Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World

Way back, when Kaiki and I were still dating, I figured I would give this anime series a chance, since she told me it was her favorite one ever. However, after watching the first episode, I concluded that while it was an interesting series, it was “heavy”, i.e. it was not the type I wanted to watch by myself, but rather while I was with someone.

I unfortunately never got any further than that first episode, even though it’s been almost a year since I watched it, which is why I haven’t reviewed it ^^’ Luckily for us, Yuan-chan succeeds where I fail and not only watched it the series, but took the time to write the review posted below ^^ It’s better than the reviews I usually write! *envy* Anywho, the fanart above is drawn by her (see more of her art here), just thought it was awesome and should be the first image in the post =3


Info

•Also known as “Kino’s Journey”. The anime is based on a series of light novels by Keiichi Sigsawa. There are also two games and an alternate universe style spin-off series.
•The anime has 13 episodes, with two 30 minute OVAs.

Synopsis

Kino is a traveller – her (yes, Kino is female) life consists simply of travelling around “the Beautiful World” with only a talking motorcycle as a companion. Each episode focuses on her visiting a few “countries”, or telling stories about countries she has visited before. The format is rather episodic, but rather than being arc-based, the stories are linked together by their overarching theme.

In her travels, Kino sees countries with bizarre traditions and amazing technology; horrific, unexplainable tragedies and simple pleasures. She’s always a passer-by – she spends but three days in each location, and is almost never touched by the events that she sees. In this way, she exemplifies a dream of being able to move throughout “a beautiful world” and simply see the sights, rather than being caught up. However bizarre the traditions of each land may seem, they reflect facets of life in our world.

Although the themes touched on in each episode are different, a general one is outright stated by Kino: “Sekai wa utsukushiku nanka nai. soshite sore yueni utsukushii,” “The world is not beautiful. And so this, therefore, makes it beautiful.” Despite the cruelty, violence and unneeded horrors of “the Beautiful World”, there are also many beautiful things which exist within it, and are all the more precious because of the “ugliness”.

Characters

Best not to mess with her

Kino – The young protagonist of the anime, and quite possibly the most awesome Reverse Trap ever. Kino seems to be designed in such a way that anyone will be able to, on some level, relate to her. Perfectly neutral, her defining traits are her love of travelling and how she never judges anyone. Whether this is a good trait or not is left up to the viewer to decide. On a side note, her perpetually neutral expression is rather creepy.

Hermes – What can I say? He’s a talking motorcycle (or Motorrad) and Kino’s only companion on their journey. Hermes tends to be a lot goofier and more “human” (despite obviously being, er, not) compared to the generally solemn Kino. They balance each other out – he provides the speed, she the balance.

Personally, I found Kino a fascinating character – she’s one of the more interesting takes on a True Neutral character. Kino doesn’t “grow” much in the anime: instead, we see what shaped her and how she became a traveller. I was a little disappointed that the backstories of Kino’s “Master” and the original Kino weren’t explored. Hermes provides a nice contrast for Kino, although once again, I wish his story could have been expanded.

Graphics

The animation is distinctly…odd. Kino herself is your basic anime style, while a lot of the “country” characters are drawn in an abstract manner. The landscapes were pretty, but not really anything to go “wow” over. I prefer the official artworks, myself.

Songs

The opening is called “all the way” and is by Mikuni Shimokawa. It’s kind of upbeat with nice instrumental work, but I found it kind of generic. The images are mostly from the anime itself. I liked the ending “The Beautiful World” (sung by Ai Maeda, who voices Kino) more, as it suits the tone of the anime better. It’s a rather quiet and pensive song, with lovely lyrics and a vaguely “traditional” sounding intro. Fitting the subdued tone, the animation features faded images of Kino and Hermes on the background of a landscape.

Final Opinion

I won’t deny it – I loved Kino no Tabi. It’s a very philosophical series, but manages to avoid the tendency of many such works to moralise – instead, the viewer is allowed to make their own decisions about Kino’s experiences. This is a rather heavy series, so I wouldn’t advise watching all of the episodes in a single go. Nor would I recommend it to those who prefer action or a lighter series. For me, Kino’s world, storyline and themes were like a refreshing breeze after so many more story or action orientated series.

The timeline is confusing at first, and it is often difficult to tell which events occur before which. Overall, a very surreal feel is achieved by the series (particularly the “Land of Books” episode), and I loved how many different concepts were examined. The number of unanswered questions left me wanting more, however.

Kino no Tabi is not a series which will have you on the edge of your seat. Its beauty lies in its deceptive simplicity and the themes it tackles, with such a gentle pacing (and yet it never seems slow). The story and world is incredible, and it’s definitely one of the more unique series I’ve watched. By the power of the Flaming Ninja, I implore ye to watch it. O.O

Note: Watch the Japanese version – Hermes’ voice in the English one is very grating. It might also help to think of the countries as separate “universes”, despite resembling towns.

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