Kino's Travels: A Beautiful World
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Episodes: 13 episodes
Notes: Also called Kino's Journey and Kino No Tabi: A Beautiful World; There is also a short 30 minute movie, and another short episode. Directed by Nakamura Ryutaro who also did Serial Experiments Lain
With her talking motorrad (motorcycle) named Hermes, Kino journeys from country to country, staying no longer than three days in each one. Each country has its own history, eccentricities and secrets.
Animation is fluid in muted tones. The character designs are plain and simple, especially the generic looking characters Kino encounters, but there is some good detail in some of the backgrounds and interiors. Opening/ending and overall musical score is average but has a nice gentle breezy feeling. There's not a lot of background music but helps punctuate the situation when it is there. Voices are fine with Kino being dispassionate and Hermes being rather amusing.
It's hard to classify this anime. It's not really a drama or comedy or fantasy or action or adventure. It's really an anthology of fables, a series of little life lessons. Most stories are told in one episode while some episodes contain several little stories. Despite its episodic nature, this series keeps you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what secret the next country is hiding. The stories really make you think without being heavy handed or judgmental unlike other anime. All have a twist at the end, much like a Twilight Zone episode. My favorite episode is the third episode, "Land of Prophecy" which includes a visit to the Land of Sorrow.
The stories are very slowly paced, but that actually helps build tension until the twist. The stories can be viewed as parodies, or metaphors, based on our own world histories of war, violence and senseless acts. Kino herself carries a number of weapons including guns (persuaders) and knives, and she knows how to expertly use them to protect herself. The recurring theme "The world is not beautiful; therefore it is" gives the viewer something to think about. Despite some of the terrible things Kino experiences, the interesting, different cultures and people she encounters make it worthwhile to continue her journey to see the world.
Unlike most anime characters that overreact to every situation, Kino shows little emotion. There are those she meets who plead to leave with her. She is unable to help them though she does offer a bit of advice at times. Although it is her role to be unbiased, to be just an objective observer, it would have been nice to hear more of her thoughts and insight.
Rated PG-13 for some disturbing themes and violence. This anime is quite unique and recommended for older or rather more mature audiences.
Summaries (slight spoilers):
Episode 0: Country with a Tower - Not a prequel, could fit in any order. People in this land all work to built a huge tower but no one knows what it's for or why they're doing it.
Episode 1: Land of Visible Pain - People here developed telepathy after drinking a special concoction. Knowing how others feel was expected to help people get along but now they all live solitary lives after finding out knowing how others feel is not a good thing.
Episode 2: A Tale of Feeding Off Others - Kino helps out three merchants stranded by snow. She kills rabbits to feed them then finds out these men are worth less than the rabbits' lives.
Episode 3: Land of Prophecies - The world is about to end according to this country's book of prophecy. Kino gets stuff for free and stays around to see what happens. Then she visits the Land of Sorrow where she hears a tragic tale of a mad poet.
Episode 4: Land of Adults - Kino's backstory where once children reach a certain age, they have to undergo an operation to make them "adults." Kino is revealed to be a girl and Kino is not her real name. Kino was an adult male traveler who saves her when she decides not to undergo the operation and the adults try to kill her. To be an adult in this country means doing things you hate with a smile. You just do them because you're a responsible adult.
Episode 5: Three Men Along the Rails - Kino follows a railroad track in disrepair and meets three men. The first is fixing and polishing the rails. The second is dismantling the rails. The third is laying down new rails. All three have been doing this for decades at the order of the railroad company and have not been home since.
Episode 6-7: Coliseum - Kino arrives in a country and is not allowed to leave unless she defeats all the other contestants either trapped like her or vying for a seat in the upper class.
Episode 8: Land of Mages - Kino helps an inventor with her flying machine.
Episode 9: Land of Books - Kino becomes involved in a rebellion in a country where books are so censored only factual ones are allowed.
Episode 10: A Tale of Mechanical Dolls - Kino stays a few days with a strange family.
Episode 11: A Girl's Travels - Kino recalls various people she has met in her travels. Not a retrospective but a few short stories including one of a wise man, who was not what he appeared to be.
Episode 12: Peaceful Country - Kino visits a country with a disturbing but effective way to keep peace with a neighboring country with which they have been at war for a long time.
Episode 13: The Gentle Country - Kino visits a country with reputation of being extremely rude to travelers but instead finds herself more than welcomed.
Movie: Kino's Travel: Life Goes On - This is the prequel to the series, which shows Kino with her master. She learns how to shoot and a tough lesson, which may explain why she shows so little emotion.