Posted by psgels on 25 October 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews




The Twelve Kingdoms: world building at its finest.

After sitting down to watch this series, I can really understand why it still stands high as a classic: I’ve seen a lot of fantasy series at this point, but out of all of them, the setting of the Twelve Kingdoms stands amongst the most detailed, original and imaginative. It comes up with a completely new world; a carefully balanced one by a mysterious deity who randomly selects people to be the king of one of the twelve countries it consists of. Far away from your typical fantasy series, this is a series that tries to portray its setting realistically. And it works out really well!

Everyone in the series has his or her own story to tell. The Twelve Kingdoms is a series that puts a ton of emphasis on character development: there are a ton of characters who go through immense changes, and who overcome huge flaws in their characters. Usually, this is a recipe for cheese, but this show actually pulls it off. It spends long strings of episodes to outline these characters, show their progression and details some of the major events in their lives, showing exactly how they mature and warrant such drastic changes in their personalities.

It’s a series that is wonderfully told, and constantly evolving, Most of its problems come from the fact that it was most likely cancelled before it could get fully completed (do correct me if I’m wrong, but the series was supposed to have gotten 63 episodes, and only ended up with 45 of them). The final five episodes are significantly less impressive than the rest of the series, they’re rather shallow and end the series with a whimper, rather than a bang. It’s a bit of a nasty aftertaste for otherwise such a great series.

Still, the final arc is more of a minor annoyance than a reason not to watch this series. The thing I really loved about this series is how much it speaks to you imagination: through its 45 episodes, this series only tells about a tiny percent of all the stories that it could have told. There is so much more that this series could have shown us, but it doesn’t really matter that the show didn’t have time for that, because it all just speaks to your imagination. There are almost an infinite amount of possibilities here.

Of course, comparisons with the other major politics series are inevitable in such a review: Saiunkoku Monogatari. About that, I’ll say the following: they’re both very good at politics, both in their own ways. The Twelve Kingdoms’s setting definitely beats the one from Saiunkoku Monogatari, however I do feel that Saiunkoku Monogatari has a better cast: it also has great character development, but on top of that it was much better at fleshing its characters out. Saiunkoku Monogatari has a cast that felt alive, The Twelve Kingdoms has a setting that feels alive.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Wonderfully told. At times it’s so believable that it could double as a deconstruction. It’s got great ideas for character-development, none of the lazy fantasy cliches appear here, though the final episodes can leave a bit of a bad taste.
Characters: 8/10 – Loves giving huge flaws to its characters, exploring them and develop them into a completely different character. In terms of the main characters it works out really well.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Ranges from beautiful to rather ugly. Studio Pierrot provided some really neat eye candy on some shots, while rushed drawings on others.
Setting: 10/10 – Pretty much as good as it gets. Detailed, alive, imaginative. Well worth the watch.

Suggestions:
Saiunkoku Monogatari
Guin Saga

15 Responses

  1. boo says:

    yeah, it’s better to stop at the episode 39, maybe 40. The last 5 episode is not even a complete arc, just a build up.

  2. Salinea says:

    Love that series, awesome setting and character development indeed – and a great soundtrack. I think the only fantasy series I rate higher is Seirei no Moribito.

  3. hope says:

    AFAIK the series of novels this is based on is till unfinished (on hiatus?), so when the anime stopped short, it was rumored that if and when the novels get done, there might be more. Of course quite a bit of time has passed since then, so it might be wishful thinking at this point… I would love it, though.

  4. gandalf8 says:

    I’ve watched this until episode 21, at the end of the arc about the black kirin, Taiki. Based on these episodes, I completely agree about the points in your review. The story started really slowly for me, and at first, Youko’s character was really annoying but as the story gathered pace and she started to grow, it really turned up its awesome level to the max. Unfortunately, I feel very apprehensive to finish it due to the unfinished nature of the last arc, which is a continuation about Taiki, my favourite character in the series. I’m thinking of finding at least the novel about the last arc in the tv series, before I continue watching, so I can at least read the novel to really enjoy the last arc.

