In another world, there exist many countries, each with different cultures, customs, and traditions. From technological marvels to folk legends, each location yields a vast wealth of insight of its people: their hopes and their dreams, their failures and fears. Kino is a traveler whose goal is to visit as many new places as possible, learning about others' ways of life, but also making sure to stay clear of their affairs. Together with the talking motorrad Hermes, Kino sets out to explore the beautiful world and meet its inhabitants, wherever they may be.
StoryAfter a long hiatus from my regular anime viewing due to school, I was a bit skeptical of picking it back up by watching a story about a girl traveling around the world with a talking motorcycle. It sounded boring, plain, and dull no matter how many tens of times people told me otherwise. Yet, within the first fifteen minutes of watching Kino no Tabi, I quickly acquired a profound respect for the series in lieu of all my previous misconceptions. Despite plain animation, a sparse musical score, a lack of a coherent storyline, and loosely developed characters, the series caries a magnificence, a charm, that easily earns it a place amidst my top anime. Kino no Tabi is a humble, thought-provoking journey through the human epic -- a deep exploration of some of mankind's greatest questions portrayed through brilliant allegory and fable.One of Kino no Tabi's greatest appeals, though, is its purposeful ambiguity in answering the questions it raises. While speaking to one of my friends the other day, he raised a very good point regarding this, saying, "The best form of symbolism is the type that you don't recognize until the end, after which you can go back and say ‘Now, what did that mean?'" While there is a vast abundance of symbolism and imagery scattered throughout the series' thirteen episodes, all of it falls under this retrospective category; there are no "look at me, I'm symbolic!" moments obtrusively shoved in your face. As such, Kino no Tabi's beauty is entirely subjective, as each individual experiences and relates to the questions differently.But enough of my flattering the series. Regarding the actual story content of Kino no Tabi, it revolves around a somewhat stoic girl, Kino, as she passes through different countries in a fictional world inhabited by humans. At her side is a talking motorcycle by the name of Hermes who foils her inquiries about the human race by adding non-human perspective. The two journey to a number of countries throughout the course of the series, usually one per episode, but sometimes two or more, in order to learn about the cultures and traditions of their world. While the series revolves around her interactions with the native populaces, categorically she's much more an indifferent observer rather than an active participant. Over the course of the travels she stumbles upon heart-warming, tragic, and even downright appalling encounters, all of which call into question the very fabrics and workings of the human psyche. Yet, while each country's traditions seem to borderline on absurd and irrational, I found it quite interesting to note just how commonplace some of these processes of thought actually are - it's quite disturbing when, in a number of scenes, you can tell yourself, "Hey, I relate to that."AnimationUnlike crap like, say, Serial Experiments Lain where every other second some sort of pseudo-symbolic image is thrown up on the screen for you to supposedly gawk at as brilliant, Kino no Tabi's presentation is very calm and subtle. While the quality of the animation isn't exactly stunning, I think the series would have lost some of its charm had its style been changed. It carries a storybook-like quality to it which, given the context of the series, fits like a glove. A number of times throughout the series I felt as if I were reading a book and not watching an anime series, which, in my opinion, greatly contributed to the faintly surreal atmosphere that the writers were aiming to create.SoundAnother reason the series carried a book-like feeling to it was the relative absence of music throughout much of the series. Aside from poignant opening and ending songs, there are only a handful of insert tracks, though all are superbly orchestrated. The phrase "silence is golden" comes to mind as the lack of music in many scenes contributes to their power; likewise, the very selective choice of music in other scenes equally highlights exceptionally important moments. If I had one word to describe the musical score of Kino no Tabi, it would be "masterful." There's nothing too spectacular about the voice acting, but again Kino's indifference is an essential part of her character so it's tough to really fault the series for this.CharactersIt's hard to really break down the characters score as there isn't a focus on any one character. Kino and Hermes are really the only consistent presence, and even then they haven't many particulars to talk about. Kino no Tabi's eloquence is carried primarily by the individuals present in each of its stories and no so much Kino herself. As such, the lack of depth-driven characterization isn't really a weakness, but rather a strength. Kino's personal detachment allows for the viewer to interpret the scenes without the bias of the writers, and given that this was the intention of the series to begin with, I have no complaints.OverallI sift through a lot of anime in search of series like Kino no Tabi, but ultimately it's well worth the wait. For those who enjoy thought-provoking, intricate anime, this is not one to be missed. This is definitely an inspiration to wade through the many other series I have lined up to watch over Christmas break, so hopefully I'll have more reviews up for your reading pleasure over the next few weeks. If you haven't had the chance to watch it yet, I'd highly recommend putting it on the top of your Christmas wish list - I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
StoryFor Kino's Journey, a much more succinct praise than anything I can come up with can be found, quite simply, in AnimeNfo’s average score. The series is, in essence, a thinker’s anime. There is no real overarching plot, no fanservice, and very little action throughout the show… and yet, Kino no Tabi nonetheless carries a score of 9.0. That Kino no Tabi can simultaneously have intelligence and broad appeal speaks for how amazing it truly is. In short, this 13 episode series is a brilliant philosophical journey. The plot is primarily episodic, something that I usually despise; each episode has our protagonist traveling to a different town, and each town has its own unique custom. However, this somewhat regular structure didn’t end up bothering me at all. Though the stories are more often than not very simple, this does not stop them from being remarkably deep, for the towns each mirror a different part of human nature. From fanaticism to bloodlust to greed, Kino no Tabi seems almost bottomless in its range of behavior. Given the seemingly random personality traits found in each town, does Kino no Tabi have