Also included below is a short rundown/glossary of the various fantastical creatures found throughout the world that have tropes associated with them but are not named, as well as tropes that apply to specific groups of people.
Creatures and Immortals
- Familiar: Especially the Nyokai, born to protect the kirin while it grows as a fruit and devoted mothers to their kirin until the end. Other youma must be captured by the kirin, 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: The shirei are able to lead packs of their youma species on behalf of their kirin.
- The Ageless: Once a character is added to the registry of immortals, they stop aging.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: These characters are all immune to disease, and cannot be killed by normal means. The exception is that special enchanted weapons and beheading will kill any of the Sen-nin, even the ruler.
- 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.
- Translator Microbes: Becoming a Sen-nin removes all language barriers.
- The Ageless: A ruler gains the sen-nin's immunity to aging upon accepting the oath of their kirin.
- 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.
- Deadly Euphemism: In the novels, since a ruler cannot resign and live, "abdication" is used as a euphemism for a royal suicide. Since no such abdications are ever shown directly, is unclear whether they have to physically kill themselves or whether declaring their abdication is sufficient to cause them to drop dead on its own.
- Fisher King: The ruler of each kingdom is directly responsible for the state of the land. If they rule well and mercifully, the land flourishes. If they oppress the people or rule generally poorly, crops fail and the land is overrun with youma. The death/disappearance of a ruler causes a World-Wrecking Wave to affect their land, including raising the number and severity of natural disasters/youma attacks. The appointment of a new ruler causes a less flashy World-Healing Wave for the kingdom.
- One-Man Army: With their experience (or a hinman) and great physical prowess, rulers can cut their way through many ordinary humans with ease.
- Translator Microbes: As a ruler, they gain the sen-nin ability to understand all languages.
- The Ageless: Kirin stop aging when they leave Mount Hou. Keiki stayed for decades, so he has the appearance of a man in his early thirties.
- 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: The kirin is the first sign a ruler can see of the judgement from the Heavens. An immoral ruler will cause shitsudo in the kirin; an illness that will kill the kirin if the ruler does not change their ways.
- Friend to All Living Things: Their compassion knows no bounds.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: With the exception of incredibly rare black Kirin, all Kirin have golden hair. Furthermore, while the Twelve Kingdoms have an incredible variety of hair colors, this color only occurs in Kirin. It can't be dyed, either. And of course all Kirin are creatures of limitless compassion.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness:
- Misblamed: As 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.
- Non-Action Guy: Kiren faint at the smell of blood and are too pure to use violence even in self-defense, so male ones are this by default.
- 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. They must be healthy because their duty is to find a new ruler for the kingdom.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Two of them.
- Their weakness to blood - to the point where even the scent of it is debilitating - makes them essentially incapable of engaging in combat. Note that the novels make it clear that this includes their own blood as long as it was spilled violently.
- Their supernaturally-enforced Stupid Good nature means that they can be forced to put the well-being of someone directly in front of them over far larger and more important concerns, even if they're entirely aware of what a terrible idea it is; at one point, Enki is taken hostage simply by threatening a baby in front of him - he's completely aware of how stupid this is and how it endangers the entire kingdom, but is physically incapable of allowing a baby to die in front of him regardless of the consequences.
The Court of Kei
Youko is just your average shy Japanese high-school girl. That abruptly changes when a mysterious golden-haired man drops into her classroom and pledges his loyalty to her as his master, dragging her into the alternate realm of the Twelve Kingdoms.
She is actually the displaced ruler of the Kingdom of Kei, and after reclaiming her throne from a pretender, she seeks to renew it to its former prosperity and glory.
- 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
- 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.
- Kidnapped by the Call: Keiki pretty much straight up abducts her, with barely any explanation.
- King Incognito: Travels the lands more than once after being crowned, disguised as a traveling Action Girl named Youshi.
- Mistaken for Dyed: Her natural red hair actually has her choosing to dye it a more subdued in order to avoid this.
