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The Twelve Kingdoms

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The Twelve Kingdoms
Cover of the first book (first volume) of the Kodansha edition, featuring Yoko Nakajima
(Jūni Kokuki)
Novel series
Written byFuyumi Ono
Illustrated byAkihiro Yamada
Published by
English publisher
  • X Bunko White Heart
  • (#1–7)
  • Shinchō Bunko
  • (#8–present; reprint)
Original run1992 – present
Anime television series
Directed by
Produced byKen Suegawa
Written by
Music byKunihiko Ryo
Licensed by
Original networkNHK
English network
Original run April 9, 2002 August 30, 2003
Episodes45 (List of episodes)
icon Anime and manga portal

The Twelve Kingdoms (Japanese: 十二国記, Hepburn: Jūni Kokuki, also known as "Record of 12 Countries" or "Jūni Kokki") is a series of fantasy novels written by Japanese author Fuyumi Ono and illustrated by Akihiro Yamada. The first entry in the series called The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow was published by Kodansha in Japan in 1992; the last Kodansha volume was released in 2001. In 2012, the series was resumed under the Shinchō Bunko line from Shinchosha. Shinchosha has also begun reprinting the older volumes with new cover and interior art from Akihiro Yamada.[4] The first new publication of the series in six years was released in 2019.[5]

An English-language translation was produced and distributed by Tokyopop. The first four volumes were released between March 2007 and November 2010, before the license reverted back to Kodansha.

It was adapted into an anime television series by Pierrot in 2002, which aired on Japan's NHK from April 2002 to August 2003. The series was licensed and distributed by Media Blasters in the United States at the time of its initial Japanese broadcast. As of 2019, Discotek Media held the license to the series.



Yoko Nakajima, an unhappy high school student, is one day suddenly faced with a strange man who swears allegiance to her. After a battle with demon-like beasts, he then takes her to another world along with two of her classmates. There, her appearance has changed and she can understand the language, though her classmates cannot. But their status as "Kaikyaku" (people who come from Earth) makes them hunted fugitives, so they wander the land of the 12 countries, simply trying to survive and figure out the reason they were brought to this world.



The Twelve Kingdoms tells several stories from the world of the Twelve Kingdoms. It is located on a group of several islands in another dimension accessible from our world through portals created from naturally-occurring magic (though the other way around is normally impossible). The portals occur in the ocean waters of Japan and China, and ever so often will end up dragging someone from our world from those waters to the kingdoms' islands, and/or on rare occasion, pulling an unborn child from the kingdoms into our world, causing them to be born there. On the islands, magic works and societies similar to those of classical Japan and China exist. While the inhabitants of the kingdoms are aware of the existence of our world as the lands of Hourai (Japan) and Kunlun (China), the reverse is not true for any inhabitants of our world. The inhabitants of the kingdoms speak a different language than the languages of our world, both of which can be learned by either side. Only through extraordinary circumstances can the two worlds affect each other to a certain extent.

In this world, there are a total of thirteen lands. At the center of the world lies the Koukai (the Yellow Sea) and Five Mountains where the Gods communicate their will to the Twelve Kingdoms of the world. Each of the Twelve Kingdoms possesses their own ruler and its own Kirin, a divine creature which embodies the will of heaven and is entrusted to choose a kingdom's ruler by Tentei: Emperor of Heaven. The Kirin serves as the ruler's aide. The ruler will have immortal life as long as they keep the kingdom healthy and their heads are not severed from their body. If the ruler's Kirin dies or is killed, the ruler will die within a year.

The Koukai, known as the Yellow Sea, is surrounded by four inland seas: the Black Sea in the north, the Blue Sea to the east, the Red Sea in the south, and the White Sea to the west. Eight of the Twelve Kingdoms (Kei, En, Ryu, Kyou, Han, Sai, Sou, and Kou) border at least one of these four seas, extending from the center like the petals of a flower. The remaining four kingdoms (Tai, Hou, Ren, and Shun) are not part of the central mainland and are isolated by the Kyokai (虚海) (Void Sea) which surrounds the lands of the Twelve Kingdoms.



There are seven novels in the Twelve Kingdoms series, plus two short story collections. The novels are illustrated by Akihiro Yamada. Some of the novels have been published in two or more volume editions such that the total number of volumes is sixteen (as originally released in Japan).

