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

With Kino’s Journey’s new anime adaption it was natural to wonder if perhaps this new version was actually an entire re-imagining or if it was actually a continuation of the previous anime. The first episode of the new anime made it definitely seem as though it was the former. However, the second episode has made it clear: this is a new adaption entirely. It takes one of the most prominent stories of the first anime and re-envisions it. Let’s take a look at the differences between the old and new takes on the episode.

Kino’s Journey is the story of a young traveler by the name of Kino. Kino travels a vaguely European (or Anglo-American-Colonial) style world on a “motorad” motorcycle named Hermes. Much in the series is not what it first appears—intentionally setting up juxtapositions of people, things, and concepts, and questioning the nature of reality itself. Kino is a gender-variant character, often assumed to be a boy or young man, but not definitively. I have explained before my reticence at this stage of the current adaption to assign pronouns to Kino because of the complicated nature of Kino’s gender. 

The First Episode of Kino’s Journey Shows How Appearances Can Be Deceiving

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

One of the ways Kino’s Journey plays with fantasy as compared to the otherwise very realistic portrayal of humanity is Hermes, Kino’s motorcycle. Hermes is presented to the audience as being sentient and able to talk to both Kino and others—but we really have no certainty that what we hear from Hermes is objective reality. Indeed, we may only be privy to Kino’s own internal experiences. This idea of whether or not things that don’t usually speak can actually speak will come up periodically in the series, and does so in the second episode.

[This article contains spoilers for the second episode of Kino’s Journey.]

The second episode of the new adaption involves regicide (or the killing of a king). The basic storyline is that Kino arrives at a country where all newcomers must fight. The winner may become a citizen and make a new law, but the losers must be slaves. There is a yield system, where one can forfeit without fighting—and apparently the yield system does lead to leaving the country. Certainly a better fate than death or slavery. 

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

The first major difference between the 2003 portrayal and the 2017 episode is that the 2003 episode is actually a two-parter. And that means that there isn’t a lot of exposition leading up to when Kino faces challengers in the coliseum. In the previous adaption, Kino spends a lot of time getting to know the country’s guards, their families, and life in the slums. This a big part of Kino’s motivations in the original anime version. On the other hand, this lack of immediate impetus does set up a Kino which more closely resembles the Kino we know on the road: a dispassionate, supposedly unbiased observer that only descends when directly threatened. And more often than not represents a kind of transcendent justice.

Likewise, we don’t really get to know much about the various fighters Kino is forced to hurt during the competition. In the original version we get some back story about who they are and why they are fighting. But in the new episode, we get none of this—and indeed, we are presented with the idea that these competitors (who are not at all copies of the original adaptation, but new opponents), truly are not good people and have their own designs on citizenship and the ability to make a law.

Although Kino takes great care not to kill a single opponent, it is obvious that Kino thinks little of their motivations. This even extends to the king that Kino eventually manages to murder and play off as due to a “stray bullet.” In the original adaption the king was insane, but he had been brought to insanity by a series of events that Kino could understand. In this version, the king is merely a tyrant.

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

The one character that shines outside of Kino is Shizu, while present in the original adaption, the new version is much kinder to him. He’s given more fleshing out, and his story makes him come across with a deep morality. Whereas the new Kino seems above it all, Shizu seems to be representing the justice of and by real people. His is a justice that isn’t transcendent, but is down in the muck with his fellow citizens. It is also likely a set up for Shizu’s return in future episodes. He feels significantly less temporary in this adaption than in the original. Although Kino declines his offer to travel together, I doubt very much we have seen the last of Shizu. He is almost certainly going to be a recurring character.

I would be remiss also if I didn’t talk about the extent with which the animation quality and style add significantly to the visual of this episode and Kino specifically. The previous version was a bit too round, a bit too simplified, and a bit too… cartoony for some of the more serious and grandiose episodes. Coliseum is a massive part of the story, and the old animation style just never quite did its size justice. The new quality of animation and the new approach to character designs have. In a more general sense, Kino’s Journey relies on both the vastness of the landscapes in the countries Kino encounters, while at the same time the small precision of the technology Kino relies on. Hermes and firearms being but two examples. These have a much stronger presence in the new adaption versus the old which serves to underscore the brutality of Kino’s world much better.

Kino’s Journey -The Beautiful World- The Animated Series is streaming on Crunchyroll and FUNimation.

Comments (1)
  1. […] What to say when the doorbell rings… They’re here. The Fall season certainly has its share of clunkers, but there’s definitely a lot to celebrate as well. Recently, ANN has released its updated rankings for our current anime crop with a few surprise choices that are worth taking a look at. What to say when you pump yourself up before a big meeting… Let’s get down to business. Kino no Tabi has been under a ton of scrutiny, primarily from veteran fans of the franchise rolling out criticism along the lines of “this latest adaptation fails to capture the tone and atmosphere of the original.” I think this line of thinking is an inherent issue when approaching this work, as the staffing unit is completely in service of bringing their own vision rather than salvaging one that’s nearly a decade and a half old. All production choices are in favor of that and work well when examined in the context of their own series. People expecting/wanting the 2003 flavor will naturally have hang ups – but this Kino works well when you split it from its shadow and examine it. […]

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