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Anime TL;DR 
The Twelve Kingdoms Season 1 (2002)
十二国記 (Jūni Kokuki)
The Twelve Kingdoms


Nakajima Youko is your average somewhat timid high school student. One day, a strange man named Keiki appears before her, swearing allegiance. Before she could properly register what was happening, demon-like creatures attack Youko and her friends, after which they are pulled into a different world. A world unlike what she has ever known. Separated from Keiki, Youko and her friends must do whatever they can if they wish to survive in this new world.
Directed by
Written by
Screenplay by
Music by


  • The overall rating of the show.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great


  • Animation quality and consistency for that time. 

Poor < Fair < Good < Great


  • How well the story flows and keeps you engaged.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great


Character design
Character development
World building


Character development
Multiple recaps



The Twelve Kingdoms (also known as “Record of 12 Countries” or “Jūni Kokki”) is a Japanese series of fantasy novels written by Fuyumi Ono and illustrated by Akihiro Yamada. The Chinese mythology-influenced books were adapted into an anime television series by Pierrot in 2002. It aired on Japan’s NHK from April 9, 2002, to August 30, 2003, and totaled 45 episodes.

Alternative title

– The Twelve Kingdoms
– Doce Reinos (Spanish)
– Dwanaście królestw (Polish)
– Jūni Kokuki (Japanese)
– Les 12 Royaumes (French)
– Двенадцать королевств (Russian)
– 十二国記 (Japanese)
– 十二國記 (Chinese (Taiwan))
– 십이국기 (Korean)
– 12 Kingdoms
– 12 Kokuki (Japanese)
– 12 Reinos (Portuguese)

TL;DR Review

It’s hard to believe that The Twelve Kingdoms anime is from 2002 and still hold up exceptionally well.

The animation is beautifully dark, conveying a gorgeous world that is wrought with danger. The colors are somewhat muted. The superb art style is quite distinguished and easily recognizable. Unfortunately, the 3rd arcs we start to see some laziness in the animation as some scenes are stiff and basic.

The music of The Twelve Kingdoms is also beautiful and haunting. I am normally is not a fan of the non-vocal tracks but this anime BGM got me hooked. Most of the music has the traditional Asia style that mostly comprised of string instruments.

As much as I do love The Twelve Kingdoms, some of the writing logic is a bit baffling, especially the third story arc. So some corrupt lord killed someone, so we must go kill the queen in order to bring justice? It’s a bit of a stretch where the writing is trying to force a connection between different characters. The earlier story arcs were very good, while the later arcs have questionable logic.

I highly recommend this anime to anyone who wants a deeper anime that focus on the characters and politic of the world and not just the action set piece. The Twelve Kingdoms contains moderate graphic violence and some mature situations. Intended for young adults.

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Featured Music

The Twelve Kingdoms Season 1 (2002)

A collection of notable music and song from this series.


Opening Theme

– “Juunigenmukyoku” composed and arranged by Kunihiko Ryo

Closing Theme

– “Getsumei-Fuuei” by Mika Arisaka
Fuyumi Ono
“It doesn't take any effort to dream. It's a lot easier than looking at the problems in front of you and figuring out what you're going to do about them. But all you're doing is putting your problems up on a shelf for later, right? That doesn't make them go away.”
Fuyumi Ono
"I think that once you’re born, the thing you have to do is find out who you are and live that life as well as you can. You can’t spend your time wondering how things would have been if you were someone different.”
Fuyumi Ono
“And that's when I realized that there's really two ways people cry. You cry when you're sorry for yourself, and then you cry when you are really sad. The tears you cry for yourself? Those are kid tears. You're crying because you want somebody to help you or pick you up. Your mom, your dad, the old lady next door... anyone.”



All images are copyright to their respective owners.

Photo by Nicolas LB, Jon Flobrant, and Yvette de Wit on Unsplash.

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