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Immortals and creatures
Nyokai and Shirei
- Familiar: Especially the nyokai, born just as a Kirin Ranka is formed, and devoted mothers to their kirin until the end. Normal youma act as this to the Kirin who capture them, though they serve completely loyally up to the point of death. Should the Kirin die of any cause their shirei will eat the body.
- Mons: Kirin can "catch" youma and force them to obey their will, but it's a risky process since it boils down to a contest of wills that can take hours or days and could end with a dead kirin.
- Monster Lord: Captured youma, known as shirei, tend to be able to lead packs of similar youma on behalf of their kirin.
- Translator Microbes: Becoming a Sen-nin removes all language barriers.
- Immortality: Of the ageless and immune to disease types. It even takes special enchanted weapons and beheading to kill one.
- Perpetual-Motion Monster: Even if starved or dehydrated, a sen-nin will not die. This becomes demonstrated when Atsuyu imprisons his father in the castle dungeon for decades.
- Can't Live Without You: A ruler can never truly outlive the death of the Kirin who chose them. At most, they will live a year or two before dying.
- Cool Sword: Some kingdoms have relics for the ruler, Kei has a sword that grants visions.
- Fisher King: The absence of a ruler causes a World-Wrecking Wave to affect their land, raises the number and severity of natural disasters, and causes a rise in the number of wild youma. Just their existence improves all of these and causes a less flashy World-Healing Wave. Insane or evil rulers can be just as bad or worse as the absence of one.
- Made of Iron
- One-Man Army: With their hinman and great physical prowess, rulers can cut their way through many ordinary humans with ease.
- Super Strength
- Translator Microbes
- Allergic to Evil: Sort of. Blood is a poison to Kirin, and the mere smell even of their own blood can sicken them.
- Animorphism: Between their true Kirin form and human.
- The Beastmaster: Given their Actual Pacifist nature, Kirin generally rely on their shirei, tamed youma, to protect themselves and their rulers.
- The Chooser of The One: Kirin can recognize a ruler, but don't technically choose them, heaven does.
- The Consigliere: They often act as advisors to their Monarch and in some kingdoms they are also technically a provincial lord like in Kei and En.
- Flight: When in Kirin form, and can be a Cool Horse.
- Fisher Kingdom: On the receiving end, just like the land, to their emperor's Fisher King effect.
- Friend to All Living Things: Their compassion knows no bounds.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness
- Misblamed: As in The Chooser of The One, a kirin is more of a messenger of the gods than the one actually selecting a monarch. However, angry citizens can blame the kirin if they "select" a particularly bad ruler for them.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: With a dose of Geas, Kirin cannot ever disobey an order from their ruler, the only exception being to bow to someone who isn't their ruler.
- Neutral Female/Non-Action Guy
- Stupid Good: Explicitly so by nature, as supernatural beings of mercy and compassion. One of the primary challenges faced by every ruler in the Twelve Kingdoms is learning when to listen to their kirin and when to ignore them.
- Synchronization: Along with Fisher Kingdom, they will suffer a debilitating sickness called shitsudo that will eventually kill them if their king becomes evil or insane. Only the repentance, death or abdication of their ruler can cure them. However, unlike how the kingdom suffers in the absence of a ruler, Kirin have no such problems in a ruler-less interim.
The Court of Kei
Youko Nakajima (Queen Sekishi)
- Action Girl: Youko may whine a bit when she first drops into the Twelve Kingdoms, but one wouldn't want to be a demon when she gets going with her sword.
- Adrenaline Makeover: From a mousy Class Representative to a full-on God Empress.
- Brought Down to Normal: In the anime, Youko gives up her Hinman for one fight with Yuka, to drive in the point that Yuka was never meant to be a part of the Twelve Kingdoms.
- Class Representative: For several years during her school career, and a part of her initial Stepford Smiler personality.
- Dark-Skinned Redhead: A plot point, since people back in Japan thought she was dying her hair and saw it as a form of rebellion.
- Driven to Madness: Youko starts to lose it after being betrayed repeatedly by anyone she tries to trust, and the torment caused by the monkey spirit isn't helping things. When she hits rock bottom she's convinced she's as much a monster as the youma attacking her.
- Extreme Doormat --> Action Girl and The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask --> The High Queen
- God Emperor
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: "I'm such an useless Queen...!"
- I Choose to Stay: To save Kei, she renounces any plans to return to Japan. It doesn't help that, if she returned, she'd weaken and die in a few years.
- Impaled Palm: It leaves her defenseless long enough for Rakushun to gain some semblance of trust.
- Implausible Hair Colour: Youko has red hair, despite supposedly being full Japanese (she's not, of course, but no one knows that). A deconstruction, though – everyone thinks she dyes it, which therefore makes her a Delinquent. This, despite the fact that she has absolutely no other delinquent qualities, and was a spineless wimp until she reached the Kingdoms. Her parents actually want her to dye it, to make it look like she doesn't.
- Naturally-redheaded Japanese do exist, it's just ridiculously rare (as in, one in a million), and most of them dye their hair black due to the same issues Youko goes through.
- King Incognito: Travels the lands more than once after being crowned, disguised as a traveling Action Girl named Youshi.
- Parental Abandonment: We are shown Youko's parents back in Japan worrying about her, but this is played depressingly straight when her stodgily traditional father disowns her after being convinced she ran off with a gang.
- Done more sympathetically in the novels. Her father is still overbearingly authoritarian towards her, but it is clear that the disownment stems from his own grief and denial at her disappearance. "Don't you know from watching the news?! In such cases [abductions], have you ever heard of one where [the child] was still alive? That's why I say, she's just run away!"
