Lighter character development and heavier politics leave this volume only slightly lacking in comparison to its two fantastic predecessors.
Writer: Fuyumi Ono
Translation: Alexander O. Smith
Adaptation: Alexander O. Smith
What They Say
When only an eggfruit, the kirin of the En Kingdom, Rokuta, was transported to Japan for his own protection. But he was abandoned soon after birth by his surrogate parents, left to fend for himself in the mountains. It just so happened that at the same time, a young boy in the En Kingdom named Koya was also abandoned by his own parents, after which he was raised by demon beasts.
Their similar circumstances aren't the only thing to bind these two boys, though. Twenty years after their abandonment, their destinies intersect, with potentially disasterous consequences for the En Kingdom.
The kirin of the En Kingdom, Rokuta, did not have the calm, peaceful life that most of his kind are allowed while they grow to maturity. Taken away to Japan (Hourai) while only an eggfruit, he endured a harsh life there before being abandoned by his parents, and was rescued only by the arrival of his sirei, who had sought him out even in that different world. En, already half-destroyed by the madness of its former king, fell even more to ruin while Rokuta was unable to choose a king. Yet he was drawn back to Hourai, and it was there he found the man he knew would be king.
Rokuta and Shoryu, the new King of En, returned to the destroyed and barren kingdom, but Rokuta found his master unwilling to participate in most of the governmental activities. He would much rather dress as a commoner and spend time “observing” the kingdom (an activity that usually involved drinking, gambling, and women) than rule it, which is one of the hardest aspects of the book to read. Shoryu’s flakiness is staggering, and his devil-may-care attitude is just plain annoying to Rokuta, his advisors, and to me. Of course, the book would be nigh unreadable if the king maintained this attitude throughout its entirety, and he, thankfully, is able to rise to the occasion when required.
But it does take something drastic to make Shoryu actually show his ability to rule his kingdom and make wise decisions: Rokuta’s kidnapping. Years before, he had befriended a nameless young boy who had also been abandoned by his parents and raised by a demon. Rokuta gave him the name Koya, and promised that he would help him were he ever in need of it. Koya, now a young man working under the command of a regent named Atsuyu, uses this friendship to take Rokuta hostage. Atsuyu had hoped to gain the king’s attention by doing this, as Shoryu had failed to respond to pleas to dam the river running through his province. At first glance, Atsuyu’s intentions are noble, but it doesn’t take long to see that he is using Koya and the demon he commands to force people into submission. Shoryu does not respond in the expected way, either, but the unraveling of Atsuyu’s plans, combined with the realization of Shoryu’s much more subtle machinations, combine in a delightful way at the end of the book.
The third volume is, for me, the weakest in the Twelve Kingdoms series so far--which still means it’s pretty darn good. It’s filled with the political drama of the En kingdom, whose king and kirin were introduced in previous volumes. Unfortunately, the emphasis on the politics means that there wasn’t enough character development for me this time around. The relationship between Rokuta and Shoryu is an interesting one, wildly different than either of the ruler/kirin pairs presented in the past books, but the outlook presented on it, usually from Rokuta’s perspective, is perhaps too negative. There are certainly signs of another story to come for the pair, one that will likely be tragic, but that also makes the volume feel incomplete. Thankfully, there are still volumes of story to come, even though they may not all involve this odd pair. Nevertheless, the fantasy world is as interesting as it was in the first two volumes, and the main plot points come together beautifully at the end. It might not convince new readers, but for fans of the franchise, this is yet another volume not to be missed.