Juuni Kokuki

Title:Juuni Kokuki
Record of 12 Kingdoms
Twelve Kingdoms
十二国記
Overall:Buy
Keywords: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Notables: HISAKAWA Aya
KOYASU Takehito
MATSUMOTO Yasunori
Original Concept - ONO Fuyumi
R1 License - Media Blasters
UEDA Yuuji
YAMAGUCHI Kappei
This is about a Japanese girl named Nakajima Yoko who is taken away to another world by a mysterious man, but is separated from him and is soon confronted by the natives. She experiences a large number of tribulations and this story is about what she does and how she grows as a person because of what she goes though. This anime has action, adventure, great music, and wonderfully illustrated moral lessons. Many modern issues are also addressed, including race, politics, etc.

[TV series, 2002-2003, 45 episodes, 25 min. Based on a series of eleven novels and a short story collection by Fuyumi Ono; Winner of 2003 Anime-Reactor Award. Animation production by Studio Pierrot, R1 License by Media Blasters.]

Series structure:
  • Episodes 01-14: Shadow of the Moon, Sea of the Shadow (main story, Yoko)
  • Episodes 15-22: Sea of the Wind, Shore of the Labyrinth (flashback arc, Taiki)
  • Episodes 23-40: A Great Distance in the Wind, the Sky at Dawn (three parallel stories including the main arc with Yoko)
  • Episodes 41-45: Sea God of the East, Azure Sea of the West (flashback arc, Atsuyu)

"十二" (juu-ni) = "12", "国" (koku) = "country", "記" (ki) = "chronicle".

2:05min Promo Trailer - YouTube Video
Episode Details 
5, 45
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 8 7 8 7 9 8 Ggultra2764 [series:667#1552]
(Buy-/ Rent+)

Reviewing this should finally get Devil Doll satisfied. ^_^

I was initially hesitant to press on with Twelve Kingdoms because the series seemingly threw you into its world without offering much explanation and Yoko not exactly being the best anime heroine to connect with in the earlier episodes because of being too trustful of others, being quite whiny over her predicament and too willing to please others at expense of her own needs and well being. Fortunately, Yoko learns quick that the personality that she starts off with won't get her what she wants considering the world of Twelve Kingdoms, or at least the country she occupies, doesn't take too kindly to those from her world and are out to kill her and two classmates forced along on the trip from a mysterious man named Keiki and several mythical beasts.

Twelve Kingdoms takes its time in exploring its vast world as we get introduced to the many kingdoms and characters that make it up. Characterization is a strong element in this series as the two major arcs of it are focused on Yoko's developments as she comes to terms with her true identity and how it connects to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, as well as dealing with political corruption as she comes to understand more about how the various governments within this world function. Other prominent characters in Twelve Kingdoms get their focus as they come from various backgrounds and we get to learn of their upbringings, as well as some of them playing a significant influence on driving Yoko's character developments throughout the series.

The show's world building is also effective in conveying the type of society there is within Twelve Kingdoms. The world of the series appears to adopt a mix of Japanese mythology and feudal era society/ politics considering the presence of supernatural creatures and demons, the strong belief in the divine and differences in status between classes and those of different origins. This leads to some interesting exploration of societal issues and themes with the system in which the world of Twelve Kingdoms selects its ruler, rulers concerned over whether they have made their country prosperous and peaceful compared to others and how influential political figures let the power and authority they have get to their heads driving them to either insanity or corruption to satisfy their personal desires.

In terms of presentation, Twelve Kingdoms is solid in its quality with vivid color and a good amount of detail put into its settings and character designs. The scenery in the series is diverse featuring areas such as the city landscapes of modern Tokyo, commoner towns, the exquisite palaces of country rulers and mountains. Character designs are drawn realistically as well. The show's music mostly consists of traditional Japanese instruments which while fitting well with the show's setting, there wasn't really anything memorable with it that stuck out for me.

If there is a major issue I have with Twelve Kingdoms, it would have to be the two plot arcs that come along after each of the two arcs with Yoko concludes. While they do help expand on elements to the world of the series, they don't really introduce anything new that the series already brought to my attention and it abruptly messes with the focus of the series as new viewers, counting myself, would be under the impression that this series was Yoko's story instead of having several self-contained arcs. One of those arcs even winds up lacking a proper ending as we never get to know what became of the central character of the story, Taiki. The series also gets in the annoying habit of running recap episodes at the end of each arc which I found to be a complete waste of episode space in this series.