Book Kanji title Romaji title Original title, literal translation Notes
Publication date ISBN English publication title
1 月の影 影の海 Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi Shadow of the Moon, Sea of Shadow 2 volumes
June 1992 (Kodansha Volume 1)
July 1992 (Kodansha Volume 2)
July 2012 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 1)
July 2012 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 2)
978-4-06-255071-0 (Kodansha Volume 1)
978-4-06-255072-7 (Kodansha Volume 2)
978-4-10-124053-4 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 1)
978-4-10-124052-7 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 2)
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
Yoko becomes the monarch of Kei.
2 風の海 迷宮の岸 Kaze no Umi, Meikyū no Kishi Sea of Wind, Shore of the Labyrinth 2 volumes (Kodansha release)
1 volume (Shinchosha reprint)
March 1993 (Kodansha Volume 1)
April 1993 (Kodansha Volume 2)
October 2012 (Shinchosha reprint)
978-4-06-255114-4 (Kodansha Volume 1)
978-4-06-255120-5 (Kodansha Volume 2)
978-4-10-124054-1 (Shinchosha reprint)
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind
Taiki chooses the ruler of Tai
3 東の海神 西の滄海 Higashi no Wadatsumi, Nishi no Sōkai Sea God in the East, Vast Sea in the West 1 volume
June 1994 (Kodansha release)
January 2013 (Shinchosha reprint)
978-4-06-255168-7 (Kodansha release)
978-4-10-124055-8 (Shinchosha reprint)
The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas
The King of En suppresses a rebellion.
4 風の万里 黎明の空 Kaze no Banri, Reimei no Sora A Thousand Miles of Wind, the Sky at Dawn 2 volumes
July 1994 (Kodansha Volume 1)
September 1994 (Kodansha Volume 2)
April 2013 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 1)
April 2013 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 2)
978-4-06-255175-5 (Kodansha Volume 1)
978-4-06-255178-6 (Kodansha Volume 2)
978-4-10-124057-2 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 1)
978-4-10-124056-5 (Shinchosha reprint Volume 2)
The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn[6]
Yoko, Suzu and Shoukei free the Wa Province in Kei
5 図南の翼 Tonan no Tsubasa The Aspiring Wings 1 volume
February 1996 (Kodansha release)
October 2013 (Shinchosha reprint)
978-4-06-255229-5 (Kodansha release)
978-4-10-124059-6 (Shinchosha reprint)
Shushou becomes ruler of Kyou.
6 黄昏の岸 暁の天 Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora The Shore at Twilight, the Sky at Daybreak 2 volumes (Kodansha release)
1 volume (Shinchosha reprint)
May 2001 (Kodansha release both volumes)
April 2014 (Shinchosha reprint)
978-4-06-255546-3 (Kodansha Volume 1)
978-4-06-255550-0 (Kodansha Volume 2)
978-4-10-124061-9 (Shinchosha reprint)
Risai meets Yoko to request help in finding Taiki.
7 華胥の幽夢 Kasho no Yume The Dream of Prosperity 1 volume
September 2001 (Kodansha release)
January 2014 (Shinchosha reprint)
978-4-06-255573-9 (Kodansha release)
978-4-10-124060-2 (Shinchosha reprint)
Five short stories, set in Tai, Hou, Kei, Sai and Sou: "Toei" (冬栄), "Jogetsu" (乗月), "Shokan" (書簡), "Kasho" (華胥), "Kizan" (帰山)
8 丕緒の鳥 Hisho no Tori The Birds of Hisho 1 volume
July 2013 (Shinchosha release) 978-4-10-124058-9 (Shinchosha release)
Four short stories set in Kei, Ryu, and other locations in the Twelve Kingdoms: "Hisho no Tori" (丕緒の鳥), "Rakushou no Goku" (落照の獄), "Seijou no Ran" (青条の蘭), and "Fuushin" (風信).
9 白銀の墟 玄の月 Hakugin no Oka, Kuro no Tsuki Silver Ruins, Black Moon 4 volumes
October 2019 (Shinchosha Volume 1)
October 2019 (Shinchosha Volume 2)
November 2019 (Shinchosha Volume 3)
November 2019 (Shinchosha Volume 4)
978-4101240626 (Shinchosha Volume 1)
978-4101240633 (Shinchosha Volume 2)
978-4101240640 (Shinchosha Volume 3)
978-4101240657 (Shinchosha Volume 4)
Six years after Gyousou disappeared, based on the barest sliver of hope from Taiki's claim that he is still alive, they begin the long search.

Before she started work on Twelve Kingdoms, Fuyumi Ono wrote The Demonic Child (魔性の子, Mashō no Ko) (Kodansha: September 1991, ISBN 978-4-10-124021-3; Shinchosha reprint: July 2012, ISBN 978-4-10-124051-0), a horror novel about a boy from another world. She later worked certain events from this novel into the Twelve Kingdoms series. Short stories set in the various kingdoms include Kasho (華胥), Toei (冬栄), Shokan (書簡), Kizan (帰山) and Jogetsu (乗月); these stories have been collected into one volume, Kasho no Yume. One short story, Drifting Ship (漂舶, Hyouhaku), published in 1997, accompanied the drama CD for Higashi no Wadatsumi, Nishi no Sōkai[7] and remains uncollected elsewhere. In February 2008, the new Twelve Kingdoms short story, Hisho no Tori (丕緒の鳥) was published in Shinchosha's Yomyom magazine, followed by Rakushou no Goku (落照の獄) in September 2009.[8] Hisho no Tori and Rakushou no Goku were later collected into a volume of short stories titled Hisho no Tori, along with two new previously unpublished stories in 2013.[9]

U.S. release


On May 11, 2006, U.S. publisher Tokyopop said in an interview with comic book news website Newsarama that it would be publishing the novels under its "Pop Fiction" imprint. The first book was released in March 2007.[10] The first four books have been released.

