An epic anime series
eau | USA | 10/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The twelve Kingdoms is based on a novel with the same title written by Ono Fuyumi and released by Kodansha. High school student Yoko Nakajima is one day suddenly greeted with a strange man named Keiki who calls her "lord". He takes her to another world along with her classmates but then they lost sight of Keiki. They wander the land of the 12 kingdoms as hunted fugitives, trying to survive the hash treatment and attacks from the local people and to find out why they were brought to this world.
The first premium box set (of 2) released by Media Blaster is simply beautiful. It is a digipak similar to the 4-disc Extended Edition of Lord of the Rings and has a textured feel to the box's paper. The front and back of the box carries the coverart of volumes 1 and 5 of the separate DVD releases respectively. The disc holders are transparent and showing the coverart of the corresponding volume when a disc is removed.
This is an excellent anime series that you don't want to miss. Plus the fact that the premium box sets are meticiously put together makes this show a must buy!"
Fushigi Yuugi minus the romance plus the politics...
Rowena Wendy Lim | Asia | 09/18/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Judging from what was happening in the first few episodes, I was somewhat expecting The Twelve Kingdoms to be an anime along the lines of the classic girl-taken-to-another-world series "Fushigi Yuugi". Turns out I was half-right. The Twelve Kingdoms is somewhat like "Fushigi Yuugi" -- minus the romance, plus a whole lot of politics.
Youko Nakajima is the quintessential unwilling heroine with zero self-confidence. After being whisked away to the world of the twelve kingdoms, Youko is forced to pick up a sword and defend herself from those who want her dead. But why would anyone want a regular schoolgirl dead? As it turns out, Youko is not as ordinary as she always believed herself to be. She is a taika, originally born in the world of the twelve kingdoms, but was somehow swept away to Japan. What's more, Youko is the chosen one, the next queen of Kei, one of the twelve kingdoms. The man she met is actually a kirin, sort of like the guardian of Kei. Each kingdom has its own kirin and ruler. The kirin chooses the ruler and pledges his/her total loyalty and submission to the ruler. Keiki is Kei's kirin, and he has chosen Youko as the queen of Kei.
If you think terminologies like taika and kirin are confusing, prepare yourself for more of these when watching The Twelve Kingdoms. A very detailed government system exists within the kingdoms, and as Youko comes to accept her destiny as ruler, she is further plunged into the world of political intrigue, betrayal, and deception. Everything is clearly explained however, you just have to make sure you're in the right state of mind when watching -- meaning this is not an anime wherein you can let your mind float off elsewhere and still get it.
One of the things I liked best about The Twelve Kingdoms was the diverse cast of extremely well-developed characters. I was amazed at how the series managed to effectively tackle and expound multiple character-oriented subplots, tying them up neatly in the end. What kept me from giving The Twelve Kingdoms a perfect rating was the non-resolution of the Taiki arc. It was as if the subplot and characters just vanished into thin air after being painstakingly shown, and until now I can't help but feel that there's a vital chunk missing in the series.
The art and animation are pretty impressive. The picturesque settings are like a cross between ancient China and Japan. Character designs are beautiful and distinct, and every scene is packed in such a way that there is virtually nothing irrelevant -- the sheer amount and detail of the events that unfold make it seem as if an episode is longer than it actually is, but you don't get the feeling that it's dragging... except maybe for the first part when Youko is still in denial with regards to her destiny. In terms of the audio aspects, the English dubbing is done nicely and the musical scoring fits perfectly.
The Twelve Kingdoms is overall an excellent and engaging series, one that will keep you popping in disc after disc just to see what's going to happen next. Now if only they would give us some closure regarding the Taiki arc...
A&M Junkie | UK | 01/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Twelve Kingdoms is a brillant series, similiar in tone and storyline to Escaflowne and Fushigi Yugi, however much better than both (and as I love Escaflowne, I do not say that lightly). The story line is extremely addictive, the animation is above average and soooo beautiful, and the music is to die for. Although I have compared the storyline to the above-mentioned series, it is much more serious in tone due to its literary origins (it is based upon series of books by Fuyumi Ono). This is an epic story about three teenagers thrust into a foreign world in which they cannot speak the language. While they try to survive and find their own purpose in this new world they find themselves caught up in political intrigue, battles, and heavenly creatures. This story is grounded in a harsh reality in which people struggle to survive from starvation and stand up against corrupt officials. However, to counter-act the terrible scenes it shows, it also stresses the importance of friendship, trust, and courage.
When I first noticed the series on Amazon I was not sure what to expect regarding the style of the story. However, I cannot emphasize enough how good this series is - always gripping, surprising, and emotionally involving. The story continues in boxset 2.
The only one fault I can find with this series is that it only runs to 45 episodes and does not expand on one of the most interesting storylines. I read that the creators originally planned for the series to be 68 episodes. However, by concentrating on one main character (which the books did not) they did not have enough source material to continue for another series and are currently waiting for Fuyumi Ono to finish the series of books. However, please do not let that put you off as the series does have an exciting and satisfying finish to the story of the main character. Also, one of the problems with a story this good is that it could never be long enough.
The series comes in two gorgeous and well made boxsets, which look like books from the outside and have beautiful drawings inside and outside.
Buy this - you will not be disappointed. Absolutely the most breathtaking & involving Anime I have ever seen."
A few minor additions to previous reviews
C. Huynh | 04/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The anime for twelve kingdoms follows a line of literary works by Ono Fuyumi. Since I can't read Japanese, I can't say how close the anime follows the novels aside from the fact that the world of the twelve kingdoms is far deeper than the story arc of Youko portrayed in the anime. You will get the sense of this when the anime seemingly goes on a tangent and shows the story of the Tai kingdom. Although the anime was slotted for 68 episodes, the series was cut short because Youko's part in the novels only covered so much, and the producers made a wise decision in not continuing the story on their own. However, I have not seen a manga release since 2002, and I have no idea whether the project has been abandoned or what, but I can only hope that it hasn't, and more of this wonderful anime will be released in the not too distant future.
Admittedly, the characters in the beginning have ugly personalities, but they grow, and they grow into some of the most delightful beings in the realm of anime, complex and full fleshed. I have watched this series dozens of times and will continue to do so. Watch it, and I doubt that you'd regret the purchase."