Some girl and her bike travel around to weird places…
Kino no Tabi (KNT) is loved by many for its atmosphere and imagery, yet at the same time it is not a series for mass viewing. In fact, in some ways it is not even a series. Let me start by saying that I highly liked its concept and most of the countries in it were very interesting to look into. At the same time it is not a show you will watch for its plot or characters as everything is pretty much a passive observation of dystopian societies.
A very simple way to describe KNT is to call it INTERESTING but not ENTERTAINING. Although it can be entertaining by being interesting, it can’t be the other way around. You see, most people distinguish a series from a documentary by the simple fact that a series will have active characters, affecting the plot in one way or another, learning and changing along the way. KNT is not about that; it literally is a collection of unrelated stories and we are just witnessing the heroine passively observing the societies she travels through. They are interesting societies alright, making you think and ponder about the folly of mankind. And that is all they are. Nothing more.
Eventually, the thing I didn’t like at all in this series is its absence of characters. And no, I don’t mean there are no people in it. There are, hundreds of them, and they are all nothing but short termed peons, plot devises to tell a story without ever affecting it. Just look at the very name of the series. It is not called “Kino journeys the world”; it is “Kino’s Journey”. That means Kino is not important; her journey is. Meaning, people in this series have no control over their lives; they are just passively living their puny little lives and tolerating their pathetic lifestyles, die and fade away in cynicism. That makes the SITUATION interesting, the society or lifestyle, but surely you won’t give a damn about the characters living in them. Heck, you will barely remember their names or faces but their dystopia will be crystal clear. I understand that eventually all these societies were made by people and in a way it is mankind actively inviting its doom. Yet it is all completely faceless since you don’t care about the people. Heck, in real life social structures you can at least remember and study the founders and their main followers. Russian Communism for example has Marx, then Stalin and Lenin and Gorbatchof. Studying those guys is like witnessing the evolution and downfall of the ideal non-class society. It may be an idea but you still see the people behind it. Well you don’t see that with this show; you just see these political systems that appear to be there since the dawn of time. Who made them, why, where, how, all these are never explained.
Before you call me a snob, you must understand that I like unorthodox series and this is in many ways one of those. Many like it for its mature themes and as such more work should be used to explain its in-works. After all, it is supposed to be interesting, thus it has more to do with thinking and less with feeling. Yet eventually it doesn’t; it ends up being just another light show about unexplained situations. No matter how smart or interesting it appears to be, it still is nothing but vaguely presented good ideas. I came to view them as a “what if” series. Something like “What if Hitler had won WWII” or “What if I was an 80 year old rich black woman from Mars”. Yes, very interesting but that is all it is. Where is the development of the idea? Its roots, planning and results? Nowhere, it is just an idea.
The story itself falls under the same logic. It is a line of interesting “what ifs” and nothing more; unrelated stories of dystopias. Good in theory but nothing much in practice without interaction or development.
The heroine too follows the same logic. She is a girl who doesn’t like her simple boring life and just travels the world with her talking bike (lol, why was that even included?). Everywhere she goes by, she just witnesses the people living in weird societies that seem to have forgotten basic moral or logical norms and now decay in misery. I originally liked her motto in life. “If you don’t like your society, then travel”. Which is a lot harder than it seems as most people don’t want to leave their puny lifestyles and change even when they see their doom closing in. Again, it is interesting but doesn’t develop in any way since she is, too, nothing but a passive plot devise.
What is even worse about her is how she seems to have broken powers for no reason. How the hell did a little girl become so good in battle or in the use of weaponry? She had no training at all. How does a girl even manage to find food and shelpter if she constantly moves? It’s as if the scriptwriter himself lets her be almighty without excusing it, just so she will survive no matter what, throw out some moral monologue and then ride towards the sundown, making the viewers go wild with her cool attitude. Well excuse me for not falling for such cheap gimmicks. I don’t find her frozen personality or her Deus ex powers or her talking bike cool at all if she is unbeatable for no reason. Kenshiro, beat her up! In fact, I even ended up disliking the whole RUN AWAY FORM YOUR PROBLEMS attitude of the show. How about staying home and just dealing with them? What is this fear of responsibilities supposed to be telling us? Run away from your problems like some indecisive harem lead? Screw this neo-otaku attitude.
Anyways, it is not a bad documentary of fictional dystopias but it sure is an unexciting adventure series. The production values ain’t bad but definitely lack super slick filters or mindfuck imagery to be deemed great; such a show could easily hold a ton of those. The characters don’t matter, the plot doesn’t matter, the stories are just unrelated interesting ideas. Unorthodox in overall but definitely not a masterpiece without some sort of development.
Now excuse me as I dodge my responsibilities with uncanny skills, ride my talking spaceship, make fun of my country’s bad economy and run away to Mars. SEE YA IN THE FLIP SIDE SUCKERS!!!
… that is what this show is telling you to do. How interesting…
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (loose)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 1/2 (nice presentation but too many hax powers)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 2/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (generic)
Backdrop 0/2 (none)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 0/2 (none)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 3/4 (its idea is generally interesting to remember)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 6/10
Too low on appealing characters and not much of plot but does great on the emotional level.