Kino box art


  • Genre : Slice of adventure, surrealism, drama
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: Lerche


The world is full of pain. The ground eternally bloodstained from endless generations of violence, conflict and disasters. Even at their very best, humans are flawed creatures. Petty and scared, prone to cruelty. The world is a cold, lonely place and if you are to survive it, you better learn to fend for yourself. Unless you happen to be lucky enough to meet a talking motorcycle that is. Still the world, littered with the many countries of men, is not to be trusted. If you let your guard down for even a second, you’re likely to get swallowed up, or worse. And the world is ever so beautiful. Filled with color and sights full of wonder. Brimming with kind and generous strangers. Powered by love. Truly the world is filled with miracles mundane and grand. And if you can, you should try to  go see all of it.

Have you ever gotten fascinated with something you knew next to nothing about? I saw a piece of promotional art for the original Kino’s journey and I was hooked. This happens to me a lot. I went into the anime not knowing what kind of story or even genre I was about to sit through, but fully expecting to love it.

***This is weird. You’re going to go through this in real time with me. I finished the series yesterday, and as I’m writing this very paragraph, I realize that my feelings and impressions of Kino’s journey – the beautiful world, are changing. Now I’m not even sure where this review will go. Join me on the ride?

kino gun
your choice of course

Studio Lerche is sort of a mixed bag when it comes to production. Kino certainly looks great. The designs are attractive and classical. The vehicles are detailed and perfectly proportioned. Every scene comes alive with brilliant colors and palettes are carefully chosen according to the countries Kino visits.

On the less impressive side, voice acting is decent but not exceptional. Sound design is dull with uninteresting environmental sounds, and considering how much time is spent travelling and exploring the countryside, the lack of interesting environmental sounds is a real missed opportunity. For me it was even a drawback. Most notably, animation is a bit jerky. Action lacks fluidity and you can tell the show knows it as it avoids overly animated scenes, even when they would have been called for.

It seems I’m going the compliment sandwich route… Even though the environmental sounds thing is a bit of a bummer, the painted backgrounds were gorgeous. It bluntly showed us all that Kino was indeed journeying through a beautiful world!

makes you want to move, doesn’t it?

This said, Kino’s journey is also weird! I don’t know if this comes from the source material, but having read up a bit on it, I would bet it does.

The narrative construct is simple enough. Each episode Kino rolls up to a new country, explores its history, learns it’s rules, meets some of its people and moves on. Some episodes feature more than one country. Some follow other travelers around. But the template stays basically the same. This allows the authors to create brand new eccentric and unique worlds each week, usually with some type of hidden or blantan menace.

A coliseum country where rights and citizenship are earned through public gladiator fights. A floating boat country whose citizens have never known dry land. A pleasant hospitable country with an inexplicably bad reputation and a heartbreaking secret.

One of my favorites featured a country with a morality points system. Some details are given in the episode but basically, in this country good deeds of any sort, grant you points whereas actions that are considered a nuisance to society or criminal, subtract from those points. As long as your point total stays in the positive, there are no repercussion for bad deeds, other than people thinking you’re kind of a jerk. However, as soon as your points fall in the negative, there are legal ramifications.

kino ave country
been there!

There Kino meets a very nice old gentleman who, having been kind, generous and helpful his entire life had now acquired an impressive amount of points. Just enough to let him kill one person without consequences. He finds himself torn because he has no one he wants to kill. It says something about how humans think. This man was very kind by nature and would have probably led the same type of righteous life without the points system and not given it a second thought. However since he lived in a society that commodified morality, he now feels as though he would have wasted all these good deeds if he doesn’t spend his points somehow. Nothing much happened in fact. The episode showed us this old man interacting with the staff of a coffee, greeting various people on the street and stopping to make funny faces at a baby in a stroller. However, because if the context and presentation, I was waiting for him to just strangle that newborn out of the blue.

And there are more than a few very interesting quandaries throughout Kino’s Journey that really make you think. Safely if the series excellent at interesting premises, it drops the ball at execution.  Because of the traveller conceit of the plot, pretty much every episode consists of a stranger flatly giving Kino, and by extension us, all the information about whatever country they were in, then a single event to illustrate the theme.

Kino’s journey is told almost completely through flat delivery by characters we never get the chance to care about or even know. Kino herself remains largely underdeveloped. Unfortunately this delivery can get rather boring even with fascinating, intricate and ever changing world building.

kino prince
this guy’s a prince! I know right!?!

