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Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

Review: Kino’s Journey

Kino’s Journey is a 13 episode series directed by Ryutaro Nakumura [Serial Experiment Lain and Ghost Hound] and based on a series of light novels by Keiichi Sigsawa that aired from April 8, 2003 to June 8, 2003. Its follows the travels of protagonist Kino and her self-aware motorcycle named Hermes. It’s currently available on DVD from ADV Films.


Unlike many anime series, there is no overarching storyline here other than Kino’s desire to see the various countries of the world and try to gain an understanding of how the people there came to be like they are. Instead, each episode has its own self-contained story which is resolved, to one degree or another, by the end of that episode, although there is one two-episode story arc towards the middle. The stories in Kino’s Journey is very thoughtful and thought-provoking, often focusing on a facet of human life and attempting to make some sense of it. Kino is more of an observer than anything else and doesn’t try to change people or get involved with their struggles, though there is at least one instance where this doesn’t hold entirely true. These are all very philosophical stories, with little emphasis on action or the development of deep characters. Nevertheless, the stories are very engaging and interesting; with each new one that passes you find yourself waiting in anticipating for the next. 9/10


Kino’s Journey is not a particular expensive series and this shows in several scenes that involve a lot of movement. However, this is made up for, at least somewhat, by having a strong visual style that is consistent throughout the series. It often has a very surreal feel to everything that’s happening, which compliments that otherworldy, yet somehow familiar, nature of the stories and settings. There are often lots of over-saturated colors and characters drawn with sharp lines. 7.5/10


As the characters change from one episode to the next, its very difficult to get attached to any of them. Because of this, its very important that the viewer become attached in some way to either Kino or Hermes. As the series progresses we do get some glimpses into Kino’s life, both before and after starting on her journey, that hint at what has made her into the girl she is today. Hermes’s background is a bit less developed, but he provides light moments here and there thanks to his childlike ignorance which crops up sometimes. Kino is an interesting character and one who journeys in search of something illusive. Maybe she finds that thing and maybe she doesn’t, but she realizes that the journey is every bit as important as the destination. 8/10


From the upbeat OP to the calming, surreal ED, the music of Kino’s Journey is very, very good. The sound is done very well also, and has lots of little details like the crunching of snow under Kino’s boots or a low whistle added to a sudden burst of movement. It’s much less noticeable than the music, of course, but strong sound design is always welcome. 8.5/10

Final Verdict

This is one of my favorite anime series of all time. Somehow its more than the sum of its parts, as all the various elements come together to create something very close to a masterpiece. It does have some minor flaws here and there and it’s certainly a show that won’t appeal to everyone, but for those that are looking for anime series that’s different from nearly everything else out there, Kino’s Journey is an absolute pleasure. 9/10

Random Note: The first volume of the light novel is available in English from Tokyopop. All signs point to it being the only one to be translated.


April 21, 2010 - Posted by | Anime, Reviews | , , ,

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