I watched this episode at work yesterday, and I absolutely loved it. To me it is classic Kino no Tabi, and there is often more than meets the eye to a people than what is presented. How do I know I liked it? I rambled on in the thoughts section. I’ll be working on the top 5 hotties post later.
Kino is visiting an unidentified country, where the pair of travelers are being led by an overly enthusiastic guide. The guide explains that a traveler years past had settled down in their nation and became their first president, having fallen in love with the country, helping them, then overthrowing the older corrupt government. Kino and Hermes don’t share the guide’s hero worship, though Kino has a bit more tact in this regard.
They then are shown the traveler’s motorrad, who had been vocal before but stopped after the traveler had died. Asking for a moment between themselves, the motorrad finally speaks and is jealous of the pair. He asks for Kino to take him traveling, as being kept on display is not something motorrads are meant to be. Kino can’t, nor will the pair destroy him, much to the bike’s dismay.
Later, as Kino is leaving, Kino is met by the son of the inn the pair had stayed at. Asking Kino how the traveler started, Kino states that it was a rather violent one, but thinking back, Kino realizes it was because it was something the traveler wanted to do even when not ordered. The kid clearly wants to start, and hates the eventual fate of him running the inn from his parents. Unable to give some sort of advice to the boy, Kino explains there is more than one way to become one, and tells the boy to ask the first president’s motorrad.
-End: Tale of a Traveler
Kino arrives at a country and is let in. The country seems a little strict, as there is only one entry and exit way for travelers. Entering, Kino and Hermes are met with a strange man running without much cold weather protection. The man asks Kino if the traveler has heard from his lover. His lover had gone on a journey for some reason and the man has been waiting for his return, and wondered if Kino had any news.
A woman appears with a coat for him as he starts to cough from the cold, whom he introduces as his housekeeper, before being led away by the woman. In the town proper, Kino has been regaling the pair’s various travels, due to the scarcity of visitors. One of the elders around the table asks if Kino had any questions for them, and Kino brings up the man. The mood changes around the table, and one switches places with the old man.
He explains that the man was his friend and used to be a police officer. A leader in the resistance movement against the nation’s old order, he had fallen madly in love with a simple farm girl prior to the revolution. When the revolution was on hand, he had forced the dissolution of their relationship to spare her any repercussion, telling his friend, the narrator, that he had ‘lied to her’.
The revolution underway, the man had been the one to kill the members of the royal family with a well-placed grenade, but upon examination of the bodies, discovered his lover. The princess had been sneaking out and posing as a commoner the entire time.
Unable to come to terms with the fact that the person he should’ve hated was his lover, or the fact that he killed her, the man lost his mind. Thus a hero that should’ve been a leader of their new nation was treated like a child who had lost his family. He snapped, asking where his lover was, and a doctor lied to him stating that his lover had gone on a journey.
It seems that it is a codified as well as societal rule that citizens aren’t allowed outside, but in his grief, he had forgotten this and accepted the doctor’s story as truth. Given a home by the new government, housekeepers would rotate frequently, managing only for so long before they can’t stand lying to him about his lover’s fate, and has been for the past 5 years.
One day, a gravely injured traveler was found three years ago, and since she didn’t know the full story, was hired into becoming his housekeeper. With no signs of improvement, the leaders of the city can only think it is the best for him and for them to keep their lie.
Driving out, Kino comes across the housekeeper who had gotten her cart stuck on a patch of mud, and helping her out. The housekeeper would stop them and invited Kino for some tea. Taking up the offer, she serves tea for the three of them. It seems that the housekeeper is really good at her job from the looks of things. The man asks Kino to pass a message to his lover if they ever meet. At this point, the housekeeper says there might be someone at the gate, and the man bolts.
Questioned, the housekeeper explains her story. She had led him away to tell Kino that she is happy, and that her siblings are living at another country. She also adds that she gets to live with the man she loves. The pair realizing that she was the princess, the princess explains that they had caught wind of the revolution from their spies, and had been preparing for it.
She had been using the man as a source of information, so their family could escape with their assets beforehand, but in the course of her spying, she fell in love with the man who treated her like a mere farmer’s daughter. That came to an end at the start of the revolution, and with their doubles fulfilling their roles, she tried to forget about him.
Their contacts at their new country though have explained the situation to her about the man, and came up with the decision to come to the nation as his caregiver. She had gone through many hoops, first persuading her parents, then becoming a traveler, then landing the job as his housekeeper.
Asked about it, she explains that the man was happy to have her until his lover returns, to which she finds solace and peace, knowing that the man still loved her and was waiting for her. Every day she lies to him, knowing she can’t tell him the truth, but is content with it, knowing she’ll die with the man she loves, forever lying to him.
The man returns, noting it was just the generator, and wonders when she’ll come home. Scared that she might’ve forgotten about him, the princess merely replies that his lover would never forget about him.
The next day, as Kino is seen out by the man and the housekeeper. The man claims that he hears a motor and runs after Kino, even though it is just Hermes starting up. Making his way past the guards, and out of earshot, the man explains that he knows. And he prefers it this way. He doesn’t want to ruin any more things, like his friend, the one who had seemingly led the revolution, is currently a spy for the disposed royal family; or the kind feelings of the rest of the people or the new government they built. And not especially his lover, who truly loved him and not just using him.
It is this where Hermes remarks that he and the rest of his nation are all liars, and they bid farewell, with Kino wishing the two of them well.