- Ordinary High-School Student: Initially, at least. She even says this trope by name when objecting that she can't possibly become Empress.
- 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.
The kirin of Kei. He traveled to Japan in his quest to find Kei's new ruler, and found what he was seeking in Youko. He is stern and rather awkward socially, but cares for others deeply, like all kirin.
When Youko is seated on the throne of Kei, he serves as her confidant and tutor.
- Actual Pacifist: Like all kirin, he is unable to fight directly and gets weak in the presence of blood.
- The Consigliere
- Distressed Dude: He spends most of the first plot arc as a captive of the false queen of Kei.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Seems to have a hard time getting close to people, but is a really sweet guy once he opens up.
- 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)
The timid daughter of a merchant family, and former Queen of Kei. After the stresses of rule drove her to slaughter half Kei's population and bring her beloved Keiki to the brink of death, she relinquishes the crown and is struck down by the Heavens.
- 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.
- Driven to Suicide: She resigned her position, which results in immediate death, in order to save Keiki from the shitsudou caused by her failures as a monarch.
- 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)
Jokaku's younger sister. She was terribly jealous of her sister having been chosen as the Queen of Kei, believing herself far more capable. This led to her striking a deal with the King of Kou in his schemes, and being installed as a pretender empress.
When Youko allies with the Kingdom of En to retake her rightful throne, Joei is proven a false queen and is killed.
- Big Bad Wannabe: She gets crushed near-instantly the moment she's up against the actual Queen of Kei.
- Envy: Part of her motivation is her envy of her sister, who she always viewed (admittedly, correctly) as unsuitable to rule.
- The Evil Princess
- Fake Queen: She's a pretender to the throne propped up by Kou, since she lacks the mandate of heaven.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: She was a pretender to the throne, and attempted to steal Youko's rightful place using the kidnapped and enchanted Keiki, plunging the nation into civil war in the process.
- Smug Snake: While she has elaborate schemes and manages to get a good part of the country behind her as a false queen, in actuality she relies entirely on Kou's support, and everything falls apart near-instantly once Youko actually takes the field against her. The novel doesn't even bother to describe her downfall at all, and the anime only has one shot of her flying into a final battle where she presumably dies.
A mysterious monkey-like creature that follows Youko around, taunting her with the hopelessness of her plight and her darkest thoughts.
He is the spirit of Youko's sword, set loose when she lost the sheath in the chaos of her touchdown in the Twelve Kingdoms.
- Compressed Adaptation: In the novels, his interactions with Youko get significantly more focus, since he's the only character she talks to regularly before meeting Rakushun.
- The Conscience: More obviously in the novels, where Youko specifically describes him as her conscience; his taunting her with her darkest thoughts and most detestible impulses serves to force her to confront them and to recognize her flaws rather than trying to hide from them.
- 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.
- Manipulative Bastard: His status as the spirit of Youko's vision-granting sword grants him insight into both her mind and history, as well as distant events related to her, which makes him very good at manipulating her early on when she's still confused... though his end-goals seem to be more to amuse himself or to force Youko to confront her own flaws rather than to actually make her do anything.
- Maniac Monkeys: He is very high-energy and into his role as a cynical monkey-demon.
- Not Quite Dead: In the anime, Youko "killing" him during their confrontation doesn't seem to stick, and he's back in the next plot arc. In the novels, on the other hand, every indication is that he genuinely died for good when Youko cut off his head and he has not appeared since.
- 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 - thanking the heavens for sending the country a great emperor - implies that this was the purpose of placing him in a sword in the first place, so his taunting could ensure that a leader would have to confront their flaws and mistakes.
A high-ranked retainer in the court. Actually, a total asshole.
- Evil Chancellor: His corruption is emblemic of the state of Kei's court and directly leads to most of the problems in the third plot arc.
- Smug Snake: As soon as Youko becomes aware of what he's up to, all his plans fall apart; he can't actually meaningfully go up against the Queen of Kei.
