「船の国」 (Fune no Kuni)
From the very beginning, the episode establishes that Shizu will be the focal point of our look into the Ship Country, but with this comes the consequences of his actions. While Kino has been solely focused on integration and non-intervention, especially after her intervention caused the Colosseum town to fall into disarray, Shizu sets out to right any of the wrongs he sees fit in the Ship Country. Right away, he finds opposition with the lack of concern and empathy the country’s leaders have towards the people that they are watching over, and is proactive in trying to enact change in the town he was visiting.
However, the town’s customs were so heavily ingrained through their history on the ship that it didn’t matter if it were to sink over the years or not because the villagers had never known a life away from the sea. Many are shaken up by the idea that the ground isn’t trembling from the flooding infrastructure or the crashing waves. Shizu’s actions in doing more to fight the established system only unleashed a reactionary tirade against him for getting rid of the town’s leaders by his own volition. It meshes well with the previous episodes as Kino and Shizu’s behavior bounce off of their actions in the last three episodes well. Shizu’s POV functioned well to draw a comparison between him and Kino’s traveling customs, but also contrast the two based on why Kino is less willing to intervene when things aren’t looking so hot.
The one positive aspect about Shizu is that his compassion for those around him is strong. He was perfectly fine with assimilating with the humble townspeople, and he wanted to make sure he was always there to help them. Shizu learns that his intervention was a reckless pursuit the hard way as Ti, the orphan who had acted as his tour guide during his visit, stabs him. But upon realizing that what he said and did was hurtful to Ti, who really didn’t have anywhere to return to, he was quick to defend her and accept her into his life. This was also after she stabbed him in the gut, which goes to show how much regret he felt about initially pushing her away, and how far he’d go to guarantee that Ti would have someone to care for her after all of these years alone without blood relatives that were among the ship’s villagers.
The episode mostly revolves around Shizu’s ethics, his relationship with Ti, and how he contrasts with Kino, so the Ship Country was one of the more simplistic towns they came across. Their rule to let visitors choose between the ruling and working class seems like it was added to portray how differently Shizu and Kino travel and assimilate into whichever town they visit. There isn’t too much in terms of sociopolitical commentary, but as a result, it lets those themes take a backseat in favor of examining the cast’s philosophies as they waver between intervening to right what they see as wrong and letting everything slide, or whether assimilation is as easy for those who haven’t had the chance to travel about to different living conditions.