Episode Reviews

[Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 1 (Land of Visible Pain)

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?
Automated checkpoint at the Land of Visible Pain
  • 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.
The tour guide (?)
  • 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.
Dinner served by a meal cart
  • Loved this exchange between Kino and Hermes:

Hermes: “How was it?”

Kino: “Delicious.”

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!
Misguided STEM majors share that one look
  • 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!

15 thoughts on “[Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 1 (Land of Visible Pain)

  1. I’m glad you are watching the original series and not the reboot. Not that the reboot is bad but the original has more atmosphere. There are 3 OVAs between the two seasons. This one on YouTube is the story of why Kino left Master:

    Liked by 1 person

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