「人を殺すことができる国」 (Hito o Korosu Koto ga Dekiru Kuni)
“A Country Where People Can Kill Others”
I have to come clean about something; I’ve only seen two episodes of the 2003 anime back when I got the boxset a few years back. It was one of those shows I kept meaning to return to, but was always sidetracked by one thing or another. From the two episodes I’ve seen, I admired the central plot of Kino no Tabi as our titular character went on a journey across the world with talking motorcycle Hermes as they examine the town’s way of living. Because much of the world has a fantastical, magical tinge to it, the vast differences in each country’s culture offer up philosophical lessons for Kino to mull over while taking three day visits to each country.
As details came out about this soft remake of Kino no Tabi, many fans of the series were skeptical about whether it could match how great the first series turned out. The new voice actress for Kino (Yuuki Aoi), Kino’s cuter eyes, the director’s history with Persona 4 The Golden ANIMATION, and some of the CG on Hermes (Saito Soma) planted the seed of doubt in some commentators. However, most, if not all, can rest easier about the concerns of another Berserk-style remake because the first episode of Kino no Tabi -the Beautiful World- is nothing short of fantastic!
Aside from the occasional CG from Hermes, a majority of the anime has stunning background designs, and art that fits well with the universe that Kino no Tabi portrays. At the beginning, it was jarring to see Kino with such cute eyes compared to the older artwork, but it was barely noticeable as the episode went on, and it works with Kino’s newer design on the LN covers. I absolutely loved Yuuki Aoi’s voice as Kino considering that she gives Kino a lot of justice by matching well with the character’s low pitch tone that made Maeda Ai and Kelli Cousins‘ performances so memorable. Yuuki captures the curiosity, worry, and fascination that Kino has about the places Kino discovers. Although there’s a new coat of paint that’s a little brighter and fancier, it still remains the same Kino no Tabi in spirit and execution.
Considering that this new series adapts the more beloved segments from the light novel, we begin on a different note from the original with an adaptation of “A Country Where People Can Kill Others”. Despite not exactly starting up on the beginning, it proves to be a great starting point for the remake as it gives us a glimpse into Kino’s motivations, personality, and behavior without feeling like it has to provide a large infodump. What we find out about Kino and Hermes within the story comes along naturally as they navigate through a country where murder is not prohibited. As someone whose knowledge on the series isn’t as great as it should be, following along was simple and compatible, yet didn’t hand-hold too much to the point of being distracting.
The chapter they started with approached the complicated nature of law and order in a society where murder is the backbone of how a country operates and governs. The townspeople are all armed to the teeth in case they need the guns and knifes they need if they have to kill that day. Because of this, and the perception from some outsiders like this violent blonde man that it’s a playground for murderers, we are left on the edge of our seats along with Kino about when it’ll hit the fan. The episode effectively plays around with the uneasiness the town gives off as it’s all too calm and peaceful for a town where it isn’t illegal to kill. With every hint Kino picks up on like the shotgun in the back of a counter or an old lady with a pistol in her purse, it gives off this eerie feeling where we’re not exactly sure when someone will be murdered, or when someone has to kill. Exchanges Kino has with other townsfolk are tense the more they inquire that maybe Kino would enjoy being in a town where you could kill people. It has this paranoid thriller feel to it where Kino stays on-guard and prepared for the off-chance Kino encounters a killer, or for the occasion when the townspeople go all guns ablazing.
It’s not until the blonde man resurfaces, who wants to make Kino his first kill in town when all of the sudden, Kino finds out why exactly the town allows murder. The town has been able to preserve the peace it has by weeding out those who cause a disturbance with the blonde man being made an example of by having the whole town ascend on him as they shoot him with arrows and stab him. On one end, it’s the freakiest image to see everyone from tough bruisers to old ladies carrying weapons with a blank face as they prepare to kill whoever causes a ruckus in town. On the flip side, the episode proposes the idea that the town is still a peaceful one, and it has been possible to make the town one of the safest places to live in by having a town-mandated execution for anyone who comes expecting to abuse their murder law to kill whomever they want. This is solidified further when Kino meets a grizzled-looking man near the same lake the blonde man was lounging at, but instead of asking if Kino’s heading to the super cool murder town, he is asking if the town is as peaceful as he hears because he wanted to escape from the violent town he came from for safety and crepes.
After Kino learns that the town maintains the peace because they only kill when it’s necessary for their serenity, it comes off like a poetic way of how different people perceive the town. Someone obsessed with violence would be excited about the prospect of being able to whip out a gun or knife wherever they want, and get away with murder, but a pacifist would see a town like this as a safe haven from places where violence can be encountered regularly. It offers a complicated, but unique take on how people are able to co-exist in a violent society, or exactly how free or safe a town is where everyone unanimously decides who should be killed.
The new Kino no Tabi is beginning on the right note by maintaining what made Kino’s journey from country to country so thought-provoking and intriguing. I’m excited for what will come next as someone who is relatively new to the series, and it reinvigorated what I drew me to the older episodes. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep the momentum they’ve built up so far going, but from the looks of the first episode, I have faith that they understand what made the stories click, and will continue to explore the deeper nuances of Kino and Hermes’ adventure.
ED: 「砂糖玉の月」 (Satoutama no Tsuki) by Yanagi Nagi