I was craving shoujo epic fantasy after my brief exposure to Shamanic Princess, so I rented this, knowing full well that if I liked it I'd have to order the rest from ebay since there's ten discs and the video store only had the first one. I liked it. That check from Hodder & Stoughton had better come in soon.

I had heard two things about Twelve Kingdoms: that it was similar to Fushigi Yuugi but with much better production values, and that a lot of the story had to do with character development so you should stick with it even if you initially found the characters unlikable. Going solely on the first five episodes, it is reminiscent of FY but with way better production and no comic relief, and yes, the characters are not very likable. Yet. The narrative is extremely gripping, though, so [livejournal.com profile] branna and I watched all five episodes in a single gulp, while eating fresh lychees.

Schoolgirl Nakajima has naturally red hair, which her conventional, traditional parents make her dye black, because otherwise people would think she dyes it red and that's not ladylike and OMG what would the neighbors think? ("Oh my God, it's Darkover," whispered [livejournal.com profile] branna.) Nakajima is quiet, conventional, a good student, and seems to have no interests in life other than not making waves. She has sort of a friend, Sugimoto, although they don't seem to be really good friends because Sugimoto is a bookworm and an outcast who wishes she lived in a fantasy land like the ones she reads about. ("Maybe people would like you more if you read less," says Nakajima helpfully, thereby losing our sympathy for the next three episodes.) Sugimoto is dating a boy, Asano, who is sweet, if a bit clueless and undirected.

Then a white haired guy in formal Chinese robes, Keiki, appears at the school and declares that Nakajima is the chosen one that he is vowed to serve, and he's going to take her to the country where she belongs. A bunch of amazing beasts spectacularly attack. Keiki gives Nakajima a sword and tells her to kill the beasts. Nakajima bursts into tears, refuses, cowers, and finally throws the sword away. Sugimoto volunteers to take the sword and kill the beasts, but Keiki says it won't work for her. Sugimoto is pissed. Asano stands around looking confused.

Keiki finally sticks a magic spirit into Nakajima that will weild the sword for her, since she absolutely refuses to do so, and whisks all three of them into the Twelve Kingdoms. Then Keiki gets separated from them, and they discover that Nakajima can speak and understand the language there but the rest of them can't. Also, everyone including Nakajima herself say that she looks completely different and unrecognizable, but she actually looks exactly the same except for some little scratches on her face. If anyone else has seen this, is this a plot point or did I miss something? Also, at one point a king says, "Oh, yes, they come from the country where everyone is born from their mothers' bellies." WTF? Do they reproduce by fission in the Twelve Kingdoms, or was that lines really badly translated?

Anyway, Nakajima wanders around crying and being passive, and is not even compensatorily genki or compassionate. Asano wanders around not having many ideas of his own, but going along with whatever anyone else suggests. Sugimoto decides that she's actually the chosen one, and goes completely psychotic. (The relationship between Nakajima and Sugimoto is reminiscent of that between Miaka and Yui, except that the former never seemed to have much of a bond to begin with.) Lots of fascinating and confusing stuff happens: spirits materialize and offer psychological insights of dubious morality, a creepy Kabuki play does basically the same thing, fantasy terminology is hurled about with abandon, and fabulous beasts charge every which way. A giant mouse with a leaf umbrella appears... and that's all I can watch until I order the rest of this somewhere. Dammit.
I was craving shoujo epic fantasy after my brief exposure to Shamanic Princess, so I rented this, knowing full well that if I liked it I'd have to order the rest from ebay since there's ten discs and the video store only had the first one. I liked it. That check from Hodder & Stoughton had better come in soon.

I had heard two things about Twelve Kingdoms: that it was similar to Fushigi Yuugi but with much better production values, and that a lot of the story had to do with character development so you should stick with it even if you initially found the characters unlikable. Going solely on the first five episodes, it is reminiscent of FY but with way better production and no comic relief, and yes, the characters are not very likable. Yet. The narrative is extremely gripping, though, so [livejournal.com profile] branna and I watched all five episodes in a single gulp, while eating fresh lychees.

Schoolgirl Nakajima has naturally red hair, which her conventional, traditional parents make her dye black, because otherwise people would think she dyes it red and that's not ladylike and OMG what would the neighbors think? ("Oh my God, it's Darkover," whispered [livejournal.com profile] branna.) Nakajima is quiet, conventional, a good student, and seems to have no interests in life other than not making waves. She has sort of a friend, Sugimoto, although they don't seem to be really good friends because Sugimoto is a bookworm and an outcast who wishes she lived in a fantasy land like the ones she reads about. ("Maybe people would like you more if you read less," says Nakajima helpfully, thereby losing our sympathy for the next three episodes.) Sugimoto is dating a boy, Asano, who is sweet, if a bit clueless and undirected.

Then a white haired guy in formal Chinese robes, Keiki, appears at the school and declares that Nakajima is the chosen one that he is vowed to serve, and he's going to take her to the country where she belongs. A bunch of amazing beasts spectacularly attack. Keiki gives Nakajima a sword and tells her to kill the beasts. Nakajima bursts into tears, refuses, cowers, and finally throws the sword away. Sugimoto volunteers to take the sword and kill the beasts, but Keiki says it won't work for her. Sugimoto is pissed. Asano stands around looking confused.

Keiki finally sticks a magic spirit into Nakajima that will weild the sword for her, since she absolutely refuses to do so, and whisks all three of them into the Twelve Kingdoms. Then Keiki gets separated from them, and they discover that Nakajima can speak and understand the language there but the rest of them can't. Also, everyone including Nakajima herself say that she looks completely different and unrecognizable, but she actually looks exactly the same except for some little scratches on her face. If anyone else has seen this, is this a plot point or did I miss something? Also, at one point a king says, "Oh, yes, they come from the country where everyone is born from their mothers' bellies." WTF? Do they reproduce by fission in the Twelve Kingdoms, or was that lines really badly translated?

Anyway, Nakajima wanders around crying and being passive, and is not even compensatorily genki or compassionate. Asano wanders around not having many ideas of his own, but going along with whatever anyone else suggests. Sugimoto decides that she's actually the chosen one, and goes completely psychotic. (The relationship between Nakajima and Sugimoto is reminiscent of that between Miaka and Yui, except that the former never seemed to have much of a bond to begin with.) Lots of fascinating and confusing stuff happens: spirits materialize and offer psychological insights of dubious morality, a creepy Kabuki play does basically the same thing, fantasy terminology is hurled about with abandon, and fabulous beasts charge every which way. A giant mouse with a leaf umbrella appears... and that's all I can watch until I order the rest of this somewhere. Dammit.
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