after finishing it. With a show like this one, the viewers are not that stupid, and the material is not that forgettable, making this a very tacky move, especially for an ending. It’s an unfortunate blemish on what could have otherwise been a near-masterpiece.
The Twelve Kingdoms is available in the United States from Media Blasters. You can find it on both Blu-ray and DVD, pretty much exclusively online and in used FYE racks, with the latter being far more affordable than the former. The first four novels are also available in English from Tokyo Pop, and if you go on ebay, you can find a handful of beautiful artbooks and fan-made doujinshi at varying prices. There are also some Playstation games, but to my utter disappointment, they’re not available stateside.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never really been a fan of feudal-type shows. Much like the insanely popular Giant Robot fare, it’s a genre that often leaves me bored with my eyes glazed over. Twelve Kingdoms is held in high regard... At least among those people privileged enough to have heard of it... As a pinnacle of the ‘modern girl spirited away to Feudal Times’ genre. And it’s not hard to see why. While I may have let my attention shift away from the screen a few times during the detour story arcs, the truth is that I never felt bored during this series. The characters are deep and relatable, the conflicts between them are genuinely exciting, and the mythical world it all takes place in is constantly offering one wonder after another. The animation is noticeably cheap, but it’s rarely ever bad in it’s management and execution... Unlike the episodic structure of the series, which wasn’t thought out or handled nearly as well as it deserved. The extra stories may have worked in the novels, but in televised format, they leave a lot to be desired. It’s not a perfect show, but the good far outweighs the bad. I give The Twelve Kingdoms an 8/10.
Although it was cut short, this is definitely worth watching.
If you sit through the first couple of episodes you will be surprised. What seems like a typical story at first turns out to be far from typical.
I thought it was going to be another one of those magical girl animes where the main character, in this case Yoko, is an annoying high school girl that can't do anything on her own. Weak and useless, the kind of character you can't stand, at least I couldn't. I was about to stop watching, but . . .
Boy was I glad I didn't. I don't want to give
away too much, but this series has some of the best character development I've ever seen in anime. Simply put, by the end of the first arc, Yoko was a completely different person.
Juuni Kokki has such an amazing story, once you really get into it, it's very hard to stop watching. Often times a character will be in the middle of explaining something and they have all your attention ... and then the episode just ends and it really forces you to continue because it's so intriguing. There's so much to learn about the world of The Twelve Kingdoms~ the people in it and how they live. The story itself could be very moving at times. You really feel for the characters, after all that they go through. I can't really go as in depth as some of the other reviews, so you may want to look elsewhere for more info
Each episode seems to end at such a weird place, it forces you to jump right to the next episode. The way they decided to do this, it would seem unnatural. You normally wouldn't end an episode while in the middle of explaining something. However, in The Twelve Kingdoms, this very unique idea actually works in favor of the anime.
I feel that it deserves a five star rating, despite the fact that it was left unfinished. We still get to see the resolution of the main character's storyline, although it would have been nice if they took it further.
In the end, Juuni Kokki has already taken its place as one of the best animes I've seen.
The first time I read the plot synopsis it seemed pretty underwhelming but once I gave it a try I was surprised how amazing the story was, the world of the Twelve Kingdoms was just so interesting and detailed that you can’t help yourself and just be engrossed with it. One small thing I liked how people didn’t speak the same language in the other world as the main characters seeing as most shows don’t care about such small details and even integrating it to the main story, I liked the fact that they put some thought into stuff like that.
The story had immense potential
to be something quite epic but the anime was cut-short (which I’m still quite upset about to this day), and therefore it's hard for me to give the story a perfect score since the story does not have some sort of conclusion.
I wouldn’t say the animation was terrible but it didn’t really think it was amazing; everything just looked “ok”. At first I thought the anime was quite old because of the animation but I was quite surprised that it was made in the 2000’s. Seeing as the studios involved with the production are pretty big companies, I would have expected something better. One thing I didn't get was how Youka supposedly looked so different that she couldn't be recognized by her old friend when clearly she looked the same, I literally went back through the first few episodes and compared her appearance yet there wasn't any difference.
It had a brilliant OP and while the rest of the OST suits the whole ancient China-like setting that the series has, they're not really worth writing about.
Probably the best aspect of the series Twelve Kingdoms has great character development and interaction. Youko is such a great lead character; she’s one of the few female lead characters that don’t need to be a “badass” to look strong. While at first Youko’s attitude was quite annoying seeing as she was a push-over and she was always obsessed with how people view her, as the series progresses she becomes more mature and becomes a much better character.