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: In the anime, Youko's eyes are green, but when using her Hinman or shirei, her pupils will flash red. In either case, it means she's about to kick your ass.
- Refusal of the Call: The Call drags her kicking and screaming toward adventure
- Shrinking Violet: In the very beginning. She shred her shyness away as the story unfolds.
- Stepford Smiler: Starts out as a junior version of this in regards to her home and social life; she reveals later the fear that there was truly nothing inside.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Girly Girl to Yuka, the tomboy to Rangyoku, Suzu and Shoukei.
- Actual Pacifist: Like all kirin, he is unable to fight directly and gets weak in the presence of blood.
- The Consigliere
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Like all kirin.
- Ill Boy: After Joukaku went nuts, he was stricken with shitsudou – the fatal illness that affects kirin when their rulers reign poorly.
- James Bondage
- Kuudere: Seems to have a hard time getting close to people, but is a really sweet guy once he opens up.
- Mr. Exposition: Does a lot of the explaining for Youko when he drags her into his world.
- Mysterious Protector: ...For exactly one episode.
- Non-Action Guy: Although he can order his Seirei to fight for him, blood is a lethal poison to him, so he can't fight personally at all.
- Poor Communication Kills: He's not very good at explaining things properly, which can often lead to needless drama for all involved – his flawed explanation to Taiki about how to choose his king, for one, and also his not bothering to tell Youko anything about why he's there when they first meet. Youko herself teasingly lampshades this quality of his.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Gets stuck in kirin form as part of Joei's usurpation plot. With his horn bound, he's unable to talk or transform back into human form (thus, he can't reveal that Youko is the real queen) until Youko rescues him.
- The Strategist: Tries to be anyway.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Like all kirin, blood is poisonous to him. He also sickens and, eventually, dies if his ruler rules badly.
- Voiced by: Toshiko Fujita (JP), Melodee Spevack (EN)
- Achilles in His Tent: She's so terrified of her queenly duties and insecure about her performance that at one point she locks herself in her room, despite Keiki's pleas and attempts to calm her down.
- Fairest of Them All: In the depths of her madness, Joukaku banished all the other women from her kingdom so that she would be the most beautiful – and there would be no chance of Keiki paying more attention to them than to her. Those that would not or could not leave were executed.
- Foil: She has a lot in common with Youko, especially the lack of self-confidence. This is most telling when Youko becomes frustrated with Keiki and acts almost the same way Joukaku once did, and Keiki is clearly disturbed by the similarity. Fortunately, Youko gets better.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Jokaku went insane with love for Keiki and slaughtered/exiled most of Kei's female population.
- Heroic Sacrifice: She gave up the crown and immediately died rather than let Keiki succumb to illness, ultimately saving him and the land and opening the path for choosing a new monarch.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: The eldest daughter of a simple merchant from Kei, Joukaku never really wanted to be the Queen and felt she wasn't up to the task.
- Love Ruins the Realm: Her insane love for Keiki led Kei to ruin. Given that monarchs are clinically immortal, her edict to banish all women would end Kei in a generation.
- My God, What Have I Done?: When she realizes how her madness has made everything worse and identifies Keiki's illness as shitsudou.
- Yandere: While normal at first, Jokaku falls madly in love with Keiki. Already unstable from the stresses of an empress job she doesn't feel qualified for, her jealousy makes her snap, prompting her to either exile or execute all other women in Kei in order to remove "competition". Keiki is then struck with shitsudou, making her snap back into sanity. Ultimately, Joukaku is ridden with guilt and decides to sacrifice herself to fix what she had done. And that's when the civil war starts...
- Voiced by: Mami Koyama (JP)
- Big Bad Wannabe
- The Evil Princess
- Fake Queen
- God Save Us from the Queen!: She was a pretender to the throne, and attempted to steal Youko's rightful place by kidnapping and enchanting Keiki and plunging the nation into civil war.
- Smug Snake
- Cynical Mentor: Much like Trickster Mentor, it could be seen that his advice for survival is just playing to this trope. In a way he serves as a Foil to Keiki for the ruler of Kei since his cynicism is directly opposed to Keiki's idealism.
- Trickster: He falls under almost every category — he actively tries to get Youko to kill herself, while also giving her sound advice for survival and tipping her off when someone is going to betray her.
- Trickster Mentor: While it's unclear whether he's doing it deliberately, by the end of the series it's clear that this is the intended purpose of having him sealed into the sword. He does at least seem bored and irritated whenever it seems like Youko is giving up in the face of his manipulations, while getting excited and laughing gleefully whenever she stands up against him. Enho's reaction when Youko decides not to seal him again implies that this was the purpose of sealing him in a sword in the first place, so his taunting could ensure that a leader would have to confront their flaws and mistakes.
- Manipulative Bastard
- Maniac Monkey
The Kingdom of Kei
- Cool Old Guy
- Distressed Dude: He spends the latter part of Youko's second arc kidnapped; several of Youko's short-term goals are based around rescuing him.
- Mr. Exposition: Spends lots of time explaining the setting to Youko, although not as much as Rakushun.
- Mysterious Past: He used to be a great sage... and he was the one to seal Aozaru in Youko's sword.
- Old Retainer
- Secret Keeper: He knows about Youko's King Incognito identity as Youshi the Action Girl and keeps his mouth shut about it.
- Wizard Beard: And yep, he's the closest thing the setting has to a wizard.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Poor Rangyoku got cornered and horribly killed, yeah, but she still managed to hide the Seal of Kei from the assassins.
