The Twelve Kingdoms is #5 on my list of alltime favorite anime series, being as I’m big into sci fi/fantasy it just checks all the right boxes for me. Yoko is kind of an antihero in a way but is a highly relatable character. I have the Media Blasters bluray sets and this is one gorgeous looking series. I would say this is truly a classic in every sense of the word.
I’ve heard nothing but great things about 12 Kingdoms, and I plan to watch it later myself. Many say it’s one of the best old school isekai anime out there, only hampered by the fact that it got cancelled near the end.
I’m so glad to see this made the classic streaming review cut! 12 Kingdoms is one of my all time favorite series, both the tv and novel version. And it has such a great opening song, too. I’m actually in the middle of a rewatch myself, so it’ll be interesting to see how Nicholas feels about the show as we go along.
Finally got through watching the whole thing a couple months ago. It does get slow at some points (and this is coming from a guy who generally loathes complaints about how slow an anime is). And the story can get a little too scatter-shot later on when they start focusing less and less on Youko for large chunks (episodes), and certain character’s choices seem contrived. But even then it is still a very good series. You’re left wanting more, in a good way.
“These days, you rarely see an isekai protagonist in their natural environment for more than a handful of seconds, with most stories cutting to the chase under the assumption that most of the audience knows the deal already and just wants to get to the fireworks factory in another world. ”
Correction: we want to see Truck-Kun first, *then* we want to get to the fireworks factory…
Old-school isekai just really hits the spot sometimes, huh? Not to say I don’t enjoy the modern stuff but I’ve been bingeing Fushigi Yugi recently and it’s been a heck of a time. (And that’s allegedly not even in the top tier of the old-school isekai, at least not where the anime is concerned.)
Twelve Kingdoms is a brilliant piece of high fantasy, one which I very much enjoyed watching. You’re right that the first few episodes have a very oppressive atmosphere, and the creative staff did a fantastic job of getting the audience to share in Youko’s sense of overwhelmed bewilderment. There’s this great slow drip of learning more about this world and its mechanics, and there’s so much rich world-building that clearly went into the setting. It’ll be a blast reading these reviews…now we just need a continuation!
(Definitions aside, I personally hate seeing the term “isekai” applied to classic fantasy series like this and Escaflowne. They come from a much older literary tradition, one that’s certainly in no small part inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and they really have nothing in common with what falls under that label today.)
Even at the time it first came out, Twelve Kingdoms was refreshing for the way the heroine is whisked off to the fantasy world and immediately loses it and wants desperately to go home.
Also worthy of mention is the soundtrack, beginning with the opening music, but including the series background music.
Wow. I’m so tempted to re-watch the series as you review them.
As good as the first two episodes are the series gets even better. A few years back ANN held a “most improved character” poll that Youko deservedly won. She goes through some significant changes over the course of the series. I’d also second dm’s soundtrack comment.
I am so excited that Twelve Kingdoms is getting more attention and hopefully new viewers will decide to jump in. It is one of my favorite series of all time and I rewatched it a few months ago when Crunchyroll got it. I may have to watch it again for these reviews. It is also a series that sounds good in the dub or sub and the music is awesome.
The worldbuilding is super detailed and had me imagining all sorts of scenarios for each kingdom. We get a glimpse of how things differ in each kingdom due to the different philosophies of each ruler. I also thought it was cool how the gods are actually watching over this world and what it means for corrupt rulers. Highly recommended!
Top Gun wrote: (Definitions aside, I personally hate seeing the term “isekai” applied to classic fantasy series like this and Escaflowne. They come from a much older literary tradition, one that’s certainly in no small part inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and they really have nothing in common with what falls under that label today.) Why though? It means very little, as in it’s just a very loose narrative structure. The main character was transferred to another world, and that’s all they have to have in common. if Escaflowne and Alice in Wonderland can both be Iseka despite being nothing alike, the formers high fantasy medieval mecha. Than so can Shield Hero and a Boy and the Beast.
FireChick wrote: I’ve heard nothing but great things about 12 Kingdoms, and I plan to watch it later myself. Many say it’s one of the best old school isekai anime out there, only hampered by the fact that it got cancelled near the end.
It does indeed get cancelled. But, tells a FULLY COMPLETE multi-arc narrative. Fully fleshing out the initial main characters and storylines. I usually just stop after episode 39. One of the best series out there and definitely worth a watch.
I agree the music from the show is fantastic. I especially like the closing theme. Pay attention to the lyrics of the closing.
Were the novels ever fully translated. I know they were being officially released here, but was the English version ever completed?
Dan297na wrote: Were the novels ever fully translated. I know they were being officially released here, but was the English version ever completed?
Nope. Only the novels equivalent to the anime content ever got brought over. Still one of the biggest disappointments on discontinued translations even after a decade.