Speaking of which, this is sort of how I’ve been feeling about my reviews lately. I’m getting comfortable with getting the information across but lately I feel like they’re missing a sense of fun. They seem rather devoid of personality. Sure my Natsume posts are glaringly biased and my reverse harem reviews instantly devolve into barely coherent squealing in text form, but at least they got heart. Little to no utility, but…heart…

I’m just saying that I haven’t quite found my reviewers vibe yet but please continue to humour me, I’ll get there! I’ve also been watching a lot of o.k. shows lately that don’t necessarily inspire gushing…

Um… Review over!

Favorite character: Hermes

What this anime taught me: Beauty is relative

Alcohol is just liquid photoshop

Suggested drink: a Beautiful

  • Every time Hermes and Kino say goodnight – take a sip
  • Every time Kino draws or cleans a gun – take a sip 
  • Every time someone needs to use their skills to the fullest – take a sip
  • Every time Kino brings Hermes indoors – get a snack
  • Every time strangers want to talk to Kino – take a sip
  • Every time someone other than kino is the mc – take a sip
  • Every time anyone gets killed – moment of silence
  • Every time kino eats – get a snack
  • Every time anyone says “traveler” – take a sip
  • Every time Ti talks – listen!
are you sure Ti isn’t short for something else?

29 thoughts

  1. I watched the original series multiple series, but not the remake. The new version doesn’t look like it’s for me even though the original wasn’t meant to be some over-the-top series.

  2. I came to the old series expecting something awe-inspiring but most of times was rather disappointed. And this new version seems to be pretty much diluted old one. I surely didn’t miss the scanline filter but the more muted colors of the older show somehow seemed to fit better Kino’s world – sometimes beautiful, but more mysterious and even scary at times. Still, my biggest problem lies with the stories – I felt they were sort of artificially constructed. Just like the author thought the ending first and tried to construct a story backwards. And that more often than not seemed to leave an impression of being silly – many times I couldn’t believe that countries so weird could exist realistically, just like that one that you wrote about. How come no one thought that amassing a multitude of points may lead to spending them? I get that such countries are simply metaphors but lack of realism impaired my experience quite a bit. That and a recurring theme that Kino gets out of all the trouble by simply shooting people.

    1. I believe that China is attempting to introduce a system where ones life opportunities are determined by points. To this and the state tracks it’s citizens in fairly smaller detail. I’d say the show was prescient.

  3. Kino is an anime I was going to review. I need to see the 2003 version first though. She is a neutral observer, only getting involved when she has to. Everything is interesting to her, usually in a value-neutral sense, almost like she is an archeologist of the present. Since she doesn’t get heated up over right and wrong she can enjoy observing quite a wide range of human behavior.

    I loved the androgynous aspect of her character. It was several episodes in before I was confident she was a she. The only part I have trouble with is that someone of her stature ought to have recoil issues with that big revolver.

    If you want background, Kino no Tabi – Life Goes On, a short movie directed by Watanabe in 2005 comes to mind. It is a prequel to the series and offers backstory to the Kino character and her mentor. Good luck finding it.

    My daughter loved this show. A little girl gets to ride a bike and shoot like Annie Oakley. What more could you ask for?

  4. I look back at the show with mostly indifference. I enjoyed some of it, but little stuck with me. I haven’t seen the first one beyond episode 1 (which was good), so I can’t compare. I thought Kino and Hermes had a good chemistry, and that carried me through a lot of the lesser episode. And I have to say the sheepocalypse near the end was amusing.

      1. By the end of the episode I was saying things like “He’s the most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep.” Or “Notice how they do not so much fly as plummet.” It was just so camp.

  5. I think know how I feel about this series, so don’t have to say much I do prefer the original a lot more. And yeah, I am completely biased. The new one wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t hitting the episodes and themes home for me.

    I’m If anything, the direction of the original is amazing because it was directed by the person behind Serial Experiments Lain which says enough really.

  6. ive been meaning to find the time to watch the original series, but what ive seen so far of it has been more entertaining than this modern adaptation. i think the general concept behind the series is interesting, since it explores concepts by putting them in the context of a shifted perspective, but i did think that the execution was often lacking.

            1. Isn’t she grown up? We see her as a girl in a flashback. I looked it up, she’s 15. Ancient in anime years….

            2. The Kino I know is about 4 ft tall, no figure at all and is called both little girl and little boy. I really got the impression she was an undeveloped 12-year-old with a rough exterior.

  7. I watched the original series and had a lot of the same feelings about it. I found it pretty depressing, in fact. Kino travels through the world and learns about it, but in the end she doesn’t make enough of a lasting connection with anyone to think she’d bother to go back and visit again. Or maybe I’m wrong and that’s just how I remember it. Probably.

    1. I guess that’s one way to see it. As a raveler myself with pretty much no roots to speak of, I find that lack of connection liberating and exciting rather than depressing but I definetly see where you’re coming from.

      1. This is quite true. I think I was putting myself in her place. It wouldn’t have made sense for her to go back.

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