Title Publication date ISBN
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow March 2007 (Hardcover)
February 2008 (Paperback)
978-1-59816-946-1 (hardcover)
978-1-4278-0257-6 (paperback)
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind March 2008 (Hardcover)
February 2009 (Paperback)
978-1-59816-947-8 (hardcover)
978-1-4278-0258-3 (paperback)
The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas March 2009 (Hardcover)
November 2009 (Paperback)
978-1-59816-948-5 (hardcover)
978-1-4278-0259-0 (paperback)
The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn March 2010 (Hardcover)
November 2010 (Paperback)
978-1-59816-949-2 (hardcover)
978-1-4278-0260-6 (paperback)





The anime adaptation by studio Pierrot aired from April 9, 2002, to August 30, 2003, in Japan on NHK for forty-five episodes. The opening theme is "Juunigenmukyoku" by Kunihiko Ryo while the ending theme is "Getsumei-Fuuei" by Mika Arisaka. The anime series has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States by Media Blasters, which are now out of print. The license was transferred to Discotek Media, who released the complete series on Blu-ray in 2019.[11]



Kodansha printed a fifteen-volume "animanga" series in 2002–2004 by combining images from the anime series with printed dialogue and sound effects. It has been released only in Japanese.

Video games


Konami has released in Japan two games based on Twelve Kingdoms, both produced by Takashi Shimomichi. They are Juuni Kokuki: Guren no Shirube Koujin no Michi and Juuni Kokuki: Kakukakutaru Oudou Kouryoku no Uka. Both games contain footage from the anime and many stills of the characters are used during conversation and during battle. The games are sprite-based, with small sprites used on-screen and larger, highly animated sprites used during battle.

Juuni Kokuki: Guren no Shirube Koujin no Michi was released for PlayStation 2 on August 28, 2003. It follows Yoko's journey to becoming Empress of Kei. While classified as an RPG, it is often described as an adventure game. The game was re-released in Konami's The Best lineup on June 9, 2004. Yoko is capable of summoning Keiki's Shirei into battle as well as having additional party members.

Juuni Kokuki: Kakukakutaru Oudou Kouryoku no Uka was released for PlayStation 2 on April 4, 2004, and is a sequel to the first game, continuing with Yoko's problems after she becomes the monarch of Kei. Game data from the first game can be loaded into the second. This game contains more RPG elements than the first with party-/menu-based battles becoming standard. Many of the event scenes are pulled from the novels but there are also scenes made just for the game.



By March 2020, the novel series had over 12 million copies in circulation.[12]


  1. ^ "Tokyopop Proudly Presents the Hit Japanese Fantasy Fiction Series - The Twelve Kingdoms". Anime News Network. January 17, 2007. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2020. Rife with civil and political upheaval, The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow, the first volume of this epic seven-volume novel series, is set in a world reminiscent of ancient Chinese mythology, taking fans on a wild ride that will leave readers questioning the boundaries of reality and fantasy.
  2. ^ Rafael Antonio Pineda (January 1, 2016). "Fuyumi Ono Aiming to Publish New Twelve Kingdoms Book in 2016". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on April 30, 2021. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  3. ^ Ambalina, Limarc (March 11, 2020). "'Isekai' anime: 5 must-see fantasy anime set in a 'different world'". Japan Today. Archived from the original on March 11, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  4. ^ "Shinchosha Official 12K Site". Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  5. ^ "1st New Twelve Kingdoms Novel Story in 6 Years Slated for 2019". Anime News Network. December 12, 2018. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Ono, Fuyumi (March 2, 2010). Official English release of volume 4 uses the title The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn. TokyoPop. ISBN 978-1598169492.
  7. ^ "The 40-page story that accompanies the drama CD of "Higashi no Watatsumi, Nishi no Soukai (東の海神 西の滄海)"". Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  8. ^ "Yom Yom Official site". Archived from the original on June 28, 2019. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
  9. ^ "Shinchosha, Twelve Kingdoms, Log 47 - 『丕緒の鳥 十二国記』書影". June 17, 2013. Archived from the original on June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  10. ^ "More on Tokyopop's YA Fiction Line"[permanent dead link] from Newsarama.
  11. ^ Pineda, Rafael Antonio (March 24, 2019). "Discotek Licenses The Twelve Kingdoms, Nagasarete Airantou Anime". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on June 5, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  12. ^ 新刊254万部、累計1200万部突破の小野不由美「十二国記」シリーズが、「第5回吉川英治文庫賞」受賞! (in Japanese). Shinchosha. March 2, 2020. Archived from the original on September 30, 2023. Retrieved January 4, 2024 – via PR Times.