Twelve Kingdoms (NOVELS) Vol. #01 - Sea of Shadow -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 16.99
  • Pages: 464
  • ISBN: 1-59816-946-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right

Twelve Kingdoms (NOVELS) Vol. #01 - Sea of Shadow

By Jarred Pine     March 14, 2007
Release Date: March 13, 2007

Twelve Kingdoms (NOVELS) Vol.#01 - Sea of Shadow

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Fuyumi Ono
Translated by:Alexander O. Smith & Elye J. Alexander
Adapted by:Alexander O. Smith & Elye J. Alexander

What They Say
Except for her red hair, Yoko Nakajima is a typical, obedient Japanese high-school student with a fairly ordinary life - that is, until Keiki, a unicorn in the guise of a young blond-haired boy, tells her that she is his master and must return to their kingdom. When the boy mysteriously vanishes, Yoko is left alone, confused, and wandering through a foreign land with nothing to help protect her save a magic sword and a magic stone. Lost in a strange land without a map and demons on her trail, Yoko begins her quest for both survival and self-discovery.

The Review
The much-anticipated first installment of 12 Kingdoms is very much what I had expected, a 400 page prologue to an exciting new fantasy world that has thousands of pages of exploration and story ahead.

This review is based off an uncorrected proof, so final packaging was not provided.

Okay, let me put your mind at ease. This is not Crest of the Stars. The English script is definitely not abridged and there are no instances were language was changed to grab a younger, more "hip" audience. The adaptation reads quite smoothly, a prose that feels natural for the material and audience. One nice touch is that the Chinese characters are included in the text when characters are talking about how a certain word is written. Words that are specific to the Twelve Kingdoms realm and have no Japanese equivalent are left alone (i.e., kaikyaku).

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
When manga publishers began jumping on the translated novel train, there was one title that was consistently on just about every fan's list--12 Kingdoms. After a well-received anime release by Media Blasters, fans found themselves dying to find out what happened to Yoko and the kingdoms of this new fantasy world. So that means there are two types of people in this world: those who have seen the anime and those who have not.

Those who have not seen the anime, get ready for a 400+ page introduction to a fantasy world that is filled with gods, demons, a variety of creatures, politics, royalty, and exotic birthing rituals. Yoko Nakajima, a young high school girl, is swept away from her boring life on Earth to a whole other realm that is filled with magic and wonderment, but also fear and despair. Upon arriving in the Twelve Kingdoms, Yoko finds herself under attack by oppressing citizens and kings, and is chased relentlessly by demons each and every night. Her journey is one of perseverance and courage, as well as trust in herself and this unforgiving new world.

For those who have seen the anime, I do believe some will find themselves much in the same position as I was 200 pages into this debut volume--feeling quite impatient. The story kicks off with the same exciting whirlwind beginning, but the hardships visited to Yoko drag on. While it is nice to explore Yoko's character in more depth with the monologues that weren't present in the anime, and the absence of Sugimoto and Asano helps the exploration as well, the pace of the story does struggle a bit as Yoko slashes her way through beasts and avoids being deceived night after night for what feels like an eternity.

Once she runs into a talking mouse named Rakushun, the world of Twelve Kingdoms then starts to come to life and Yoko's growth from her shy Earth self into one burdened with great responsibility begins. Even though I was familiar with this new realm already, experiencing it in prose form was quite enjoyable. The information comes in big waves, but there is a nice balance achieved between plot progression and education. The scales do tip at the end of the book with a terribly rushed ending and a postscript that basically spoils future events, leaving me more annoyed for having to wait another year for the next installment than genuinely excited for the future adventures.

The much-anticipated first installment of 12 Kingdoms is very much what I had expected, a 400 page introduction to an exciting new fantasy world that has thousands of pages of exploration and story ahead. This is essentially the prologue, and Fuyumi Ono does quite a wonderful job with bringing this world of politics and mysticism to life along with a capable heroine that already experiences quite a bit of growth. The first volume has a few bumps, which isn't unusual with first volumes in fantasy series, but overall the book achieves its goals. The rushed ending may leave a bitter taste for some, and the year wait until the next installment will undoubtedly be painful.


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