The end of a trip is the start of another! If you still remember, I promised to episodically review an anime series in celebration of 500 followers, and the anime that was chosen was Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World (2003), suggested by Fred @ This is my place.
Now that I am back from my own travels, I figured it’d be a good time to get going on this project. For Kino’s Journey, I am reviving the “Highlights” format I used for reviewing Violet Evergarden, Forest of Piano, and A Place Further than the Universe. Due to the nature of the anime though, this series will be less screenshot-focused and a little more word-based.
Ready? Let’s go!
- Aside from the dim and washed out colour palette, what immediately jumps out is the vintage TV gradient (?) filter. I thought it would only last for a few frames, but it’s there to stay. To be honest, I am not the biggest fan – it’s something to get used to.
- Getting Girls’ Last Tour vibes, although I’ve only read the manga and have yet to complete its anime adaptation. Kino + Hermes, Yuuri + Chito (Girls’ Last Tour), even Kiki + Jiji (Kiki’s Delivery Service)… It seems like duos that fall on different points of the optimism spectrum are perfect for stories about long journeys with no clear direction.
- Hermes claims that the greatest asset of any traveler is decisiveness, while Kino believes it is luck. Ironic, considering that Hermes the Greek god is a god of luck?
- It’s interesting how each location Kino stays at is a distinct “country,” even though the Land of Visible Pain seems more city-sized.
- Cool sci-fi technology, but I was just at an airport 2 days ago and that’s exactly how a self-declaration kiosk works, face scans and questions and everything. We’re living in the future…
- Reflections are a recurring motif in this episode. Kino gazing at themselves in windows of an empty city reminds me strongly of Mamoru Oshii’s Angel’s Egg. The eerie percussion soundtrack heightens the parallel.
- Very cool frame that shows the machine as an imposing entity.
- Kino’s relationship with the machines they encounter is interesting. Obviously, there’s Hermes, the sentient motorrad, who is their sole company. While Hermes seems uncomfortable with the other non-sentient machines, Kino is rather open towards them.
- Loved this exchange between Kino and Hermes:
Hermes: “How was it?”
Hermes: “That’s all?”
Kino: “And cheap.”
- Kino is a pragmatic person who takes in what they see without feeling the need to impose extra judgment. I love them!
- The citizens of the Land of Visible Pain all ingested a fluid that allows them to see the thoughts/feelings of others, which backfired by effectively generating more pain and causing people to isolate themselves from one another. Wow, I keep discovering more anime about social distancing.
- The magic drug is supposed to solve the problem with the failure of words at fully encapsulating emotions – a straightforward yet intriguing idea. As communication is in itself a choice and a mode of processing, by making language obsolete, the project deprives its participants of agency in and insight into personal relationships.
In between key scenes or dialogues, the anime offers you a chance to pause by running a complementary quote across the screen. At the start of the episode, it’s “The World is not beautiful,” and at the end of it, another bit is added to the line: “The World is not beautiful: therefore it is.”
It might be basic as a framing technique, but I like it for two reasons. First, it aptly summarizes what this first adventure says about human communication – it’s not perfect, which is all the more reason we need to persist in expressing ourselves. Besides this, the conclusion “therefore it is” seems like a good reflection of Kino’s consistently unbiased attitude towards what they observe.
Unlike someone like Ginko from Mushishi, however, Kino does seem like a protagonist whose internal struggles would play a relevant role in the narrative. At the start, Hermes implies that Kino is escaping (from a certain “master”), and Kino apparently has an active fear of settling anywhere and losing their identity as a traveler.
I am very interested in Kino’s motivations. Earlier on, Hermes comments that there’s no need to travel when the world is always changing, a remark on how the map they were following failed to take into account a change in landscape caused by a recent landslide. Thinking again of Girls’ Last Tour, while Yuuri and Chito have the paramount goal of survival in a still world of ice and snow, Kino seems to be on an aimless escape in a land of diverse civilizations and constant change.
What Kino doesn’t lack is faith though, in luck and in other people, which makes the show already charming after Ep. 1 to me. I especially like how they chide Hermes for calling the mapmaker “dishonest”, when humans are limited by changing circumstances and it is therefore better to simply “believe in people.”
I love, love this show already, and can’t wait to review more of it. Thanks again, Fred, for recommending it to me!