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13 of 13 episodes seen
Kino’s Journey follows a traveler named Kino and her talking motorcycle called Hermes. They are both traveling the world visiting country after country with no real final destination. This setup causes Kino’s Journey to be a very episodic. It is also nearly impossible to establish any linear timeline with no carryover between episodes and multiple episodes consisting of stories in the form of flashbacks.
The characters in this anime are a mixed bag. Kino and Hermes are examples of extremely well designed characters. Kino presents a stoic exterior, but you eventually get a feel for her as a person from all the little details the show gives you. Hermes mainly serves as the catalyst that actually gets Kino to talk but does little besides that. Fortunately, what it does is perfect for the anime. Hermes asks some very interesting questions which usually receive an interesting answer from Kino which serves as one of the main sources of her characterization. The other characters are caricatures more than anything else. The episodic nature prevents more than a brief one-dimensional look at them. It becomes very hard to gain affinity with most of the characters because they never feel human. The characters serve their purpose in the story, but their lack of humanity prevents their actions from having any real weight.
The main problem with the show is that it isn’t deep. At first glance it appears that there is a lot down there, but when you dive in you’ll soon find your head hitting the bottom. The stories are parables that cover a wide range of subjects with a general theme of humanity being naturally evil. Often the story is a social commentary that usually involves a society that is distorted in some fundamental way and Kino observing the outcome. Some other stories feature morality issues and a few others attempt to tackle philosophical questions. The stories are very judgmental; often the gavel sounds as soon as the case is presented. It is usually very clear that one side is wrong while the other is right. The show never attempts to present a morally ambiguous situation that forces you to reflect on the issue. It is only when you are forced to walk in the grey area between right and wrong that you truly learn about yourself.
The only thing I truly found interesting in Kino’s Journey is when I considered the thought that the world the anime shows is the world seen through Kino’s eyes. Her prejudices influence how she perceives the situations presented and cause a very distorted world. To Kino, moral issues tend to be very cut-and-dry, so the world she perceives reflects that. The reason Kino travels is that she is unable to find a place the meshes with her understanding of the world, so she continues to travel while futilely wishing the world conformed to her and her being unable to ever consider changing herself. Looking at Kino’s Journey this way can open up some very interesting interpretations of Kino’s actions and the events that happened, but I doubt that view was ever intended so it doesn’t improve my opinion of the show.
Kino’s journey is definitely a good anime, but I would be hard pressed to call it great. It is very similar to fairy tales. The stories border on the fantastical, the characters are very basic, there are clear moral lessons in the stories, and the story itself is very short. The main reason I give this anime a 7/10 is that it is designed to make a person think, but I don’t feel better for watching it. The anime offers no opportunity for dialogue. The lessons Kino’s Journey provides are lessons that I imagine most people who visit this site have already learned.