- Every Girl Is Cuter with Hair Decs: Wears a big yellow bow in her hair.
- Girl Next Door
- Heroic Innocent Bystander
- Promotion to Parent: Became Keikei's caretaker after their parents died.
- Sacrificial Lion
- Stuffed into the Fridge
- Team Chef and Team Mom: As Enho's housekeeper.
- Distressed Dude
- Infant Immortality: Downplayed. He never dies but he still gets some pretty upsetting injuries, like getting shot in the chest.
- Innocent Bystander
- The Dragon: to Seikyou..
- Man Behind the Man: to Shoukou, while he himself has another man behind him in turn.
- Voiced by: Toru Okawa (JP), Tom Wyner (EN)
- The Dragon: To Gahou.
- Face Death with Dignity: He shows no fear when it appears Asano is about to kill him, and outright demands that Youko execute him in the name of divine justice when he realizes who she is.
- For the Evulz: He's in this only to commit lots of atrocities. Lots and lots of them.
- Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Just look at them and tell me which side he's on.
- Graceful Loser: Once he realizes that he has lost, he submits willingly.
- The Heavy: For much of the third story arc.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: One of the many evils he mentions doing is hunting humans for sport.
- Not So Different: One of his aims in life is to find out if the Heavens exist. Later it is shown that Youko has the same dilemma.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Ouright dares the Heavens to strike him down for his misdeeds. His first reaction after recognizing Youko as the Queen was to treat her as the instrument of Heaven's Vengeance.
- Last Episode, New Character: Although his deposition has been a major plot point, he doesn't show up until the last episode of the arc. And only for like three minutes.
- Malicious Slander: He's the victim of it, as he wasn't the traitor that Youko heard he was. In fact, he was the only Kei governor who did NOT support Joei.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Not only he was loyal to Youko's plight, but he was kind to marginalized groups like the hanjyuu.
- Animorphism: Born a hanjyuu, he can turn into a massive bear.
- Blade on a Stick: A ridiculously thick stick, and a very large blade.
- I Owe You My Life and Undying Loyalty: To Koukan
- La Résistance
- Reasonable Authority Figure: A military leader from Baku province, as well as Number Two to Governor Koukan.
- Ship Tease: With Shoukei. He helps her run away from guards after Youko saves her, takes her in as his housekeeper, and then lets her into La Résistance.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome
- Blade on a Stick
- Boisterous Bruiser
- The Big Guy
- Humble Hero: He never demands any rewards once La Résistance triumphs. His only request is a scholarship for his little brother Sekki, so he can have an education and a good future.
- Promotion to Parent: Apparently, for Sekki.
- La Résistance
- Rebel Leader
- Sleeves Are for Wimps
The Kingdom of Kou
King of Kou
- Beta Test Baddie: His feelings of inferiority towards the taika king Shouryuu lead to his attempts on Youko's life, as he fears that another taika-led kingdom would overshadow his.
- Death Seeker: Dying and knows it, but instead of trying to mend his ways and stave off the oncoming Shitsudou, the regression of his country, and his subsequent death, he goes on to make life more difficult for his rivals.
- Fantastic Racism: Hanjyuu and Kaikyaku in Kou tend to have a very bad life as a result of his laws.
- Manipulative Bastard: Particularly in the anime, where he successfully manipulates Yuka into going after Youko.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After accidentally stabbing Kourin in his berserk rage against Youko, the full weight of his actions throughout the arc seem to settle in.
- The Extremist Was Right: Spreads rumors around Kou that Kaikyaku bring, cause, or invite disaster. A lot of the more levelheaded people in Kou disbelieve this. The King and Kirin of En later confirm that travel via Shoku causes natural disasters and it becomes one of several reasons Youko doesn't return home. Although as Rakushun points out, he had it backwards; normally, Shoku cause Kaikyaku, not the other way around.
- The Rival: Considers Shouryuu and Youko this.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Like all kirin.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: As a kirin, she physically can't disobey the King of Kou, no matter what he does or what she feels.
- Taking the Bullet: One from her king, in the anime. Also a bit of I Cannot Self-Terminate, as she had shitsudou thanks to his actions.
- Voiced by: Kenichi Suzumura (JP), Jim Taggert (EN)
- Animorphism: As a hanjyuu, he can turn into a big rat. Or, since he spends nearly all his time in rat form, it might be more precise to say that he's a big rat that can turn into a very bishonen human.
- Big Brother Mentor: Becomes one to both Youko and Shoukei.
- Flat-Earth Atheist: He mentions that he does not pray to the gods, seeing little point in it, and also says he doubts their existence. He says this to Youko, who has been given the Mandate of Heaven.
- Mr. Exposition: The audience gets most basic information about the world from him.
- Nice Guy: His kind nature brings out the best in Youko and later on, in Shoukei.
- Odd Friendship: With Youko and Shoukei, not to mention Enki.
- Platonic Life Partners: With Youko, Ship Tease notwithstanding.
- Southern-Fried Genius: He has a bit of a hick accent, coming from backwater Kou. He's also brilliant.
- Scholarship Student: Even with his incredible mind, his poor background and hanjyuu birth made it hard for him to seek schooling in Kou. Thankfully, after migrating to En and gaining the friendship and patronage of Youko and Enki, he is able to attend a top school.
- The Smart Guy
The Kingdom of En
Komatsu Saburou Naotaka (Fuukan, King Shoryuu)
- Action Guile Hero: Very skilled and badass fighter. Very cunning manipulator.
