「いろいろな国」 (Iroiro na Kuni)
That pun has been stirring about in my head for some time, and now I finally have a reason to use it! Besides that, this episode is unique in that it takes on an anthology format, opting for multiple stories at once instead of one or two stories that thematically connect. While all the stories have a hard time meshing together with the tonal shift between thought-provoking and heart-warming happening every so often, what works to the episode’s advantage is how strong the stories they compiled are.
The prologue worked well to reintroduce the key characters in the series with Kino, Shizu’s party, and Shishou playing parts in the narrative. The old robber’s weariness makes it clear how easily he can read the signs that Shizu and Kino are more threatening than they look, but he also elaborates on just how scary Shishou and her friend were. From his memory, it seems that she and her friend shot most of his friends after they tried to rob her, causing him to freak out in present day. It solidifies how fearsome she is to people outside of those she personally knew, but it was one of the shorter segments of the episode so there was only so much that could be fit in.
The Country of Accruing Value was the most harrowing of the stories in the episode. The gradual build-up as we see the former president go from calmly talking about the country’s merit systems to frantically shouting about why he’s been a model citizen up to this point is effective in setting the wheels in motion for his moral collapse. Whereas the system in place in the town wants to give citizens a sense of pride and accomplishment for doing good deeds around town, the president got as far as he did with the sole intent of accruing enough merit to get away with murder. His first mistake was approaching Kino as his first candidate for his wrath considering how armed to the teeth Kino is. His withdrawal, however, made it all the more creepier when his expression went blank while mulling over the idea of killing a baby.
The remaining shorts aren’t as intense with the one to follow being a cute side story where Kino ends up contributing to a Cooking Town’s regional dish with her favorite, Kino’s Fried Chicken (Or KFC, if you must). As a fan of spicy food, it’s great to see that Kino considers a plate that has as many chili peppers as there is chicken, sansho peppers, and a cup of vinegar to be the perfect meal. Someone ended up creating a milder version they paired up with her version (But at that point, that ain’t KFC; That’s your FC!), but it makes me curious about how the town itself works, how you get the connections to create a regional dish for them, and who made the mild version of the chicken recipe.
Ti’s wish is a smaller section where we see how she has developed since being a part of Shizu’s journey. She makes a wish on a wall of prayers for the all wishes on the statue to become true out of pity for those who hold so much onto the idea of placing faith in their wishes and beliefs. Again, it’s too short to let linger for longer, but it is nice to see Ti learn about having sympathy in those around her.
The last section is interesting because of the mystery behind why The Country of Memories made such a big impression on Shishou is because they wipe away your memories of your experience in the town. There is some missed opportunity for not letting it play out a little longer with Kino slowly getting hints of what exactly happened in the town outside of some notes and a drawing, but the impression they want to give you is ultimately that the town is so pleasant that they don’t want any lingering memories of what happens inside of it to leak outside the town. It plays into the idea of making the town’s experiences exclusive to those who live there, but what this segment left me with was how great the chemistry can get between Kino and Hermes. Kino trying to get any tidbit of information out of Hermes, whose existence as a motorrad allows him to retain all of the memories of the visit, is extremely cute as she gets frustrated about his insistence on keeping it a secret.
Episode 09 has the fortune of being a combination of decent short stories within the cast’s travels, even if some of the segments are adaptated at too short a length to let the developments and stories simmer. What was incredibly touching was the afterword that creator Sigsawa Keiichi left in the ending credits in this episode. Apparently, he’s been wanting to create an animated afterword since he wrote Volume 7 in 2003, when the first anime was released. Now that he has the power to fit an afterword into the ED, he uses this anecdote as a way to encourage viewers not to give up on their dreams. It’s a gratifying, inspirational way to end the episode, though I am surprised they pulled it out while there’s still a couple more to go.
Afterword from Sigsawa Keiichi