The two other supporting characters, Shoukei and Suzo while added later in the series, you can’t help but be interesting in the development of their individual struggles.
I pretty much couldn’t stop watching episode after episode; in fact I haven’t enjoyed a story as much as The Twelve Kingdoms’ story which is why it’s even more irritating that the production was cut short.
I would have also wished for more action scenes since war has somewhat of an importance to the plot while it’s not such a big deal since the story itself is quite great; it would have made it more interesting.
Overall, I think it’s well worth the watch especially if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, despite its inconclusiveness.
The Twelve Kingdoms is a series of light novels by Fuyumi Ono (Ghost Hunt, Shiki). It began publishing in 1992 with the final volume releasing in 2001, totalling to 11 volumes. Later in 2002, it received an anime adaptation that spanned 45 episodes.
The anime begins with a timid high school girl named Yoko Nakajima who along with her friends is dragged into an alternate world that is poles apart from the one she is familiar with. Although the idea of a naïve, clueless protagonist being transported into another world is nothing innovative and rather typical, The Twelve Kingdoms takes this very idea and turns
it into a captivating story that quickly drew me in. Slightly reminiscent of prehistoric China, the world of the Twelve Kingdoms is a fascinating one. Here monarchy prevails; each kingdom being under the rule of an emperor who is chosen through the ‘will of the Heavens’ that is regarded as the ultimate authority and the ultimate cause of the very existence of the world. Despite the fantasy setting, the facts that punishment is inevitable for the wrong doer and that we reap what we sow are, needless to say, prevalent in both the worlds. Similar to our world, the society is riddled with politics, discrimination, the thirst for power and subsequent corruption. The universe of the Twelve Kingdoms is intricately detailed that is both intriguing and convincing.
Though Yoko’s struggle to survive in the uncanny world she has been dragged into is central to the series, she is not always under the spotlight. Several other characters also have their own stories to tell, a few of whom are more memorable and relatable than the protagonist. There are four arcs in total of which the first arc basically sets the stage. My personal favourite is the second one, the Black Kirin arc which is unrelated to the actual story. Unfortunately, this arc suffers a loose end which is never tied up and this is one downside to the anime. The third arc introduces a few other characters and is centred on three females, Suzu, Shoukei and Yoko herself. The fourth arc is again hugely unrelated and although its story by no means is bad, it was sort of disappointing for me. Why? Because, considering that it’s the final arc, I was expecting the anime to be wrapped up in a decent manner but the ending, I felt, is rather abrupt and that immediately calls for a second season for the rest of the novels to be adapted. However, it appears that a sequel any time soon is highly unlikely.
The anime is sometimes criticised for its tendency to be slow paced at many parts. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it and seldom felt bored. One thing is initially daunting though and that’s the bunch of assorted terms thrown right off the bat that you require to have at your fingertips or you’re most likely to feel lost through the narrations and conversations between the characters. However, the terms shouldn’t be a problem after a couple of episodes.
One of the assets of the series is the characterisation. Each individual has an appealing personality and something to offer, no matter how trivial their role is in the story. They’re easily relatable, and you can’t help but sympathise with them as they go through their difficult times and feel contented when they make out of their tribulations. You can actually learn a thing or two from them. Rakushun, Taiki, Shoryu, Rokuta and Shoukei are my favourites among the supporting characters. On the other hand, Asano and Yuka failed to leave any deep impression on me. They could have been used in a better way to stimulate Yoko’s story in my opinion. Speaking of the protagonist Yoko, her character has been well handled for the most part except certain instances where I couldn’t help but be put off. For one it is a bit unnatural to see a crybaby turning into an outright bold young lady at the drop of a hat, as is the case with Yoko. Secondly, her constant whining about how ‘incompetent’ she is is downright annoying though that’s pretty much justified on a second thought. Apart from that, her inner conflicts and the lessons she draws from her experiences through the course of the series are delivered in the most conceivable manner.
With regards to the visuals, ‘old school’ is probably what describes The Twelve Kingdoms the best. Character designs are pretty good as well though the characters’ faces seem a bit off at some scenes. Speaking of the OST, the anime has some of the best background soundtracks I have heard in a while and aptly fit the situations in which they are played. The opening theme is an instrumental music that starts off slow and captures the audience with its transition into an epic, battle-like piece halfway.
To wrap up the review, it seems that The Twelve Kingdoms is a somewhat underrated show. If you’re looking for a decent fantasy anime with a historical feel and political intrigue, I see no reason why this show shouldn’t be given a try. It has its flaws but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what it has to offer.