an overarching theme? Absolutely - this anime is in love with the human race, with every facet of humanity. Although these facets are often ugly and contemptible, Kino no Tabi seems to love the imperfections as much as the positive attributes. As the anime says at the end of the first episode, “The world is not beautiful: and that, in a way, lends it a sort of beauty.”AnimationKino no Tabi even manages to be fantastic from a technical standpoint. Animation is vivid, fluid, and outstanding from an artistic perspective. Character designs carry with them a sense of unfathomable warmth, and scenes of violence, when they do occur, are very well done. Oftentimes what is most impressive about a particular scene is not the amount of money that was used to make it (as is the case with just about any Gonzo anime), but with the immense creativity with which it is drawn. The animators aren’t afraid to take the unconventional approach to creating images, and the product shines as a result.SoundAs for sound, many seem to be marking down slightly due to the lack of a traditional OST; instead of standard BGM, the soundtrack is underscored with largely ambient music. However, this in the end works perfectly in maintaining the philosophical mood; a flashier, Noir-esque music track would have ultimately distracted from the show’s mind-expanding vignettes. Voice acting remains superb throughout the entirety of the series, and sound effects compliment the infrequent action scenes well.CharactersAt the center of each humanistic fable is Kino, the main character of the show. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, this is an amazing character. Perhaps Kino's almost unsurpassed detachment from the events that are transpiring grant the character a sense of infinite wisdom, or perhaps the protagonists total rejection of gender roles, prejudice and hatred imply an honor that almost no one can truly have. Either way, the character remains simultaneously charismatic and enigmatic, and does a lot to carry the show. Kinos partner, named Hermes, is an amusing and candid individual who works well as a conversation partner. Surrounding the two are a remarkably diverse array of human beings, with even the minor characters portrayed with perceptiveness and intelligence.OverallIn case you haven’t figured it out by now, I absolutely love this series; Kino no Tabi is one of the best anime that I have seen or will see for some time. I can (and will) recommend this to just about anybody; no anime as of yet has been so consistently rewarding to watch. In fact, my only real complaint with the show is that not enough people have seen it.
StoryKino no Tabi is completely episodic, with each episode (or two episodes) based on a new country and its culture. In general, the tone is remarkably dark, usually prompting at least one "wow" from your lips for most of the episodes. To be as non-spoilerish as possible, let's just say that each one deals with cultural differences that would be considered shocking in some instances, and merely melancholy in others. In general, the series has a remarkably deep and philosophical tone, with lots of undertones that are easily missed. Thus, if you watch this, you need to dedicate your full attention to it. At first, the story might seem fairly boring and drab due to the incredibly slow pacing of each arc, and the subject matter. Needless to say each story usually ends up grabbing your attention anyways, given how dark it is. I've never seen anything like Kino no Tabi, to be honest. Each story is so incredibly heavy and at times sad, but at the same time is so compelling. I think it also helps to teach us that cultural differences aren't always necessarily "weird" or "strange", just different, even if we might think the thing in question is shocking or unhead of. I can't in good conscience give the story any less than a 10. Each episode is unique and very moving in its own way, though you definitely will have your own favorites. AnimationBeautiful and simplistic, reminded me a lot of Jing as far as the shading used. Colors were primarily dark browns, blacks, and earthy colors, which fit the tone VERY well. Other colors was used more as a symbolic point, for certain towns that were seemingly happy, etc. No CG or anything of the sort. In general, wonderful, yet simple animation and character designs. SoundThis is the only category that will get lesser marks from me. The music is generally non-existant, with the intro being a somewhat jazzy guitar song with light vocals. The introduction to each episode is simply a male voice making a sound. Nothing to rave about or remember. Voice actors were chosen well, however. I especially enjoyed Hermes' choice of voice, a rather quirky, but friendly tone. Kino manages to stay completely genderless throughout the entire series as far as the voice goes, which is good, considering one of the mysteries of the series IS Kino's gender. CharactersNow, granted, characters are not developed much throughout the entire series. Kino is somewhat of a mystery, though the past is explained over the course of the series indeed. Hermes is the other main character, as he travels with Kino throughout the entire story. He's a talking motor bike, and his past is explained as well, giving him a sort of depth that most of the other characters in each episode don't have. In general, the characters in each episode are incredibly deep as far as their societal values, ulterior motives, and reasons for doing things. Like I said in the story section, each story will probably shock you in some way, and the characters are the true base of that. You'll find that after only 10 or 15 minutes, the same people you thought you had gotten to know, turn out to be entirely different when something happens in their society. Your emotions towards them can go from empathetic to anger in a matter of seconds. 10 might seem like a high score for characters in an episodic series, but I feel it's deserved. Unlike some series where the point is to watch a few characters evolve over the course of the anime, Kino no Tabi instead focuses on exploring the minds and thoughts of many seperate individuals who are very set in their cultural ways. Each set of characters is incredibly deep and thought provoking, hence the perfect score in this category. OverallA very, very intelligent and fantastic show that everyone should view. Then again, if you need nonstop action and plot, this wouldn't be a show for you. You must appreciate intelligent, deep plots which take a bit of thinking. Kino no Tabi could be watched a few episodes at a time, in between other series, or enjoyed all at once. As far as rewatchability, I probably wouldn't rewatch the series from beginning to end again, simply because it's episodic and I don't have to. But the episodes I really enjoyed, I'd definitely watch again. Even if the punchline is known already, it still would be a very good, sometimes disturbing watch, and I'd gladly do it again. I definitely think this is a great watch, and you should try it out.
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