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By: Vrai Kaiser February 26, 20190 Comments

I actually recently discussed this very thing on twitter, so I'll paraphrase it here! The Twelve Kingdoms (novels and anime) is my favorite isekai and basically one of my favorite narratives of all time. It really challenges and defies the "might-makes-right" power fantasy most modern isekai seems to love. The female lead, Youko, is a pitiful, formerly powerless girl who is tossed into an alternate world where she's given incredible power, but her journey is about realizing she was a scared and empty person who was constructed her entire identity around pleasing other people, and vowing to change that. Freed from having to conform to the expectations of her sexist father, she grows more confident, but also grows bitter and distrustful after being betrayed and attacked. But rather than getting a hot slave, she fights her literal inner demon and declares that she's not going to use her bad experiences as an excuse to lash out at others. Even when she gains a position of power, it's complicated by those who want to use her as a political pawn, so she abandons her power for a time to go join a grassroots rebellion to topple a power-hungry despot. She learns how to take responsibility, combat power imbalances, and matures. She faces her own weaknesses, and the narrative actively defies the idea she 'deserves' power, she has to prove she can handle it responsibly. I think modern isekai could learn a LOT from how the Twelve Kingdoms handles nuance, makes its characters struggle, really engages in the politics of its world, focuses on the oppressed and gives them agency.

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