One of the finest anime's I've ever seen. DON'T BE FOOLED by the apparently average/low quality animations and art. In time you'll realize that what draws you to this anime is not that, but rather the story that it tells, like every other anime should be!
The story has an UNPREDICTABLE AND AMAZING DEVELOPMENT. There's no guessing what'll happen next, and it always surprises you leaving you yearning for more.
The characters are amazing. The main character alone develops in ways I've never seen a single character in anime do before. Starting off as a shy character, it develops in ways that, at times makes
you sad, other times makes you happy, other times makes you proud. Very good. The rest of the characters too develop their personalities with time and there's nothing better than that. A DYNAMIC CHARACTER SET.
The only downside is that the end is awfully inconclusive, wich leaves you with many gaps open, and an insane yearning for more. But it's very much worth the suffering of not knowing those side stories and details.
This is enjoyment guaranteed, wether you like shounen or shoujo stuff, romance, comedy or even action. You will be satisfied and still want more!
Teenagers being send to a fantastical, foreign world is a concept that has been vastly explored in both the manga and anime, often playing out in a very similar manner in which protagonists dominate the scene through sheer overpowering of the characters themselves. In numerous cases this results in a boring and typical narrative, which isn't bad on its own. Although Juuni Kokuki, or its english title "The Twelve Kingdoms", is not innovative setting-wise, it has in fact more to offer in terms of characterization as well as story, which are enriched with the lore and the presented world. However, there are some issues with
the anime, being the somewhat undesirable transitions from one story to another, alongside some exaggerated facets of the cast its main issues.
The story of Juuni Kokuki revolves mainly around the highschool student Nakajima Youko who is dragged to an unknown world with demon-like creatures, which appeared immediately after a man by the name of Keiki who swore an allegiance to her. Swung in the fantastical world separated from her friends who came alongside with her, they struggle to survive this new environment which viewers may associate to a medieval China - divided in twelve kingdoms, each with their own ruler. The struggle for survival comes along with its share of combat, which may not be very spectacular, yet satisfying as battles are won through people working together, rather than needless overpowering of protagonists.
The anime handles the despair and utter loss of direction well when situated in an adverse environment; the unknown language, the customs as well as mindsets between medieval and modern society are contrasted in a satisfying manner. What is remarkable is the fact that although it is mainly focused upon the main protagonist, it also fixates on some of the different kingdoms, each with their own story and the rise of either queens or kings. It is such that these feel like an entity, a different world on its own; this is because of the system on how rulers are chosen, which are appointed by beings called "kirin". People are naturally individuals, so defection of their initial standings may happen, which either causes kingdoms to fall in disarray, or be peaceful.
There is a problem when it comes to the narrative of the anime; the different substories surrounding the different kingdoms are rather hastily introduced, seemingly jumping directly in it after an initial conflict was solved, without any fore shadowing whatsoever; this may create a sense of confusion and incoherency in the story. In fact, it could be considered that this series are different stories latched together. Besides, not all the different kingdoms were presented, which the anime hinted on to be of importance - which was nevertheless a minor gripe. On another note, although these may seem unrelated to the main storyline at first glance, later it becomes clear as to what its main purpose was, besides of showcasing how this particular world works.
The setting itself is interesting, yet Juuni Kokuki is more character driven - this is very apparent when considering the main protagonist huge development and some of its supporting cast as well, each with a journey and story for its own. Nakajima Youko starts off as a person who tries to be accepted by everyone, and with that comes implications: the loss of identity on its own, a "weak" individual. Her being thrown in the new world with sudden responsibilities she can't cope with, only made these accentuate even more. It is fascinating seeing her develop throughout the series, realizing things about herself she never even thought of before. Now it must be said that it could get annoying at times, especially the beginning where she was constantly whining.
The other characters of importance are her close friends who came with her: although at first glance normal, they both are eccentric in some way: one who strongly desires to leave her own world, rather a strong feeling of escapism, while the other has a strong desire to return. Both feel out of place, which leads them in turn to showcase madness and hostility; the problem is that it is often quite exaggerated and nonsensical, to the point of feeling unreal and forced. Sometimes the abrupt changes in behaviour was rather immersive breaking as well, although this could be debated.
