After a decade since the last animated Kino no Tabi work was released (Kino no Tabi: Country of Illness –For You-), the studio that brought us works such as Classroom of the Elite, Monster Musume, Assassination Classroom, and Persona 4: The Animation has returned what I always thought was an underrated show.
In the woods between countries, Kino tries to explain to the talking motorrad, Hermes, of the struggle faced by the young traveler almost daily. On how it is hard for Kino to reconcile the feelings of hopelessness, foolishness, and pettiness and general underhandedness when compared to the way that the world presents itself, or how people elsewhere live their lives. It is that beauty and wonder that Kino decides to continue to travel and learn, even if it meant that they’d face sadness and hardships.
Hermes doesn’t understand or give a deep answer to Kino’s slight existential crisis, thinking that one has yet to fully understand it either.
The next day, they come across a fellow traveler, a loud-mouthed man who had decided to make his way to the country due to its supposed complete decriminalization of murder. This was contrary to the information Kino received from a previous locale. The hotshot intends to find a criminal mastermind name Regel, seeing if he could glean some foresight into the mind from his supposed hero.
Asking if Kino could help him out by taking some of his traveling gear, Kino refuses, stating the reasons why it would be a bad idea, and leaves him behind. With the dust settling from Kino’s departure, the hothead is mighty pissed off.
Making it to the front gate, the customs agent asks Kino if Kino understands that killing someone within his town’s borders is not criminalized, and still Kino insists and enters the walled country. Within, there are no public peace officers and everyone seems happy and friendly. The next day, after quick draw practice and maintenance on her Persuaders, Kino and Hermes tour the countryside, and it’s quite an idyllic place. But a conversation with a shop keeper over his lever-action Persuader details that the rifle isn’t to deter theft, but to kill people. Answering Hermes, he says he never knows when he’ll use it, so he keeps it in full, plain view of his shop.
At a restaurant, Kino struggles through a mountain of crepes and whipped cream, before striking a conversation with a group of elderly folks who had just come from dancing class. While making small talk, Kino notices that even the old women are armed, and it seems like everyone is in the town, in some form or another. The old man, seemingly the leader of the group, invites her for another round of the crepes (the country’s specialty) the next day, since she’s already devoured one just as the group arrived.
Meeting with the old man, the old man makes a sales pitch to Kino for staying, when he found out that the traveler was leaving at the conclusion of their morning tea. Kino declines, even if the old man had said the young traveler was the type that can kill humans. At the conclusion of their tea, Kino and Hermes bid the old man farewell, only to be stopped by the hot head. Tossing back Kino’s words from the other day, he intends to kill Kino and use the traveler’s belongings to help himself get an easier life in the town. The town meanwhile empties out to side streets and buildings.
Deducing that he had made himself a citizen of the country, Kino points out that he doesn’t seem to understand what the country is all about, only seeing that murder is not illegal here. Asked one more time, Kino notices the watching eyes of the town, and declines. Begging forgiveness from Hermes for any holes, Kino jumps over the parked motorrad and hides behind his steel frame. Just as the hot head is about to shoot Kino, an arrow pierces his shooting arm, and is in massive pain.
All around them, the townsfolk gather, each adult with a smile on their faces. Every one of them wielding a variety of firearms, crossbows, blades, and blunt objects. His attempt to get at his dropped Persuader is stopped by the storekeeper, who shoots it out of the way. The old lady from the previous day chastises him, cautioning him to be careful.
All around the man, the townsfolk surround him, and he is rooted into place by another crossbow bolt to the foot. The old man comes into view, and explain that they stopped him because it was wrong for him to try and kill Kino. The old man explains to the upstart that those who have killed or have tried or trying to kill another, are killed by the community. In other words, ‘not prohibited’ does not mean ‘permitted’.
The nature of the country known, an eye for an eye that keeps the social fabric polite and cheerful, knowing that the murder of a human being means the total and immediate retribution of the offending party. Cursing the old man out, the old man reveals his identity as Regel, the hothead’s hero, who executes the offender with his sword cane.
