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The Twelve Kingdoms (十二国記, Jūni Kokuki, also known as "Record of 12 Countries" or "Juuni Kokki," a common alternate reading) is a series of light novels by Fuyumi Ono, who is also known for writing the Ghost Hunt series and horror novel Shiki. The series was published by Kodansha and contains illustrations by Akihiro Yamada.
The first entry in the series, The Shadow of the Moon, The Sea of Shadow was published in Japan in 1991; the most recent volume was released in 2001. Some of the novels have been published in two volume editions such that the total number of volumes consists of eleven books.
In 2012, Shinchosha Publishing Co. began republishing the novels. The new editions include new cover artwork and interior illustrations by Akihiro Yamada. In 2013, Shinchosha published The Birds of Hisho, the first new Twelve Kingdoms novel by Fuyumi Ono since the release of The Dream of Prosperity was published in 2001.
The Chinese mythology-influenced books were adapted into an animated television series in 2002. The Studio Pierrot production aired on Japan's NHK from April 9, 2002 to August 30, 2003, totaling 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. The English licence for the series has subsequently been reverted back to Kodansha after the company established its North American division, Kodansha USA. The entire anime series has been released on DVD in the United States by Media Blasters.
The Twelve Kingdoms tells several stories from the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, located on several islands accessible through magic. On the islands, magic works and societies similar to classical China exist. While the inhabitants of the Twelve Kingdoms are aware of the existence of our world, the reverse is not true.
As the name of the world indicates, the Twelve Kingdoms is composed of twelve kingdoms, each with their own monarch and kirin who have been given the divine right to rule so long as they fulfill the mandate they have accepted from the Heavens.
One of the major stories of the series centers around a girl named Youko Nakajima from Japan, who is suddenly transported to the world of the Twelve Kingdoms and discovers 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.
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 Shoryu, the kirin and King of En, respectively. Other major characters include Keiki, the blunt and apparently cold minister of Kei who brings Youko to the Twelve Kingdoms; Rakushun, a rat hanjyuu who becomes Youko's first true friend; 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.
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.
|1||The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow - Shadow of the Moon, The Sea of Shadow
Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi (月の影 影の海)
|Youko becomes monarch of Kei.|
|2||The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind - Sea of the Wind, Shore of the Labyrinth
Kaze no Umi, Meikyū no Kishi (風の海 迷宮の岸)
|Taiki chooses the king of Tai.|
|3||The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas - Sea God in the East, Vast Sea in the West
Higashi no Watatsumi, Nishi no Sōkai (東の海神 西の滄海)
|The King of En suppresses a rebellion.|
|4||The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn - A Thousand Miles of Wind, The Sky at Dawn
Kaze no Banri, Reimei no Sora (風の万里 黎明の空)
|Yoko, Suzu and Shoukei free the Wa Province in Kei.|
|5||The Aspired Wings
Tonan no Tsubasa (図南の翼)
|Shushou becomes ruler of Kyou.|
|6||The Shore at Twilight, The Sky at Daybreak
Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora (黄昏の岸 暁の天)
|Risai meets Youko to request help in summoning Taiki.|
|7||The Dream of Prosperity
Kasho no Yume (華胥の幽夢)
|Five short stories, set in Tai, Hou, Kei, Sai and Sou: Toei (冬栄), Jogetsu (乗月), Shokan (書簡), Kasho (華胥), and Kizan (帰山).|
|8||The Birds of Hisho
Hisho no Tori (丕緒の鳥)
|Four short stories set in Kei, Ryu, and En: 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||The Silver Ruins, The Black Moon
Shirogane no Oka, Kuro no Tsuki (白銀の墟 玄の月)
|Taiki and Risai search for Gyousou to save Tai.|
|0||The Demonic Child
Mashou no Ko (魔性の子)
|Taiki's story in modern Japan. Set during The Shore at Twilight, The Sky at Daybreak.|
Before she started work on Twelve Kingdoms, Fuyumi Ono wrote The Demonic Child (魔性の子, Mashō no Ko) (September 1991, ISBN 978-4-10-124021-3), 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 Watatsumi, Nishi no Sōkai 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. Both Hisho no Tori and Rakushou no Goku were later collected into one volume, Hisho no Tori, along with two new original stories, in 2013.
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 slated for release in March 2007. The first four books have been released; the current schedule was for one book a year to be released.
In May 2011, Tokyopop permanently closed down all divisions except its German branch. The license for the series had already reverted back to Kodansha, the Japanese publisher for the series. Kodansha USA, the English publishing branch of the company, has expressed that it currently has no interest in releasing further English editions of the Twelve Kingdoms series.