Concerning the supporting cast, it is composed of humans, the Kirin, demon-like creatures and "shapeshifting" creatures. While most are simple and at times clichéd, especially in case of some of the villains, these fulfill their purpose, in addition to providing some insight into the fantastic world. Some characters are presented to convey their difficulties, such as a dethroned princess, or an insecure Kirin. It must be mentioned that the story leaves some plot threads unsolved regarding some of the characters, which was a bit disappointing, as the anime treated these for a handful of episodes, yet ultimately didn't use it, thus feeling goalless.
~Animation and sound~
The animation of the anime was overall well executed, although as a whole it was nothing outstanding, especially when considering some of the combat scenes presented. Character designs are a bit lackluster in some cases, sharing same facial designs - this comes together with some inconsistencies in the anime as well. However, the backgrounds were detailed and nice to look at, showcasing the world.
The soundtrack used was very befitting of the atmosphere the anime was trying to portray with the use of for example guitars, drums, violins or flutes. It is overall not that outstanding at a personal level, yet there were some tracks such as "Fuushun" that were pleasing to lsiten to. As for the voice actors, these performed their roles well, conveying the different personalities and emotions of the cast in a satisfying manner.
Juuni Kokuki was overall an enjoyable anime which had an interesting setting, as well as some very well-developed characters, in addition to its supporting cast. There were some issues as the characters behaviour felt rather exaggerated in some cases, which in turn broke a bit with the immersion. The story was interesting, yet felt in the long incomplete as well as a bit ill-paced; regardless, I can't deny I was very eager to see what would happen next despite of these gripes. The Twelve Kingdoms is recommended to anyone who enjoys character driven stories, or just the historical fantasy genre itself.
Juuni Kokuki had great potential but was directed and written badly. Continue reading and I shall clarify what I mean.
First off I will explain a few of its many faults.
1. Often very predictable
2. HAD 3 SUMMARY EPISODES.
3. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS, BUT THE FINAL EPISODE IS A SUMMARY EPISODE. WHAT THE HELL?!
4. This anime was not planned out properly. When an anime explains something that has already happened like a characters past, it usually only takes 1 or 2 episodes, but in this show it takes like 8. And one of the stories (About a black haired Kirin) could have been completely removed from
the anime and it would still have made sense. Not only that, but it ended too early so the writers clearly made up an extra story at the end to reach their episode quota.
5. Many of the characters are not smart or even of average intelligence. They do not make logical decisions and act irrationally. They let their emotions guild them when logic obviously dictates a different course of action.
6. The main character is extremely weak and timid and not in the cute likable Hinata (naruto reference) way. More like the annoying piss you off kind of way. SHE IS INDECISIVE AND A LOSER!
7. There are a lot of complicated made up terms that make comprehension much more difficult.
The only reason I finished this anime was because it made me wonder what I would do if I was handed my own kingdom, and Death note hadn't finished downloading yet.
i enjoyed the first story and first arc of Twelve Kingdoms. Everything else after that went down hill.
The art is good as well as the sound in my opinion. However, the story is always the most important aspect of any anime i watch, and the story or should we say stories in Twelve Kingdoms, annoyed me a lot, and to no end. There were too many pointless diversions, and characters introduced that the viewer can just not care about no matter how much they are forced on us.
What annoyed me most was that the writer obviously overstretched the amount of trouble that Youko has
to withstand as queen, to a point where it is not longer reasonable, and you just wish she will sit on the stupid throne with confidence, and simply know what to do with common sense, instead of wasting our lives finding out unnecessary things that just annoy the crap out of the viewer.
Also, i did not like Keiki's attitude throughout the series, i felt he was helpless and completely useless at all points even if he is meant to be the prestigious and noble kirin creature. He was either useless, or he was making Youko the queen he chose in the first place miserable with his silence and lack of actual support.
like i said, the story is always the most important aspect. Left to me, Twelve kingdom's actual interesting, and reasonable story fits into just 12 episodes, thus all the other 30+ episodes can be cut. I kept watching and hoping something more interesting would happen, or the characters will finally move, and use common sense, but they were all slow, and disinteresting in their approach to moving the plot forward. Most importantly, i do not feel there was any actual resolution.
Youko's character may have grown a little, however she did not grow as a queen at all. She did not make any real impact whatsoever.
Thus i find myself asking; why did i just waste 2 days of my life watching this? well the answer is that the beginning was not bad, and the other 11 reasonably interesting episodes, were indeed something to write someone about.
Ambitious and epic, this is one anime that doesn't shy away from grandeur. Set in a richly designed land that resembles ancient China (but with significant differences), it brings together elements of fantasy and politics on a mind blowing scale. I hear that this kind of settings is quite an over used one, but it's the first of this kind that I've come across. And even if the premises is over used, an anime of such caliber as "12 Kingdoms" is surely one of the standard bearers of the genre.
