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Kino's Journey
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 12/14/2008

Kino is a traveler, one of the seemingly few left in the world, who’s journeying from country to country exploring their society and interacting with their people.  She traverses the land on her motorrad named Hermes, a sentient type of motorcycle who has a special connection with its rider.  He’s sort of her sidekick as she travels alone from one place to the next, giving her someone to talk to about the things they have seen and what it all really means.  Never staying in one place for longer than three days, Kino’s Journey chronicles her travels to a number of different countries and shows us all the wild and mad things that can happen when self contained societies go a tad bonkers.  From the country that got rid of government in favor of majority rule and ended up killing all its people but two, to the country whose populace decided it would be a good idea if they could feel one another’s emotions and ended up having to live alone and away from anyone else.  It’s a messed up world out there, and Kino’s going to give us a glimpse into the craziness of man.

There aren’t many series like Kino’s Journey; one’s which portray an almost somber reverence for its main character and the stories surrounding her.  She travels from one misbegotten town to the next, identifying and understanding how the society came to be the way it is, but almost never doing anything about it.  It’s not a travelers business what other countries are doing or what their laws are, and she does not believe it is her right to impose her own beliefs on other people.  This means there are often times when she could easily help out a person or two, but simply drives away into the sunset.  When she could attempt to stop one country from invading another on false words of prophecy, but instead just gets out of their way.  Even though it may seem coldhearted, it’s incredibly refreshing to watch a series where the main characters are not always meddling in other people’s affairs.

Almost every episode is stand-alone and self contained, featuring a new country and situation involving its people.  There’s often a conflict but always a fascinating story to be had wherever she winds up.  As a woman traveling alone, for all intents and purposes, Kino is a well trained gunslinger, and is almost unparalleled in skill as she practices at her quick draw every morning.  She may not like to get involved, but when it comes down to a matter of her life hanging in the balance, she has no problem using her highly developed and unequaled skills to keep her would be attackers at bay.  And no matter where she goes, there’s often someone looking to do her harm.  Such as when, after helping out a trio of stranded and starving merchants, she abruptly finds herself becoming their next piece of merchandise.  Not all stories result in violence though, and a number of them rely on the uniqueness of the country in particular to hold the viewers attention, which even then it achieves surprisingly well.

For its thirteen episode length its lack of cohesive storylines isn’t bad, but if it went on for any longer one may have grown tired of its unconnected nature.  I got that feeling from its two extraneous movies (which are as long as a regular episode) and an unaired episode that’s about half as long.  While good all around, they’re starting to wear their novelty down.  None of these extras are included with the R1 DVD release sadly.

Unfortunately the animation is not quite up to the level of the series itself, but does its job well enough.  Problems arise when characters go into motion, and just in general Kino’s Journey can often seem like a bit of a head trip with the strange techniques they occasionally use.  It’s not the type of series that needs to have an exceptional level of animation though, so it doesn’t really detract.  In terms of character designs, there isn’t much to complain about with a wide variety of regular and sinister looking characters.  Kino’s the type of girl whose gender is rather ambiguous till they tell you, since one can never be sure from the gender of the voice actor.  A predicament I blame Japan entirely for…  So, for the record, Kino is a girl.  You don’t need to be weirded out by the suggestive cover on the box set that I thought was a boy for the longest time…  Voice acting in both languages is up to snuff, so have at whichever one you prefer.  Hermes does take a little getting used to in English though, and stands in stark contrast to his Japanese counterpart.  The only other technical of note is the rather unobtrusive musical score, with the exceedingly beautiful ending theme The Beautiful World.

Kino’s Journey is a rare gem that breaks free from the typical anime mold and really gives us something special.  With beautifully crafted stories, a wonderful main character, and a surreal self-awareness, Kino’s Journey is not a series to miss.

The three extraneous episodes are called The Tower Country, Life Goes On, and The Land of Sickness.  As I said before, these are not included in the DVD set.

Kino's Journey
Kino's Journey
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Review Title:
Kino's Journey
Alternative Titles:
Kino's Travels, Kino no Tabi
325 Minutes
General Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Action, Adventure, Slice of Life
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