The Twelve Kingdoms
Episode 17-18

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 17 of
The Twelve Kingdoms ?

How would you rate episode 18 of
The Twelve Kingdoms ?

Looking back on it, it's kind of awkward how little we actually know about Keiki. While he's important to the plot of the previous arc, he was only ever present at the very beginning and end of Youko's journey to royalty. But moving forward, he's presumably meant to be her right-hand man and immortal confidant, so getting to know him as a character is a real good idea, and oddly enough that's what we get, even if it's in a completely separate story from Youko's.

After a brief run-in with the dumbest kidnapper alive trying to abduct his way to the throne of Tai, Taiki's left shaken even as his many guardians bring him back to safety. The kid was initially happy to be where he “belongs” now, but it's currently the weight of his place in the universe that really starts pressing on him. He's supposedly destined to choose the ruler of a country, to become a master of magical creatures and help guide the future of an entire kingdom, but all those around him can offer is assurances that it'll all work out because he's just meant to, even if growing up as a human has left him totally unprepared. So it's an immediate comfort when they bring in Keiki, at the time still serving Youko's predecessor, to tutor the boy in how to be a magic unicorn.

Or it would be immediate if Keiki wasn't the stiffest, most awkward magical creature this side of Narnia. It's deeply amusing to see him treat a conversation with a 10-year-old like it's an interrogation, trying to explain difficult concepts in the least accessible way possible before nearly driving the kids to tears. It's a cute bit of characterization that helps Keiki feel more approachable to the viewer, and it all leads to him slowly learning to be a more supportive and open big brother to Taiki. An interesting wrinkle is that, in the present, Keiki wonders if him giving the same treatment to the previous Queen Kei may have lead to her eventual downfall, which helps add further layers to his personality. I have no idea when or if this arc will return to Youko's time in earnest, but whenever it does I'm now a lot more curious about her aide and what his thoughts on his new liege are.

Taiki, on the other hand, is still caught up in trying to figure out who his King or Queen will be. Seeing the typical selection process (read: no world-hopping or inter-kingdom sabotage to muck things up) is rather interesting, though it again raises the question of just how wise it is to build your divine selection around chance encounters. There are any number of hopeful candidates who throw themselves at Taiki's feet (or attempt some more kidnapping because some people never learn) but it's still unclear how the kid's supposed to recognize the next ruler, though we perhaps get a hint whenever he locks eyes with the esteemed general Gyousou. At least that's what I'm assuming since he's the first person to get a reaction out of Taiki, though maybe it's not a great omen that the kid interprets divine intervention as fear. Considering we know that he wound up back in Hourai without his memories, it's safe to assume things don't turn out well.

But whatever is in store for these characters will have to wait, which is a bit frustrating. The series has had pretty deliberate, slow pacing before, but generally there's always been a driving force for tension. So far Taiki's story has signs and hints that there are dangers ahead, but compared to Youko's rollercoaster of a quest, hanging out in the Holy Daycare just doesn't have the same tension, and outside of expanding on Keiki's character not much really happens in these episodes. They aren't bad, but they're mostly uneventful and leave me hungry to really dig into the meat of Taiki's arc now that we're hopefully moving forward.

The Twelve Kingdoms is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Amazon Prime Video.

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