Kino’s Journey (2003) Review

Synopsis

Kino is a traveler, roaming the world with her metallic companion, Hermes. Though she has encountered many atrocities in her journey, she has also seen much better. It is this balance that makes the world a beautiful place.

Review

Kino’s Journey is a series of tales, each taking place in a new land with new people and customs. Each episode examines a different set of “what if” scenarios that follow concepts to their logical end. The conclusions that are drawn are not always necessarily accurate, but they are almost always thought-provoking.

The beauty of Kino’s Journey is not in its complex storyline or character development, but rather the joys to be found in the journey itself, as is befitting the title. The show is episodic in nature, with each episode right up to the end functioning as a self-contained fable shown through the wondering eyes of a traveler. There is little to be gained from watching episodes in order other than perhaps familiarity with the characters. The pacing may seem a bit slow relative to more action-oriented shows, but there is usually quite a bit happening, although it’s never overwhelming.

As a result of this unique approach, the cast is constantly changing, effectively removing all opportunities for character development or interaction outside of Kino and Hermes. Although it would be nice to have more dynamic characters, the emphasis was meant to be on the stories that make up the journey.

In any case, Kino and Hermes are an enjoyable pair, although neither seems to exhibit many changes over the course of their journey. Kino is an insightful and experienced traveler, who, despite all that she has encountered, has remained compassionate and un-jaded. Although equally capable of both kindness and brutality, we see that she is motivated by good intentions.

Hermes is Kino’s loyal partner, although he sometimes questions her decisions. He sometimes responds with sarcasm and is less than subtle about voicing his opinions, which is a good contrast to the more tactful Kino. For a talking motorbike, he has a rather likable personality, despite lacking any facial expression.

The animation has a storybook feel, with simple lines and muted colors. The backgrounds look as if they are watercolor paintings and have a rather soothing effect. Although animation is minimal, the quality is good and the style feels appropriate for expressing the story.

The musical score is phenomenal. It seemed perfectly suited to almost every situation. The intro track and the credits track are both excellent. The haunting vocals and beautiful flute melodies gave the series a very dreamlike quality and seemed well-suited to the theme of the open road.

The wonderful thing about Kino’s journey is that it tells stories with philosophical overtones without being pretentious or condescending. Rather than shrouding the underlying meaning in vagueness and complexity, the concepts are expressed simply, and the viewer is left to contemplate what has been shown. There is no existentialist drivel since everything is experienced through the eyes of a genuinely curious individual. Kino has a true appreciation for all aspects of the world and understands that, although men are capable of great cruelty, they are also capable of great kindness and generosity.

Conclusion

Kino’s Journey is the perfect series to be watched slowly, digested one episode at a time. It is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and the insights it gives are easy to discover. Through the various places visited along the way, we find that it is not the destination but the journey that matters and that it is both the good and the bad that creates this beautiful world. This is a well-conceived, magnificent contribution to the world of animation that should be seen and appreciated.

  • Audio: Wonderful dreamlike soundtrack solid voicework
  • Video: Simple lines with pastel colors
  • Plot: Each episode is a stand-alone story
  • Style: Minimalistic, yet beautiful
  • Characters: Likeable but small cast
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Language: Mild
  • Nudity: None
  • Genre: Drama
  • Episodes: 13
  • Rating: 4.5 of 5

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