- Alternate Character Reading: "Shoryuu" comes from an alternative reading of his Japanese first name, "Naotaka".
- Big Brother Mentor: To Youko.
- Handsome Lech: What he seems to be.
- King Incognito: His favorite pastime. He stays up-to-date on the goings-on in and his kingdom by hitting up bars and brothels in disguise.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The main way he defuses national crises.
- Samurai: What he used to be. We actually see him wearing armor and all in the flashbacks regarding how he came to be the king.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome
- Trapped in Another World: He was a fallen warlord from feudal Japan before Enki brought him to this world.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Enki.
- The Wise Prince: In the flashbacks to his past in Japan.
- Adorably Precocious Child: Has tried to play up his youthful looks to get out of doing his paperwork, though it rarely works – all the government workers know full well he's older than he looks.
- Adults Are Useless: Thinks this way due to his bad experiences with authority figures in the past. Shoryuu generally disabuses him of it, though he's still not too fond of people in power.
- Bratty Half-Pint
- Deadpan Snarker
- Distressed Dude: Catches a BIG Distress Ball in the arc towards the end.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness
- Parental Abandonment: He was abandoned by his human family in the woods during a time of famine. His nyokai managed to find him before he starved to death, and brought him back to the nyosen at Mount Hou. The psychological damage was already done, tho.
- Power Limiter: The magical cord he gets put on towards the end, which seals his horn and powers away. Ribi manages to cut it off, only to die.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Loves to loudly munch on peaches while talking to people.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Shouryuu.
- Voiced by: Masaaki Ohkura (JP), Joe Cappelletti (EN)
- Ambitionis Evil
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
- Death by Irony: He manipulated Kouya into killing people with his demon, so he could gather power and usurp Shoryuu. When he is finally unmasked and snaps, Enki's shirei deals him a fatal injury, so Shoryuu has to Mercy Kill him.
- Evil Mentor: To Kouya.
- Evil Redhead
- The Rival: To Shoryuu.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Or so he'd like you to think.
- Sarcastic Devotee: What he seemed to be. In reality, he is a...
- Smug Snake
- Stepford Smiler: His province is the picture of order and prosperity, and he himself cultivates an image of saintly wisdom and acceptance. Nope.
- Villainous Breakdown
Kouya (Genrou Shinkun)
- Adult Kouya: Akira Ishida (JP), Scott Page-Pagter (EN)
- Chekhov's Gunman: He is introduced as a minor character in Taiki's arc, and then he is not even mentioned until his backstory is fleshed out in the last arc.
- The Dragon: To Atsuyu.
- Evil Counterpart: To Enki.
- Karma Houdini: Played with. He did repent of his horrible actions in the end, but Shoryuu and Enki let him go without any punishment. However, he did self-exile himself to the very dangerous Mount Hou, so even if he wasn't punished by others he is seeking for punishment himself.
- Kid with the Leash: Regarding his demon.
- My God, What Have I Done?: His reaction after his first kill. Of course, Atsuyu tells him it doesn't matter.
- Parental Abandonment: Similar to Enki, he was abandoned in the woods as a child during a time of famine. He was raised by a youma and eventually found and taken in by Atsuyu.
- Poisonous Friend: Kouya appears to be one to his mentor and leader, Atsuyu. He murders dissidents regularly (like Ribi's best friend, the girl who helps Enki escape from Atsuyu's manse) and claims to have "exiled" them when Atsuyu asks. It's subverted, as Atsuyu is actually a Manipulative Bastard who abuses Kouya's extreme loyalty to get away with atrocities while keeping his own hands clean.
- Psycho Sidekick: Kouya could also be considered this in regard to Atsuyu, if Atsuyu wasn't evil himself.
- Released to Elsewhere: His favorite method of exiling people is through the digestive system of his demon.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The sweet boy whom Enki befriended grows into a very cruel teen. He gets better.
- We Named the Monkey "Jack": After befriending Enki, Kouya starts referring to his demon with Enki's human name, "Rokuta", to not forget the name of his first real friend.
- Wild Child: He was abandoned in the woods during a time of famine and raised by a youma. Before being taken in by Atsuyu, he could only communicate in animal noises.
- Walking the Earth: After Atsuyu's defeat and death.
- Voiced by: Masako Katsuki (JP), Melodee Spevack (EN)
- Brainy Brunette
- Good Is Not Dumb: Trusts Shoryuu a lot, questions Atsuyu more than once. And is imprisoned because of that.
- Guile Heroine
- Heroic Sacrifice: In the last arc, she and Enki are wearing magical red cords that react to each other, with Enki's cord sealing his horn and his powers. To free him, Ribi snaps Enki's cord, clearly knowing that this will tighten her own cord and fatally injure her. Once she does so, the cord slices her head in half, killing Ribi instantly. .
- The Ojou
- Nerves of Steel: So calm and collected that she released Enki, also a prisioner, at the cost of her life.
- Spanner in the Works: By releasing Enki at the cost of her own life, she derails a good part of Atsuyu's plans.
The Kingdom of Tai
Kaname Takasato (Taiki)
- Child Taiki: Rie Kugimiya (JP), Terry Sutton (EN)
- Abusive Parents
- Beware the Nice Ones: Terrifyingly powerful youma or not, if you threaten his king, prepare for a showdown.
- Badass Adorable: See above.
