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?
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