JUUNI Kokki (Twelve Countries) is a shoujo anime series now being fansubbed to digisubs byAnimeCo and Anime Haven.
Executive summary: The anti-Fushigi Yuugi. Unlikable characters and average art, but somehow strangely compelling.
Youko is a Japanese high school student, pretty, well-liked, secure. Into her tidy world comes an exotically-dressed bishounen who swears fealty to her, hands her a sword, and instills into her body a spirit which allows Youko, who has never touched a sword before, to wield it with terrifying effectiveness. And not a moment too soon, as the two are promptly attacked by demons, then thrust through a dimensional portal into the world of the Juuni Kokki, a land that resembles, at least at first, ancient China of legend, complete with demons, magic, and warring kings and sorcerers. Dragged along for the ride with Youko are the class black sheep, an unpleasant girl named SugimotoYuuka, who only gets more unpleasant as the story progresses, and a random boy Yuuka is dating, Asano Ikuya.
This sounds rather like Fushigi Yuugi, but the similarities are superficial. Everything in FY was kawaii. Almost nothing in JK is kawaii. FY constantly dissolved into inappropriate SD antics, JK never does, and the show is for the most part dead serious, quite devoid of humor. FY had frequent nudity and semi-nudity, JK rarely does. Miaka showed no discernable character development over 52 episodes; Youko is showing rapid, and highly disturbing character development over just the first six episodes. Yuuka is the Yui character here, but rather than being turned evil by circumstance and misunderstanding, Yuuka is evil from the word go.
All the characters, so far, are fairly unlikable. Youko starts off as a terrified child, who wants nothing more than to curl up into a ball and have everything go away. After being hurt and betrayed a few times, and other influences, her response to her situation evolves, but in a highly dysfunctional and unpleasant direction. Her response to being thrust into a strange world is probably more realistic than Miaka's, and one can sympathize with her on an abstract level, but it's hard to identify with her or like her very much. Asano Ikuya is a dip, and Yuuka is the embodiment of evil. So far the most sympathetic character is the giant mouse.
The character designs and art are average in every way, with the exception of sequences in which Youko fights with her sword, which are truly thrilling, and one dream/vision sequence. The art isn't bad, it's just, somehow, undistinguished. The animation, though, is rather good, with decent cel-count, and exciting, well-choreographed action sequences. The voice-acting is satisfactory, but nothing special, except for Yuuka's seiyuu, Hisakawa Aya (Mizuno Ami, Miki [SKU], Skuld, Kerberos). The music is interesting. The OP is instrumental, which starts out sounding like Chinese traditional music, but winds up European orchestral by the end.
I know all this sounds pretty negative. And yet, I want to keep watching this show. By episode 6, there are a lot of mysteries to resolve, and I want to see if the heroine can pull herself out of the mess, both psychological and plot-wise, she has gotten herself into. Will Youka be redeemed? Will Ikuya ever say or do anything worthwhile? Will the giant mouse find happiness? Stay tuned.
If you don't want to put up with the pain of IRC, you can also get AnimeCo's fansubs from this ftp server: mashadar.dyndns.org, port 21 (the usual ftp port), name: ac-official / password: ac-official [Although it seems to be down as I post this; it was up earlier today.]
|It's just amazing the stuff that goes on, on the roof
of Japanese high schools.
|Yuuka in a dream sequence, looking very dangerous.
|Koko wa doko DAAAAAAAA?!?!
meaning: individual, counter for pieces
各個 == kakko == every one, each
個個 == koko == individual, one by one
|Left radical is 'person' (人), right is 'hard' (固). This character originally referred to a person wearing armor, but apparently became confused with another character which was a counter for bamboo slats. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'That individual is a hard person.'|