This Week in Anime
How Does the Kino's Journey Remake Compare to the Original Series?

by Jacob Chapman and Steve Jones,

Well over a decade has passed since Kino's Journey was first adapted into anime, but this season brought us an unexpected remake with Kino's Journey - The Beautiful World-. This week in anime, Jacob and Steve compare notes on how the character's world has changed with time.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


@Lossthief

@Liuwdere

@ANNJakeH

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You can read our weekly coverage of Kino's Journey (2017) here!

Steve
Well Jake, it's 2017, and reboots are still where the big money is. So what better anime series to reboot than a niche hit from 14 years ago that examines philosophical questions through careful allegory!

Jacob
ah yes, you vs the Kino she told you not to worry about

Kino's back! And they're still on a journey, go figure.

It's about as unexpected a choice for a remake as you can get, despite the wealth of source material. The first anime adapted stories from about two books? Three if you count OVAs? But there are twenty books. So far.

Which is why I was pretty optimistic when I heard about the new series! It's definitely not my first choice for a reboot, but the original series is one of my favorite anime, and the prospect of seeing some of the newer stories get animated was exciting.

Honestly, my favorite thing about this new project is its origin story.

Oh, what's that?

Apparently the new voice of Kino, Aoi Yūki, was the driving force behind getting more made. Which okay, voice actress is a fan of thing, uses her influence to push for a remake, not a special occurrence.

But guess what Aoi Yūki's debut anime role was?

If you haven't seen the OG Kino's Journey, that won't mean much to you, but if you have, boy are there layers to that casting choice.

HOLY SHIT I had no idea! That's so cool!

It's gonna be a good year for author Keiichi Sigsawa. First a new Kino's anime, and then a Gun Gale Online Alternative anime next year! (He wrote that too, the man likes his firearms.)

It is still wild to me that there's one degree of separation between Kino's Journey and Sword Art Online, but that's anime for you. Aoi Yūki is definitely one of the most talented voice actresses currently working, and her performance as Kino is one of my favorite things about the new series.

Same. I'm a little torn on the art style difference so far, but despite the improved animation of the new series, I think I still tilt more in favor of the old look. Kino's setting is not so much a detailed fantasy world as a series of broad fable worlds. So I liked the more dreamlike and surreal aesthetic that made its stories feel less literal.


The old anime was directed by Ryutaro Nakamura of Serial Experiments Lain fame, and his control of atmosphere definitely benefited the tone of the series. The muted colors and cartoony character designs evoked a kind of retro feel, and they even added a CRT scanline filter on top of everything, like you were constantly reminded that you were watching a TV show, that it was fiction. As a framing device, it helped further separate the audience from the anime and reinforced the fantastical, fable-like nature of the stories.

Which is a lot of words to say that I really really love the old anime

Yeah I liked everything but that LCD filter. Don't miss that. Like, digipaint struggles to upscale to modern TVs as it is. YOU ARE NOT HELPING, SCANLINE FILTER.

Definitely an odd choice, but it's charming!

Well, for anyone intimidated by old KJ's artsy-fartsy look, new KJ is here to anime things up for you. Which is fine, these stories are solid, simple conversation-starters that can and should speak to a wider audience, and anime funding and marketing has changed immensely since 2003 in terms of what you can make and how it has to sell. So I get it, though I do miss the old aesthetic.

Yeah, the new anime basically just looks like...an anime. Awkward CG vehicles and all.

Not to say that it looks bad, because there are some very nice shots!

It's just overall not as inspired as Nakamura's version.

Yeah, I don't want to harp on the new style too much because THINGS CHANGE JACOB, and it's not even my primary issue with the new series so far. Nope, turns out I have bigger problems that I wasn't expecting!

Yeahhhhhh unfortunately the anime kinda shot itself in the foot (with a Persuader) by choosing to re-adapt one of the most memorable stories from the old anime in its SECOND episode. So before it even got a chance to establish itself as its own thing, it's already begging comparisons with the old show, and, in my estimation at least, it doesn't have the chops to win this battle yet.

So I have a theory about this, because right before the Coliseum episode (which worked waaaaaaay better a two-parter in the first series for reasons I'm sure we'll get into), the remake's first episode also adapted a story that happened to be very violence-centric. Now for anyone unfamiliar with KJ, I swear Kino does not solve all their problems by shooting at them. In fact, it's supposed to be a big deal when the gun comes out because they try to be as passive and uninvolved as possible in their travels unless their life is endangered.

Kino would much rather stop and enjoy the flowers, metaphorically and literally.

Definitely! But the first two episodes of this remake have played up the "journey of danger and survival and lookit mah cool guns" thing pretty hard, and I wonder if it's because they don't think the show will grab otaku with this story's more common non-gun-centric arguments about societal politics and shit.

Our first scene with new Kino is this

It's a good monologue, but they literally jump straight to "I'm gonna keep traveling even if I have to kill people," which is an odd thing to emphasize in terms of sacrifices, certainly not a focal point of the original series.

It sets a worrying precedent, because while some of Kino's stories are indeed dangerous or tragic, a lot of them are also whimsical and amusing. Like these guys!



Yeah, with the new series, I'm already worrying about those kitty ears gettin' blown off by a crossbow.

