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Title (English) Kino's Travels - the Beautiful World
Title (Japanese) Kino no Tabi -- the Beautiful World

book cover

Fantasy Novel

Notes From Keiichi Sigsawa's novel series.
Classification -
Synopsis Series of road trip stories.
Review The second of the new season "road trip" series on the Wowow satellite network in Japan is "Kino no Tabi"/"The Beautiful World", which is based upon a series of stories published by Dengeki Bunka, who also published the "Boogie Pop" stories. "Kino" is being broadcast in HDTV format and was letterboxed on the tape that my friend sent to me.

First off, for those folks who don't read Japanese, it's important to realize that "The Beautiful World" isn't a translation of "Kino no Tabi", which actually means "Kino's Travels". Instead, "The Beautiful World" is a theme of sorts that flows as a sub-context for the story line, and in the first episode appears to be a look at "alienation" in both a personal and general sense.

As I mentioned, "Kino" is the second of Wowow's road trip series this season, and follows directly after "Scrapped Princess" on Tuesdays. But "Kino" is quite different from "Scrapped". First off, the general look and feel of "Kino" is very reminiscent of "Boggie Pop", "Lain" or even "Noir". There is a lot of deliberate effort to give a dream-like atmosphere to the show. The animation is also very well done, with a number of different styles used to emphasize the different parts of the story. The initial episode is also somewhat fragmentary, with a number of unexplained happenings and images.

The story starts out with a figure riding a motorbike in a dust storm. The rider reaches a rather indistinguishable box in a desert setting, and is dismayed that what he was expecting isn't there. So the rider sets up a tent and proceeds to rest. We then hear a second voice speaking to the resting rider and suddenly realize that things are very different from what seemed at first. The rider, Kino, is speaking with the motorcycle, who is called Erumesu. ( Elmesu? I can't find a romanization on the official websites. ) Erumesu is apparently robotic and sentient. It's pretty clear that, "We're not in Kansas anymore Toto".

The next day Kino rides on in search of a town and people. But when he sees a town in the distance the road is broken by a gaping, impassible chasm. Kino rides along to a different approach to the town and arrives just as a chasm forms in that area too. But enough of the road is left to allow Kino to ride up to the town. The town looks vaguely middle-European/mid-19th Century, and there is a moat and a drawbridge to get in. The gatehouse is unmanned, but there is a strange, anachronistic robotic drum-record player there that gives Kino instructions on how to fill in an electromechanical visitor's book and get admission to the town.

Once inside the town Kino is greeted by a non-humanoid robot that welcomes him to the town and gives him a guidebook. Kino is able to find a robotically serviced restaurant in which he gets a good meal, then goes to a robotically run hotel, which is surprisingly affordable despite looking like an expensive "Grand Hotel". But there are no humans to be seen anywhere, just the occasional non-humanoid robot going about its business.

Finally, from the top of a high terrace, Kino is able to spot some humans in the distance they are living in isolated country homes outside of the city. Kino leaves the empty city and rides out to where the people are living. But each person, upon seeing Kino, screams in terror and runs away. Finally Kino finds one man who stops to ask if Kino is a traveler, and although still afraid, invites Kino in to have a conversation once he finds out that Kino is not from the Town.

Kino finds out that the citizens of that town were once normal, but now cannot bear to be in each other's presence, therefore they all live alone, and the population is slowly dying out there haven't been any children born in years. In a very telling scene, we realize that Erumesu isn't unusual in this world the man speaks with it as an equal with Kino. After a while, Kino decides to continue with his journey and leaves the man, who is very hesitant to let Kino go at first, because he has savored the pleasures of a conversation for the first time in many years. But Kino departs anyway.

There are a number of unexpected things about this first episode. First and foremost, is the ending, in which Kino doesn't do anything to "solve" the problem of the townsfolk he just observes the situation and goes along his way. Then there is the question of why Kino carries guns with him and practices doing "quick draws" at his reflection at night. In many ways Kino is reminiscent of Kirika from "Noir". And, of course, there is the question of just what kind of world is Kino traveling through, and why?

From a technical point of view, the animation was excellent in the first episode and the music was very well integrated and appropriate to the situation, although there were no immediately catchy tunes. I got the feeling from the episode ( as well as from having seen "Boogie Pop" series and having read some of the "Boogie Pop" stories ) that the creators of the anime are probably attempting to capture some of the "literary sense" of the books and transfer it to the screen. It will be interesting to see where "Kino no Tabi" goes as a story and I intend to continue to watch it.

(Dave Baranyi)

Credits Series dir: Ryutaro Nakamura
Episodes 13
TV Showing See the whole series for free? This series may be syndicated to regional cable, satellite or terrestial TV stations. For Europe click here.
Date 2003 April 8, -
Broadcaster WOWOW
Animation A.C.G.T., Genco
References & Help Look up the latest data on this title at:
Richard Llewellyn's Animated Divots, or
Anime News Network (see Encyclopedia section) ,
or in "The Anime Encyclopedia" (Clements & McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press, 2001).
Help & further information.



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