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Some Thoughts On: Kino’s Journey (2003) Series

On March 10, 2018 I finished Kino’s Journey (2003) anime series for the first time, and found it average. As usual, this is not a review, and it’s simply scattershot thoughts. If I actually ever bothered rewatching this “eh” anime again I certainly would form a much better blog post than this.

From the onset, Kino’s Journey is about a traveler, who travels the world, and that’s about it. For an episodic anime this quickly came across as something I would not enjoy. However, after seeing the first episode I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out good. It was wondrous, had good world building, and a nice twist by the end of the episode that I didn’t see coming regarding the town’s history. Then episode 2 happened where it’s philosophical dialogue conflicts with the visual medium. You can talk about the true nature of man all you want, but you have a character who doesn’t like staying in one place too long. Making me question if I’m supposed to care what topics she brings up? The anime wants me too, but I don’t because one moment it’s absorbing with it philosophical talk, and something over the top happens to kill the mood. Like the ending of episode 2 simply felt like it just happened to have a “the folly of man” message.

Episode 3 was probably the high point of the anime for me. It displayed the most towns, the messages it had were delivered quickly so they wouldn’t get drowned out, and for once it was all tightly written without anything silly ruining it. In essence, it’s about this point I realize the series is literally just about Kino’s journey in the world, and the societies she witness. Leading to not creating any memorable characters, including the lead herself, and her talking motorcycle named Hermes. Leading to series where the main character you follow is the least developed aspect of the series. When it doesn’t to have the audience feel something about it’s world citizen is when Kino’s Journey at it strongest. Using the town’s people as plot devices to get across some kind of theme, or message.

At it weakest, you get episode 4 which delves into Kino’s backstory. Around half of the episode is good since it uses it characters to get across broad ideas. In this specific episode, it’s on what makes an adult, and what it means to be one. Where it falls apart is when you’re expected to care about the effect the society has on its people, even though consistently they never show up again once the episode is over. Much like Kino, everything feels passive. Kino goes into a town, passively observing it citizens decay in misery, and moves on to the next town. Aside from the two parter, every episode follows this formula. When not asking its audience to care about the characters it work because the ideas it touches are interesting.

My whole experience with Kino’s Journey (2003) was simply “eh”. Episodic anime, like mentioned in Hell Girl, aren’t things that draw me in. Kino’s Journey is an example of why; it’s a series of standalone adventures not connecting to anything resembling an overarching story. It’s main difference being it has more interesting ideas it touches on than a majority of episodic anime. Consequently, the lack of an overarching story make Kino seem like she is simply running away from her problems instead of facing them contrary to her backstory.

Just like Kino, the town’s people simply let things happen to their society without wanting to change it. Only once does Kino’s bother to interfere with the town itself in the two-parter Coliseum which is underwhelming. Aside from this one example, Kino, just like my attention, simply goes on to whatever is next without a connection. Speaking of connection, I struggle to figure out how this many decaying towns, or conflicting societies would be able to coexist in the same world without much conflict. Than again, that’s yet another victim of the passive writing.

I saw Kino’s Journey (2003) with the English dub for around 5 episodes, and I saw the entire series sub since I’ve watched it other people on a Discord server. When I saw the anime alone with the English dub, I found the English dub to be fine. From the episodes I saw, the performances were fine. None of the voice actor stood out. However, it was a lot easier to watch. For a series that’s wholly uneventful visually, being able to ponder about the themes it brings on without reading subtitles kept my mind stimulated. Watching it sub on the other hand simply make things a struggle to pay attention. Kino isn’t the kind of anime that likes raising action, so everything comes off as benevolent in a way. I did not care to read exposition dialogue for several minutes in multiple episodes especially when the town itself won’t matter in the next episode.

On a technical level, much like everything else, it’s average. The animation is at times soothing to look at, and some of the OST does wonders in bring the world to life. The opening theme, “All the Way” by Mikuni Shimokawa, on the other hand I wanted to skip every time I heard it. I heard some of Mikuni Shimokawa music beforehand, but never an entire album. The few songs I’ve heard from her make me feel like her singing in “All the Way” was half-assed. Shimokawa singing on songs like “Kimi ga Iru Kara” which is Fairy Tail 4th ending theme, and “Sore Ga Ai Deshou” which is Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu opening theme are better example of her singing. Now, I don’t think Mikuni Shimokawa is a great singer by any stretch since her inability to express strong emotion through singing prevents her from coming across as genuine. All the Way feels phones as the instrumental simply try to overtake her singing to disguise her stoic delivery. However, on the song “Sore Ga Ai Deshou” puts in the effort to pull on the heartstrings, even if she’s incapable of doing so. Unfortunately, since I was watching the series with other people I couldn’t skip the opening, and came across more phoned with each listen. The ending theme, “The Beautiful World” by Ai Maeda is okay.

Aside from that that, I ain’t got much left to say on Kino’s Journey. If it weren’t so passive in its, well just about everything it might have left me with some other impression. Something much more meaningful than “eh” by the end of it. The only noteworthy feature of Kino’s Journey (2003) are the ideas it brings up, but I’m sure you could find those same ideas executed better, and worse than what this anime could provide.

If I were to rate Kino’s Journey, I would rate this a 5 out of 10.