izilen: Paz, from GC (Twelve Kingdoms)
[personal profile] izilen
Every time I get into something new lately it seems that I find myself in the very sad situation where almost nobody I know likes it and there is no fandom (or it's terrible or too small) and so I think to myself, Izzy, why don't you write a post recommending it to your friends. I rarely do that because I'm really lazy and usually by the time I would have gotten around to it I either find some other shiny thing to look at or I've babbled to everyone over IM so much that they end up watching/reading the thing regardless! Fortunately, I haven't lost interest yet and I have a free day and it seems that some of you f-listers could be interested, so here I come.

10 Reasons to Read The Twelve Kingdoms:

1) The world

The world of the Twelve Kingdoms is a really interesting, beautiful place, with a rich chinese-inspired aesthetic, full of many different kinds of people. My favourite things about it are the little things that make it seem real, even taking into account the many fantastical or mythical elements present.

2) The mundane details

This is a world with a census, where you can clearly see the structure of how each country is run, how each village is run. Fuyumi Ono writes fantasy, yes, but she writes in that way that Tolkien describes in his essay on fairy stories: it’s a secondary world that is internally consistent, and connected enough with out own that to suspend disbelief for the magical is not an issue. EVEN MORE, these mythological elements are seamlessly incorporated into the mundane, with visible effects on the way people lead their lives.

3) The mythology

The Twelve Kingdoms were created by a god, Tenten, and they are governed according to his decrees. All kinds of supernatural things happen if kingdoms stray from his divine mandate, and this has very real consequences on the lives of the whole population. When your crops are flooded because God is sending more natural disasters your way, or your town is getting attacks by wild monsters, then what god (or what got set out the world to do) has a palpable effect! ALSO, babies are born out of trees: this affects everything from gender roles to the concept of marriage, and is mightily interesting.

4) The ladies

SO MANY LADIES, ALL SO AWESOME. There are tons of wonderful girls and women who are developed, interesting, excellent characters. Ministers, secretaries, officials, queens, performers, warriors, princesses, scribes, and on and on.

From minor characters to protagonists this world is populated with women. (For the record, though not perfect, The Twelve Kingdoms passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours)


MY FAVOURITE OF THE LADIES is of course YŌKO NAKAJIMA, the marvelous reluctant empress of Kei, and our protagonist. She’s so great she gets to be a reason all of her own. She’s caring, she’s strong, she’s firm and she’s determined to live well. She comes very far from the person she used to be, and she’s only enriched by her experiences and all the hardship she endures, though it nearly broke her.

6) The character growth

Speaking of, the character growth in this series is AMAZING and it’s all over the place, happening not just to Yōko but to everyone. Every single character is affected by his or her experiences, and small ways they change and progress (or not). It’s a delight to see a dear character stand up for themselves and become self-assured, competent and formidable.

7) The friendships

Sometimes it’s friendship that’s the catalyst for growth, and other times friendship just is. There are so many amazing friendships everywhere. To name a few: The King of En and his Kirin, who are like bros, trusting each other even as they jokingly insult one another; Yōko and Shoukei and Suzu, who got to have conversations about life and happiness in the middle of a revolution, and who have each other’s backs; Rakushun and Yōko, who admire, and trust and support each other to an amazing degree; Shushou and Rikou, so very apart in age and circumstances but who get along regardless, etc. There are so many and they’re all fantastic.

8) The themes

This series mostly deals with predestined queens and kings, and it deals with many questions surrounding fate, and what is good, and how to balance conflicting priorities in a real word setting, and the many, many issues that come with trying to make a country a better place. There are also the overarching themes about growth and happiness, trust, responsibility and accountability and many others.

With the mythology and cosmology of this world, Fuyumi Ono lays out a world unlike our own. There are some problems that come directly from the system she presents, and she acknowledges them and addresses them. It’s wonderful to see characters question the very basis of the universe they inhabit.

9) The politics
The Twelve Kingdoms claims to be fantasy, but it could very easily also be more a political thing, and I love it. So much intrigue and diplomacy and dealing with people, and working with and around power. You can envision how government  and politics work in The Twelve Kingdoms, both at a smaller and larger scale.

10) The pretty, pretty art

Book the books and the anime have some gorgeous art. Just look at it!!

Have I managed to catch your attention? Should you want to KNOW MORE here is a post with MORE about this Twelve Kingdoms thing.
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