- Demoted to Extra: In the novels, he and Youko share the mantle of main character, and get roughly the same amount of books. In the anime, he gets a five-episode arc that is never properly concluded.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: When the yet-untamed Gouran threatens Gyousou, Taiki becomes the first kirin to ever conquer and tame a toutetsu.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: He's got shoulder-length hair as a kirin, but when he's trapped in our world, he wears it much shorter.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: He puts on quite the light show when transforming into kirin form...
- Friend to All Living Things: He charms vicious animals, bloodthirsty demons, and socially inept kirin with ease.
- Kid with the Leash: Regarding his shirei, Gouran.
- Naïve Newcomer: Since he lived 10 years in Japan, the poor kid was incredibly lost when he was returned to the kingdoms. This causes him lots of angst.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Actually a plot point, as he's one of the very rare dark-haired kirin.
- Parental Abandonment: With a dash of Abusive Parents. Though he still lives with them for the majority of Demon Child, the Takasatos have all but abandoned him thanks to the jinx that seems to follow him – which is actually his shirei lashing out in insane panic at anything they perceive as a threat. His mother says that she wants nothing to do with him right in front of him, and regrets not having killed him outright in an inner monologue. After Hirose takes Taiki in, though, Gouran and Sanshi settle their business with his parents... bloodily, to say at least.
- Shrinking Violet
- Staring Down Cthulhu: Taiki triumphs over Gouran after one hell of a staredown.
- Trapped in Another World
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: The reason why he can't remember his stay in the Twelve Kingdoms. He was attacked by a treacherous general, resulting in his kirin horn – the source of his power – being cut off. He managed to escape back to Japan before the physical trauma wiped out his memory. Feeding a kirin meat, as his father insists on, doesn't help.
- Trauma Conga Line
- Voiced by: Keiji Fujiwara (JP), Chris Kent (EN)
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Thanks to being a badass general before being chosen as king of Tai.
- Cool Sword: Won as a prize from Shoryuu, for being the only person who almost managed to defeat him in a duel.
- Dark-Skinned Blond
- Dirty Business: The mass purges of corrupt officials in the Tai court.
- Four-Star Badass
- Knight Templar: When he is crowned king, his eagerness to purge the court of Tai of long-standing corruption leads him to order mass dismissals and executions – although it needed doing, Gyousou's hastiness made him lots of enemies, which led to the usurpation...
- Morality Pet: Taiki serves as his, balancing out his sternness. Gyousou's desire to keep Taiki's adoration leads him to hide the government purges from him by sending him on a diplomatic trip to Ren.
- Panthera Awesome: Is commonly associated with tiger imagery, especially in the books. In both the books and anime, he is the proud owner of a massive white tiger that serves as his mount in battle.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Though he does tend to go too far at times.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: An utter workaholic. He immediately starts hammering through budget and government reforms when he takes office, and during his first year in office he manages to pray to Heaven to create a new plant, just for Tai, that burns well enough to serve as a superb source of heat in the icy land.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Lampshaded, then averted. Taiki is initially afraid of Gyousou because of the man's red eyes. In reality, Gyousou is a pretty nice guy, and his red eyes are not a mark of anything evil; it's just all part of the Twelve Kingdoms' technicoloring scheme.
- Godiva Hair
- Hybrid Monster: Torso, arms, and head of a white-haired girl. Fish eyes. Leopard lower body. Lizard tail. Here◊ she is, ladies and gentlemen.
- Mama Bear: For Taiki. Justified, as nyokai are specifically bred and trained to be Parental Substitutes to young kirin, even before their eggs hatch; as soon as she was born and learned about her mission, Sanshi was seen hugging Taiki's ranka egg and happily saying his name. But as she and Gouran panic and get corrupted on Earth, that brings a lot of trouble: they attack everyone and, since they're invisible to humans there, poor Taiki is blamed for it.
- Voiced by:
- Eldritch Abomination: Several of the forms he enjoys phasing into can be described only as this.
- Papa Wolf: Very protective of Taiki, whether out of fondness or duty. As in Sanshi's case, this goes horribly, horribly wrong when the amnesiac Taiki gets stranded in Japan.
- Precious Puppies: Taiki usually wills him into being a Shiba Inu puppy instead of his more impressive form.
The Kingdom of Hou
- The Atoner: Her life after Hou – having realised what a selfish brat she'd once been, she becomes determined to make something of herself and do some good in the world.
- Break the Haughty: First she loses her parents and princess status, then she's forced to live as a peasant and is almost excuted when discovered, only Shushou's intervention saving her from an horrible death. And that's just the beginning...
- Brought Down to Normal: Shoukei experiences this, going from a life of luxury to one of poverty, starvation, and near-merciless persecution almost overnight. Not to mention going from being eternally-thirteen (for thirty years, natch) to being mortal again. She'd grown to sixteen (physically) by the time she left Hou. Symbolically, she herself later reflects on the fact that she'd been a "doll", herself. Presumably, she is given her Immortality again when Youko takes her into her service.
- Daddy's Girl: The apple of Chuutatsu's eye. Boy, did that screw her up in the end though...
- Damsel in Distress —> Action Survivor: She initially couldn't do anything by herself. Several years of intensive labor and a series of adventures later, she's holding up with the best members of La Résistance.
- Defiant Stone Throw: A defining mark of her growth, as she does so to save a man from his unfair execution.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After all her hardships and all the experiences she went through for good or bad, Youko listens to her plight and takes her in as a lady-in-waiting, and presumably restores her immortality.
- Fallen Princess: The spoiled and willfully ignorant princess of Hou had her parents, status, and everything short of her life ripped from her in a violent revolution.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Almost. She was about to be dismembered by angry peasants when Shushou saved her.
