Speaking of characters, most of them are realistic and relatable. Most of their development is just outstanding! Youko alone started out as someone annoying to watch, yet I could also see my past self in her: a people-pleasing pushover. Then, as she journeyed on through her quest to get home, she was betrayed and helped by all kinds of different people, which eventually shaped her character. I want you to see for yourself how she grew so I won’t spoil anything, but what I can say, though, is that you’ll be so proud of her! And this is just Youko we’re talking about! Other characters whom she meets on her journey also get the chance to develop, especially the ones are the main characters in their arcs. It’s impressive because it makes you realize each person has their own amazing story to tell.
Unfortunately, since the anime only aired for 45 episodes, there was a lot of content from the novel that wasn’t covered. Even more unfortunate was that it wasn’t renewed for another season, which is really sad. I would’ve loved to see those other stories. Don’t worry, though. Except for one arc that was left at a cliffhanger even in the novel, the others all ended nicely. At the very least, it’ll leave you feeling bittersweet, wanting more.
Art & Music
The Twelve Kingdoms was made back in 2002 and thus the art quality is considerably different. Oh, don’t get me wrong. While there are some hiccups in the art here and there, and some shots tend to be quite stiff, overall it’s still visually pleasing! The backgrounds are wonderfully painted, capturing the world that the author envisioned perfectly, and a lot of the characters’ and creature designs are memorable, especially the main cast’s.
The show is available to watch in both Japanese and English dubs. The latter is just…okay. I personally prefer the Japanese dub since it sounds more natural, plus it features talented voice actors like Hisakawa Aya (Kero-chan in Cardcaptor Sakura), Yamaguchi Kappei (Kudo Shinichi in Detective Conan), Kugimiya Rie (Suzuya Jūzou in Tokyo Ghoul), and many more! Meanwhile, the background music is lovely to listen to, plus they amp up the feeling of being in another world so well!
Themes & Trivia
Novel Adaptation: The Twelve Kingdoms light novel series was written by Ono Fuyumi, featuring illustrations by Yamada Akihiro. The seventh, and last, volume was published back in 2001, but then in 2012, a new volume was published. There was news that the author was planning to release another book in 2016, reportedly over 1000 pages long, but at the moment of the article, there are still no updates.
I actually first watched this when I was still in high school, a time where my love for drawing and storytelling started to soar. That’s why I consider this show as one of the main reasons I’ve been fascinated by fantasy stories with carefully thought out worlds, more so those revolving around royalty! It really had a huge impact on me, so much that I consider it one of my favorite anime. I actually don’t know how many times I’ve already re–watched this, yet it never gets old or boring. And even after many years, I’ve only found a handful quite like it. So please, do give it a try! I hope you also fall in love with its world, its story, and its characters the same way I have!
A Different Isekai Story
- Features a beautiful, meticulously imagined world, with an intricate system, for the world as a whole down to the small things, thought out.
- Realistic and relatable cast of characters, who have their own amazing stories and wonderful character development.
- Tackles serious yet meaningful topics filled with wisdom and insight.
- Royalty! Mythical creatures! Set in historical Asia! Magic!
- Mostly appealing visuals, great Japanese dub, engaging background music.