I actually watched this on my way home. At my work site, my office is quite a fair bit away from where I park, and this necessitates the need to take an internal tram and employee shuttle. Having been relieved by the PM shift, I watched this and promptly finished when I reached the stop where I parked.
Yeah, it seems like it takes a bit longer for me to get to my car from my office than it is to go to work.
Regardless, there were two nations explored today. The first one dealt with the hero worship of a traveler who had come to love the nation he eventually settled in, and eventually became it’s first post-revolution leader. It seems as though, that while the nation remembered him as something akin to George Washington is to Americans like me, the one that knew him the best, his motorrad, is suffering from the undue attention.
Or rather, the literal pedestal he was put in. The room in which he is displayed at has pictures of the man when they were traveling, and he laments spending the remainder of his life in a fish bubble, unable to travel, and unable to be dismantled due to having no further purpose in life. The motorrad didn’t go quiet due to the man’s passing. He grew quiet due to the fact he is not being ridden anymore.
This brought back memories from the first series, where the real Kino tells the young Kino on how motorrads can speak, and have personalities. Also how Hermes is very nonchalant sometimes as long as he has a rider. But there is hope, as Kino gives the son of the inn keepers hints on where to achieve his dream of being a traveler.
That said, it also foreshadows a future episode it seems, talking about how Kino’s introduction to traveling was quite violent, and due to that start, she can’t give a good answer to the boy. I imagine we’d get a full recap or even elaboration of her childhood episode and the country of adults.
The latter half and the main focus of the episode was the one I had a conversation with Sumeragi with. We talked about the various events we as Americans, and really, most countries, have shaped to be myths. Changing an interpretation here, glorifying a bit there. In the Country of Liars, the hero of the revolution, one who no doubt could’ve been the leader of the nation, is a mentally broken man who waits every day for a lover that he killed. Everyone is in on the act, and they can do nothing but watch him waste away.
The man’s friend also has his own lies. Even as he helps run the nation, he spies for the escaped royal family, no doubt either a double agent from the get go or a sympathizer caught up in the revolution and saving his own skin. With the state of the nation as it is, it probably is best for him to continue in his public persona as one of the men who stormed the palace.
The princess as well. Initially courting the man for information, she eventually falls for him, madly and deeply like he did, and was forcing herself to forget about him until news came of his deranged state. She risked everything, her life, discovery that the royals were still alive, and the friend’s life as a double agent. Only for her to come back and act as the man’s caretaker, living her own lie if only to get to live with the man she loves.
And finally, the man, who had probably cured himself when the caretaker came, no doubt hearing the lies around him, and yet, everything is alright. No doubt he was truly angry at the direction the nation was going, and he put his whole heart and soul to the downfall of the old regime, only to fall in love with a plain farmer’s daughter that ended up being the princess of the regime you hate, and later, the traveler turned housekeeper who help keep up the nation’s premise of existing.
Sumeragi cites the story by Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” as something that fits the story of Country of Liars. That in order to maintain the façade of a successful country, one man’s sadness must be kept up. The man knows this, and goes along with it. Having read the short story, the man, the disposed princess, his friend and the country is Omelas and its lone atrocity. The happiness and prosperity of the town held up with a single ball of darkness. In Le Guin’s story, the abuse of the child. In Kino no Tabi, the lie they tell the hero of their revolution.
Kino and Hermes, and all other travelers, represent the people who left after finding out the lie that sustain Omelas. It is why the man tells Kino that he knows, if only to add one final story to the book of lies she’s been fed. Much like in Le Guin’s story, where the uncertain narrator explains that those who leave Omelas go to somewhere that they cannot comprehend, the Country of Lies has a rather strict immigration policy.
With travelers only allowed to enter and exit through one entryway, it is accepted that citizens themselves aren’t allowed to leave. It explains why the royal family can live just in the next nation over and not be killed or asked to be turned over. Or it could be two fold, with the royals having seen there was no stopping the tide of revolution, placed their own sympathizers within their ranks to allow a ‘smooth’ transition in which they kept their wealth and status, and the revolutionaries had the country.
Everything is fine in your country, when you have nothing to compare it to. And from the looks of the town and the people, they’re not doing that bad really.
With that, why would you want to ruin that sort of lie? Everything is built on those lies, and as Sumeragi says, the country is an example of ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’.
There were other things discussed, namely viewpoint differences between the two of us over Kenichi Sigsawa’s works and his online profile, but it had boiled down similarly to how I treat American entertainers. Their face value is to entertain me, not lecture me. Besides, to me at least, Kenichi Sigsawa ain’t as blatantly Japanese right wing as say, Takumi Yanai (author of GATE: Jietai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatkaeri).
But not all of our talk was on the somewhat controversial stands the author for Kino no Tabi has, and as evidenced, it was also an insight on how Sumeragi views the episodes. Something I am appreciative of, as no one truly can spot the differences and nuances all the time by his or herself.
As a side note, when we were discussing this episode and our differing viewpoints came up, the point of negative connotations was broached. In stating what I thought about it in that lens, I had said that the premise resembles something like a Potemkin village. A veneer to show the national myth and well-being when in reality the nation is dying. There have been stories in which Kino was not shown the entirety of a nation before, the most memorable one has been the Country of Illness. Kino may not have full access to everything in the country, or more over, maybe the whole lie is a lie in itself. That each and every person knows the truth and what was presented to us and Kino was just some damn good stage play.
Meh, I liked it in the end though, sorry for rambling much.