- Immortal Immaturity: She considers herself to be "about the same age as the Queen of Kei" as well as the (chronologically over 100) Suzu, despite the fact the she herself is chronologically in her mid-40s.
- Ironic Echo: Her peasant caretaker, Gobou, once told her how her son was killed for protesting against an unfair execution by throwing stones at the executioners. Shoukei herself does exactly the same thing later to stop a man's crucifixion, and Youko has to save her.
- Morality Pet: Is implied to have been her father's. King Chuutatsu kept from her not only his rather brutal policies but also the ugly side of ruling a country. A character notes that the King wanted her to be thirteen forever, a beautiful and pure doll that was the image of his idealized sinless human being.
- Old Shame: In-Universe, she becomes ashamed of her attitude as the king's daughter and even grows to hate her old favourite song – which she'd previously sung to herself as a form of comfort – because of how unconsciously it paralleled her own life as an unaware "doll". When she hears that Gekkei wanted her to know he liked her old song, she breaks down in anguished remorse.
- Princess in Rags: Even when she's barely saved from a Cruel and Unusual Death and taken in as a retainer of the Queen of Kyou, she doesn't lose her arrogance and entitlement, and it's only after she escapes from Kyou and then travels with Rakushun that she starts straightening up her act.
- Royal Brat: Pre-Character Development. Spoiled and sheltered by her Knight Templar father, the Emperor of Hou, the Break the Haughty that followed hit her hard and it took her a LONG while to get better.
- Sheltered Aristocrat: Due to being kept away from all of the Dirty Business her father got up to, she knows nothing about how to run a kingdom, or anything else for that matter. Rakushun calls her out on this, saying how embarrassing it is that a foreign peasant like him knows more than the princess about her own country.
- Took a Level in Kindness: From an ignorant and selfish Spoiled Brat and Princess in Rags, to a much more sensitive and level-headed member of La Résistance.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Attempts to deal one to Gekkei after he orders her to be spared from the peasants. He calmly takes it and just tells her to leave Hou.
Sonken (King Chuutatsu)
- Voiced by: Takaya Hashi (JP), Michael Forest (EN)
- All Crimes Are Equal: His form of judgement by the end of his thirty-year reign. In the last year alone, hundreds of thousands of people had been executed regardless of how severe their crime was – they just had to commit one.
- Black and White Insanity
- Jade-Colored Glasses: As a Self-Made Man government officer, he witnessed such corruption in his years before becoming King that he went...
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Over the years. He steadily became a...
- Knight Templar: His absolute sense of justice caused him to slaughter a large portion of his own population for minor offenses. He, his wife, and his kirin Hourin were eventually overthrown and killed.
- Off with His Head!: His standard reaction to crime and in the end his own death. A necessity in this case, as it's one of the few for-sure ways to kill a ruler.
- Overprotective Dad: He kept his daughter Shoukei completely sheltered and shielded from all the hardships that Hou went through. Wow, did that fuch the girl over once he was executed.
- Unholy Matrimony: With Kaka, whose petty jealousy and vindictiveness made her as bad as him, and possibly worse.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ultimately his quest for absolute justice was unchecked by compassion and he had over 300,000 people executed for every minor offense he could think of.
- Voiced by: Rumi Ochiai (JP),
- Driven by Envy: Kaka ordered one of Shoukei's ladies-in-waiting and her mother (one of her own court ladies) imprisoned and executed solely because the poor girl was prettier and more talented than Shoukei, falsely accusing the mother of corruption while knowing that both of them would get offed because of that. Gekkei does not forget to call her out on it before he has her killed, and Kaka's Famous Last Words are her denial of such accusations.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: A spiteful woman who had a young girl and her family executed because she was prettier than her daughter. It's implied that she did this all the time.
- Noblewoman's Laugh: And not the funny kind either. Emphasizes her haughty (and heartless) nature.
- Off With Her Head: How she was executed. In front of Shoukei. Even more meaningfully, Gekkei did this deliberately, too, in the hopes that it would help Shoukei empathise with those who her parents had previously had killed. Despite the brutality of it though, given what eventually happened with her it might just have been for the best.
- Unholy Matrimony: With Chuutatsu, see his entry for the shared reason.
- Voiced by: Miyuki Matsushita (JP),
- Face Death with Dignity: When Gekkei is about to behead her after killing the royal couple, she accepts it quietly and even seems to be a little relieved, just closing her eyes as he nears to her.
- Horrible Judge of Character: King Chuutatsu was not the first king she chose that proved to be an utter failure in the worst possible way. Heck, it was the first king's utter corruption that that turned Chuutatsu into the Knight Templar he was. Thanks to completely botching the judgement part of picking a king twice, she paid for her horrible judge of character twice, as she was executed right after him for letting the kingdom go to hell.
- Ill Girl: She already was in the last stages of shitsudou when Chuutatsu died.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Like all Kirin.
- Misblamed: The people of Hou blame her for giving them a Knight Templar for a king. She actually chooses according to the will of the gods and had no conscious ability to deny King Chuutatsu his throne.
- Off With Her Head: The for-sure way to kill a kirin is how she meets her fate.
- Cincinnatus: Hou sighs in relief when he finally lets himself be convinced that he should rule the kingdom until the next king is chosen.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: What he tells to the people who almost executed Shoukei.
- Jerk Ass Facade: To Shoukei, who he feels needs to be treated firmly if she is ever to break out of her misplaced pride and self-pity.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Very, very bitter in regards to his rebellion and execution of the late king.