First of all, let me just say that the design of the world that the story
take place in is simply amazing. The society, the emperors and their kirin etc give birth to many imaginative concepts. Not all of it is good though, for example I'm not too keen on the emperor selection process. I thought the whole point of letting the gods do the choosing is so that the emperor would be suitable... so why are some of them so screwed up? Oh well, if things didn't go so wrong, it wouldn't make much of a story, right?
The "12 Kingdoms" series has a structure comprising four clearly defined story arcs, each with their own title. The first one sets the scene but didn't really get me excited all that much. Maybe it was because being thrown straight into this world with so many exotic concepts is a little overwhelming, and I found it a bit too much to absorb all at once.
The second arc is entertaining and open to further development, but alas, "12 Kingdoms" finished prematurely, so they never got around to revisiting the second arc and resolving it. However, despite the improvements upon the first arc it was still lacking that certain spark that would really engage my attention. It didn't help that at the time, I was experiencing a waning interest in anime, with matters not being helped by watching that cack known as Nadesico that, despite only 26 episodes long, felt like a marathon of boredom. Because of this, something really special was needed to revitalise my motivation in watching anime...
...And that special something came in the form of the third story arc. My GOD what a magnificent piece of work it is. The third arc climbs heights unscaled by the others. It skillfully, almost flawlessly weaves together several strands of storyline into one big, complex, emotional rollercoaster ride full of excitement, political intrigue and profound character development.
The last arc is short and sweet, but rather complicated. I'm not sure I fully comprehend all that happened in there.
Even though the story is fantastic and full of twists, it is still eclipsed by the characters. They are memorable, colourful, and are extremely well developed. Unlike a lot of anime that may contain a couple of outstanding characters, there are a lot in this one. Featuring a cast of delusional, kind hearted, self centered, spoilt characters to name a few, the range of personalities is immense. And what's more, they are VERY dynamic - a few of the personalities i mentioned actually belong to the same people as they evolve throughout the series. I'm also impressed to see a kind of parallel character development taking place where several of them begun in similar situations, but dealt with their predicaments in very different ways. And what's more, perhaps what I like most about is that I see the characters, through the influence of the other characters that touched upon their lives, gradually change from ones that I loathe to ones that I really like and can sympathise with. It really is remarkable and something that I rarely experience in anime. Because it's easy to care about the characters - even the side characters - it's so easy to get emotionally involved while watching this. When misfortune befalls on someone, it can really tear at the heart strings.
Now we finally come to some negative points, and there isn't really all that many. Animation was great most of the time, but sometimes goes a bit weird. The initial character designs seem a bit dodgy. The drawing of the faces are occasionally inconsistent, and the movements of characters are almost comical at times. Overall, the animation is one of the weakest parts of the "12 Kingdoms", and it is by no means bad - that gives you some idea of just how impressive this series is. The characters, though nothing short of amazing, are not quite perfect either. For example, I found it hard to believe a spoilt princess who played in the palace without a care in the world is able to perceive the underhand politics that goes on in the place. Also, the recap episodes were annoyingly frequent and sometimes seem misplaced. Even so, there are good points about the recaps as well - they are usually very cleverly done, and are utilised VERY well to move the story along just a bit further and are also used as an opportunity to explain things more clearly. So they are by no means just recycled material, making them a lot more tolerable to watch. In fact, other than the frequency and timing issues, they are probably as good as recaps can get.
The above mentioned points are all minor complaints, the one real point that serious dents the credentials of "12 Kingdoms" is the ending. It's a shame, simply a crying shame, that it was left unfinished. Though the last featured arc itself is finished, the series feels far from complete as a whole. The slightly tedious 15 episode set up to the whole saga probably would have seemed more worth it had this followed through with the full 75 episodes that it was intended for. This is probably the only obstacle preventing "12 Kingdoms" from being a masterpiece.
Do you know how to spell disappointment? T-w-e-l-v-e K-i-n-g-d-o-m-s; this is how to do it. The anime started off pretty good actually introducing the characters and the world to us, but, alas that lasted for 3-4 episodes. It goes downhill really quickly.
Plot - 4/10
Our protagonist, Youka, along with her two friends, Sugimoto and Asano, is taken to another world by a man named Keiki. At first the anime pretends that it has some grand story planned out for our characters, but it was just a "Oh I brought you to this world because you're destined to be king" kind of story. The pacing is all
over the place and characters do a 180 degree personality change in seconds.
