Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- First Impressions

“Am I a really underhanded person? I’m not sure why, but sometimes I feel that way. Sometimes, I can’t see it any other way, but it’s during those times that I find other things, like the world or the way other people live, to be wholly beautiful and wonderful.”

The 2003 anime Kino’s Journey is widely considered a classic by fans of the medium. It generally wouldn’t be the first title rattled off when discussing the best anime of all time, but, should the conversation carry on long enough, it’s bound to come up eventually. The series dealt with the traveler Kino as she passed through various fantastical countries with her cognizant motorcycle Hermes with the rule being that she would never stay in a country more than three days. Despite its eccentric premise the series was noted for its contemplative tone, and the use of the bizarre countries to tell interesting vignettes about the nature of the human condition. I say this because Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- appears to be more a continuation of the original as opposed to an actual remake. The line between the two becomes a little thin when talking about a property like this, as the original series essentially consisted of standalone stories. That being said, even if the fables that composed the first series don’t return, the essence of the original comes through strongly in this iteration.

This first episode is focused on Kino’s travels to a country where murder is not prohibited. She first learns of this fact from another traveler who is looking to become a citizen of the country because he is sick of the peaceful one that he grew up in. However, upon reaching the country Kino is surprised to find it to be a peaceful place filled with kind people. The show does a spectacular job of playing up the dissonance of a calm polite town where everyone is armed. It is a delicate balance to make everything feel off, but never push it to the point where the citizens feel menacing. I’m not going to spoil the plot points of the episode, but suffice it to say this is classic Kino’s Journey through and through. There is a strong meditative discussion at play here, and I’m eager to see what new stories the show will present.

The animation is often beautiful to behold. If there is one factor that limited the original it would be that it’s nearly 15 years old, and it has begun to fray at the seams a bit. Don’t get me wrong, those seams are still well hidden behind a strong visual style, but they are there. There were several points in this first episode, though, where I just had to stop and admire how appropriately beautiful it was. On the other hand, if I had to find criticism it would be with the designs for Kino and Hermes. The original Kino had a particularly distinctive appearance, and, while they haven’t strayed too far from that original design with its hat, goggles and dual pistols, the style behind the character design has changed significantly. The studio, Lerche, has abandoned the rounder, more cartoonish character design of the original for something more slender, and, in a sense, more standard. Likewise, Hermes is almost entirely added through CG and it can be distracting. It isn’t as bad as what I encountered in Two Car, but it was consistently noticeable. I try to avoid harping on CG in anime, but, when it diverts attention away from the beauty of the world they’ve established, then it feels like it is in conflict with the basic thesis of Kino’s Journey.

Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:

  • The studio behind the original series, A.C.G.T., actually has a title of their own out this season, Dies Irae.
  • The new seiyuu for Kino, Aoi Yuki, does a solid job. She perhaps best known for voicing Madoka from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika and Tanya from Youjo Senki. It’s worth noting that her first role was as the young girl, Sakura, in the original series.
  • During the editing process for this article, it came to my attention that some stories that were adapted during the original run will be making their way into -the Beautiful World-, so it does thread the line of being a remake more than I may have suggested in the opening paragraph.

Kino's Journey -the Beautiful World- First Impressions

Final Thoughts

Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- marks the long awaited return of an anime classic. It continues to boast the strong characters, fascinating world and thoughtful fables that made it an anime staple. Setting aside some minor animation quibbles, this is bound to be one of the standout premieres of the season.

Overall Score 4.5 Excellent

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