- Man Behind the Man Behind The Man: He's the man behind Gahou, who himself is the man behind Shoukou. As a result, most of the crimes Youko faces while incognito are ultimately the results of his actions.
The Kingdom of Kei
The wise elder of the town Youko has chosen to study and train in. He is actually the legendary sage Roushou.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: In the novel, it's made clear that he's one of the rare people who attained immortality through his own efforts, rather than having it bestowed on him.
- 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, in the anime, he was the one to seal Aozaru in Youko's sword.
- Old Retainer: He both looks and acts the part. And as an ancient immortal sage, he has advised generations of the emperors of Kei.
- 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.
Enho's housekeeper. A young woman determined to provide a good life for her younger brother in the recovering Kingdom of Kei. She is killed by assassins searching for Youko.
- 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.
- Girl Next Door
- Heroic Innocent Bystander
- Promotion to Parent: Became Keikei's caretaker after their parents died.
- Sacrificial Lion
- Team Chef and Team Mom: As Enho's housekeeper.
Rangyoku's cheerful younger brother.
The longtime Governor of Wa province, he takes a back seat while his underlings turn the province into a fascistic hellhole.
- Voiced by: Toru Okawa (JP), Tom Wyner (EN)
The magistrate of Shingetsu village and immediate subordinate to Gahou. He gets his jollies from mercilessly abusing the people he's supposed to be protecting.
- Adaptational Badass: The anime makes him much more confident, competent, and sinister than his book counterparts; in the anime he rants about challenging the heavens, proudly boasts about committing every sin there is, and has a Face Death with Dignity moment at the end, whereas in the novels he is a Dirty Coward who was completely dependent on people above him to protect him.
- Adaptation Expansion: In the novels, he's barely even a character; the one time we see him he's an already-defeated Dirty Coward begging for his life, and we never even see him figure out who Youko is. The anime expands his role by giving him scenes with Asano and a Motive Rant once he's finally caught.
- Dirty Coward: In the novel, he's a cowardly wreck who is dragged kicking and screaming out from under his bed and who pleads desperately for his life. Averted in the anime, where he welcomes Youko's divine judgment.
- The Dragon: To Gahou.
- Face Death with Dignity: In the anime, 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. Averted in the novel, where he's a Dirty Coward who hides - badly - under his bed when the rebels come for him.
- 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: In the anime, once he realizes that he has lost, he submits willingly. Averted in the novel; see Dirty Coward.
- The Heavy: In the anime, he serves as this for much of the third story arc. His actual place in the grand scheme of things is comparatively small, but he serves to give a human face to the horrific things that are happening on the ground as the result of the manipulations of higher-ups like Gahou and Seikyou, who get far less focus.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: One of the many evils he mentions doing is hunting humans for sport.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: In the anime, he outright 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.
The much-maligned governor of Baku province. He is openly disliked by nearly everyone else in the royal court. May be a traitor after Youko's head. He isn't; in fact it's quite the opposite.
- Big Good: A weird example in that he's this to the rebels and serve this role in their storyline, even though of course from Youko's perspective she outranks him.
- 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.
A roguish Kei military leader who is supportive of the resistance effort. He is fiercely loyal to Governor Koukan, who is one of the only non-anti-hanjyuu officials in Kei, and who gave him a chance as his lead officer.
- 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
A large, boisterous man who is a member of the resistance and a protective older brother to Sekki.
- 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
Much more sensible and thoughtful than his older brother Koshou, he is the brains of the resistance.
The Kingdom of Kou
The ruler of Kou, and the one behind the Kei usurpation plot. His insecurity regarding his own performance as king led him to grow envious of the prosperous, taika-led kingdom of En, and caused him to lash out at Youko.
In the anime, he dies shortly after accidentally killing Kourin in a rage. The novels have him die after Kourin dies of shitsudou.
- 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.
- Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the anime, he dies because he unintentionally kills Kourin himself after she blocks an attack he made on Youko. In the novels Kourin dies of shitsudou. In both cases he dies some time later as a result of her death, though.
- 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?: In the anime, after accidentally stabbing Kourin in his berserk rage against Youko, the full weight of his actions throughout the arc seem to settle in.
- No Name Given: Even in the novels, he never receives a name; this is particularly noticeable in a series with a large cast and which normally names even the most minor among them. The King of Kou gets no name despite being the main villain of the entire first plot arc.
- 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.
- The Unfought: In the novels, Youko never even comes face to face to him and only sees him once in a vision using her sword; aside from that, the closest she gets to him is hearing his voice via a bird. The anime added a more direct confrontation with him, but he still never fights personally.
The kirin of Kou. She can only helplessly carry out the King of Kou's orders, no matter how evil. In the anime, she dies by protecting Youko from her king's sword; preventing him from making such a horrible mistake. In the novels, she dies from shitsudou.
- Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the anime, she's killed by the King of Kou after stepping in front of his attack on Youko. In the novels she dies less dramatically of shitsudou instead.
- 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)
A kind, intelligent hanjyuu from Kou. After nursing the half-dead Youko back to health, he accompanies her to En, and eventually manages to get her an audience with Shouryuu and Enki one he pieces out that she was chosen by Keiki.
After Youko is installed as queen, they maintain friendly correspondence while Rakushun attends En's top university.
- 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 Bishōnen human.
- The Anti-Nihilist: He is well-aware of how grim his world can be, and is skeptical of ability or willingness of the gods to improve it; nonetheless, he has a positive outlook on life and encourages others to see things the same way.
- 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.
- Mind you, one of the gods he mentions is merely a slightly unusual sen-nin in self imposed exile.
- 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
The cunning, charming King of En. He is a taika, born in the age of Feudal Japan as the son of a samurai lord. After being spirited away from a losing battle by Enki, he takes the throne of En, and has ruled it ever since.
- 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.
- Big Good: As one of the longest-serving kings and the head of the only really stable kingdom on the eastern side of the Twelve Kingdoms, he generally serves this role in that region, especially in Youko's plotlines.
- Handsome Lech: What he seems to be.
- Hire the Critic: In-universe example; his hiring practices in the novel emphasize this. He has multiple advisors who he hired on the spot after they called him out to his face, including one who fully expected to be executed for it.
- 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.
The kirin of En. Similar to his king Shouryuu, he was born a taika in Feudal Japan however, he was born to a desperately poor peasant family, and saw firsthand what the horrors of war can do to the common people. He came to distrust government figures as the ones who start wars, but eventually warmed up to Shouryuu once he proved his devotion to the welfare of En's people.
- 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: While he is Really 700 Years Old, his physical and mental age remain that of a kid, and he shows no respect to anyone at all, up to and including his own king. At one point, Shoryuu asks him to behave himself in front of Youko; when Rokuta wants to know why, asking if she's his wife or mother, Shoryuu asks if those are the only two people he can think of who he'd behave around.
- The Cynic: His upbringing and the horrors he saw growing up deeply imprinted him with how bad leaders can get. He would prefer a world with no rulers at all and is deeply suspicious of the entire system, though he eventually grows to trust Shouryuu.
- Deadpan Snarker: He makes it very clear how little he thinks of everyone around him, especially Shoryuu.
- Distressed Dude: Catches a BIG Distress Ball in the arc towards the end.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Played with. As a Kirin, this describes his basic outlook; but it doesn't stop him from being The Cynic or a Deadpan Snarker.
- Only One Name: Not overall (he has a ton of names, since Kirin have multiple names and title to begin with on top of his Japanese name), but he notes that his Japanese name has no surname, since he's from so far in the past that low-born people back then didn't have them.
- 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.
- Really 700 Years Old: He appears to be a kid because he stopped growing when he left Mount Hou, but is actually 500 years old.
