I did not know what to expect when I was recommended this title on Amazon Prime Video. That is only because there is so much going on in the photo.
A high school who is living to please everyone, Youko Nakajima is approached by a strange pale man, Keiki, who is claiming that she is the queen and ruler of a kingdom in a different world. He claims that he has been searching for her for years only to find her in an opposite world than where she should be. All Youko has ever desired was to be normal and please everyone. She focuses on her grades, says what everyone wants her to say, she is the class representative, but because of her unusual fire-red hair she never fits in. Also because of her pushover attitude, everyone takes advantage of her so she is left friendless. The day Keiki comes to claim her, a beast known as a youma (a demon), comes to attack, As Keiki takes Youko to the other world, he somehow manages to take her other two classmates, Ikuya Asano and Yuka Sugimoto as souvenirs. Unfortunately, during the otherworldly travels, their journey to seeking the thrown and the answers they need begins when they arrive in this new land with a language barrier and separated from their tour guide, Keiki.
So the main character is Youko, throughout the entire plot she has changed and grown both physically and mentally. But to address the physical she literally changed in appearance the moment to arrived in the next world.
As you can see in the images above, she is fair-skinned when she was in Hourai (which is known as Japan, the terminology used can get confusing), she also had a square chin, soft shoulders, and round eyes. In the image to the right, she is tan, which compliments her hair a lot more, emerald green eyes, strong-looking shoulders, and a more narrow face. She was able to pass as a man in the series in a few episodes, so you could say she had a more masculine appearance. Though she still looked like a woman to me. She also remained a pushover the entire first season up until the rebellion arc of the series which is more towards the end. That I disliked about her character. She never grew a backbone when it came time to take her throne and govern her kingdom.
Youko's sword is known as Kei, after the kingdom of Kei. The sword itself connects to her conscience. which means the blade itself will show her what she wants to see, needs to see, or its a dick and will tease her. The physical manifestation of the conscience takes the form of a blue Azure monkey, named Aozaru. The sword itself can only be wielded by the ruler of Kei. At one point Youko snaps and kills the monkey and is left with a dead scabbard which releases her of her self doubt. Once Aozaru is dead, this leaves the sword of Kei vulnerable to being wielded by anyone but only effectively by the ruler of Kei.
Though they do not have any type of resemblance, Aozaru was similar to Afro Samurai's consciences. The way they taunted and teased the main characters and tried to warp their way of thinking. Although Aozaru never tried to help Youko, he tried to bring her pain as compared to Afro.
Yuka Sugimoto... what can I say about her? Well, Youko should have stabbed this bitch in the throat. This bitch irritated me the entire first season of the series. She was one of the classmates that accidentally got caught up into the adventure along with her boyfriend Asano. She was also a choice for a friendship that Youko had (ew!). She had to be on some type of drugs. She was basically fascinated with the idea of being from another world. She believed she was from the same world as Youko and felt as if it was a mistake that it was Youko, who was the chosen one. She plays a huge role in the first season as the antagonist. She was used by the King of Kou, and gives her everything she needs and feeds her mind with the idea that she is superior to Youko. She later realizes that she was not meant for the world she was held hostage in. Youko decides to send her back to Hourai (Japan) where she returns to her everyday life as a high school student and later returns in the series when the story of the missing Taiho (Tiki) is addressed.
I think another issue that I have with Sugimoto is that she reminded me of hating ass Sae from Peach Girl. From the jealousy, haircut, to the make-belief delusions that they are more worthy than the main character. Also, the fact that both these characters originated around the same time span during their series and manga irritates me even more. Like was this the type of friend or woman that was build during the 90s to early 2000s? If so Youko and Momo-chan are good ones.
As for Sugimoto's boyfriend, Ikuya Asano. This man just didn't know what was going on. He should also kill her because she basically left him to die and then didn't care that he never returned home.
He even said himself towards his final episodes that he doesn't know his role to play which is so accurate because he really did not have much of a role to play. He was literally less than a supporting character. Even in the second season towards the end of the kei rebellion arc he still didn't do much. He was a semi-hero prior to his actual death because he was able to pass along the message to the incoming army to help Youko's forces. But the first season when it was assumed that he was dead he should have stayed "dead."
Now can we pay tribute to the king of En really quick because Shouryuu is gorgeous? He was the eye candy of the entire series. He also was the one who helped Youko and her friend Rakushunn.
He was so sexy and smooth with from the way he spoke to the way he handles situations. It was amazing. He made a great mentor along with Keiki to help Youko rule her kingdom. He has ruled the kingdom of En for about 500 years. Like her, he is also a Taika (someone from Hourai). His nation is one of the most prosperous and lacks tensions with any other nation.
Not only is he a great asset as a friend and mentor to Youko, but Rakushun was her very first friend who is a great addition to her life as well. Rakushun is a hanjyuu (a demon born from two human parents similar to a Mudblood from Harry Potter) who takes the form of a rat. At first, she does not trust him when she wakes up in his home and care.
They grow very close as friends. He is capable of transforming into a human but he feels uncomfortable in that form. He is also a scholar at the Daigaku of En (University of En). He was originally from a kingdom where hanjyuu were focused to appear as humans and were neglected basic human rights. So when Youko was able to travel again they ventured to the kingdom of En to apply for citizenship and refuge. Along the way, he taught her about the history, politics, religion, and culture of the world of the twelve kingdoms.
The key character for the series is the Taiho, also known as the kirin. They are considered the second in command after the ruler of each kingdom.
Each ruler has a taiho that is named after each kingdom. They are born on Mount Hou which is the island in the middle of all the kingdoms. On this island is a tree known as the Shashinboku which births a new kirin when one dies. Kirin die when a kingdom is not prosperous or if the ruler dies. Each kirin is also born with a nyokai which is a creature born only to care and help raise it.
Many kirin are born with pale skin and blonde manes. Their primary form is a hybrid between a unicorn and a deer. Their main purpose is to advise the ruler of a nation but also to find the ruler of that nation. They are unable to bow to anyone besides their ruler.
One kirin I wish was more elaborated on, was Taiki. He was the last born kirin and the last born kirin with black hair. He was born in the human form of a small child. When he was still fruit on the tree, he was blown away by an unusual gust of wind and ended up in the kingdom of Wa. Somehow from there he ended up in Hourai and was reborn as a human to a normal family. Ten years after, he was taken away from his family one night and brought back to the mountain to be raised as a kirin. He was unable to transform into his hybrid form until he found his king for the kingdom of Tai. Once his king was found he went to the kingdom to live with his ruler and shortly after disappeared without a trace according to everyone in the other world. But one person knows where Taiki is and that is Sugimoto, who has attempted to become his friend in Japan.
He lives in Japan as a teenager in high school with a younger brother who is annoyed with him. Taiki is a painter as well, but he is only able to paint images from the other world but is unsure and can't remember where they are from.
In all, I would not recommend this series until they are a die-hard fantasy genre fan. I say this because the first season and the end of the second are extremely dry. I was not hooked on the series until the arc of Taiki. Along with the fact that the intro and outro theme music was not hype nor exciting. Then the terminology of the series was very confusing because multiple words referred to the same things. I also had to rewatch a lot of episodes because it was not able to keep my attention. When I mentioned that I was watching this series on Twitter, I was both praised and asked what I taught about. When I spoke my opinion many told me to just keep watching or maybe I'd like the manga better. Well, the first one was incorrect so I may have to add the manga to my reading list. But if you are looking for a series that had more than 12 episodes, well this one has 45. It took my other to finish than it should have since I started on Cinco de Mayo and the posting date is the day I finished the last episode. Overall it was a good story but I would never watch it again.