Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World – The Animated Series
Studio: EGG Firm
Genre: Adventure, Slice of Life
I should be angry. I should be very angry at the episode for once again shoving Kino into the background. For crying out loud, she’s only in the thing for maybe twenty seconds. And yet I actually found myself really engaged by this. And part of that comes from the exceptional job the episode did at the main thing I watch out for in any show. It evoked strong emotions.
Any story worth its salt is at least some level of emotional manipulation. The balance of that varies from one story to the next. The concern is that your attempts will come across as forced. You want your audience to feel happy, so you beat them over the head with whimsy. You want them to feel sad, so you make things as bleak as things could possibly get. These are the wrong way to do this kind of stuff. Kino no Tabi manages to strike that balance well consistently. Emotions feel natural. The situations feel surreal but ultimately plausible, and not like some benevolent or malevolent force called “the writer” is simply making them happen because they could.
This episode focuses on the tale of a slave girl, forced to work for a camp of travelers after being sold to them by her town. These people are absolutely awful to her. One of them, presumably a guard, is a bit less awful than the others, but still not great. And this largely comes from his cynical worldview. Despite this, she remains firm in her beliefs and weathers it all. What the episode ultimately does is tell a story of someone who is having her faith tested. And see what happens when it falters even the slightest bit. But I like the show’s way of introducing these ideas, yet not coming to any definitive conclusion. It lets you do that for yourself. It’s appreciated.
As to the actual sequence of events, I’ll be honest. It had me guessing. For a while, I was thinking it was going to end up being a tragedy. And in some manner it is. Just not in the way I expected. A few hints were dropped, such as a line about “dying with a smile,” that got me real nervous. They also seemed to really emphasize the gun that the one guy was carrying around. And for anyone who doesn’t know the writing rule about Chekov’s Gun, it was in full force, here. Everything it did was perfect setup for how things would go down. And when the episode reached its conclusion, I can see how all the pieces fit into place throughout, appreciating that storytelling all the more.
If I had to ding the episode for anything, I’d say it didn’t do quite as good a job of setting up the atmosphere as some previous episodes did. These travelers were just plain heartless and cruel to this girl. Almost cartoonishly so. Mind you, this series is no stranger to cartoonish levels of villainy in some characters. Though I would have preferred to see even the slightest bit of variation in the people. The only character who didn’t treat her in the worst possible manner was that guard. Other characters were all abusing her, yelling at her, glaring at her, even plotting to kill her for no reason at all. Sure it makes everything uncomfortable, but it’s very ham-fisted about it. Not like how the first episode makes things unnerving with very subtle hints and visual cues. It wouldn’t make them any less monstrous to show some subtle differences in how one treated her versus the next. They’d still be awful. Evil comes in many forms. Of course, that’s a minor thing, seeing as the point of the episode was less about that and, as I said, more about trials of faith.
Back on the subject of Kino, I kept expecting her to show up to see what was going on with the slave girl. Would she have actually done anything? It’s an interesting question for certain, and I honestly don’t know. She’s certainly shown to possess no shortage of compassion, but also has a tendency to look the other way and mind her own business out of personal interest.
I know I should be far more upset that Kino was barely in the episode, and that perhaps does hurt the episode in the long run, but the episode was enjoyable enough itself, that I can’t help but like it. It’s not quite a return to form, after the disappointing offering of last week’s episode. But it was still something I’d certainly Recommend. Are you enjoying the series so far? Is there another series this season you’d rather be watching? Well, we may actually have a review or recap of that too! Why not check for yourself.
If you’re curious about this one, Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 11:30am EST.