- Manly Tears: When he gets a letter from the Older and Wiser Shoukei, in which she tells him about her adventures in La Résistance.
- Necessary Evil: His executing of the king, queen and kirin and the subsequent revoking of Shoukei's immortality.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: More just and reasonable than old King Hou ever was. The only genuine complaint against him (Shoukei's constant criticism doesn't count) is that he isn't more of an authority figure, long believing he doesn't have the right to rule the kingdom as acting king because of his role in the rebellion.
- Rebel Leader: Sort of. He was a governor in Hou, then led the uprising against the King to save the realm.
The Kingdom of Kyou
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Despite being eternally thirteen, she is the highly competent queen of Kyou.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Even with her competence, she's still a young girl at heart and sometimes exhibits rather childish behavior, like kicking off her Nice Shoes while discussing things with Kyouki.
- Corporal Punishment: She sometimes slaps Kyouki around, though only when extremely upset, like when Shoukei steals some of her jewelry and clothes before running away from Kyou, and is soon back to her much gentler self ( she caresses Kyouki's face after hitting him, and immediately forgives both him and the Old Retainer that was in charge of Shoukei).
- Every Girl Is Cuter with Hair Decs: Especially her crown-hairband-hair tie thing.
- The High Queen: As said above, she's a great Queen despite her youth.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: She's a good person at heart, but she lectures Kyouki for being too compassionate and kind for his own benefit.
- Manipulative Bitch: She may have influenced the Hou noblemen to revolt against their unfair king, so refugees wouldn't come to Kyou and overwhelm the country.
- No Sympathy: To Shoukei, thinking she's just a foolish little girl who did nothing to help the people of Hou and wanting to both punish and toughen her up.
- The Ojou: As the daughter of the richest merchant in Kyou, Shushou was this before becoming queen.
- Plucky Girl: Especially in the novels. Let's put it on perspective: she made a very dangerous journey through her beast-ladden country's fields, reaches the spot where sovereigns are chosen, and ultimately passes the tests needed to become queen. At age 13. In her own words:
- "No one shall rule this country but me!"
- Shadow Archetype: To King Chuutatsu. Like him, Shushou is a proud and stern monarch with a strong lawful bent. However she tempers those traits with wisdom, insight and mercy. She is the first ruler that Shoukei meets after leaving Hou, showing the erstwhile princess that her Knight Templar father was not necessarily wrong in his ideals, but rather his execution (no pun intended). She is also a living example of what Shoukei could have accomplished at thirteen had she not been a Spoiled Brat.
- Super Strength: Can make Shoukei bow forcibly to her... using only two fingers.
- Really 700 Years Old: Despite looking thirteen, she is over a hundred years old – rulers stop aging once they're chosen, and Shushou was a thirteen-year-old girl when she became one.
- Tsundere: A Type A, due to her child-like mood swings. In the novels, at one moment she dumps hot soup on her maid for questioning her repeatedly, then begs for her forgiveness and lets her borrow one of her own dresses to make up for it.
- Voiced by: Toru Okawa (JP),
- The Consigliere
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Like all kirin.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: A platonic version. Unlike most kirin, he's a pretty solidly built guy; as a result he towers over Shushou, who stopped aging when she was thirteen. (Shushou's said that she wishes he was short like Enki, so it would be easier to smack him when he irritates her.)
- Nice Guy
- Odd Friendship: He's the counselor of a girl who goes between The High Queen and a Bratty Half-Pint.
The Kingdom of Sai
Queen Chuukin / Koukou
- Voiced by:
- The High Queen
- Team Mom: For the whole kingdom – the people of Sai call her Koukou, which means "golden mother-in-law".
- Yamato Nadeshiko: With emphasis on the subtle will of iron, as she convinces Riyo to let Suzu go with words alone.
- Voiced by: Ruri Asano (JP), Jessica Stenuis (EN)
- The Consigliere
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Like all kirin.
- Ill Girl: When the previous King Shishou (Chuukin's adoptive son) governed ineffectually, she got shitsudou. The King then renounced to the throne and killed himself, which let her get better and choose his mother Chuukin as the new sovereign.
- Break the Cutie: Dear lord did this kid have a crappy life, especially after meeting Suzu (though it's not her fault).
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Youko's, then Suzu cradles his dead body.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: When Suzu loses herself in angst, he calls her out on how she's not the only one suffering.
- Ill Boy: Due to an old head injury, he gets severe headaches and later loses his sight.
- Parental Abandonment: When he was a baby, he and his parents ran away from Kei during Jokaku's chaotic reign. They were good to him and he loved them… but then his father was killed by youma, then his mother got sick and died while waiting for the ship to Kei to arrive.
- Trampled Underfoot: How the poor kid dies. More exactly, he gets trampled by Shoukou's carriage because the Jerkass didn't bother to tell the driver to change paths at the sight of a blind boy in their way.
- Voiced by: Minami Takayama (JP), Juli Grossman (EN)
- Domestic Abuse: Loves abusing Suzu.
- Jerk Ass
- Holier Than Thou: Claims to be "punishing Suzu's sins". Yeah, sure.
- The Mistress: She once was a High-Class Call Girl before becoming familiar with one of the former kings of Sai, who made her his lover and an immortal. Chuukin uses this against her when she refuses to let go of Suzu, threatening her with revoking her privileges.
- Noblewoman's Laugh
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin
- Rich Bitch: This is the reason she lives in her own estate far from the royal palace; everyone else just wanted to be rid of her.
