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Kino's Journey

Entry updated 18 October 2021. Tagged: Film, TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2003). Original title Kino no Tabi – The Beautiful World; vt Kino's Journey – The Beautiful World. A.C.G.T.. Based on the Light Novels written by Keiichi Sigsawa and illustrated by Kouhaku Kuroboshi. Directed by Ryūtarō Nakamura. Written by Sadayuki Murai. Voice cast include Ryuji Aigase, Kazuhiko Inoue and Ai Maeda. Thirteen 21-minute episodes and one twelve-minute OVA. Colour.

In episode 4, Kino (Inoue) arrives in the Land of Adults: here children undergo an operation at 12, to make them adults – always happy, even if they hate their job. He finds and repairs a broken motorcycle, talking to a girl (who is nearly 12) as he does so, leading her to question the operation. Her parents respond by declaring her defective and try to kill her – it is agreed by the populace that this is the adult thing to do – but Kino intervenes, is stabbed and dies. The girl flees on the motorcycle and takes the name Kino (Maeda). The viewer might infer that the androgynously dressed Kino is male until this backstory is revealed. The motorcycle – called a Motoradd – is sentient (whether through AI or Magic is unclear) and called Hermes (Aigase). The pair pass through a patchwork of independent states, witnessing different societies. Kino is a keen shot – so, with Hermes effectively her steed, the serie evokes the tradition of the Western drifter who is dragged unwillingly into local concerns (guns are even called "persuaders").

Her adventures include a town run by Steampunk-like machines: the few humans live alone on the outskirts, running away when the pair approach. One man does talk to them once he realizes Kino cannot read his mind, nor he hers, and explains the population had Scientists alter their brains to become Telepathic, in the belief that knowing other's thoughts would end conflict. It did not go well: "If you understood the pain of others, you just couldn't lead a normal life." Elsewhere, a poem engulfs a land in sorrow, whilst another country considers it a prophecy of the imminent End of the World (Kino is pleased that its businesses won't charge her). The world carries on, so the priests announce a miscalculation, and the prophecy is reinterpreted as an instruction to destroy the poet's country.

An inventor builds a flying machine (recalling Henri Robart's 1908 "Papillon" monoplane) and Kino, despite having experienced Computers and other advanced Technology, remarks on not having previously seen flying machines on her travels. The Land of Books acquires books from around the world, but critics decide which are fit to be read, for fear the impressionable will be unable to differentiate fantasy from reality; a mad author remarks that subjective reality means we all live in a fantasy, as no one is reality's main character. An old servant insists she is a Robot caring for a human family, but she is human and they are robots. An attempt to end crime (see Crime and Punishment) by removing desire through surgically erasing self-consciousness fails. Kino meets a man cleaning the tracks of a disused railway; some miles back a man tears them up; behind another lays them afresh: she tells the first two of a rich country where the wealth is shared evenly and the machines do all the real work, but the population employs itself pointlessly checking their actions, to avoid indolence.

Kino, who feels that "the world is not beautiful, and that, in a way, lends it a kind of beauty", enjoys talking with people – this is part of why she travels – but tries to maintain a certain distance, deliberately spending no more than three days in any one place. In the last episode, however, she makes a real friend and wants to stay longer; an emotional gut-punch awaits.

Set on an Alternate History or Post-Holocaust Earth where countries' Utopian intentions frequently create a Dystopia, this excellent Anime often uses allegory to express its philosophical (see Metaphysics) ideas. Two 30-minute films followed: the prequel Kino's Journey: Life Goes On (2005; original title Nanika o Suru Tame ni —life goes on), explaining how Kino gained her survival skills, and Kino's Journey: Country of Illness – For You (2007; original title Kino no Tabi: Byōki no Kuni – For You). A later Television series Kino's Journey – The Beautiful World – The Animated Series (2017) is generally felt to be truer to the source material, though weaker than this version. Nakamura had previously directed the classic Serial Experiments Lain (1998). [SP]

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