The public execution of the hot head over, Kino bids farewell to Regel. In the road leading out to town, the pair once again meets another traveler, who she stops over and chats with. Unlike the hot head, his shoulders are a bit more weighted by the world. He asks if Kino came from the country (no, just passing through) and was planning to live in the country Kino had just come from because it was a safe place to live. Kino answers that it was, though it depends on the extent of his perceptions.
It was here that the man revealed that he had come from a dystopia of a country where he had to kill to survive. He attempts to ask one last question, but thinks nothing of it. When Kino rides away, he thought his question about their mountainous crepes was silly.
On the road, Hermes asks Kino on why they only spend three days in each country. Kino responds that a traveler that Kino had known before that it was the perfect length of stay.
In the end, the first conversation we’re greeted with in the episode is answered, with Hermes explaining to Kino that a motorrad is happiest when they’re running, and a journey means that they’re running all the time, and therefore travelling is fun. Asking where this was from, this was a syllogistic statement from the talking motorrad, who just found it curious to see why Kino continued to travel, even if Kino had no home to go to and that there have been times where Kino was almost killed. With Kino’s skills with a Persuader, there would be jobs in which the traveler could take to settle down, and even then, Kino could’ve stayed with Master. From which Kino muses on.
Now, there is nostalgia filters, and then there are a faithful attempt to recreate a series. It is too early to believe if Lerche has managed to get right what A.C.G.T. and Shaft created before them in the early 2000s.
And so far? I would like to say they have sought to capture the endless shades of gray in a much more cleaned up world. I’m unsure if I can agree on the slightly less gritty style, but do like the more androgynous and seemingly older Kino. So far, Kino has been referred to as a male by Hermes. With the next episode being ‘Coliseum’, I wonder if we will get a definitive answer in the series.
For now, I’ll try to keep Kino’s gender, at least in my write-ups, unspecified. Kino is a pretty androgynous character, and she has been mistaken for a guy a few times.
Now for the country in question. The country in which murder is not prohibited, but it is not permitted. The fact it seems more like an idealized view of the American Old West with no visible lawmen or peace officers around meant it has a very strong social fabric. In actuality, a good deal of the ‘countries’ in Kino no Tabi tend to have strong cultural country identities. An example of this from the earlier series would be the Land of Wizards, where everyone was devoted to the single goal of crop production. Or even better yet, Kino’s original country of the Land of Adults, where the creative freedoms of the citizenry is removed at the age of twelve.
The Country Where People can Kill Others seems to have a fairly strong social fabric. In which outsiders, not actual outsiders, but those who cannot abide by the unwritten rule tend to be silenced the moment they decide to kill. Now, what worries me is what Regel has said, that those who have killed, those who tried to kill, or those who are trying to kill, will be killed by everyone else in the nation. It is a community policing taken to the extreme, in which I fear for the second man.
Is it only when he has taken up citizenship that he will be judged, if he decides to kill within the country’s borders? Or has he signed a death warrant if he comes in and explains his past, probably to Regel? I can only hope it is the former, because one can only assume that with Regel alive in the country, and no doubt a leader of sorts and respected by the community, that the judgement only comes when within one’s borders.
It’s be nice to know, the second man is seeking a life that will bring him peace, though he isn’t scared of taking a life if he needs to. Just the qualities needed in the town. When watching this episode, apart from fanboying over the fact that Kino no Tabi has got a new animated series, I felt this was the show’s homage to a America that goes closer to spaghetti westerns and the phrase ‘an armed society is a polite society’.
In all, I have high hopes for the series. There are some irregularities but then again, one can’t be too picky. They had used CGI where they can to save time and money, but apart from some hasty background shots and action, most of the characters were well drawn, even down to the firearms. I’ve got to say, this was a welcome surprise when I found out about it.