Most of the time someone's "secret" identity is uncovered not by actively trying to do it but because they just happened to be speaking to themselves. It's like coincidences the anime. Characters find out about "secret plans" not via investingating, but they just happened to overhear a converstion.
Characters - 2/10
The characters are my main problem with this anime. They range from OK to annoyingly stupid. Sugimoto is infatuated with fairy tales so much so that she thinks all that happens is planned for her; even though she is 17 years old her mind still doesn't register that she and her friends are in peril danger. She, at first doesn't trust anyone, and that's to be expected as you won't trust someone who kidnapped you and who doesn't even speak your language, but then some random lady whom she has never met tells her that she has a "mission" for her and she agrees in an instant. She just felt like a plot device to give the story some sense of progression.
Characters in this anime change as quickly and as often as people change clothes. Conflicts in this anime could've been resolved if the characters spoke to each other for even a minute. People do stupid stuff just for the sake of drama. This one girl, who was one of the main characters for one arc, hits a soldier with a stone while an execution was going on. Who in their right mind would do that? It was done just so that that girl would meet up with Youka, our main character. Another girl has supposedly lived for 112 years but lack basic communication skills. She and a boy had an argument over who was more unfortunate between them, and it's actually a serious conversation. It goes something like, Girl - I was sold, Boy - My parents died in front of me and my home burned, Girl - At least you can return home.... The only interesting character in it is a Rat, a freaking Rat.
As I said, this anime relies heavily on coincidences and out of character actions taken by characters. I could go on about the imbecile characters and the degenarative decisions they make, but that would take at least one hour for me write.
Animation and Sound
I don't judge animation while watching an anime because older anime would definitely lose the newer ones, but the animation, for its time, is good.
The soundtrack is fine. The opening was pretty good.
Enjoyment - 6/10
I was facepalming myself the whole time but I did finish it in under 48 hours so I guess it earns some points there.
This anime is bad but it could've been worse. I personally wouldn't recommend it to anyone but if you wanna watch it, then who am I to stop you? Oh, I forgot to mention that it doesn't end. I wasn't expecting anything from the ending but it still ended up disappointing me. The purpose of my review is not to deride this show it's just that I was wondering where did it go wrong. The premise was pretty good and after learning about the world of 12 kingdoms I can easily say that much thought was put into creating this wonderful world with its own set of rules and regulations. But the just above average writing let it down. Maybe it was the studio who didn't adapt the source material properly, it is Studio Pierrot after all.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully express how unique and inspiring this anime is.
12 Kingdoms starts out in a very cliche way. School girl ends up in another dimension, special powers, nothing I haven't seen before. What truly make this anime stand out is how much the characters grow and develop. All the characters you meet in the first episode completely transform into someone else by the time the anime is over. Some change for the better, some for worse. This makes the show very relateable. It's really all about growing up. Facing overwhelming obstacles in your life and dealing
with them. At the same time you're introduced to very imaginative creatures and interest characters and culture. They managed to build a world that feels like it lives on whether you are watching it or not. That makes it Epic. Do yourself a favor and watch 12 Kingdoms. Give it at least 5 episodes if you're not into it by then, it's not for you. But hopefully you'll be one of the lucky ones and you will be moved and inspired by this amazing story like I was.
I started to watch this anime with the anticipation that it would be a series I would enjoy. At the 'end' I am left with mixed feelings.
To a certain point I was right, this was an anime I would enjoy.
I watched the first arc, Sea of Shadow Arc, with great enjoyment.
I did not expect such complexity, but found this fact to be true for the arc, in regards to it's plot and characters. As a viewer, the theme of an ordinary character finding themselves to serve higher purposes or be to special, is not uncommon- Juuni Kokuki does a splendid job in bringing it's own
uniqueness to the theme. So much so, I did not feel it bored me in the least. The portrayal of men and woman are different than most anime I have seen and that is an aspect I enjoyed. I also loved the characters that the series introduced to me.
In the second arc, Sea of Wind Arc.
I was again enjoying the direction of the story, even though the focus and direction of the anime shifted, it did not deter me in the least. I felt that at the end of this arc that I was left hanging, that in essence the ending was far too open-ended. The inconclusive ending of this arc effected my progress into the third arc, as it chilled my interest in the series- an unresolved ending isn't something I enjoy.
I watched a couple episodes into the third Arc, then I began skipping through the episodes. It began to become slow for me as a viewer. It is hard to pin-point what was my tipping point; maybe I was uninterested because I still wanted the ending to the second arc.
