Kino’s Journey – the Beautiful World: The Animated Series

On a world consisting of a patchwork of microstates whose level of technological development ranges from the late Victorian to the futuristic – and where these technologies often exist side by side within the same society – a young woman named Kino travels from country to country aboard a motorcycle. Her motorcycle, however, is no ordinary vehicle: it is a “motorrad”, fitted with a talking AI named Hermes. Kino has a strict policy: she will only stay in any one country for three days, on the basis that this constitutes sufficient time to gain an insight into each country’s culture and customs. Along the way, Kino encounters other travellers like herself, the most prominent being Shizu, a former prince and expert swordsman, who travels in the company of Rizu, a talking dog, and Tifana, a 12 year old girl he rescued from a seaborn nation. Wherever she travels, Kino encounters the cruelties and beauties of human nature in their various cultural and societal expressions, and finds herself in situations that are by turns tragic, ironic, uplifting, and joyful. All these experiences only serve to confirm Kino in her core adage: the world is not beautiful, therefore it is. And it is the beauty of the world made manifest in her own experiences and encounters that Kino is determined to explore…

Based on a long-running and successful series of illustrated novels by Keiichi Sigsawa and Kouhaku Kuroboshi, “Kino’s Journey – the Beautiful World: The Animated Series” was produced by Egg Firm with animation by studio Lerche, appearing on Japanese television between October and December 2017. Attractively animated in Lerche’s typically colour-rich 3D animation style, “Kino’s Journey” is episodic in nature with no apparent overarching narrative; nonetheless, the audience are  presented with hints of Kino’s wider back-story, most notably in flashbacks alluding to her mysterious “master” who was herself a one-time traveller, and who taught Kino her formidable combat skills. Later achronological episodes also detail how Kino came to adopt her name and acquire Hermes, as well as how she came into possession of one of her chief weapons, a revolver known as the Woodsman.    Thus there is a hint of a wider narrative that is never really explored, making “Kino’s Journey” an odd combination of discrete tales and unrealised possibilities. Likewise, the fact that Kino is a woman whose androgynous appearance delays confirmation of her gender identity until later in the series suggests experiences or rationales that are never brought into the open. Thus it is that the series never really goes anywhere, despite both the generally satisfying storytelling in each episode, and the promise of further adventures at the end of the final episode. Whether a second series was intended but never made is unclear; regardless, “Kino’s Journey – the Beautiful World: The Animated Series” is an interesting if ultimately not terribly memorable travelogue about a world – and a traveller – who might have benefitted from much more detailed exploration. 

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.