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  • Forfatterens bildeStephanie

Kino no tabi - The pinnacle of adventure Stories?

Kino no Tabi, or Kino's Journey as it's known as in the west, is a series of light novels. The series has been adapted into a lot of anime, the first of which was made in 2003, under the name 'Kino no Tabi - The Beautiful World '. It's an episodic show, which may put off many viewers who have gotten used to overarching storylines. But don't think for a second a story becomes better just by having an overarching plot. There are many shows with great episodic stories, and this is one of them.

As I stated, the show has an episodic story structure, and I woudn't have it any other way. The basic plot of the show is that the titular character, Kino, travels around the world on her motorcycle, only visiting each country for a maximum of three days. This allows the show to explore many different concepts and ideas in a shortert amount of time than if it was to have an overarching story. While many out there views and notions about the world are delved into in the show, it most commonly focuses on moral dilemmas. Many of these are going to seem pretty black and white to most viewers, but it's important to keep one thing in mind while watching Kino no Tabi, and that is that the show is a fantasy. It's not real, and it's not really trying to portray reality in any realistic way either. It's not real, and the show knows it. There's a talking motorycycle named Hermes in this show for goodness sake, I don't think any member of the staff was taking realism into account while making this.

While the episodic stories themselves are interesting enough on their own, what really makes the show work is the art direction and soundtrack. The character designer for the show was Kuroboshi Kouhaku, and I think a lot of people tend to vastly underestimate the importance of the character design in anime production. The character designer isn't just responsible for drawing the characters looking cool on a white background, they're responsible for drawing all of their facial expressions and different poses, which the key animators and in-between animators are going to be using for refrence while animating the show. And you know what? Kuroboshi did a damn good job with the character designs. I honestly don't remember a single moment when any of the characters were off model, and while I think it's kind of weird that Kino's head is round while all the supporting cast have more box looking heads, they still never look too out there, except for maybe a few times, like the mayor from episode 8.

The composer for the show was Sakai Ryou, with the OP and ED being performed by Shimokawa Mikuni and Maeda Ai. And you know what? They did a darn good job as well. Music is one of the most important thing about shows like this, where creating a certain setting and tone is the most important thing. I think that a good OP should really embodiy the tone the creators are trying to make the viewer feel, and they really succeded here. The OP, "All the Way", perfectly encapsulates the feelings and spirit of the show. Adventurous, yet cautious. Slow, yet intense. This is the heart of 'Kino no Tabi', and it's something I feel the 2017 remake failed to capture. The more grown up and modern look of the character designs and animation kind of destroys the feeling a show like this should be going for. The more young design for Kino does this way better, with the 2017 looking too experienced, kind of destroying a lot of the mystery surrounding Kino's character. The 2017 version also looks too clean. It's not nearly rustic enough, and that also helps to destroy the mood the original was going for. But back to the music, it has a really melancholic and somber feel, perfect for a show about traveling. Some of my favorite moments from the show tend to be just before the story starts, when Kino is just riding on Hermes through the forest. The mood it sets up is something akin to Aria, a slow iyashikei like atmosphere. 'Kino no Tabi' is far from an iyashikei though, as the show tends to stray away from more slice of life moments in favor of build up to the climax of the episode.

And honestly, I don't think any of this would have been possible without Nakamura Ryuutaro as the Director. Nakamura is mostly known for directing 'Serial Experiments Lain', and you can really feel his brilliance shine through in this show as well. It's not nearly as weird or abstract as Lain, but his slow and contemplative style of directing which often leaves plenty of room for breathers, is perfect for Kino. My favorite episode was episode 13, but I feel like the show really shines in episode 2, which is one of the few that actually focus more on the journey aspect instead of walking around the country and getting to know the culture. In episode 2, Kino meets a group of three travelers on her way to a country. The snowy terrain of this episode is in stark contrast to the general forestry and greenery which is much more common in this show. We see Kino kill rabbits for food, her eating and conversing with the three men, and then finally get an awesome action scene at the end of the episode. What I feel is great about the action scenes in Kino is that, while it's obvious that Kino is never going to die (I mean, it's an almost twenty year old light novel series), the show still manages to make you feel a sense of danger. When three full grown men are pointing guns at the main character, slowly making her more and more vulnerable, you feel a real sense of tension. And then when she managaes to turn it around, it looks really darn cool. It really makes you go: "Come on, beat the crap out the bad guy!"

In conclusion, 'Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World' is one of the greatest anime of all time (in my opinion of course, but welcome to art where things are subjective). There isn't really any other show which manages to capture the contemplative feeling Kino captures. Sure, there are other shows with a slow and contemplative feeling, but there isn't any quite like Kino. I definitely look forward to watching more of this franchise.

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