He used to be a traveler like Kino, but then he took an arrow to the--

[GIANT HOOK CREEPS IN FROM ACROSS THE ROOM]

Part of what I love about Kino's Journey is that it runs the gamut of the human condition, all of its sadness and cruelty and absurdity and, ultimately, beauty. So I hope the new anime doesn't just focus on the cruelty. Kino is many things, but an action hero they are not.

If your motto's "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is," I'm gonna need a lil more o' dat "therefore it is". But it's only two episodes in, so there's still plenty of hope!

True! And this new version does seem to be focusing more on Kino as a character, which is a slightly different direction from the old anime that could be neat to explore.

Right, that's what I was thinking! Anthology format aside, many people's favorite episodes of KJ are the ones that crack Kino's passive, gentle-smile facade and get at what drives them to keep going on this destination-less path, even when they're offered a place to belong now and again. Sometimes this can be cute, as in Kino's rejection of their taller and rugged-er doppelganger Shizu, but sometimes it can be uh

devastating

So with the remake opening once again on a monologue that (weird preoccupation with killing aside) openly questions Kino's motives for traveling, I'm hoping that facade will be cracked a little further.

THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY IS ADMITTING THAT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM KINO

I am also on board for more sick motorrad stunts

Poor Hermes.

it's not easy being a talking motorcycle

What's better tho, a talking motorcycle or a talking dog?

DOG IS VERY GOOD

"Get in loser, we're going on a journey."

I wonder if there's a country full of talking dogs. Kino should go there. They need a break.

Yeah, anything's better than that damn Coliseum. We should probably address that elephant, since it seems to be the one big thorn in what's otherwise been a promising remake.

Yeah, the new Coliseum arc adaptation fails on multiple levels. By compressing the story into one episode, it not only feels rushed, it misses out on a lot of the nuance and thoughtfulness of the old two-parter. It plays out so poorly that Kino comes across as cruel, rather than conflicted. The old anime also had five prior episodes to get to know their character before this heavy dilemma.

Look, Kino has always been pretty unflappable.

But they're not reckless, and when you adapt one of the most worldbuilding-heavy stories in a not-worldbuilding-heavy series in a reckless way, that unflappability might accidentally make them come off as a monster. The gist is that Kino accidentally falls into a country that pits hapless passers-by against one another in a deathmatch for citizenship. You know, as one does. But this version of the story cuts out the existence of the underclass, people who aren't at peace with this system but have no other place to live, so it's unclear what would drive Kino to get involved beyond bitterness at being used as a pawn for another traveler's confusing attempt at vengeance, which isn't really enough.

Without the two-episode time to explore all Kino's thoughts before they make their plan to take down this system (as in the 03 series), about the best we get is


This quickly culminates in Kino's clever plan to murder the murderbowl itself by first killing the king and then declaring that Everyone Should Fight to the Death for the right to replace him.

And boy do those folks not waste any time getting straight to the murder! As...one...does?

I can't stress this enough, the Coliseum arc is a BIG DEAL because it's the first time Kino actually interferes with a country. Doing so goes against their entire philosophy of avoiding any attachments to the countries they visit, and the decision to kill the king doesn't come lightly. It comes after Kino sees the unfairness of the caste system, the abject cruelty of the king, and the determination of the exiled prince. In a way, killing the king is a kindness that prevents the prince from falling into an endless cycle of familial bloodshed. THAT is what gets communicated in the 2003 version. In the remake, we don't even learn why Kino was pissed off at all until after they tell everyone to start punching each other to death.

Right, the jump from inception to conclusion is the most Boy That Escalated Quickly thing and I just

you said it, dog

There were also two Extremely Important details left out of Kino's decree from not just the first anime (which did admittedly expand on the book's story) but the original novel itself:

A) The new murderbowl is limited to first-class citizens, i.e. people who won and/or benefited from this awful system in the first place. Slum denizens are not only exempt, but protected from this violence by the decree. If you harm any of them, you're disqualified.

B) The killing doesn't just start two seconds after Kino says "here's my idea fellas!" There's a window of time where anyone who doesn't like the idea can skip town. Kino's decree first prompts an understandable level of confusion, not a mad rush for the long knives.

It also makes Kino's earlier remark (in both versions) that they made it to the finals without killing anyone pretty moot for obvious reasons. YOU SURE MADE UP FOR LOST GROUND IN THE ELEVENTH HOUR, HUN.

I can understand the argument that maybe the country is different in this version, and that maybe everyone who lives there is a jerk, but that's also not as compelling a story. Kino's Journey can be very, very blunt in its messages sometimes, but this seems just mean-spirited.

With any luck, this just means we're hitting this adaptation's low point early and the series will start improving in its choices afterwards.

I liked the first episode quite a bit! So I am also hopeful that the new stories will bring more of that good philosophical flavor that I love.

Also more good food for Kino to enjoy. They deserve it.

Totally. The stories chosen for this remake were selected via popularity poll, so with any luck we'll get some doozies while (hopefully) avoiding the pitfalls of Coliseum.

And apparently we're also getting more Shizu, which means more PUPPY~

Excuse me, I have to go. My Uber driver is here.

ADVENTURE HO!


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