Climb aboard your motorcycle and get ready for a fantastical adventure with KINO’S JOURNEY: THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD!

KINO’S JOURNEY: THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD is more than just a masterpiece in its art and animation. It’s also an aesthetic and philosophical experience that can inspire those who watch it. Originally a light novel series written by Keiichi Sigsawa in 2000, KINO’S JOURNEY was adapted as an anime first in 2003 by ACGT, then rebooted in 2017 by Lerche. With improved art and animation, the 2017 anime (which is now available for streaming via Crunchyroll) brings back the deep moral questions of the original series in a way that’s enjoyable for old fans and new.

Kino of KINO'S JOURNEY lazes on a hammock strung between two short trees with Hermes beside her.
Kino reflects on her journey before taking a nap at the end of the show. | Image: Crunchyroll

The 2017 adaptation of KINO’S JOURNEY is a tale of a traveler looking to experience the world. The show takes place in a world much different from our own. The people of this world live in small “countries,” which are actually the size of a town or city. Every country has their own laws and customs that make them entirely unique. Some countries are separated by walls; others move throughout the globe on Caterpillar wheels. Each has its own technology, as well. Some countries have futuristic tech, while others live in an almost medieval setting. The different customs and technology create an aesthetic of mystique that fits the show perfectly.

Spoilers for KINO’S JOURNEY: THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD to follow.

Expand Your Horizons with KINO’S JOURNEY

Kino travels the world with her talking motorcycle, Hermes. The talking motorcycles in this universe cannot move without someone to ride them, so they make deals with travelers. With Hermes’s help, Kino is able to travel faster and farther. In turn, Hermes can drive freely and quickly with the balance she provides. Kino and Hermes wander the globe together, seeing everything their world has to offer, with just one condition. They only stay in a country for three days; just long enough for them to get a good grasp of the people and their culture.

Kino aims her gun at her opponent in this screencap of the colosseum tournament.
The entire colosseum watches with bated breath as Kino draws her weapon. No pressure, right? | Image: Crunchyroll

Despite her slender frame, Kino is capable of handling anything the universe throws at her. She is clever and perceptive as well as handy with a gun. She even reaches the finals in a colosseum tournament without breaking a sweat. However, Kino’s wits are perhaps her greatest weapon of all. Kino quietly observes each country she visits without getting involved in politics unless she absolutely has to. Her mostly neutral disposition allows the viewers to make judgments of their own in each episode.

Sometimes her actions could be categorized as morally grey, such as assassinating the previous ruler during the tournament. However radical her actions might seem, she always leaves the country free to take their future into their own hands. This leads to a number of different outcomes, both positive and negative. But it goes to show that Kino’s outlook is just one more philosophical lesson the show imparts on its audience: that everyone has a different perspective, and it’s important to respect that.

The Beautiful World of KINO’S JOURNEY

The lands Kino explores are much more complex than they seem at first. They are a perfect example of why you can’t judge a book (or a country) by its cover. The scope of the diversity of the countries she visits is a reflection of humans and teaches us about perspective. In order to understand this lesson, let’s first take a look at some of the countries Kino encounters.

The sun sets as KINO'S JOURNEY continues at the gates of a new country.
Kino and Hermes enter a new country. | Image: Crunchyroll

In the first episode, Kino enters a country where murder is supposedly legal. However, Kino quickly learns that there is more than meets the eye to this region. Despite its laws, the land is actually quite peaceful. It’s revealed that the law is an opportunity for citizens with blood on their hands to take refuge and begin life anew. The law also acts as a defense against other criminals who would attempt to disturb their harmonious safe haven.

Later, Kino meets a man looking for his lover who left five years ago. His fellow citizens refuse to tell him that she died during a rebellion when he unknowingly blew up her family’s car. Instead, they say she left on a trip. Kino soon discovers that the people in the car were doubles and that his lover escaped. The maid taking care of him is actually his lover, and the man knows, but neither of them reveals the secret so they can stay together. They lie to each other and the townsfolk just as they lie back to him. Everyone in the country is happy living this lie together. Here, KINO’S JOURNEY emphasizes that not everyone can accept reality. Sometimes people prefer to believe lies. Kino understands their desire to preserve the peace and leaves the country of liars without exposing them.

