The Twelve Kingdoms Complete Collection
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Upon being confronted by a mysterious stranger, Youko is told of her destiny and pulled away into another world. Thus begins Youko's perilous journey to the Kingdom of Kei on an epic road of espionage, terror, and betrayal. The mystic world of The Twelve Kingdoms assails her with one challenge after another. Will Youko embrace her destiny?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
But you should know a few things before you get into this excellent show: It features four separate story arcs, and only two of them actually involve the main protagonist Yuoko. I highly recommend new viewers only watch episodes 1-13 and 22-39; my five-star rating pertains primarily to just those episodes. The episodes in-between tell an unfinished and unrelated story, and are likely to leave viewers feeling frustrated. Episodes 14 and 21 are unimportant "recap" episodes I'd only recommend watching if you still feel confused after watching the first 13.
The first few episodes (1-5 and 22-29) of these story arcs can be tiresome, as the protagonists start as annoying, whiny characters; but I urge everyone to "stick with it" and keep watching as the payoff at the end is certainly worth it: Twelve Kingdoms features one of the best endings I've ever seen (at episode 39). It's important for us to see these characters as annoying and somewhat pathetic so that we fully appreciate the strong, self-aware people they become in the end. For this reason re-watching the series is a special treat; I recommend watching it again at least once.
The setting of The Twelve Kingdoms is complex and the myriad of special terms may put some people off; but I would again urge people to be patient; Yuoko generally knows less than us, and her lack of understanding is important to the story, so a bit of confusion on our part helps us to empathize with her.
Finally, I'd recommend watching the Japanese audio with English subtitles if you can stand to do so. Yuoko's voice is much more expressive on the Japanese track and features noticeable changes in tone that reflect and highlight the changes in her attitude as the story progresses. However, most of the other English voice-overs are actually fairly good.
Twelve Kingdoms is from 2002 and so the quality of the animation, while good, isn't quite up to par with modern animes like Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. There is no sexual content of any kind (and although some characters are depicted taking baths, nothing racy is seen), and almost no romantic content whatsoever. There is no gore, almost no blood shown, and most deaths occur off-screen. While many episodes feature exciting and well done action, fighting isn't quite the focus of The Twelve Kingdoms and the entire first half of the third arc (episodes 22-32) features almost no action at all. Although the content is probably safe for kids, I can't imagine any kids being able to follow the complex plot, or deal with the intense emotions portrayed within. Twelve Kingdoms isn't tame for the sake of a PG rating; it simply understands its focus is storytelling and therefore doesn't need to delve into sex or violence to make for a truly entertaining experience.
The central character is insecure Japanese student Youko Nakajima, and you have to, just have to, hang around and give her a chance because she'll win you over. Youko is aggravating at the start because she whines and cries and wallows like crazy in self-pity, although I wonder how you or I would fare if suddenly unwillingly transported to a frightening, utterly foreign alternate reality?
Youko Nakajima begins to navigate thru a medieval world bristling with wild enchantment and terrible danger. Youko is a "kaikyaku," a stranger from our world and regarded with deep mistrust by the natives of the Twelve Kingdoms. But she's luckier than the other two students who came along for the ride. Here, at least, Youko can understand the language and has a clear destiny, even if it's a destiny she chafes against. The Twelve Kingdoms are inhabited by sacred magical creatures called the Kirin who choose and then serve the Kings or Queens of the realms (thus, the throne isn't inherited). And the elegant (but sort of wooden) Kirin, Keiki, has chosen Youko Nakajima as the next Queen of the Kingdom of Kei. As protection Youko is granted a spirit (a Hinman) which resides within her body and takes over during battles. She is also given a mystical sword which allows her glimpses into the past, present, and future, except that this sword also comes loaded with a malevolent monkey-like entity which begins to plague her on a psychological level. So that sucks.
The lush fantasy elements are drawn from Japanese and Chinese folklore, and so we set eyes on monarchs become immortal by the Heavens' decree; we set eyes on wondrous, terrifying monsters (the Youma) and talking half-beasts called the Hanjyuu, with no Hanjyuu more endearing, by the way, than the gentle and wise young rat Rakushun who befriends Youko. And it's a given by now, with these fables, that the well being of the kingdom is intrinsically linked with its ruler and by how well he or she governs. One really interesting concept is that, in this strange world, babies don't originate from a mother's belly but, rather, are plucked from trees.
It's a dense, sprawling saga, the pace is deliberate, the tone is contemplative and character-driven, and you have to be in for the long haul because one episode tends to bleed into the next one. The animation is rich and detailed and vividly articulates the exotic elements within the Twelve Kingdoms. The only real downside I can find is that there isn't a resolution to the tale of the young Black Kirin Taiki.
The episodes are adapted from a series of novels by Fuyumi Ono, and while Youko is the most featured character, she's also utilized as a framing device to introduce the story arcs of other characters (like Taiki). But, to me, Youko Nakajima is the compelling character and I'm not as involved when the episodes are tracking the other characters. If you can get past the first six episodes - when Youko is at her whiniest - she becomes more sympathetic, and it's a natural progression, how she grows as a person and struggles thru the landmines of court intrigue and statesmanship. When you get to the 39th episode, when the Queen of Kei is at her most rousing, you almost shake your head at how callow she was when we first met her. Queen Kei is a great heroine and blessed by the Heavens. Raise the Dragon flag, yup.