This episode wrapped up a little more hastily than I would like it to, but it shed some interesting light on Kino’s personality and objectives.
- Having the King tell his backstory through puppets was an interesting aesthetic touch. The execution of the scene in the screenshot is particularly nice.
- On the other hand, the story doesn’t offer a lot of new information that wasn’t already alluded to in the last episode. It really spells it out for you which puppet’s role corresponds with which character, from King to Prince to the Prince’s son. I feel like the show as a whole would benefit from leaving more left unsaid/unshown, given its quiet and pensive overtones.
- The King reminds me of a drug addict suffering from withdrawal symptoms. A little too dramatic for my liking, but his self-awareness of impending destruction is interesting. Usurpation and violence are apparently fated and hereditary.
- Wanting his contestants to marry him is pretty random. Once again shows how different people perceive Kino’s gender differently, and all seem to be pretty confident with their guesses. In the same episode, Shizu uses male pronouns to refer to Kino.
- Best boy! A katana-wielding kuudere, what’s not to love here? I may not have strong feelings about Shizu’s motives and backstory, but I love his design, abilities, and sidekick. It would have been fun if Kino agreed to travel with him in the end.
- Ultimately, everybody’s self-proclaimed motives for entering the arena, including Kino’s, was narrow and self-serving. The assassin from last episode wanted to prove his worth, the woman Kino fights wants her mother to be nationally honoured, Shizu wants revenge, and Kino wants to find out the meaning behind a smile.
- Despite the grand prize allowing the victor to create one law, nobody seems to aim for significant systemic change. While Kino arguably breaks the system by defeating the King, the new rule they create doesn’t change the country’s tradition of gladiator battles. At the end of the day, Kino is just a traveler who stands for themselves, and I am reminded again that they aren’t exactly a moral center of the narrative.
So I did get the prediction about somebody having ties to the King right, since it only made sense. I’m still left with questions about the woman with the hat on the wagon. She’s probably the exiled wife whose husband got killed in one of the rounds, that part seems obvious, but why the heck does she recommend the country is a beautiful place to visit? Is she so embittered that she wants to pass on the suffering to a fellow traveler? Kino might have had an epiphany, but I sure didn’t! But since I did say that I’d like it if the show leaves more open for interpretation, I’m not counting this against it, and am moreso mentioning it here for discussion.
Kino had never been in a situation that resulted in as much agency over a country as this, and their neutrality towards the bloodshed is a little scary. It’s consistent with their identity as a traveler who observes and passes through, but still, rather disconcerting considering their personal disdain for unnecessary killing.
Kino’s whims are also dialed to the maximum in these two episodes. Risking their life multiple times for the sake of gaining some vague experience or insight, when there are multiple opportunities to escape conflict. As pacifists on the surface, Kino and Shizu could really just talk out a surrender strategy before even entering the arena. But of course, conflict is kind of the point of this country and this arc, and in order to gain whatever elusive insight Kino was after, surviving and triumphing until the end is the only way.
I don’t know if the conclusion of this episode really delivered, because I can’t tell that Kino emerged from the whole thing with anything new, and wasn’t all too affected by any tlast twists or revelations. After it’s revealed who the King and Shizu are, the conclusion pretty much wrote itself, and I don’t really have much to say on it.
Main takeaways: 1) Whew, Kino is so strong, 2) Kino is both impartial and unpredictable.
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 1 (Land of Visible Pain)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 2 (The Tale of Feeding off Others)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 3 (Land of Prophecies)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 4 (Land of Adults)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 5 (Three Men Along the Rails)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 6 (Coliseum Pt. 1)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 7 (Coliseum Pt. 2)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 8 (Land of Wizards)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 9 (Land of Books)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 10 (A Tale of Mechanical Dolls)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 11 (Her Journey)
- [Highlights] Kino’s Journey Ep. 12 (A Peaceful Land)