When I said that The Twelve Kingdoms books are of varying lengths, I meant it. Books two and three together are about the same length as book one. Thus today was book two, Sea of Wind, the story of Taiki. You may recall from yesterday’s map that Tai is one of the outer kingdoms, an island in the northwest corner. Taiki is therefore the kirin of that kingdom. Remember, for each kingdom there is a kirin who will choose the king. Their names are more titles, starting with the name of the kingdom and then adding a suffix: -ki for male kirin and -rin for female kirin. Thus far in the books we have seen Keiki, Kourin, Enki, Taiki, and Renrin.
Sea of Wind actually takes place before Sea of Shadows, a difference that I estimate as four to eight years, being too lazy to actually look it up. It’s not that important when most main characters are immortal. We know this rough time difference because Yoko is told at one point that the kirin of Tai is about the same age as her, and in this book he is only ten. Like Yoko, Taiki is a taika. When his eggfruit had been on the sacred tree on Mount Hohzan only a few days, a massive shoku struck, sweeping him off to Hourai where he was raised as an ordinary Japanese boy. Of course, because a kirin is not actually human, this led to quite a few issues when he was eventually found and returned home.
Sea of Wind is an excellent contrast to Sea of Shadows. Between the two, we get a fairly completely picture of how a king ascends the jeweled throne from both the king and the kirin’s points of view. Because both main characters are taika, the reader gets a fairly solid grounding in how the world of the Twelve Kingdoms works on many levels, a time-honored way to introduce fundamental concepts.
Because Sea of Wind happens earlier, we also see some of the background events that set the stage for Yoko’s journey, such as the beginning of her predecessor’s downfall. One hopes that Keiki was able to learn from the experience, and be better able to help Yoko than he was the former king. Of course, there is no explanation for why Taiki and his king are missing when Yoko arrives in the world, but one assumes that later in the series there is a resolution to that conflict.
Both books are about the main character’s journey to understand themselves, but with no reflection. There is very little audience in these two books. Yoko spends most of her time wandering alone through the mountains of Kou, and Taiki is isolated from the world in the Brush-Jar Palace. True, he has the oracles around him, but being human they are unable to help him learn what it is to be a kirin.
When comparing this section to the anime, I think there is one thing the anime does better, in some ways. I don’t know if the books truly lack a part of this scene or not, since I only have access to the four I’ve mentioned. Last post I mentioned a girl named Sugimoto who came with Yoko to the Twelve Kingdoms (along with Asano). Sugimoto was convinced that she was the great heroine as in a shojou manga – an ordinary girl transported to a magical world to save the day. Her jealousy of Yoko’s usurpation of her presumed destiny grew bitter and deep until she found herself in service to the king of Kou – and swearing to kill Yoko. In the end, she came to her senses and realized that this world was not for her and went home. Once there, she saw a boy in her art class painting something that bore a suspicious resemblance to a map of the Twelve Kingdoms. This boy was, of course, Taiki.
Sadly, the US-licensed material cuts off before anything in that plot could be furthered, but it does raise so many questions. What happened to the King of Tai? Why did Taiki return to his human home? How much of his time in the Twelve Kindoms does he actually remember?
One day I hope I’ll know the answers to those questions. Until then, I’m only halfway through the series.