Regardless, I hoped that the third would pick up and skipped through a couple more episodes- if it was just a small spell of slowness, I would have continued watching, but there seemed to be no evidence that it would re-gain the life it once had.
I stopped watching and I feel very disappointed.
If I had one major criticism of this anime, it is the way that the story is split up, how often the focus changes, and the unresolved/open ended conclusion of the second arc.
So I rate on the first two arcs, as I have only watched them in full.
The Twelve Kingdoms, an anime that has been cancelled before it could find conclusion, an anime with generic fantasy world premise and mediocre and plain art. But with all these flaws is it worth spending time to watch? Is it any good? The answer depends on you, continue reading to find out.
Its plain and simple nothing to it. If you hated it from the start you are gonna hate it till the end. Characters are plain and simple but are sharp and full of details they seem to fit well with the blurry backgrounds as they stand out. They even managed to fit CGI
here and there and despite it being an anime from 2002 the don't look that bad.
Keeping it short: the anime and artstyle are the weakest part of this show.
Voice actors did a really nice job and the characters fit with their voices and seem alive portraying their emotions and character thru their voices very well. From what I felt not a single character has a voice or line that did not fit with them. The music is nothing special, after 45 episodes I couldn't point out anything amazing that stood out. The music is there when it should and it fits well but at the same time its nothing to gasp at. It does not help that the only opening is just a plain instrumental with nothing to it.
Characters - 6/10
There is an multitude of characters but honestly I couldn't relate to them 90% of the time. The main character is goody two shoes class rep but at first all she can do is cry and whine(for like 7 eps) later on she changes and grows to be a better person but still, its kinda hard to relate. Even side characters are kinda hollow without clear goals and dreams, they have their well defined personalities and all but its kinda hard to relate when character is good by definition. Don't get me wrong they are not by any means bad and all, but plain just plain.
Story - 8/10
The best part of this show is by all means: the story. It starts out really cliché by our MC being spirited away to another world by some guy with silver hair that calls her queen. Believe me its starts silly and its hard to watch for first 10 first episodes, the show throws at you multitude of foreign words like taiho, or kouki and for a long time leaves them flying over your head not providing their meanings, for western viewer its annoying. But after some time the story grows on you and it gets good, really good. The story branches at some point and starts to reveal itself from perspective of different characters, and more importantly it leads to satisfying conclusion. The few things that I didn't like are many recaps that might have been in place when watching this on weekly basis but when watching this in a span of a few weeks, are annoying. The last thing that needed to be pointed out its that the anime is not finished, so don't expect to be fully satisfied the story is not concluded by any means an the viewer is left wanting answers and conclusion to many left out questions and story bits.
Enjoyment - 7/10
Overall with its mediocre art and plain music but exceptional story and well defined characters its good show. The first 10 or so episodes were not that enjoyable but finally when the story and characters grow on you will like it. The anime is kinda long with its 45 episodes but if you are not repelled by its slow start and mediocre artstyle you should give it a go. On contrary if you are repelled by the artstyle, premise and whatnot don't make yourself watch this there are many shows that are shorter and better than this and don't require you sitting for 7+ eps enduring annoying MC and foreign words being thrown over your head leaving you asking what is going on.
With good story and characters but with lackluster artstyle and music, is a good show if you watched a lot of anime and you are looking for something good to watch that might have flown under your radar this is it, but if you are new to anime, don't bother, don't waste your time for 45 episodes of this mess go watch shorter and better shows that don't require you to remember all those foreign description and fantasy world lore to understand.
I finally find a fantasy anime with genuine depth and complexity in 12 Kingdoms. I just wish they had finished it...
I'll give this anime major points for consistency. 12 Kingdoms establishes its tone and story world rules and sticks to them. The 12 Kingdoms are heavily influenced by classical Chinese philosophy (particularly the Mandate of Heaven, which governs the entire political system) and stays with these influences even when it means making good guy characters act in ways that don't fit with more modern worldviews- everyone doesn't simply act like 21st century people in medieval costumes. The anime is also consistent in its willingness to
deconstruct 'Transported To Another World' fantasy tropes: what do you think would really happen to somebody who suddenly and unwillingly found themselves in a different place where you can't speak the language and the laws and customs are totally alien to you? It probably wouldn't go well, and characters from our world who wind up in the 12 Kingdoms generally have a rough time of it.