While not as perfect as I've heard enough online reviews praise it as, Twelve Kingdoms still made for an engaging fantasy-adventure series focused on the exploits of Yoko as she comes to terms with her origins and eventually tends to responsibilities to deal with political corruption in the kingdom of Kei.

Last updated Thursday, December 29 2011. Created Wednesday, July 14 2010.
Rent 9 8 9 8 6 Diwafiven [series:667#3160]
Well, if there is one thing I can say it is this: Do not let the cover fool you! I have come across this anime quite a few times while searching, and I have always assumed it would be a children's anime (mainly due to the mouse on the cover). this series was actually very well done and the only reason it is not a buy is because of the amount of episodes that remind you of what has happened so far, and also because it tends to drag on too long after the main character reaches her goal.

This is a must watch for anyone that likes medieval fantasy or for those that like animes with lots of politics in it.

Last updated Friday, December 18 2009. Created Friday, December 18 2009.
Buy 10 9 9 7 8 8 Devil Doll [series:667#752]
[Score: 84% = "Buy-". Similar scenario and quality as: Seirei no Moribito; a SciFi equivalent of this epic would be the Seikai no Monshou/Senki I-III franchise.]
  • Drama: Med/High (not exactly a tragedy but character development by facing personal challenges rules this show)
  • Comedy: None (charming moments at best but most scenes are between serious and desperate)
  • Action: Med (lots of war scenes, swordplay, flying magical beasts)
  • SciFi: Med/High (high fantasy magic and supernatural beings as core of the story)
  • Ecchi: None (all characters are mature and considerate)
Despite my reluctance when it comes to series of more than 26 episodes this one has gotten so much praise that I can't possibly delay it any longer. And this show is way better (i. e. more mature/serious and with better characters) than both Lodoss Wars series:
  • Arc 1 (episodes 01-14, main story): 90% = "Buy+"
  • Arc 2 (episodes 15-22, spin-off): 79% = "Rent+"
  • Arc 3 (episodes 23-40, main story): 87% = "Buy"
  • Arc 4 (episodes 41-45, prequel): 74% = "Rent-"

A high-school girl is cast into a foreign world and learns not only to survive there but to find her true self and grows immensely with the challenges she has to face, eventually becoming the queen of a country whose people she has to protect. She who originally tried to please everyone and questions her own abilities over a long period of time ultimately becomes a lot more self-confident and able to make decisions of far reaching consequences.
Despite the permanent killing in a world of wars and monsters this show isn't overloaded with action and violence (during episode 13 a whole war is summed up into about 30 seconds), there's enough space even for several side characters to grow and adapt to ever new challenges, some of which change the relation between these characters drastically. We're allowed to observe many of them wresting with their doubts and fears; Characters are one of the strongest aspects of this work, and this alone makes this show a winner for me.

Music is impressive at times during dramatic scenes but it's hard to identify individual themes that would enchant me. Both songs (the OP features Japanese flute plus string orchestra, the ED is a rather boring guitar+vocals piece) are not of my liking, thus making this aspect the weakest one of the series.
Art and Animation are very strong, especially the drawings are extremely detailed and realistic (these high-schoolers are young women for once instead of being and acting like loli brats!).

The first arc, "Shadow of the Moon, Sea of the Shadow" (episodes 1-14) featuring Nakajima and Sugimoto, is a story full of character development ending in a wonderful climax whose resolution opens a door to the next stage. I like this part very much. This arc is a breathtaking fantasy epic offering suspense, character growth and a challenging tale where the side characters get a consistent and interesting story as well. (90% = "Buy+" despite one significant plausibility flaw in episode 5.)
Episode 14 is kind of a summary of the events so far, explaining certain cultural elements in full detail - not really necessary but providing an overview of the many different beings and powers in this world and all their functions and dependencies.

The second arc, "Sea of the Wind, Shore of the Labyrinth" (episodes 15-22) featuring Taiki, tells a story of different characters that took place a few years before the first arc, as narration of side characters with the main character listening to that flashback. Now flashbacks aren't uncommon in anime - but a whole arc of no less than 6 episodes? I've seen this only once so far, in Tenjou Tenge. Just when we began to love the many lead characters none of these plays a role any more for quite a while... and the new characters show almost no development and have very few significant decisions to make. This arc ends without any explanation what actually happened but shows way too obviously how we might find out about it later (well, there's this miraculous coincidence...). I consider this "prequel arc" (lasting for half a season of normal anime airing time and again ending with a recap/summary episode plus another episode forming a bridge back into the main story) much weaker than the first one... and the worst thing is: The events from this arc are forgotten immediately afterwards and never referenced any more in this anime. (79% = minimum "Rent+" due to lack of significant choices for the lead characters and lack of connection to the remainder of the series.)

