Kino’s Journey is one of the most interesting light novels (with an anime adaptation for volume 1 but read the light novel for a more complete experience) that I have come across so far. When one thinks of anime, we immediately link it to super powers and action with the protagonist emerging victorious in the end. Kino’s Journey, however, is unique in that there isn’t really a sense of continuity between separate stories. Rather, it takes the format of an anthology and the readers are brought along on the journey that Kino, the protagonist of the novel, goes on.
Kino and her travel companion, a talking mortorad named Hermes, travel from country to country with a 3-day policy (they will stay in country for 3 days regardless of how bad or good the place is). Interestingly, the focus of the anime is not so much on the main characters themselves. Instead, we are presented with depictions of the countries they visit which are imaginative, thought-provoking and at times, even disturbing. Despite being taken to extremes, the parallels between these countries and the real world are quite clear. Take for example in Volume 1, Chapter 2 : Land of Majority Rule -Ourselfish-. This story depicts a country that runs similar to democracy but with a slightly more menacing twist — The minority voters (labelled as traitors) are executed to ensure peace.
Another one would be Volume 1, Chapter 5 : Land of Adults -Natural Rights-. This depicts a country that carries out operations on their children when they reach a certain age so that they can become “proper adults”. In this country, its citizens abide by the law extremely closely, to the point that they are willing bystanders while one of their citizens stabs a traveller to death. Why? Simply because the traveller tries to protect a child whom they were trying to kill. All the child had done was to refuse the operation and this make her a “defective product” in the eyes of the adults. Like how a “proper adult” behaves, the citizens dispose of the body and everyone sees it as a mere passing of judgement on a criminal.
A few of my favourite stories would definitely be A Peaceful Land -Mother’s Love- and A Tale of Feeding Off Other -I Want to Live-, just to name a few. I enjoyed all 18 volumes of the light novels and was rather disappointed when the anime only depicted 13 chapters out of the hundreds available. However, with the growing trend of shounen, action and fanservice-y animes topping charts, it’s no surprise many companies are gearing toward the popular, rather than the thought-provoking ones like Death Parade, which was one of the few that has managed to make a name for itself.
Back to the topic, Kino no Tabi has been a rather enriching experience for me, allowing me to reflect upon interesting concepts and ideas that I would have otherwise overlook in my everyday life. One thing that might put people off would be the fact that the series is rather minimalistic in its arts department, but then again, it was never meant to be eye candy. Comprising of several philosophical ideas and meaningful quotes, Kino’s Journey is a masterful piece of storytelling. All in all, I would definitely recommend this light novel to anyone who enjoys anime such as Death Parade and Paranoia Agent.