What?! Kino’s a girl?! I am so surprised by this revelation! …said no one, ever.
Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World – The Animated Series
Studio: EGG Firm
Genre: Adventure, Slice of Life
So thanks to a number of circumstances beyond my control, I missed writing on last week’s episode. Turns out that may have been a blessing in disguise because… I really didn’t have a terrible lot to say about it. This week, however? This week I think I can manage to say a few things, so let’s just get to it.
Last week’s episode was all about Shizu, Riku, and Ti. Now, we’ve been over this. I don’t particularly mind Kino not being the focus. Though I think this episode should honestly have been pushed a bit further back into the series. It starts off more or less immediately after they’ve begun their travels together with Ti as a member of the group. It’s followed by a bit of jumping around so we cut to a little later in their adventure. They visit a town that seems ordinary enough on the surface, but then they witness an absolutely gruesome crime. An act of absolute insanity, Shizu eventually learns the history around the town and… well, I can’t help but notice a lot of the parallels between it and… certain real-world countries and civilizations.
Apparently, these horrific things happen every once in a while in this country. People just suddenly snap. It’s supposedly because there are radio towers transmitting ghost signals into these chips in people’s heads. Of course, Shizu, being Shizu, decides to investigate, offering to resolve the matter for him. He finds out that it’s nothing more than a convenient lie. But there’s no real malice behind it.
It’s an apt (though admittedly heavy-handed) analogy for how people deal with tragedies. Even if it’s just as simple as choosing not to deal with them. They’re shifting the blame onto these radio towers because they don’t want to believe anyone could be guilty of such heinous deeds, based on their own free will. So when no one believes Shizu and the authorities decide to use him as a scapegoat, he and Ti hatch a plan to book safe passage from the country.
After that, we’re treated to a minisode of Ti and Riku hanging out for a day in another country while Shizu is off to earn some money. The episode basically serves as a little down time so we get to see a little of the dynamic between Ti and Riku, who’d previously not had a lot of time to interact. The issue is that exact problem, however.
The episode makes a point of bringing in Riku’s regret towards his initial willingness to kill Ti/let Ti die in order to protect Shizu when they met. But because this is the next episode featuring any of them, we never really got to see that regret until now. So the impact is ultimately lessened. It isn’t that it’s not a nice sentiment and an interesting topic to spend an episode on, but they should have actually spent time building this up.
Even if they just replaced the first two-thirds of this episode with something more related to it, then doing this minisode to deliver on that payoff. As things are, it was a solid idea, but failure to dedicate proper time to it winds up making it less engaging than it would have otherwise been.
Overall, last week’s episode wasn’t good or bad. It had a few interesting ideas, but the execution of them was just unimpressive. It was also the first time I minded Kino not being the focus because we’d now spent four (arguably five) episodes on other people, with Kino hardly contributing anything, if at all. So while I have difficulty saying last week’s episode was a complete waste, the best I can say for it is that it’s Harmless.
This week is a bit of a different story. At first, it looks like it’s going to be another Shizu episode. Some guys are scouting out in the mountains when they see Shizu and company driving by. They’re bandits or something, looking to ambush some poor, unassuming passersby. But one of them is mentoring his young partner. The younger guy thinks they’d be fair game for an ambush but, well, the older guy knows better. And wouldn’t you know it, eventually Kino passes by. How Kino got behind them, I will never know. But it’s through the younger guy’s drooling over her that we realize- le gasp! Kino’s a girl!
Of course, this revelation doesn’t serve any real purpose. Not technically, anyway. The younger guy just thinks she’s a prime subject for an ambush, pointing out that she’s just one woman and alone. But the older one chews him out over it because, no, being one woman alone does not make you vulnerable. It’s entirely likely that because of the especially treacherous nature of this world, her traveling alone is a sign that she can take care of herself. After letting Kino pass, the kid asks his mentor why he set up these watchpoints. The old man proceeds to regale him with a story of a past ambush that was completely ruined because they jumped the wrong person – Kino’s old master. And holy crap, dude. This woman must be the devil incarnate. She put the fear of God in him and flat out gave the dude PTSD! I almost felt bad.
From there we’re shown to another, unrelated country. And this is the point where I have to note that this episode is almost a sort of anthology within an anthology. None of the stories in it have any real throughlines and tell completely unrelated stories. In the next one, Kino is sitting down and talking to a man in a country that has sort of a virtue points system. You’re rewarded points for doing good deeds and points are subtracted for misdeeds. If your points go negative, you do jail time. The very concept of this is very interesting, and I honestly wish there’d been more time dedicated to this idea. But what we got was very engaging for me regardless because of it.
Kino asks all the questions I was personally asking, having expected something to go south because of how things have gone on this show so far. And naturally, things do turn out to be much darker than they seem on the surface. The very obvious flaws in an exploitable system like this are addressed right away and brought out for Kino to see. But as Kino keeps her wits about her, she manages to avoid trouble. I really dug this portion of the episode because it did ultimately get back to what the show’s initial charm was – an adventure that could manage to be relaxing, yet suddenly become incredibly tense without a heavy reliance on action.
Next up is a segment on the “Country of Cooking.” This is a brief episode and more of a gag than anything. But it was fun. Kino is mistaken for some sort of wandering chef and several of the restaurant owners in the country decide to ask her to cook for them. She does so and the result is amusing, so I’ll leave it at that.
Following that there’s a really brief scene with Shizu’s group. They come to a country that has these statues where people write and leave their wishes. So you know. Like any of the hundreds of wish-granting rituals in Japanese culture that are vaguely similar. Shizu decides to give his wish paper to Ti, preferring to take action than to wish for things. When Ti makes her wish, it’s not what you’d expect. But then her reasons for it are likewise not what you’d expect. And it probably says a lot about her and her history while simultaneously not saying much at all. Sort of a “less is more” moment.
Last up is a country that… well… I wish I could tell you more about it but. Yeah, just… watch it for yourself, you’ll get it. It’s arguably a bit of a copout, but I thought it was still pretty amusing, so have fun with that.
After a few episodes of just not really being into it, this was a decent start towards getting back to form. Really the show’s had a pretty rough mid-season. And while this doesn’t really bring it quite back up to where it was, it was fairly enjoyable. It brought back a small sense of adventure to the show by showing us so many mini-stories and countries in one episode. It could stand to spend more time on any one of them, but each one was individually pretty decently enjoyable on their own, so I have no problem calling this episode Easy Viewing. Heaven knows this isn’t the only show that’s had a pretty “meh” mid-season for some people. Maybe check out our coverage on those if you like.
And if you’re interested in continuing to follow Kino, Shizu, Photo, and others on their tales, then Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 11:30am EST.