The third arc, "A Great Distance in the Wind, the Sky at Dawn" (episodes 23-40) tells three tales in parallel: Yoko's events in Kei, the story of another visitor girl named Suzu, and the story of a former princess. These three stories seem completely unrelated for quite a while, so the permanent jumping to and fro between these stories is confusing (compare this to Lodoss Wars where all stories are obviously related and the audience is aware of this right from the start). What's more, this arc is extremely violent (but not explicit in terms of visible details) and very depressing - nothing positive happens for a number of consecutive episodes, and too many characters are acting in a mentally disturbed way. (The first arc had hostile people as well but each of them was acting rationally.) And the few positive characters we've got to know so far, most notably Rakushun and Enki, aren't present during most of this arc either.
The narration about Yoko's problems is interesting even though the fundamental issue (communication deficits of Keiki) has been explicitly stated too often before as to be credibly overlooked by the leads. But once Yoko has to face her first crisis and decides to take matters into her own hands the story gets significantly better, and the foreshadowing of how these separate stories will soon be intertwined is excellent. The new characters get more interesting as well even though several of them are switching from admiration to hatred or vice versa in an instant, sometimes even based on nothing more than a (wrong) assumption or a lie. But as the fundamental issue unfolds step by step this arc returns to the greatness of the first arc, and the final couple of episodes lead flawlessly to a Grande Finale. (87% = "Buy" despite certain implausible character decisions due to the exceptionally strong ending that credibly answers all questions.)

The fourth arc, "Sea God of the East, Azure Sea of the West" (episodes 41-45) featuring Atsuyu, takes us back several hundred years in history of the Kingdom of En; King Shouryuu himself tells Yoko about the events of an early stage of his governance. Like the second arc, this is more like a spin-off and only loosely connected to the main arc but not as open ended as the second arc. This story has almost no character development but a complex system of inherent necessities and dependencies, it is much less of an adventure and almost a pure political story. (74% = "Rent-" due to spending a whole recap episode for a mere four episodes of story, plus the Koya issue.)

Yoko's double arc, covering no less than two thirds of this series, is a masterpiece; unfortunately the two side arcs can't keep up with the main arc in terms of character development and storytelling, and the arrangement of the arcs (including the standalone episode 40 and two recap-only episodes 14 and 45) give the whole series a bit of a patchwork feeling (even more so as the Taiki arc was completed in the underlying novels but never fully animated).
So the whole series is a mixed bag (not unlike the Silmarillion) but still way above average fantasy anime, dealing with serious issues and ethical themes, and as such wholeheartedly recommended. I just wished they had made separate anime for the different arcs like the Seikai Universe did.

Last updated Friday, August 19 2011. Created Thursday, June 12 2008.
Buy 10 10 10 10 10 10 DisFunctional [series:667#863]
I've seen 3 eps and can i just say WOW!!! The character design is absolutely crazy. So much details!!! Very original. Story line - I cant wait to see what happens next, so i guess i'm intrigued. so far, all 10s

Last updated Wednesday, November 07 2007. Created Wednesday, November 07 2007.
Buy 10 10 10 10 10 aoneish [series:667#1615]
Truly epic, truly great. Individual stories intertwined into this massive masterpiece. However, there is a lot of information and detail going into this world, and thusly, if you don't wanna think too hard or keep up with all the characters and backstories and names and whatnot, it's best to avoid. Fortunately, there are a couple episodes dedicated to keep you up to date. So it's not too bad. The action isn't impressive, but it's still pretty good (I have high standards anyway), there are hardly any 2-D characters, the magical beasts are just beautiful, the plot is smooth and nearly flawless, the drama isn't overdone. It's a wonderful series. And though mostly everything is resolved near the end (around ep 39 or so), I do wish they had continued and finished the series. Here's hoping it'll happen sometime soon.

