Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World-
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World- ?
I almost feel like I should thank Kino's Journey 2017 for ending on perhaps the most brainless final storyline possible. It makes my job easier. So this last episode is all about Kino murdering a herd of sheep in increasingly brutal ways. First they run them over with a truck, then they build a wall of fire, then they start shooting the sheep into the wall of fire. Eventually, Kino has to vault over a cliff to get away from them, so a bunch of sheep attempt a hot pursuit across the precipice and fall to their deaths. This goes on for ten whole minutes, dozens of animals die brutally, concluding in a shot that makes Kino look like that GIF of Sephiroth emerging from the flames.
I can only assume that this is meant to serve as a culminating display of Kino's badassery for fans of that aspect of the character, because otherwise it's just insane. Who is this for? There's no message here, and the “twist” at the end doesn't add anything to this wanton slaughter – it's just an explanation of where the killer sheep came from. Wasn't this show supposed to be a series of little moral parables at one point? I had my issues with the series before this point, but most previous stories were attempting to be thoughtful or at least just had some sort of punchline. This is just a weird demonstration of how good Kino is at killing.
In the end, Kino's Journey '17 was a bad show. Its main virtue was revealing just how much of the 2003 Kino's success can be credited to that show's adaptive team. If this series is the one that's more faithful to the source material, then original recipe Kino's is just not for me, and I'm just sorry that I didn't know that ahead of time for anyone who prefers this version of events to the first anime series and hasn't jived well with my criticisms.
As it stands, this show's procedural parables usually ended on morals that were superfluous at best and reprehensible at worst. Low points arrived any time an episode ended with the implication of genocide (the Colosseum country, the Bothersome country, the Ship country, that thing with the radio waves) or just a straight-up orgy of onscreen violence (Historic country, whatever the hell was going on in this last episode). In an act of cruel deception, the show's first episode, A Country Where People Can Kill Others, is the only newly adapted one that I'd say manages to be decent all the way through, serving as an interesting, nuanced, and largely sane exploration of the role that violence plays in society. The sixth episode, In the Clouds, was also a mostly fine if hamfisted repudiation of dogmatic Christlike pacifism. That bit from the variety episode about the point-based morality system also arrived to some good points regarding the unintended negative consequences fostered by those sorts of systems. Every story I haven't mentioned here was either bad or I've already forgotten it.
Your mileage may vary on this next point, but I'm not going to pretend that I was okay with the show's ostensible politics either. This version of Kino comes across as a fantasy about being a badass survivalist beholden to nobody except yourself and your skill at exhibiting martial force. The show's attempts to extol these distinctly libertarian values either resulted in the endorsement of truly abhorrent behavior (the show's troubling admiration of the pleasant-but-destructive Bothersome Country), or modifying situations to the point where they're basically inapplicable to real life conflicts (the idiot denizens of the Ship Country). In the end, Kino's idea of freedom is a solitary figure being allowed to do whatever they want or else, violently defending their personal sovereignty against entire governments with ease. Whether you agree with that ethos or not, it certainly can't be applied to real-life situations, which often negates the show's attempted messaging.
Beyond that, this series' production was uninspired. The direction only seemed to come alive during the show's occasional moments of atonal violence. While I can't call Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World- the worst show I've ever reviewed, it's in the running for most disappointing. Within that inglorious category, it might also be the show that revealed its true colors the fastest. In retrospect, there was one decent episode before things started going down the toilet. In some ways, I prefer this downturn to last season's similarly regrettable Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, which went well enough for most of its run only to make a series of disastrous narrative decisions in the final stretch. At least Kino's 2017 didn't bury the lede that hard. It also had the decency to be interestingly bad most of the time, which I've come to see as a bittersweet virtue compared to some total snoozefests I've had to review like Sagrada Reset. (I wish someone had set a herd of sheep on fire in that show.) Hopefully, Kino's Journey ends here, in the middle of their nap, where I'm just going to pretend that they died suddenly in their sleep. Shhhhhhh, it's alright now. The pain is over – for all of us.
Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World- the Animated Series is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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