juuni kokuki

I’ve been on a sort of re-watching binge lately and one of the series I decided to rewatch was Juuni Kokuki or The Twelve Kingdoms. What struck me while watching the anime again was how well executed the recap episodes were. Often times, I dread the recap episodes because they are boring and don’t really have a purpose beyond saving the anime studio some money. But I didn’t mind the recap episodes in Juuni Kokuki because they were well executed, and they were so well executed precisely because they used the strength’s of Juuni Kokuki to make interesting recap episodes.

Juuni Kokuki is an anime adapted from novels by Fuyumi Ono. The story is best described as a fantasy with a strong current of political intrigue. There is a lot of terminology and concepts throw around in this series, and it can get a bit overwhelming trying to keep track of what means what. The anime studio seemed to realize this, so they centred their recap episodes around the terminology and political structures found in the universe of Juuni Kokuki. The result was recap episodes that were engaging and interesting. Most of the information provided in these episodes was not new, but because there was so much information to take in, this was a very much welcomed repeat. I found it helped me finally sort out all the terminology in the universe of Juuni Kokuki.  Furthermore, while the vast majority of the recap episode did not introduce any new information, there was always a bit of plot progression to be had. For example, the recap that happens while Rakushun and Shoukei are travelling to En establishes that Shoukei has finally understood the lesson everyone was trying to teach her. This makes the recaps feel integral to the overall story rather than superfluous.

And that’s honestly the problem with the vast majority of recap episodes; they feel superfluous. Obviously the approach to each recap episode will vary from anime to anime. Juuni Kokuki had an easier time with them because its unique terminology made it easy to centre recap episodes around it, but I do believe it should be possible for any anime. As long as there is something in the recap episode that is new and some logical structure that lies it into the rest of the anime, it will not feel superfluous, but a part of the story the anime is trying to tell. Once that is accomplished, it is half the battle. All that is left is to make the recap interesting.

How do you feel about recaps? Are there particular series where you think recaps were done right?