Last updated Friday, September 15 2006. Created Friday, September 15 2006.
Buy 10 10 9 8 10 10 Dreamer [series:667#2279]
Wow!! After watching the first 2 episodes, I was hooked. This is truly the best anime I've ever seen; nothing compares as of yet. Although I feel the character design could've been slightly improved & the music, not exactly my taste, everything else was perfect. What got me hooked was how the side-stories interwove with the main plot. The whole story was a grand epic and as believable as any anime could possibly get. Solid story telling from beginning to end.

Last updated Monday, June 19 2006. Created Monday, June 19 2006.
Buy 10 10 10 Violet D [series:667#1393]
I remember watching this one and enjoying the animation and the story line. The character design was imaginative and I couldn't wait to watch more. It was like reading a book you can't put down and can't leave it because you are afraid you are going to miss what is going on. This is one you are going to watch, rent or buy.

Last updated Tuesday, June 28 2005. Created Tuesday, June 28 2005.
Buy 10 10 10 10 10 10 Seth Weiner [series:667#1707]
This series is actually based on a novel series by Ono Fuyumi. The original novels were first released in the early 90's and then again just before the anime was released in Japan. The anime follows the novels to the letter with few differences. I was fortunate enough to have read the novels before watching the series. This is by far one of the most interesting and well done series that I have seen to date.

Last updated Saturday, April 09 2005. Created Friday, December 03 2004.
Buy 10 9 9 9 10 Jan-Chan [series:667#967]
Wow! What a grand epic story this is!! And it has everything (including incredible and detailed animation)!!!

This is a story of a simple, quiet, and complacent high school girl, Yoko, who is swept away to a different world and told that she is god chosen king of Chin country. On their journey to the land of the twelve countries, they are attacked by flying daemons and she becomes separated from her guide, her flying holy beast unicorn companion. Yoko and two of her high schools friends, who made the journey with her, find themselves in a strange and hostile medieval land, where they are called evil cursed pilots by the local villagers, and are hunted both by the local police and by packs of daemon dogs. On their adventure of escape, the three become separated, and Yoko has to travel on her own. She comes to learn that someone has claimed the throne of the Chin country and has declared her to be a false contender, and put a bounty for her arrest. Yoko has to find her way to safety, find friends and make allies, to rescue her unicorn companion and fulfill her destiny to be the king of the Chin country.

This story has it all; evil daemons, beautiful fairies, flying horses and tigers, magic dragons from the deep ocean, transforming unicorns, armies of charging spearmen and archers, magic swords and spell casting kings. Set in a magical place where God has divided the land in to twelve countries, each to be governed by a magical holy beast unicorn, and a chosen king, in a land that hints of the ancient lore and legends of China. The story line is both rich and complex, and the animation is exquisitely detailed. This is an adventure story of an epic proportion.

The DVD set that I am reviewing was actually four different stories that are interwoven and interrelated by both characters and theme. The first story (the first three DVDs, about 28 episodes) tells the story of how Yoko came to the land and ascended to the throne. The second story (the 4th DVD, about 7 episodes) tells of the holy unicorn for the country Dai, of how he was rescued from the fairy land of Japan, and how he comes of age. The third story (the 5th DVD, eight episodes) tells the story of how Yoko has confront the difficulties in learning how to be a good king, how she addresses the challenges of court politics and has to overcome a dangerous conspiracy that threatens to overthrow her leadership of the Chin country.

This is definitely a treasure that is on par with, but better than, Fushigi Yuugi or Record of Lodoss War (TV Series). If you enjoy a good swords and sorcery story, then this is definitely an anime series to take note of. ................... (10/2003)

Last updated Sunday, June 28 2009. Created Monday, October 20 2003.
Buy 10 10 10 10 10 10 Randy [series:667#1010]
This is by far the best anime series I have ever seen...bar none. It has every element of a good anime: action, adventure, moral lessons, betrayal, character development, romance(only a tiny bit), fantasy. The characters and world are extremely well built due to it being based on Ono Fuyumi's books. It is somewhat like Fushigi Yuugi except that the female main character is very independent and capable.

Last updated Saturday, October 04 2003. Created Saturday, October 04 2003.

Other Sites
NameURL
Japanese Language Series Web Site http://www.12kokuki.com/
(English Language) Fansub Site http://www.12kingdoms.us/
Fan Site - Image Gallery (all episodes) http://anime.akichigo.org/juunikokuki/1.php
2003 Anime Reactor Awards http://forum.anime-reactor.net/viewtopic.php?t=6219

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