May 16, 2019

Twelve Kingdoms on Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll is streaming the anime series originally broadcast on NHK in 2002 and 2003. Crunchyroll acquired the rights from Discotek Media, which will release a Blu-ray edition later this month. The Discotek Media license is limited to North America. The series is also available on Amazon (dub only) and AsianCrush (I don't know what regions).

Netflix still has the series on DVD.

The NHK adaptation audaciously tried to cover all of the books in print at the time. But 45 episodes are not nearly enough to do the material justice. As a result, the sped-up storylines overlap (Taiki gets an early mention devoid of context), plot elements and characters are mixed and matched, while others are invented out of whole cloth.

To get an idea of how fast the narrative is paced, Rakushun shows up in episode 5, too early in the hero's journey for Youko to convincingly hit her physical and metaphysical "abyss." The plotting at that point instead turns on the invented elements.

Sugimoto makes a compelling proxy for both Suzu and the monkey. In fact, she's got an interesting enough arc to justify her own isekai series. She just doesn't belong in this one (beyond chapter 3 of Shadow of the Moon).

On the other hand, I have no idea what Asano is doing there as he hardly does anything. I imagine some marketing executive insisted on giving Youko a male classmate to broaden the demographic appeal. Unfortunately, the presence of these characters dilutes the dramatic impact of Youko's moral transformation.

And there are still three more books to go plus a couple of short stories.

In any case, the NHK series makes for a decent sort of Cliff's Notes guide. In the process, it leaves plenty of room for future (more faithful) adaptations. As with the remake of Space Battleship Yamato26 episodes for Shadow of the Moon and 26 episodes for A Thousand Leagues of Wind would be a nice start.

For historical fantasy world building on a similar scale, with a similar setting (though derived from medieval Korea rather than from China) and a similar main character arc, I recommend Yona of the Dawn. It is not an isekai series and I can't say how closely it tracks the original manga.

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# posted by Blogger Panino Manino
Yes, there's not really a point in Asano, he should have had died in the beginning. But Sugimoto I liked.
Youko meeting Rakushun earlier is both to speed up a bit the story and to lower the violence, I think.

I liked this adaptation, it's good enough.
There's nothing that you can say that it's worse than the original.
The only problem is that it's unfinished, and is for the same reason I can't really also recommend Yona of the Dawn. That series is fantastic, but just as Juuni Kokuki is also unfinished. It's cruel to recommend to someone just the introduction of a bigger story.

And I say this again... I dislike the fact that Nahoko choose to write a follow-up for Tai's story. For me that Kingdom is dead, Risai and Taiki are dead, Tai-ou is dead, everyone is dead.
I really feel that her disease affected her writing.
5/17/2019 5:20 PM

# posted by Anonymous Westshore
I saw the Twelve Kingdoms and I was so excited that I considered watching it for the 3rd since it's on Crunchyroll. However, I remembered that Sugimoto and Asano was in there and it turned me off. Those two characters aren't in the book when Youko went to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, so I would understand putting Asano in for demographic appeal. I just wish they had more spine so it'll be more interesting to watch, but instead they are the cliched full-of-fear characters.

I'm re-reading the book again, this time your translation instead of the official one on my bookshelf. I'm digging it so far!
5/23/2019 12:00 PM

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
I enjoyed the 12 kingdoms anime, especially as I never would have discovered the books without it. I still rewatch parts of it from time to time.

Yes, the novels are a bit better as a story, but changing the medium requires some alterations in even the most faithful adaptations.

I don't mind the additional characters, as they are a visual medium for exploring the world without Youko, when they're separated.

5/27/2019 12:33 PM