The Kingdom of Han
- Voiced by: N/A
- Ambiguously Gay
- Dude Looks Like a Lady
- The Fashionista: Is an eager patron of Han's arts and fashion industry.
- Paper Fan of Doom: Hits Shoryuu with his fan for being impolite to Hanrin.
- Wholesome Crossdresser
- Voiced by: N/A
- Voiced by: Aya Ishizu (JP), Karen Strassman (EN)
- Ascended Extra: Yuka existed in the original work, but was a mere otaku classmate given only a few lines in the very first book, and certainly was never taken into the kingdoms with Youko.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Was bullied at school due to her obsession with fantasy worlds.
- Ascended Fangirl: Subverted. She thought she was one.
- Big Bad Friend
- Easily Forgiven: To her credit, she does help Youko once she's defeated, and finds the amnesiac Taiki after she goes back home.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Sure, Yuka, that sinister-looking King and his ominous parrot are absolutely trustworthy.
- I Just Want to Be Special: She says this pretty much verbatim.
- Important Haircut: When she's seen again in Episode 15, her already short hair is even shorter, since she's cut off the bangs that framed her face. Her reasoning is that she "didn't want to hide [her] face anymore", showing how she's more open in real life and less absorbed in her fantasy stories after experiencing it firsthand.
- Jumped at the Call: She jumps so hard she becomes an antagonist instead.
- Ordinary High-School Student: She doesn't think she's this, but she is, and the B-story of the first arc is her coming to terms with this.
- Otaku: She revels in being in a world like the fantasy novels she obsesses over.
- Poisonous Friend: Worth noting that in the original novel (where she didn't follow Youko to the other world), Yuka has zero respect for Youko and gladly badmouths her to the press after her disappearance.
- Psycho Supporter
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin
- The Rival: To Youko. After losing to her, she helps Youko rescue Keiki from Joei, and is finally sent back home.
- Trapped in Another World: She gets to go home, though.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Yuka is very savvy about fantasy novels… but is convinced she is the main character.
- Voiced by: Yuji Ueda (JP), Joshua Seth (EN)
- Canon Foreigner: He never existed in the novels; he was written into the anime specifically to give Youko a sounding-board for her worries (which were internal rambling monologues in the original book).
- Childhood Friend: Youko's. It's stated outright they've known each other for years.
- Despair Event Horizon: As time goes on, the strains of being Trapped in Another World take a HUGE toll on Asano's sanity, to the point of having him losing all reason to keep on living.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: He doesn't find one.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Shoukei's.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: He has normal short hair at first, then lets it grow shoulder-length.
- Face–Heel Turn —> Heel–Face Door-Slam
- Go Out with a Smile: Even if it's an ironic one.
- Sanity Slippage: As mentioned above, being stuck in a different world, alone, unable to speak (or even learn) the language takes a toll on him. When he appears again after a 20+ episode absence, he looks positively deranged and stays that way until Youko shows up to smack some sense into him.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: As he really is just an Ordinary High-School Student Trapped in Another World, he is ultimately ineffectual in doing any good for himself or for his friends in this strange new world. He eventually becomes a patsy of the enemy. Just when it looks as though he's about to redeem himself by performing a vital, heroic mission for the good guys, he gets intercepted by the villains, who kill him in spite of his being armed with a gun, while they only have primitive weapons. To further rub salt into the wound, Asano, before he dies, learns that his mission was completely unnecessary, since reinforcements were already coming to help the good guys. Harsh.
- Trapped in Another World: Unlike the others, he never found a way to cope.
- Unlucky Everydude: Hoo boy.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Given to him by Youko, after they finally find each other during her days as Youshi.
- Voiced by: Naomi Wakabayashi (JP), Mela Lee (EN)
- Accidental Misnaming: "My name isn't Mokurin! I'm Suzu! SUZU!"
- Action Survivor
- Butt Monkey: NOT Played for Laughs.
- Break the Cutie: Her mistress, the sen-nin Riyo, was an absolute bitch to her for more than 100 years. She left to live with Queen Chuukin of Sai, but when she went to search for Youko, things went to hell.
- Chekhov's Gunwoman: Suzu gets a short scene in Taiki's arc, is then left alone for a while and reappears with a vengeance.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: She initially latches onto ideals and people with very little provocation, and changes her beliefs very suddenly.
- Despair Event Horizon: She comes this close to it because of the already mentioned harships. Manages to escape, though barely.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A woman bound to an abusive person because of fears of being cast out without any resources or ability to make a living. Hmm…
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After all her hardships, Youko listens to her plight and takes her in as a lady-in-waiting.
- Extreme Doormat: A retroactively self-identified flaw. She thought her like would improve if she just became a doormat, but it didn't actually until she learned to take action herself.
- Face Heel Revolving Door: As a result of her Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life, she switches beliefs and allegiances very often. It's a subtle example because she often doesn't take extreme action, at least until her Character Development.
- Immortal Immaturity: Considers herself a teenager despite being over a hundred years old, chronologically.
- Shrinking Violet
- Translator Microbes: Avoided. Not being a sen-nin means that, when spirited away, Suzu couldn't understand the language of the kingdoms until she was taken in by Riyo. That's actually the reason why she put up with Riyo's abuse; in return for her service, she had Suzu's name added to the heavenly roster. One of her favorite taunts for Suzu was that she was free to quit at any time, but would lose her senninhood and therefore her ability to communicate, which after years of experiencing just that was Suzu's greatest fear.
- Trapped in Another World: Was a poor farm girl from the Meiji-era Japan, then arrived in the Kingdoms via shoku.
- Unlucky Everydudette