Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World- Episode 10
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World- ?
So I didn't dislike this episode nearly as much as I feared I would. A Kind Land was one of Kino 03's most memorable episodes, and I've been waiting to see how this show's take on it would compare to its predecessor. Perhaps surprisingly in light of Kino 2017's track record so far, this version of events holds up fairly well, barring some of the usual production problems. Miraculously, it manages to achieve a sense of pathos and naturalistic moral complexity in a series where that has been painfully absent too often.
The story is that Kino arrives at a country that has a reputation for being awful to travelers. When they get there, however, they find it to be full of extraordinarily kind, generous, and welcoming people. A young girl named Sakura takes up the position of Kino's guide during their stay, and together they see all of the sights this country has to offer. For all its apparent wholesomeness, there is something off about the place, however. For one, the guards seem awfully relieved when Kino declares that they intend to leave after three nights. Secondly, while their generosity is much appreciated, folks are downright suspicious in their eagerness to give Kino nice things. It gets to the point where Sakura's parents even consider asking Kino to take on their daughter as a travelling companion.
Basically, these folks are acting like they're about to die, and thus have no reason not to give all their stuff away to the first stranger they meet. The truth is that this entire country is about to be consumed by a volcanic explosion, and its citizens have decided to die in their homeland rather than evacuate to try and rebuild from scratch. It sounds dumb to me, but this is a decision that people have made under similar circumstances, and not one that I can begrudge so long as they're fully conscious of what they're really giving up. Unfortunately, these people also decided to take their innocent children along with them, which casts them in a bad light at the end. At least Kino and I are in agreement on something for once. The irony hidden under all this is that Kino had finally found a country where they might want to settle down (which means an impracticably accommodating country), only for that behavior to be revealed as a society's last-ditch attempt at redemption after untold years of being unlikable jerkwads. So they wasted their lives by acting needlessly dickish, only to reform as a prelude to needlessly wasting their deaths. It would seem comical if people didn't often do this to their loved ones in real life, but unfortunately they do, which makes this story feel like a true tragedy.
Even if people don't tend to throw themselves under volcanic eruptions, human societies do exhibit a tendency to become so invested in their chosen ways of life that they'd rather die than part ways with them. Usually, this phenomenon is tied in pride or egotism, as people over-conflate their core self-identity with external factors, even though those are arbitrary and subject to the whims of circumstance. In this case, this results in the deaths of countless dead innocents on top of all the adults who willingly gave up their lives rather than try to change, and it also further poisoned Kino's ability to trust or commit to others, which was briefly re-ignited by their encounter with humanity's capacity for overwhelming kindness. In the end, it was all self-motivated – an attempt to ease the nation's ego in advance of a demise caused by deadly adherence to an esteemed past.
That's one reading of this anyway. There's another aspect to this episode as Kino more generally confronts the idea of death, the inevitability that their travels will end one day and that they will continue to make sacrifices in pursuit of their chosen life. The problem with this interpretation (for the purposes of this writeup) is that it involves advance knowledge of the show's next episode, which was also adapted in the first anime. In the 2003 version, the order of these stories were flipped around so that Adult Country came first, while Kind Country concluded the entire series. But even in this remake, these two stories are intended to resonate with one another, adding an entirely new subtextual layer for viewers if you already know what happens next (er, previously). I'll discuss this resonance more in the next writeup.
In the end, it's revealed that Sakura did know about the volcano and made the conscious decision to die alongside her family. So she chose her homeland, everything she knew, over life itself in the great unknown. Did Kino make a similar decision in the past, and if so, what do you think they picked? As an aside, the girl who voiced Sakura in the '03 anime's version of this episode grew up to be Kino's new seiyuu, Aoi Yuki. This fact has a lot of resonance in-story, as we'll learn next week, and her attachment to that role (her first) inspired her to want to play Kino someday, which may have been the biggest contributing factor to getting this remake off the ground. That's really neat!
The episode's climactic scene is a great encapsulation of the thematic and emotional complexity that I originally expected from Kino's Journey 2017 going in. As Kino watches the eruption and reads Sakura's mother's letter, a complex re-evaluation of the situation emerges immediately. Kino's contentment turns to sorrow (which is actually visible from her facial expressions) as the episode's theme of "national pride" becomes apparent. And when Kino reads the letter from Sakura and experiences the episode's second reversal, an entirely new meaning opens up that's more personal to Kino's character and the questionable ethics of their own way of life.
So yeah, good stuff. It would be better if the rest of the series leading up to this had made me care about Kino as a character at all, but this is the first episode of this remake that feels like it remotely brushed against the first series' greatness. Frankly, A Kind Land just seems like a standout vignette in an otherwise hit-or-miss series of light novels. Also, while I'll admit being familiar with the twist beforehand due to Kino 2003, I haven't revisited that episode of the first series in years, so my specific knowledge of its events leans on this version's interpretation. The same will not be true of next week's story, which I have revisited recently.
So yeah, you did alright this time, Kino 2017. I hope that this streak of relative success lasts through next week's crucial backstory episode. I don't want to have to write up a bad version of Land of Adults.
Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World- the Animated Series is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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