The Twelve Kingdoms

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The Twelve Kingdoms
The Twelve Kingdoms.jpg
Art from Pencil Board (Anime Merchandise).
(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
Volumes9 (List of volumes)
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)
Wikipe-tan face.svg 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 Japanese series of fantasy novels written by 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 announced for a 2019 release date.[5]

The Chinese mythology-influenced books were adapted into an anime television series by Pierrot in 2002. It aired on Japan's NHK from April 9, 2002 to August 30, 2003, and totaled 45 episodes.

The novels were licensed in the United States by Tokyopop and the first four volumes were released between March 2007 and November 2010 as part of their Pop Fiction line. Subsequently, the English license reverted to Kodansha. The entire anime series has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States by Media Blasters, which are now out of print. Now, the license is transferred to Discotek Media for a complete series Blu-ray released in 2019.[6]


The Twelve Kingdoms is a series of novels that focus on a world inspired by Chinese mythology, where twelve different kingdoms exist under the rule of an individual chosen by the Tians. The series does not exclusively focus on one character, though the stories of Youko Nakajima, the protagonist of the first novel, and Taiki, the protagonist of the second book, are most prevalent in the series.


One of the major stories of the series centers around a tan red-haired high school girl named Youko Nakajima from Japan who is suddenly transported to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms and searches for her destiny. However, neither the series nor the anime concentrates solely on Youko and they do tell stories of other characters. The anime uses Youko as a framing device for telling other stories while the novels do not.

Each of the Twelve Kingdoms has a monarch and a Kirin, a mythological beast who first selects and then serves the monarch of his or her kingdom and can assume human form. Though only a few rulers and Kirin are in the main focus of the story, many are encountered in the series and play a significant role.

The novels focus on several characters other than Youko, including Taiki, a timid rare black Kirin who serves the ruler of Tai, and Enki and Shouryuu, the Kirin and King of En respectively. Other major characters include Keiki, the Kirin of Kei who brings Youko to the Twelve Kingdoms; Gyousou, a general chosen by Taiki to become King of Tai; Shushou, the Queen of Kyou; Shoukei, the disposed princess of Hou, and Suzu, a peasant girl who is unexpectedly transported from Japan to the Twelve Kingdoms.


The Twelve Kingdoms tells several stories from the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, 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 every 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 by through extraordinary circumstances can the two worlds affect each other to a respective 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 possess 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, and serve 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.

Known Locations[edit]

  • Yellow Sea - A location in the middle of the Twelve Kingdoms that is surrounded by the Kongou Mountains.
  • Five Mountains - A group of mountains that is located on an island in the center of the Yellow Sea.
    • Mount Hou - A mountain in the eastern part of the Five Mountains where the Kirin are raised.
    • Mount Ka - A mountain in the western part of the Four Mountains, it is said to be the residence of Seioubo.
    • Mount Kaku - A mountain in the southern part of the Five Mountains.
    • Mount Kou - A mountain the northern part of the Five Mountains. It is said to be a good place to hunt for Youjyuu.
    • Suukou - The highest of the Five Mountains which is said to be where Tentei resides.
  • Kongou Mountains - A series of mountain ranges that surrounds the Yellow Sea and separates it from the other four inland seas. Each of its four ranges is between the four major gates.
  • Black Sea - A body of water that is north of the Yellow Sea and borders the kingdoms of En, Kyou, and Ryuu.
  • Blue Sea - A body of water that is east of the Yellow Sea and borders the kingdoms of En, Kei, and Kou.
  • Red Sea - A body of water that is south of the Yellow Sea and borders the kingdoms of Kou, Sai, and Sou.
  • White Sea - A body of water that is west of the Yellow Sea and borders the kingdoms of Han, Kyou, and Sai.
  • Void Sea - Also known as the Kyokai, the Void Sea is a large sea that surrounds the Twelve Kingdoms. A shoku is the only way to cross the Kyokai. Kyokai separates the outer kingdoms of Hou, Ren, Shun, and Tai from the eight mainland kingdoms.
Twelve Kingdoms[edit]
Map of the Twelve Kingdoms.
  • En - The Kingdom of En is a flourishing kingdom of the Twelve Kingdoms that is between Kei and Ryuu and is the northeastern of the four "middle" kingdoms. It is ruled by Shoryu who has reigned for 500 years.
  • Han - The Kingdom of Han is the westernmost kingdom which is known for its artisans and craftsman. It is ruled by Ranjou.
  • Hou - The Kingdom of Hou is the northwestern outland kingdom that is separated from the eight mainland kingdoms by the Kyokai. It was ruled by Chuutatsu until he was killed by Gekkei.
  • Kei - The Kingdom of Kei is the most eastern kingdom of the Twelve Kingdoms. It is ruled by Youko Nakajima.
  • Kou - The Kingdom of Kou is the first kingdom that Youko Nakajima sets foot in and is the southeastern of the four "middle" kingdoms. It was formerly ruled by the unnamed King of Kou.
  • Kyou - The Kingdom of Kyou is the northwestern of the four "middle" kingdoms of the Twelve Kingdoms. It is ruled by Shushou.
  • Ren - The Kingdom of Ren is the southwestern outland kingdom that is separated from the eight mainland kingdoms by the Kyokai. It is currently ruled by Seitaku.
  • Ryuu - The Kingdom of Ryuu is the northernmost kingdom of the Twelve Kingdoms. It is currently ruled by Rohou.
  • Sai - The Kingdom of Sai is the southwestern of the four "middle" kingdoms of the Twelve Kingdoms. It is currently ruled by Kouko.
  • Shun - The Kingdom of Shun is the southeastern outland kingdom that is separated from the eight mainland kingdoms by the Kyokai. It is known for its precious stones and medicinal springs.
  • Sou - The Kingdom of Sou is the southernmost kingdom of the Twelve Kingdoms. It is currently ruled by Senshin whose 600-year reign is longest of the current rulers of the Twelve Kingdoms.
  • Tai - The Kingdom of Tai is the northeastern outland kingdom that is separated from the eight mainland kingdoms by the Kyokai. Known for its harsh winters, the kingdom was ruled by Gyousou until his disappearance.