Shizu’s Journey: The Story of an Unwanted Hero

Occasionally joining Kino is a swordsman named Shizu. Shizu is more vocal and liberal with his opinions than Kino, which gets him into sticky situations like when he and Kino visit a country on a ship. The people on the ship are worked mercilessly by overlords. Travelers passing through can either stay in the tower with the overlords or live with the laborers. Kino chooses to stay in the tower while Shizu chooses the workers.

A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE: A Pure Journey

While Kino’s choice is unsettling, it shows a contrast between her and Shizu. Kino knows when to pick her battles. As a survivor of a horrific event in her own country, she knows the difference between those she can help, a lost cause, and those who don’t want help. On the other hand, Shizu always tries to help without thinking. When he discovers leaks in the ship, the representatives of the workers ignore his warning. They say they will always live happily on the ship. Shizu then confronts the overlords in an attempt to liberate the country, but his plan backfires. Even though the ship is sinking and the overlords leave, the citizens refuse to abandon the only homes they’ve ever known.

A few episodes later, Shizu visits a country where the citizens believe they’re being controlled by radio waves. Whenever a violent crime happens, the citizens blame it on the waves. Shizu later visits the radio tower to find it in ruins. When he returns to the town, the people cannot believe they were acting on their own the entire time. Angered, they attack Shizu for revealing this truth. In both of these episodes, we see Shizu attempting to help others and suffering the consequences for it. He means well, but he forces his own perspective and beliefs on a situation he knew almost nothing about.

Becoming a World Traveler

What do all of these countries teach us? First, with so many different ways of living, the people of KINO’S JOURNEY teach us that anything can be a home. Whether that’s a sinking ship, an iron fortress on Caterpillar wheels, or a motorcycle; home depends on you. Second, the show also teaches us that it’s impossible to know a situation fully. Everyone comes from different places with different cultures and has had their own experiences in life. We can’t place judgment on others or try to implement our own values on them. For us, it might seem wrong to let people stay on a sinking hunk of metal, but for them, that ship was their entire world. They were born there and can’t imagine life outside it.

Shizu sits on a beach and watches as the ship country sails away in KINO'S JOURNEY.
Shizu contemplates as the ship country sails away from the shore. | Image: Crunchyroll

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but not everyone will always agree with what we think is right. However, we should at least respect peoples’ boundaries and try to get to know them without implementing our own ideas and beliefs onto their experiences. In a way, the countries in KINO’S JOURNEY represent individuals.

Everyone has a mental world made up of their own thoughts, beliefs, traditions, and cultures. We need to accept that each one is different from our own. We can’t just trespass into their worlds and force people to see things our way. Like with the sinking ship or the country of radio waves, sometimes it’s better to leave people to their own devices. What we consider “help,” others might consider tyranny.

Jumping to a Conclusion

KINO’S JOURNEY doesn’t give a direct answer to its moral questions. However, in both of the Shizu-focused episodes, the show makes it clear that his actions were inconsiderate. The people on the ship were happy to remain blind and were angry when Shizu opened their eyes. Here, KINO’S JOURNEY tells us that ignorance is bliss. The show emphasizes this point later when Kino encounters the man and his lover who lie to the townsfolk. Then again, the show contradicts that point when Kino assassinates a dictator in the colosseum. So what is the show really saying?

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Every situation, country, and person is different, and we can’t come to the same conclusion with each one. When choosing to help bring about change or continuing a lie, KINO’S JOURNEY emphasizes that the right answer isn’t always what you agree with. For some, living in ignorance is the correct way until they’re told differently. Here, KINO’S JOURNEY pushes that it’s crucial to observe a situation entirely before making decisions. Enter another person’s world for three days and learn everything you can about them before you start an insurrection.

Overall, KINO’S JOURNEY is excellent. The art style is simple, yet breathtaking; it’s rich with nature and demonstrates a mastery of color selection. It’s the kind of show that you can’t stop thinking about even after you’ve finished watching. The anime is jam-packed with questions that leave the viewer’s head spinning. KINO’S JOURNEY: THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD provides a break from the myriad of rom-coms and other light-hearted anime. It takes you on a thought-provoking journey through the many worlds Kino visits, and indeed, maybe even the worlds of the people around you.

Featured image courtesy of Crunchyroll.

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