OP: 「Here and There」 by Yanagi Nagi
This week, I knew this episode would be one of the few stories that appeared in the original anime, so I wanted to see how they did it to compare and contrast. I soon learned that this would be an unfair comparison given that the 2003 anime dedicated two episodes to the Colosseum arc where Kino is trapped in a death tournament for citizenship and a new law. It’s also where it became apparent that to make this particular series more of a “Greatest Hits” compilation, there are sacrifices they have to make to condense the arcs into half hour sections. While their take on Colosseum does trim some of the fat that was on the 2003 anime’s take on the story,
Because the tournament has to go lightning-fast, there isn’t much focus on the interpersonal relationships that grow with the competitors enough so that they’re fine with surrendering to Kino. The old mechanical man with the flamethrower trumpet is reduced to a jobber that Kino takes out swiftly. That cool woman with the grenades or the mustached man are no longer present. What made a bulk of the Colosseum story interesting was how they showed Kino interacting with other characters who happened to stumble across the town and into the tournament for their own reasons, whether it be to become an upper-class elite, to reform the land through their own law, or because they never knew anything in life, but killing. We learn through Kino’s experience that these people’s lives are worth preserving, and the circumstances they fell into don’t disqualify them from being humanized. Some surrender with a smile on their face while others do it in shame, but getting to know Kino still keeps the competitors cordial with her enough to trade advice or open their mind to surrender. The town is also barely explored as we aren’t given as much explanation or first-hand experience of the hierarchy between the slave class and the ruling class in this village, or the fact that even the guards have to contend with having to be slaves that live in the impoverished part of town despite working directly for the king. These aspects aren’t present in this episode, so it feels like the human element and risk is stripped away from the episode in favor of giving what it would look like if you were to summarize the story to someone in an elevator pitch.
By reducing the arc to merely Kino’s experience with the tournament, it takes much of the storytelling that made the story’s twists and turns so effective and emotional. We’re not given a single detail about Shizu, the competitor who turned out to be the kingdom’s son, until his match with Kino. In the old anime, this was told through the competitors being called to join the king in watching his favorite puppet show, which is obviously his own tale of murdering his father and wife. You can draw the lines that Shizu is the king’s son because of his reaction to all of this. The newer anime distills the king’s story into a conversation with Hermes as she makes the bullet that will kill the king. With the puppet show and the king’s other antics like asking the women in the competition to marry him to escape death in the ring or his call to have a competitor executed because he was angry also give you incentive to have as much interest in killing the king as Kino did. He plays no role in this episode other than to sit and watch the competition, so it just seems like target practice instead of this big shocking assassination against a gigantic turd of a person. Riku, Shizu’s dog, also only spoke with Hermes instead of Hermes and Kino, but I’m unsure of whether that was supposed to happen or what that means for events later in the series if they encounter more talking animals.
There is also something underwhelming about the fights in the episode. The speediness of getting Kino from the beginning to the Shizu match is one thing, but they don’t do much with the arena to display that Kino’s skills are in sharpshooting AND agility. In the old anime, Kino is a marksmen extraordinaire who ducks, bobs, and weaves behind the large rocks scattered throughout the arena. With this anime, the arena is so scarce that it feels like the only thing Kino has to do is stand from a far distance and aim to win. There was also something awesome about Kino quickly shooting off the officers’ helmets in response to their “Little Boy” or “Little Kino” remarks as opposed to just pointing the gun at the officer.
It’s not all doom and gloom about the episode on my end though because I thought they were effective in expressing Kino’s emotions a lot more openly in this remake. Kino takes it much harder when it’s revealed that the woman on the carriage turned out to be in the tragic scenario where she had the luck to surrender against her husband when they were forced into the tournament, but the husband had the misfortune of being matched up with an opponent that didn’t accept his surrender and killed him. That was one hidden blessing about condensing the arc in that the focus on having Kino aim to kill the king is intensified when we see Kino constantly reflecting back on that woman. In addition, we see the full scene of Kino’s law as it happens with her demand for everyone to fight until someone is crowned a king. The old series positions leaves it vague enough where it’s still chaotic, but only until they are able to find a suitable king from another tournament. In this one, there’s an outright brawl in the arena as Kino gets ready to leave. Her feelings are cemented with a scene where Kino throws a large rock in frustration into the river after thinking about how the woman on the carriage looked after leaving the town. While the episode does have Kino act more aggressively than in the old series, I feel like it does add something to see that side of Kino.
Understandably, the episode isn’t able to capture some of the stronger elements of the original Colosseum story in such a small amount of time, but for those who know the arc like the back of their hand and don’t feel like putting up with the lengthier segments of it, this episode provides a reasonable enough alternative. It’s still nice to see the anime with a modern sheen to it, and it was great to see some of the old scenes given new life in the HD landscape. Still, if you have the time, give Episodes 6 and 7 of the 2003 series a view to compare and contrast.