- 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)
The beloved, accomplished governor of En's most prosperous province. He has little faith in the newly-installed Shouryuu's competence as king, and is concerned for En's future. It's all mostly thanks his massive ego and superiority complex deluding himself into thinking he'd be a better king. After years of manipulation and abuse of everyone in his surroundings (and specially of Kouya and of his own father), he is killed while cheating in a duel against Shouryuu.
- Ambition Is Evil: His belief that he could be a better king than Shouryuu, in a world where kings are divinely appointed, inevitably leads to this, involving him Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in pursuit of it.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: A beloved, accomplished governor whose initial skepticism of Shouryuu is framed as wisdom. Unfortunately, he takes it too far.
- 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, whose initial cynicism is fostered into increasingly terrible actions under his guidance.
- Evil Redhead: He's actually trying to seize the throne via evil methods. And his head is a brilliant red.
- Fatal Flaw: His utter refusal to accept responsibility and learn from his mistakes. When his plan to usurp Shoryuu collapses he immediately starts throwing his allies under the bus and blaming everyone else for his failures. As such, Kouya turns on him.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: Despite his claims of being superior to Shouryuu he's actually cripplingly insecure and unsure of himself. It's why he never took the pilgrimage to Mount Hou as having to accept that he wasn't good enough to be a king would be too humiliating for him to bear.
- Never My Fault: Has been completely incapable of accepting failure for most of his life. When he flubbed a shot during an archery competition he ordered the man who maintained his bow to be executed.
- 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: He has a lot of schemes but they mostly fall apart as soon as Shouryuu starts to actually take him seriously; likewise, his efforts to manipulate Kouya don't stand up in the long term.
- 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: When his rebellion collapses he immediately lashes out at his advisers, placing all the blame on them. It culminates in him trying to backstab Shoryuu and instead being fatally wounded by Kouya.
- Walking Spoiler: It's almost impossible to discuss him at all without revealing that he's the Big Bad of Shouryuu's modern-day plot arc.
- Adult Kouya: Akira Ishida (JP), Scott Page-Pagter (EN)
A cunning, manipulative young man in the service of Atsuyu, who saved his life when he was young. After years of psychological abuse from his master, Kouya finally comes to terms with his master's evil ways, and self-exiles himself to Mount Hou to wait for Shouryuu to make a kingdom where both he and his youma friend are welcome. During his stay there, he has become the God of Travelers, Genrou Shinkun.
- 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.
- Older and Wiser: Comes back like this in Shushou's story with the reveal that he has become Genrou Shinkun, whose actions made it possible for monster hunters without a kingdom to survive in the wasteland of the Yellow Sea. He hasn't aged physically, though, since he's still an immortal.
- 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.
- Happens again as a Call-Back in Shushou's novel when one of her companions names his beast after Kouya.
- 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)
A calm, intelligent civil servant, and very loyal to Shouryuu. She is imprisoned as part of Atsuyu's plans, and sacrifices her own life to free Enki.
- 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
- Child Taiki: Rie Kugimiya (JP), Terry Sutton (EN)
The kirin of Tai. His dark hair marks him as an incredibly rare black kirin; a herald of prosperity. He is a taika, and was spirited away from his abusive family by the efforts of Enki and the Mount Hou nyosen. He struggles to come to terms with his power and identity as a kirin in an unfamiliar world.
After being attacked by a treacherous general during a usurpation plot, he was flung back to Japan with a damaged kirin horn and amnesia of his time in the Kingdoms. After years of further confusion and abuse, he was finally located by an international search squad organized by Youko and brought back to the kingdoms. Whether or not he will find the missing Gyousou and save Tai is, unfortunately, an ongoing cliffhanger.
- 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)
A highly-respected general in Tai, and the man Taiki chooses to be its ruler. He is a skilled and shrewd leader, though a bit impatient, and is confident in his ability to restore Tai to prosperity.
His hastiness to purge the government of long-standing corruption makes him a lot of enemies, which leads to an usurpation plot led by a rival general. Though he is still alive, his whereabouts are currently unknown.