  5. ren says:

    I’d definitely recommend anyone watching for more of a “complete” experience, watch until maybe episode 39 and treat the rest as an OVA type format. And yes it’s true that the series wasn’t finished because of the “final arc” (which the novel was released by now…but no word from them wanting to continue the anime at all =\ )

    I’ve read all the books that have been translated in the series so far, and its just as vivid and imaginative as the series was. Highly recommended!

  6. thealien says:

    Great review! Many people have been waiting for this one.
    I desperately wish the series was continued. It’s one of my all time favourites :)

  7. Joojoobees says:

    Twelve Kingdoms is my favorite anime of all time. The only possible contender being Haibane Renmei, because it feels more “complete” in the way it ended.

    When I watched the first disc, I realized that I HATED every one of the characters. Not caring for characters isn’t that unusual, but HATING every one of the characters presented doesn’t happen by chance. Based on that experience, I purchased the complete series and have never regretted it. I have since watched the entire series several times from start to finish, and have watched selected portions on additional occasions.

    What you say about character development (and credible development at that) is so true. Another great strength of this show is the way it tackles big themes (like the responsibilities that come with positions of power).

  8. wakka9ca says:

    I have read all 12K novels written by the author, including the short stories and I have to say that the novels are even more amazing than the anime adaptation.

    (In case you didn’t notice, this series is written by the SAME author as the currently airing Shiki and also Ghost Hunt, Fuyumi Ono)

  9. Chris says:

    This is considered a classic? It only came out like a few years ago didn’t it? I remember watching it as it broadcasted… Have I just revealed what an old geezer I am? LOL!

    Loved this show when it premiered and it is still one of my favorites to this day.

  10. Crokus says:

    First anime I’ve watched starring an unlikeable main chararcter. But the setting, which was so fascinating really hooked me in right from the start.

    The Twelve Kingdoms remains one of my favorite anime to date, even in it’s incomplete status. I’ve also read all the available translated novels online and I’ve got to say my favorite would be Demon Child. It gave a more detailed explanation about Taiki. It would be awesome if that one get animated as an OVA after Shiki. =)

  11. Ingenu says:

    I encourage people to read the novels, they are just great, they are slightly different from the series, but I have to say the whole series of novels is one of the few I read and re-read regularily!

  12. elianthos says:

    Aah, I ‘m so glad you got the chance to watch it eventually. It’s one of the cases when I agree with the hype about a series :). It’s very solid in its world-building and the characters’ evolution is engaging.

  13. whatever says:

    It’s truly fascinating how The Twelve Kingdoms can make such an unlikable character like Youko to be one of the most admiring anime characters at the end of the show. We need more characters like her and Balsa, and less of those terrible cute girls with a personality that boils down to ”hey look at me being cute!”

  14. cklaighe says:

    REALLY EPIC SERIES.

    At some point, i stopped watching this series because there were moments which were just bland and boring… But nobody should ever skip episodes… I learned that after re-watching the whole series.. And Yes, Now, I am a big fan!

  15. Hey! says:

    Come help out at the 12kingdoms wiki!

