Animation Production – Studio Pierrot
Director – Tsuneo Kobayashi
Well crafted Japanese fantasy
The Twelve Kingdoms is an often mentioned example of one of the best fantasy works in Japanese animation. It certainly had the right backing with NHK and animation by Studio Pierrot (Bleach, Naruto). Like similar fantasy titles, such as El Hazard and Escaflowne, high school students are transported to a fantastical country full of different people, creatures, culture and rules. The Twelve Knigdoms TV series is based on the light novel by Fuyumi Ono which in turn was influenced by Chinese mythology.
The two words that sum up this show are adventure and politics. It starts of with the journey of the main characters understanding and fitting into this foreign world and the latter half of the series it more politically focused. The 45 episodes really allow the characters to progress and transform and allow the paths of different people to intersect. The enjoyment of the political drama is what it is and depends on how much you like feudal drama. It is done in a serious manner with little room for comedy or deviation from the story progression.
The problems with the show lie in the at times irrational character decisions that can make episodes seem drawn out. The series doesn’t have a conclusive ending and you could satisfactorily stop watching after certain arc points. For example the last episode is a recap of the preceding 6 episode arc. The Twelve Kingdoms is not a must watch show but is genuinely enjoyable if you are looking for fantasy themed Japanese animation.
Rating – B +
Genre – Fantasy, Drama, Adventure Length – 45 Episode series Year – 2002-2003