- 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.
Taiki's nyokai and surrogate mother. She is utterly devoted to his care and protection.
- 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:
A changeling demon known as a toutetsu; horribly powerful by any standards, enough to make even a Physical God think twice about tangling with him. Taiki brings him under his control as his shirei when he threatens Gyousou and Risai in his lair.
- 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.
An up-and-coming military officer in Tai. She is determined to see Tai restored to its former glory, and is loyal to Gyousou and Taiki.
The Kingdom of Hou
As the daughter of its former ruler, she is the deposed princess of the Kingdom of Hou. Spoiled, haughty, and incredibly out of touch with the reality outside the palace, Shoukei must adjust to her new life as a peasant and come to terms with her father's tyrannical reign.
- 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 Gekkei'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 Gekkei 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.
- Older Than She Looks: Shoukei became immortal when she was 13 and stayed that age for the next 30 years. When her sennin status was revoked she started aging again, and thus looks 16 when her story starts despite being in her mid-40's.
- 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.
- Voiced by: Takaya Hashi (JP), Michael Forest (EN)
The former King of Hou. His Knight Templar behavior led him to enact incredibly strict laws, which eventually led to his deposition.
- 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)
The wife of the former King of Hou. Self-centered and haughty, her actions are among those that bring Sonken's fall.
- 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 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),
The former kirin of Hou. She is killed during the deposition of the king, as punishment for having chosen him in the first place.
- 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.
- 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.
The leader of the coup against the former king of Hou, and formerly one of the most high ranked government officers there. He genuinely wishes for what is best for the kingdom, and is not proud of the blood on his hands.
- 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.
- 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 complaints against him (Shoukei's constant criticism doesn't count) are 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; and that he executed the kirin, who was only a mouthpiece for Heaven's will and was not actually responsible for the king she selected.
- Rebel Leader: He was a governor in Hou, then led the uprising against the King to save the realm.
The Kingdom of Kyou
The ruler of Kyou. Physically just barely a teenager, she was the youngest chosen ruler when she came to the throne. Despite her youthful looks, she is a shrewd ruler, and has led Kyou into great prosperity. She is the main character of the fifth book, which covers her going on the shouzan, a pilgrimage by those seeking to become an Emperor.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Despite being eternally thirteen, she is the highly competent queen of Kyou.
- Armor-Piercing Response: When Shinkun (actually Kouya) tries to call her out by calling her a Spoiled Brat who has no understanding of the real world, she makes it clear that she actually understands it painfully well and that this was what made her go on the shouzan when nobody else would.
- 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.
- Contrasting Sequel Main Character: In the novels (since her novel was never adapted to the anime.) All the previous protagonists either started out as a Shrinking Violet or were skeptical, cautious, beaten-down, and / or generally reluctant to serve their roles; most of them also started out deeply flawed. Shushou, on the other hand, is ambitious, determined, assertive, and knows what she wants and how to get it right from the start of her novel.
- 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).
- At the end of her novel, she bonks him on the head immediately after he selects her as queen, asking why she couldn't have just come to her and saved her a long, dangerous journey.
- 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.
- To Shoukei, though it isn't clear how closely they are foils until Shushou's own novel. Like Shoukei, Shushou was born into a privileged and powerful family and a corrupt father; unlike Shoukei, however, Shushou was constantly, deeply, uncomfortably aware of her unjust privilege and insisted on doing everything she could for her kingdom, while openly holding her father in contempt for abusing his position. Part of her Armor-Piercing Response at the climax of the novel makes it clear she is extremely aware of where all the fancy food and clothing she received came from, something she specifically calls out Shoukei for years later.
- Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who has read the fourth book will know that her shouzan ends with her becoming the Empress.
- 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.
- Magnetic Hero: Part of the reason the people on the shouzan with her realize that she actually could become Empress is because of how easily she wins the loyalty of others despite her young age.
- 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!"
