Image source: TVアニメ『キノの旅』公式 on Twitter

Kino’s Journey is one of those source materials that invites an ebb and flow in attention and, so, also adaption. The setting is both understated and magical. The main character’s contradictions are an excellent starting point for plot and for viewer identification. The addition of a talking motorcycle companion to the main character is a fundamental part of the seriousness with which the series takes the fantastical.

Starting as a light novel series, Kino’s Journey has been given art books, manga, radio dramas, and a 2003 anime. It is the story of gender-variant character with an adopted alias, who travels an unusual world with a talking motorcycle named Hermes. The series makes a constant, yet subtle show of opposites, with things either not as they appear (such as Kino), technological or cultural elements that defy history, or natural beauty combined with brutality. The director has called it “a radical sense of beauty.”

Image source: TVアニメ『キノの旅』公式 on Twitter

Unlike many of the other series I anticipate or indeed end up watching, I cannot escape my own pre-conceived biases when it comes to this series, to Kino as a character, and to the aforementioned “radical sense of beauty.” I am a fan of the original 2003 anime, and I fan of Kino as a character. I have looked through the art books, I have read through manga and light novel. I cannot escape my intertextual bias.

Even if I try I will likely not be able to excise my previous views about Kino. It’s not unusual for new adaptions of works to appear, and depending on the original source, they can be of varying quality. And when some version is really good, as I believe the original 2003 anime to have been in so many ways (backgrounds, pacing, character design, voice talent choice), it is easy to be let down by that which is “different.” 

Image source: TVアニメ『キノの旅』公式 on Twitter

However, it is also worth noting that there are definitely examples of multiple adaptions of original source that I love, independently. I’ve often spoken about my love of all of the versions of Kimagure Orange Road, although the manga, anime, and radio plays vary considerably. I feel the same about Anne of Green Gables. I will always love the original book itself, but I adore the anime, and both the old and new Canadian Broadcasting Corporation live action series. I also have a similar feeling about Hana Yoro Dango, liking its manga, its anime, and its live action series for different reasons.

There are no doubt bound to be differences, just because every adaption approaches issues differently. That’s often a source of strength, and not a reason to whine about purity. And each source can and should be taken largely on its own. There is even joy in the comparison. Also, in 2017 we are in a different world, both historically and in the sense of anime industry trends, and I suspect that some of the contradictions or seeming oppositions in Kino’s Journey will be more brutal or stark. That would make a great deal of sense and I’d find it more surprising if that wasn’t true. 

Image source: TVアニメ『キノの旅』公式 on Twitter

Ultimately the reason I am so anticipating the new Kino’s Journey is precisely because of my love of the other sources. So far, I have not yet seen an adaption of this source that I haven’t liked. And I am very much looking forward to riding again with Kino, and seeing once again what “radical beauty” we can discover. 

Kino’s Journey will stream with English subtitles this fall on Crunchyroll.

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