Back to our routine of episodic Kino. Just learned that Kino is a “she,” so I won’t be using “they/them” to describe her anymore. This episode features not one, but three seemingly unconnected countries, each with their own obsession with the concept of tradition.
- The textured filter really gives the scenery an embroidered art feel, which is pretty neat in the above image. I still can’t say I like it as a whole, but it’s certainly different.
- Feels like an appropriate setting for “the end of the world.” Civilization scrunched all the way up to a cliff!
- The world was prophecized to end by “tower researchers” who studied a holy text imported from another country. A jab at the ivory tower of academia?
- The title of the episode is “Land of Prophecies – We NO the Future,” which isn’t a particularly clever pun, but is an interesting enough one.
- What an apocalyptic sun. I really thought it was an atomic bomb or something.
- The world was prophecized to end, and yet the sun rises. The most amusing comment from a concerned citizen: “If the world isn’t going to end, how are we supposed to go on living?” The natural solution: find somebody else to predict another end of the world.
- This is the Land of Tradition, where wearing cat ears is a tradition! Actually, the tradition is to make up a new tradition to trick a traveler into participating, whenever there’s a new face in town.
- This “country” has no more than 30 people altogether, which confirms my suspicion about all these “countries” being no larger than cities, despite each having checkpoints. A setting of fragmented humanity… I wonder if Kino’s world is a post-apocalyptic one?
- The Sad Land also has a tradition: sad poetry recitations. The tradition was passed down when one poet was commissioned by the king to write a sad poem, and sacrificed his whole family’s happiness in the process of obtaining inspiration.
- The poet’s story is told like a fairy tale, with more dramatic and fantastical visuals than the rest of the episode. Something about it reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, though I’m not sure if it’s just the heavy irony.
- How one sad poem that everyone hated evolved into a whole tradition of “remembering the sadness” is quite interesting. I thought the citizens might get rid of the poet’s daughter, but she instead became a sort of prophetess.
- As much as I loved the poem and the imagery of 14-year-old reciters chanting from overpasses in a Venetian water city, I think this far-stretched premise takes itself a little too seriously, and I’m afraid I laughed a few times. We are seeing each country largely through Kino’s eyes though, so it’s fair that this entire episode is ridiculous (despite Kino’s own apathy).
- Plot twist: the Book of Prophecy from the Land of Prophecies is actually just the poetry created by the poet from the Sad Land. I didn’t see it coming and rather relished in how the revelation brought everything together.
- The Land of Prophecies sends out an army to annihilate the Sad Land, because one of the tower researchers came to the conclusion (based on an obscure metaphor) that it was the only way to delay the prophecy by 30 years. Ah, the power of demagoguery. It’s just such a fittingly disconcerting episode to be watching right now.
- Speaking of the Land of Prophecies, I wonder what other prophecies there were. Then again, “Prophecies” being plural is a choice made by the translator, and it is quite possible that everything was just building up to that one prophecy on the end of the world.
There are a few common threads that connect the three countries that I find pretty neat. The first is mob psychology and the significance of an authority figure. In the Land of Prophecies, it’s the tower researchers who have made a religion out of the Book of Prophecy. In the Land of Tradition, it’s Kino, who unintentionally came into the power to decide whether a tradition is to last in the country. In the Sad Land, it’s the poet and his many young successors.
In the first country, which is always on the brink of destruction, a leader of faith is needed for people to feel saved. In the second, which is stagnant from isolation, an outsider is needed to implement change or inspire the possibility of it. In the third, which was once prosperous, an oppositional voice is necessary, perhaps for people to share a sense of integrity by memorializing tragedy. And of course, the first and third country form a complete cycle to tell a disturbing story with the theme “national identity is often built on precarious grounds.”
The other interesting subject is poetry’s relationship with reality. At the beginning of the episode, Kino says to Hermes that travelers are like poets. The life of a traveler is inherently poetic in its adventurousness and transience, but in addition, the simile works because the traveler’s view of the countries they visit is also one step removed from the reality of living there. The tourist’s view is a beautified one, and Kino seems aware of that (especially when it comes to the Land of Tradition?).
Yet, the story about the Sad Land is one about poetry being infused with reality. It also has the power to shake reality directly, and eventually shape its course. When asked by Hermes whether she thinks the prophecy was right, after seeing off an army on their way to annihilating the country they were just in, Kino says, “I don’t know, how about we ask the stars?”
Instead of condemning the army’s obviously irrational decision, Kino alludes again to poetry, suggesting instead that we are all poets who see through filtered lenses. Some of the stories and dialogues in this episode have a bit more of a cliched flavour, but I love how expansive this episode is, and how well its motifs all tie together. Makes a fun review to write!