- 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. (Which is all part of her plan to get common clothing to travel in.)
- Voiced by: Toru Okawa (JP)
The kirin of Kyou. His quiet, thoughtful demeanor is in great contrast to his Empress' bombastic outbursts.
- 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: Almost leaning towards Good Is Dumb, moreso than most of the other Kirin we see. He has a tendency to let his compassion for whoever is directly is in front of him overwhelm his ability to see the big picture, which Shushou points out.
- Odd Friendship: He's the counselor of a girl who goes between The High Queen and a Bratty Half-Pint.
- Out of Focus: He only appears briefly at the very end of Shushou's novel, and is just a side-character when she appears in others.
The Kingdom of Sai
- Voiced by:
The wise and kind ruler of Sai. Despite her elderly look, she's actually one of the youngest rulers in the 12K world (of the currently-sitting royals, only Youko is younger)
- The High Queen: Naturally, given that she is both (physically) old and dignified, as well as being one of the better queens in the setting.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: When she learns of Suzu's situation, she helps out despite having no compelling reason to do so, and sends her to Kei so she can be of some actual use.
- 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 kirin of Sai. She is very calm, cultured, and dainty, even for someone of her kind.
- 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.
An ill, orphaned young boy that Suzu befriends.
- 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)
A vain, tyrannical woman who takes Suzu under her wing to serve as her maid.
- Domestic Abuse: Loves abusing Suzu.
- Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In the novels, while Chuukin immediately understands why Lady Riyo became the way she is, she still strips her of all their servants rather than leave them to suffer under her.
- Holier Than Thou: Claims to be "punishing Suzu's sins". Yeah, sure.
- Honest Advisor: For all her flaws, Chuukin notes that she actually served this role a previous king, rather than just being a mistress, and that things only started to really go downhill after she was exiled.
- Hidden Depths:
- In the novel, rather than just criticize her as she does in the anime, Chuukin notes that Riyo was actually one of the few people who was willing to tell one of the past kings that he was doing the wrong thing, and that he only really started to go downhill after she was effectively exiled from the court, implying that the real reason her status was left untouched for so long was because of this history.
- The novel also explores why she's so unpleasant, and draws connections between that and Suzu's own situation.
- 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. Deconstructed in the anime; while she's still a a Jerkass, Chuukin says that the reason she was exiled was because her acerbic tongue meant she was one of the few people who was willing to tell her king that he was on the wrong path. Also, it turns out she's not actually rich, at least by the standards of immortals, since she has almost no income, just her immortality and the gifts that were given to her.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the novels, it's made clear that her immortality has left her lonely, especially coupled with her estrangement from the court (which is where most other immortals in the kingdom live), contributing to her bitterness.
- Driven to Suicide: Abdicates (which means immediate death) after he is finally confronted with the enormity of his failures.
- Never My Fault: Part of his downfall stems from his unwillingness to accept responsibility for his mistakes or to correct his course, though he was manipulated by treacherous advisors who used his misunderstanding of how the Kasho Kada worked to make him double down in order to get rid of him after concluding he was an unworthy king.
- Sibling Murder: Kills his own brother, Junkou, after being driven off the edge and wrongly concluding Junkou was responsible.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Played with. Most people would consider the unexceptional Junkou to be the foolish sibling and the driven, overachieving Shishou to be the responsible sibling; but in reality it's the reverse, since Junkou has a far better grasp of what the realities of Shishou's fanciful dreams actually entails.
- No Place for Me There: Averted. Reflecting on the vision of a perfect world that Shishou and the rest of his cabinet are working to create, Junkou observes that there's no place for ordinary people like him there, and says that he could be fine with it... except that he realizes that most people are ordinary and unexceptional like him, meaning that Shishou's vision would in one fashion or another condemn most of the people in the kingdom.
The Kingdom of Han
- Voiced by: N/A
The King of Han, who has ruled for three hundred yearsnote and brought Han great prosperity. He is somewhat difficult to get along with, and butts heads particularly venomously with Shoryuu.