There is a truly staggering amount of worldbuilding in 12 Kingdoms- almost too much. You need to pay attention to the huge glossary of terminology covering everything from religion to politics to geography and it can be a bit of a challenge to keep your head above water. Because of the numerous ongoing plot lines there is usually a recap every 10 or so episodes just to help you keep track. Unfortunately, this anime is an incomplete adaptation of a longer series of novels meaning some major story threads are left hanging- mostly in the second of the four major arcs, which ends with a massive cliffhanger (skip episodes 14-21 if you don't want to deal with this arc). Arcs 1 & 3 tie together to make one long super-arc that wraps up neatly, while Arc 4 is a short stand alone story. I wish we could have seen this story through to the end.
ART & SOUND
Production values are pretty decent for an anime that's over a decade old. There are a few moments of obvious CGI and flying creatures never look terribly convincing but the animation is OK overall. The backgrounds and character designs have considerable detail, going the extra mile to sell the East Asian fantasy feel of the story. Dub vs Sub is a toss-up, I watch the first arc in Dub and the rest in Sub and I'd have to call it a tie. The music is very good, using lots of classical orchestras and Chinese folk music to set the tone. The OP is particularly strong with a very cinematic feel, like it's trying to get you ready for The Lord of the Rings rather than an episode of anime.
I hope you have a good memory, because this cast is MASSIVE and it's common for characters to be referred to by multiple names and titles. Character development is strong, with the cast having a wide range of personalities and character arcs. As mentioned earlier, this show isn't afraid to have it its cast 'stick to their guns' when it comes to their traditional Chinese philosophies and at times it seems like watching a historical drama that simply happened to be animated. You may not agree with even obviously heroic characters all the time, but over time you'll at least come to understand them.
With a complete adaptation, this show could have gone down in anime legend. As it is, for all its strengths it suffers from the all too common fate of only receiving a partial adaptation. I swear, an anime fan needs to have a masochistic streak to put up with some aspects of this medium.
I started watching this anime because I was very curious in Historical anime since there are a lot of amazing historical manga. When I started this anime the story was okay, the main character, Yoko's story was interesting but then after her story came to an end, more like after she achieved her goal, another character's story came out of nowhere. The other character's story was interesting but it just didn't connect. After that came more stories of another characters which Yoko wasn't really involved with except for Asano. And that I didn't like. They focused more to the other characters and the details of
the whole world (which is okay but it was too much that the MC ended up not developing) than the MC. Story (3/10)
The characters' personality.. well they were okay I guess. The only ones I really like were Enki and Rakushun, the MC was too annoying with crying and with her baby like attitude. She didn't grew up at all. Kenki was also useless he was supposed to have lived a long time but he wasn't wise at all he didn't give off the feeling of a subject who's supporting an important person and was willing to do anything he/she orders him too but the art's good I like it and the music was also good. Characters (6/10) only because of Rakushun and Enki. Art/Sound (7/10)
Enjoyment? I didn't really enjoy it that much I guess it just wasn't my cup of tea. Overall the MC sucks the story was a meh to me and the characters were also a meh. Enjoyment (1/10)
So the first episode, I wished for the main character to die. She was so fucking whiny and like OH NO, I CAN'T DO THAT, EVEN IF I DIE WHEN I DON'T DO IT, I STILL CAN'T DO THAT.
I was going to give up on this anime, but I read in reviews that she was going to get better, so I trusted them and continued watching. And as the anime goes on, it gets better.
I am so amazed someone could think of something this wonderful, to be honest. Everything gets explained to you.
I guess the
only downside is, that sometimes, the story was a bit hard to follow, since I am forgetful, and forget a few terms. Like when they were talking about Koukai, I was like... Koukai? What is a Koukai? Riboku? What is a Riboku again... Stuff like that ya know. They explain a lot, but it is still hard to follow sometimes, especially when you are sleepy.
The more you watch, the better it gets, and I was so sad when it was over. I am hoping for a reboot of this anime, so they will continue the story of Taiki (The kirin (unicorn) of the kingdom of Tai). You will understand why, when you watch the anime.
Oh yeah, about the art. At first, I thought it was ugly as fuck. But well, what did I expect, I was still a little kid when this anime aired, but, I think the art is pretty good for the time the anime came from. It might be that I just got used to it, but I thought overall, the characters looked pretty good. Especially Youko looked well, when...
Well, just watch it already!
The anime ends a bit abruptly, like it doesn't end in the middle of an arc, but there are many kingdoms, and stories left unexplored.
If my review doesn't convince you, then check out the other reviews.
I am telling you this now, Juuni Kokuki is a gem of an anime, it has been a while since I have actually enjoyed a serious anime like this one.