    http://www.12kingdoms.wikia.com

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Mar 7. 2015 02:00 AM)
    @Vxien, Not sure who that recommend is for but whoever it is has seen death note. It’s like recommending Cowboy bebop. Anyone calling themselves an anime fan has likely already seen it and anyone that hasn’t…should watch it immediately.
  • Vxien
    (Saturday, Mar 7. 2015 12:41 AM)
    Might I recommend Death Note if you haven’t already.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:47 AM)
    I remember that same guy, during end of eva, pausing it over and over during that scene where asuka dies with all of those fast moving clips too.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:39 AM)
    I remember catching it also when I was young with a friend and we looked back on a fanservice scene with shinji and rei and he mentioned “You know if you think about it that scene is damn disturbing when you think she’s a clone of/modelled after you know who…”
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:36 AM)
    Before Eva, when I was 11 or so my image of a mech anime was Nadesico…then it was eva and then I was like…Whoah…whoah God halp! =O
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:34 AM)
    I suppose credit where I feel it due, the angel designs are excellent and I remember getting the shock of my life when shinji’s eva went nuts and then there was a bit with Bardiel infect Toji’s unit. I remember at least Masatos boyfriend being a likeable character.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:31 AM)
    I don’t think anyone was prepared for Eva, whether they liked the show or not, at 11 I can remember being horrified by end of eva and the series original ending as well as having my first moment of “Feck…theres a first…an anime that did something that scrambled my mind, I actually feel kind of thick now, this show is smarter than I am”.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:27 AM)
    It really wouldn’t have been that hard to put a satisfying ending to the original series, wrap up the threads nicely and put a pretty ribbon on the package to finish it off. But Anno and friends took a risk and went against the tide and end up becoming the trope-namer for the Gainax Endings. That took balls and made things unexpected and fresh, cuz god knows that ,good guys win the day ‘is tired and boring.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:26 AM)
    Requiem for a dream. I remember the guy who recommended that film saying to me “Even someone such as yourself who finds it hard to find/has high standards an emotionally investing film will get something out of requiem for a dream”
  • Bam
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:17 AM)
    @Emma: leaving a bad taste is pretty much the point of Eva, just as getting bummed out by Requiem For a Dream is the naturally intended effect. I don’t mind that you don’t enjoy Eva all that much Emma, l actually appreciate it over dishonest admiration. Just keep in mind that Eva deserves it’s special place in anime.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Durarara!!X2 – 08

No animation issues this time around thankfully. Really like the touch of Irelands flag on the cup Shinra gave the girl at their apartment. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Celty is indeed Irish. Probably one of the few Irish characters in anime. And here we learn that the one who told the little girl […]

Death Parade – 08

Why do you do this to me death parade? You dodge your true potential and instead focus on background exposition or, of all things, comedy. Then just as I was about to lose interest and give up, you present the best episode of the series so far. Now this, this is what I was talking […]

Durarara!!X2 – 07

I think the problem with this episode was evident right from the opening scene. I had to do a double take when seeing a very poorly drawn Simon. I even questioned whether it was a new character entirely. But no, the animation budget took a nosedive. Or the guy who was to do the inbetweens […]

Death Parade – 07

Why is the girl from the last episode still around? This episode brought up three rules about arbiters. The third rule, about arbiters not having emotions, Is odd to me. For the arbiters we have been introduced to are very emotional. They state that Decim was given human emotions yet he is the least emotional […]

Durarara!!X2 – 06

Turns out that assassination attempt got Celty to see her life flash before her eyes. I suppose taking a tumble off a moving motorcycle is a fatal thing. But well in the last arc we saw two people survive getting blown away at about the length of a football field. So I cannot say I […]

Death Parade – 06

Death Parade in a risky move has taken things in a new direction. A daring adventurous move that no one expected. And it is…absolutely terrible. Death Parade, what happened? Did no one read over the script and do a shaft head tilt in wonder? Was there not an Animator who said “Excuse me sir. But […]

Durarara!!X2 – 05

We have yet another new character entering the show. A motorcycle gang leader who has a massive fondness for woman. Personally I am not a fan of him. His brand of female overprotective crazy just seems like a downgrade from the shows already huge cast of crazies. He looks like a character whose introduction serves […]

Death Parade – 05

If asked about how I think of death parade so far, my answer would have to be divided. On one hand the premise is rife with potential and it does have moments where it rises above the bar. But it also seems confused as to what it wants to be. We have death games between […]

Durarara!!X2 – 04

The current story arc ends abruptly and unexpectedly. I am rather surprised that it came here. From how this was portrayed it felt this would be a longer arc than it turned out to be. So with its end I must think back and wonder. What exactly did this arc accomplish? We got introduced to […]

Latest Reviews

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]

Clipboard01

Pokemon: The Origin Review – 75/100

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. […]

Clipboard08

Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]

Clipboard04

Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

Clipboard07

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

Clipboard05

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]