- Ambiguously Gay: He dresses like a woman and is deeply focused on fashion, though we don't get much about his sexuality directly.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: When she first meets him in the novels, Youko initially mistakes him for a woman (not helped by his clothes.)
- 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.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: While he constantly butts heads with Shoryuu, they do deeply respect each other.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: When Youko first meets him in the novels, he's dressed as a woman. It's unclear if he always dresses this way or not. He's also generally portrayed as one of better and more reasonable rulers.
- Voiced by: N/A
The kirin of Han, (currently) nicknamed Risetsu by her king. She is a spunky and loyal partner-in-crime to her beloved king.
The Yellow Sea and the Five Mountains
- Voiced by: Shoko Tsuda (JP), Barbara Goodson (EN)
A goddess who serves as the head of the nyosen who raise Kirins on Mt. Hou in the center of the Yellow Sea, Gyokuyo also serves as the sole line of direct communication between humanity and the heavens.
- God's Hands Are Tied: While she can determine and communicate the will of the heavens, she has little ability to influence it herself, and it's implied that even her superiors have very little wriggle room.
- Godly Sidestep: While she's willing to answer questions about the laws, and even provides the protagonists with advice about Loophole Abuse to get around them when it's for a good cause, she completely refuses to answer any questions that would reveal anything about Heaven or its structure.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. Because of her prominance as a goddess, many girls are named after her, including the daughter of the sugar peddlar (and, in the anime, performer) who helps Youko early on; Youko's chief lady in waiting; and Shoukei during the time when she's living incogneto as a peasant.
- Our Gods Are Different: While she is worshiped as a goddess by much of humanity, the same is true of the emperors and many other figures who are merely immortals; it is unclear if or how Gyokuyo differs, aside from occupying a position in the Celestial Bureaucracy that gives her access to other, more definitive deities. At one point she references the existence of a Register of Divinities (corrisponding to and separate from the Register of Immortals that records most of the immortals in the setting), but doesn't make it clear which register she's actually on.
- Pals with Jesus: Aside from the revelations received by Kirin, she's the one and only direct link between the people of the Twelve Kingdoms and the heavens.
- The Cynic: As a resident of no nation and someone used to the harsh conditions of the Yellow Sea, he has a very cynical and utilitarian view of the world.
- Native Guide: Serves this role for Shushou (and the other people on the shouzan), since he is far more experienced with the dangers of the Yellow Sea than most of them.
- Voiced by: Aya Ishizu (JP), Karen Strassman (EN)
An anime-only character (sort of, see below) who is accidentally dragged into the Kingdoms when Youko is first swept over. She is convinced that she alone was meant to be brought over, and is incredibly jealous of Youko.
- 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
- Composite Character: While Aozaru and Kourin exist in the anime, several of their scenes and lines were composited into Sugimoto instead.
- 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)
An anime-only character who is accidentally dragged into the Kingdoms when his old friend Youko is first swept over. He is terribly out-of-place in the unfamiliar world, and does not adapt as well as Youko and Yuka. After being separated from them, he is gradually driven insane from being isolated from all he's ever known.
- 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).
- Sanity Slippage: 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.
- Voiced by: Naomi Wakabayashi (JP), Mela Lee (EN)
A kaikyaku from Meiji-era Japan, she was swept over in a shoku while she was leaving home to work for a local nobleman that she was sold to as a maid. Separated from all she's ever known, Suzu seeks her place in this strange new world.
- Accidental Misnaming: Her abusive employer deliberately reads her name wrong and everybody picks up on it without ever knowing her real name until she snaps.Suzu: "My name isn't Mokurin! I'm Suzu! SUZU!"
- 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 lot would improve if she just became a doormat, but it didn't actually until she learned to take action herself.
- FaceHeel 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.
- Older Than She Looks: Suzu is actually the oldest of the three heroines, being over a hundred when her story starts despite looking only 16.
- 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.