Yoko Nakajima is a modern Japanese teenager distinguished only by her total passivity and natural red hair. One day a bunch of monsters explode into her classroom! And a blonde guy hands her a sword and tells her to fight! She bursts into tears and refuses, and he makes a disembodied head demon crawl into her body and take it over to fight with that sword!

Yoko is taken to a very cool otherworld, where she proceeds to be the most reluctant, whiny, and passive heroine ever. If this didn't make the read difficult enough, nothing good happens to her for the entire first two-thirds of the book.

I watched part of the anime based on this and was intrigued by the worldbuilding, but ultimately gave up due to disliking every single character. I was told that character development was the entire point, but I didn't stick it out long enough to get to that part. But since I can take a book at my own pace, I speed-read this to see if the changes were actually worth it.

To my surprise... yes, they are. At the two-thirds mark, Yoko has changed a lot, the plot stops being one of relentless grinding misery, and it becomes an intriguingly different epic fantasy with some unusual takes on old tropes. I did think the pay-off made the whole book worth reading, but your mileage may vary. The translation is pretty clunky, incidentally.

Click here to see it on Amazon: Twelve Kingdoms - Paperback Edition Volume 1: Sea of Shadow (v. 1)

Spoilers for the beginning of the anime, which may be spoilers for later books in the series.

Was the whole story with Sugimoto and Asano (? -the boy) in different books, or was that original to the anime?

From: [identity profile] magicnoire.livejournal.com

Original to the anime. It was the compromise the director reached to portray Yoko's character arc.

From: [identity profile] magicnoire.livejournal.com

The fake emperor of Kei? No, that's the sister of the previous emperor.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

I almost gave up on the book exactly one page before that two-thirds point where things changed. I see what the author was trying to do, and how all that buildup was necessary to do that, but I still wonder if there wasn't some way to compress it, and scatter parts forward.

Translation wasn't the smoothest ever, no, but I was able to read past that. I'll be looking for the paperback of the next in the series.

ETA: It occurs to me that my interest in the world, spurred by my extensive reading of Chinese poetry and mythology the past few months, probably helped me over the prose. I'd still suggest Journey to the West over this, though.


From: [identity profile] erinlin.livejournal.com

Yeah, I really liked that book. I loved how it took the whole 'girl dropped in the woods' idea and turned it on it's head. Yoko is not Snow White. The creatures in the woods are not her Forest Friends, they're mean, they're trying to eat her. The old woman is not a helpful witch, she's trying to sell her into slavery.

What really made it for me was the fact that the real world was like this too. Her classmates where a bunch of little bastards. But in the real world, she had the luxury of ignoring it. Here, she doesn't, and is forced to Take A Level In Badass (if I may quote TV Tropes).

I will agree the pacing is kinda choppy. I really would have liked to see more detail about the final big battle, instead of most of it taking place off screen.

From: [identity profile] amberley.livejournal.com

Book 3 is out

The anime (and to a lesser extent book) is very good at stretching the character arcs to the unbearable point, then redeeming everything. And then it does it again. If one can persevere there's considerable payoff.

Book 3 of 7, The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas, came out yesterday, about Enki.

From: [identity profile] fourthage.livejournal.com

Re: Book 3 is out

Oh, thank goodness. I'm really enjoying this series, and I was afraid it got included in Tokyopop's big series cuts.

From: [identity profile] severefun.livejournal.com

Yeah, I barely made it through the first disc of the anime for exactly the same reason; Yoko is far too unlikeable to be such a central character. When the bad guy tries to mess with the main protagonist's mind by calling her worthless and unloveable, the audience really shouldn't agree wholeheartedly. And yeah, everyone says she becomes a much better character as the arc goes on, but five episodes was enough to kill any interest I had in seeing it happen.

I picked up the book because everyone told me her character was greatly improved right off the bat, but if she's really as whiny, passive, and beset by woe as in the anime, I don't know if I'll be able to stand it.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

From: [personal profile] keilexandra

Huh. Just a few days ago my token-cosplayer friend rec'ed this series VERY enthusiastically to me. She bought and read the first three books in three consecutive days.

From: [identity profile] meganbmoore.livejournal.com

I was distracted enough by the world that I didn't notice how much I disliked everyone until they were likable. I now have a ridiculous girlcrush on Yoko. and you should watch the rest of the anime for Shoukei!
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From: [identity profile] soragamieru.livejournal.com

I am delighted to hear the payoff came through! I'm not sure I could have made it through the grinding misery myself if I hadn't already seen the anime and known I liked Youko's (coming of age! with swords! and no overt love interest!) story.

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