There are nine novels in the Twelve Kingdoms series, including 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 (Volume 1)
978-4-06-255120-5 (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[7]
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 release Volume 1)
978-4-06-255550-0 (Kodansha release 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) (Shinchosha: 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[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

U.S. release[edit]

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.[11] 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 casts Yoko Nakajima, a Japanese girl who is suddenly transported to another world and eventually discovers that she is the empress of the kingdom of Kei, in the role of the main character; however, in the novels, Yoko is only one of many main characters and her story is focused upon in only two novels.

The anime focuses on the Kingdom of Kei and the events surrounding it. Several of the other countries are introduced, the most prominent being Kou, En and Tai, while Kyou, Hou, Sai and Ryuu play a minor role compared to the other three. The rest of the kingdoms are only introduced by name and a brief description of the current ruler and taiho. The anime also introduced the characters Asano and Sugimoto to accompany Yoko to the Twelve Kingdoms. Their role is to externalize some of Yoko's problems that were internal in the novels.[12]


The anime closely follows Yoko and is divided into the following parts:

  • "Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi" (Shadow of the Moon, Sea of Shadow), episodes 1-13
Yoko travels to the world of Juuni Kokki, develops as a person and starts to embrace her new destiny.
  • "Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi Tenshou" (Shadow of the Moon, Sea of Shadow: Chapter of Recollection), episode 14
Mostly a recap of the episodes 1-13.
  • "Kaze no Umi, Meikyuu no Kishi" (Sea of Wind, Shore of the Labyrinth), episodes 15-21
Partial story of the black Kirin, Taiki.
  • "Shokan" (Correspondence), episode 22
Yoko and Rakushun correspond by bird, and we see how they settle into their positions in Kei and En. Based on the short story Shokan (書簡).
  • "Kaze no Banri, Reimei no Sora" (A Thousand Miles of Wind, The Sky at Dawn), episodes 23-39
The story of Suzu, Shoukei, and Yoko as they struggle with a rebellion in Wa Province of Kei.
  • "Jougetsu" (Ally of the Moon), episode 40
Short closing of past events in the Kingdom of Hou. Based on the short story Jogetsu (乗月).
  • "Higashi no Wadatsumi, Nishi no Soukai" (Sea God of the East, Vast Sea of the West), episodes 41-45
A story from the past about the King of En and his kirin, Enki suppressing a rebellion. 45 is mostly a recap of the previous four episodes.


  • Opening Theme - "Juunigenmukyoku"
  • Ending Theme - "Getsumei-Fuuei"
  • Other music in the series was composed and arranged by Kunihiko Ryo.

Kunihiko Ryo's instrumental opening theme “Jūni Genmukyoku” has been praised for its "sweeping score" that suits "the high fantasy series very well." The end of the song has also been praised for having an "exciting" sound similar to later "swashbuckling main themes" for the Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2011) film soundtracks and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) video game soundtrack.[13]


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

Related Media[edit]

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.


  1. ^ "Tokyopop Proudly Presents the Hit Japanese Fantasy Fiction Series - The Twelve Kingdoms". Anime News Network. January 17, 2007. 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. 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 January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  4. ^ Shinchosha Official 12K Site
  5. ^ "1st New Twelve Kingdoms Novel Story in 6 Years Slated for 2019". AnimeNewsNetwork. December 12, 2018. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Pineda, Rafael Antonio (March 24, 2019). "Discotek Licenses The Twelve Kingdoms, Nagasarete Airantou Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  7. ^ Official English release of volume 4 uses the title The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn
  8. ^ The 40-page story that accompanies the drama CD of "Higashi no Watatsumi, Nishi no Soukai (東の海神 西の滄海)"
  9. ^ Yom Yom Official site
  10. ^ Shinchosha, Twelve Kingdoms, Log 47 - 『丕緒の鳥 十二国記』書影
  11. ^ "More on Tokyopop's YA Fiction Line"[permanent dead link] from Newsarama.
  12. ^ "Translator Notes by Yamamoto Davey", Twelve Kingdoms - Chapter 3 - Coup, Media Blasters.
  13. ^ Griffith, Jennifer (27 June 2012). "Awesome Anime Openings". The High Notes. The G.A.M.E.S. Blog. Retrieved 31 July 2012.

External links[edit]