“In A Kingdom Far Away” – Twelve Kingdoms (anime) – 9/10 Pumpkin Pies

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be. ~Douglas Adams

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Review Status: Complete (45 Episodes/45 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: The art seems a little dated, but considering the setting and the story it tells, fits really well. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky series, so the more mature character designs are very appreciated, with an incredible amount of unique and recognizable people that emphasize how expansive the world and the story is. The budget for the animation was a little lacking, and it does show in a few scenes, but overall is perfectly fine for the year it aired. The colors are a normal color palate and very vibrant, which helps bring this series to life.

Dub Vs. Sub: The dub starts out really weak, with some of the main’s voices sounding stilted and awkward, or just not fitting the character. I’m not sure Yoko’s ever really fits. I did not listen to the sub.

Summary: Nakajima Yoko 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 Yoko and her friends, after which they are pulled into a different world. A world unlike what she has ever known. Separated from Keiki, Yoko and her friends must do whatever they can if they wish to survive in this new world. (MAL.net)

Review: To be honest, the synopsis sounds like a really bad fanfiction. This might be why a lot of people would approach this with trepidation- who wants a bad fanfiction with Mary-Sues and over the top romances? Thankfully, this is nothing like what it sounds like. This is about a girl finding herself and coming to terms with her destiny… both the good and the bad.

This presents great takes on fantasy tropes. Yoko understands the language of the nation, but her friends do not. Her fate, which is thrust upon her, is constantly questioned by herself and others. She isn’t perfect, coming to terms with very real inner struggles and striving to be a better person… whoever that person may be. All the characters that are brought to the forefront of the storyline are fully realized people with desires, flaws, issues, and make this a story that is as much about the people as it is about the rulers and the events that happen within the kingdom.

This is a very deliberately paced. There will be bursts of action and flurries of exposition, each with its purpose in moving the story forward. Statecraft is taken into account, teaching both Yoko and the viewers about the nation and its customs as well as providing insight into what is happening and why. The stories of the nations are entwined, as much as politics in real life are. That doesn’t mean this is a snoozefest- there’s double-dealing, shifting alliances, rebellion and war that make up the meat of the story and provide fascinating stories.

It also deals with themes of racism, isolation, abandonment and betrayal, which are told in arcs that again manage to provide a look at the world Yoko has been brought into. I love that this doesn’t focus on one place or time. People and events from all places manage to be the foundations of this anime, some mentioned only briefly or seen in a moment’s scene, but brought back later so that the stories entwine and bring about a full picture of what’s happening. The world-building is superb, and I could get lost in this land of magic time and again.

My only issue was with the last five episodes. Those seemed to drag more than the others- while the story was quite good, it could have been told in fewer episodes, and the moral was a little more heavy-handed than usual. I still enjoyed the show on the whole, though.

Overall, this is a fantastic and vastly under-appreciated fantasy series.
Recommended: 14+. There is some death, most of it discreet or very brief. Very little language- I actually cannot remember any. The two girls are almost sold to a brothel. No nudity, no sexual situations.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Seirei no Moribito (anime)
Twelve Kingdoms (light novels)
Fushigi Yuugi: The Mysterious Play
Escaflowne (tv series, not movie)
The Story of Saiunkoku (anime)
Magic Knight Rayearth (anime and manga)


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