It’s time to look at the new Kino series. This one is effectively a remake of the old one in a way as some stories are re-adapted while others are looked at for the first time. Since the series is an anthology in a sense the stories will always differ a bit. Anthologies are still the riskiest type of story telling since there are so many different adventures that one is bound to drag the rest down. Unfortunately this was the case here. They say that a bad ending can hurt the whole product and it is true. An ending can really change things and this series had one of the worst final episodes I’ve ever seen.
The basic premise of the series is that Kino and her sentient bike Hermes travel the world seeing a lot of different countries. Their rule is that they can’t stay anywhere for more than 3 days. That’s because any longer and you may get attached to the place, but Kino wants to stay a traveler for her whole life. She has to keep on moving and so she follows this rule. That’s also why the series is able to be an anthology as each place is different. There is also a different main character for some episodes but more on that later. As an anthology it makes sense to look at the episodes so lets take a look at each adventure.
Our first episode sees Kino head into a country where murder is legal. As a result you’d expect the place to be very chaotic but it’s strangely peaceful. Kino enjoys the place quite a bit although she keeps her guard up at all times just in case. After all most places tend to seem better than they are. The twist here is handled pretty well and ends up making the place one of the better towns we’ve seen in the series. It’s certainly not an area to be trifled with and I think Kino would have fit in quite well.
Next up was one of the better episodes where we meet the other main character Shizu and his dog Riku. Kino enters a land where she is forced to participate in a tournament against other fighters. It’s all held under the authority of a corrupt king who forces travelers to participate and most if not all of them end up murdered. Kino begins taking down all her opponents and aims to seemingly end this while Shizu has similar goals. It’s a pretty intense episode and we get more fight scenes than usual which is nice. Shizu is also a good fighter so Kino finally has a good rival. Typically in the series she is portrayed as being pretty much invincible.
The twist ending here is definitely unexpected as it portrays Kino as being particularly merciless. We know that she is not a hero, but in this episode she goes as far as to basically be a big villain. She is directly responsible for triggering a mass murder at the end of the episode and she did so intentionally. It’s hard to really forgive her for this by the end and for the rest of the series you probably won’t be rooting for her quite as much. It’s possible for a hero to become a villain that you still root for sort of like Garou but the goals are a big part of that. Kino really doesn’t have any goals which hurts her personality.
In the third episode we see a moving country that likes to roll right over other countries as it destroys them entirely. The country has the same mission as Kino, to travel the world. The main difference is that the entire country moves around and it’s inside a giant armored shell so they just blow up anyone who tries to stop them. One country refuses to move and they end up paying the price. Kino gladly helps the moving country take care of these guys as well. They are giving her a free ride after all. It’s an interesting concept to have a moving country like this but you’re definitely hoping someone does shut these guys down soon.
Next up we got the return of Shizu as he finds a shady country that lives on a big boat. The boat is failing so eventually everyone is going to die. Shizu warns the leaders of this, but they refuse to listen. He doesn’t want to let everyone die so he decides to stop the boat by force only to be met up with the main antagonist Kino. She is working for the boat guys and so they have to have another fight. Shizu also meets a little girl named Ti who has had a pretty tough time of it and decides to adopt her. He intends to find a nice country where they can finally relax but it’ll be tough to find a good place. This was another fun episode in part because Shizu is just such a great lead. This guy’s a hero who is out to stop the villains whenever possible and I’d be up for a full series about him.
The next episode involves a lot of lies within lies. Kino finds out about some people who seemingly died, but then again maybe they didn’t. It’s an interesting concept where everyone knows the lie, but they don’t know that the others do. It’s an infinite loop where everyone has to play dumb until someone makes the first move. It’s a little tragic for everyone involved, so Kino just takes a sip of tea and leaves them to it. I do think the whole situation may make you roll your eyes a bit. Hopefully the characters just allow themselves to learn the truth at some point.
Following that up was the darkest episode in the season and certainly the weakest one aside from the final episode. We see a travelling caravan of merchants who have a slave girl with them. They force her to do all of the chores and such without really letting her eat or anything. The whole episode is them mistreating her as she tries to keep on a brave face throughout. They go to a poisonous area and everyone ends up dying except her. She gets a happy ending, but the episode is pretty unpleasant. For a while you may even think this was Kino’s origin story since there are a lot of similarities to the lead, but ultimately the episode doesn’t go down that route.
After that we got a pretty solid episode with Kino’s master and her partner. They enter a town where the partner is arrested and so she decides to break him out and they take over the town. We get some fun spy scenes and I like both the Master and the Partner. These two characters have a really solid dynamic and they have their epic entrance theme. The town definitely gets wrecked pretty badly by the two characters, but in the end they all get a reasonably happy ending. The Master’s team definitely won though. It was a fun prequel adventure and I’d be glad to see more of those.
Next up we see Shizu again. There’s this one town where people randomly turn evil and start murdering others once in a while. They blame it on radio waves so people don’t get arrested and go back to living normal lives. It’s pretty dark since everyone knows they get one chance to do something as evil as they want and there will be no punishment. Shizu goes out to the tower to prove that this is fake, but the town refuses to believe him. He does his best to change their minds, but is ultimately forced to leave with the assistance of Ti who causes a distraction. Shizu makes for an interesting lead as always, but the episode does cross into extra grim territory with everyone in the school getting murdered. It was definitely a twisted town.
The next episode was an anthology inside of an anthology which was definitely an odd choice. The stories were fun enough but the highlight was the two bandits who are wondering who they should try to rob. Kino passes by them and they wisely decide not to attack her since they would have been promptly murdered. Then you have Shizu’s group and again the bandits decide not to attack since they’d be sliced and diced. We find out that the reason why they are so wary is because they tried attacking Kino’s master once and lost most of their men real quick. Being a bandit just doesn’t pay off in the end.
After that we get an emotional story where Kino heads to a town that is known to be really mean to strangers. Surprisingly everyone is nice to her and she has a good time. It all seems pretty odd but she takes it in stride before leaving. Naturally there is a pretty big twist to the episode and the ending does make a lot of sense. Naturally Kino had to wreck this ending by pointing out that her first thought was almost a glad one because she didn’t want the extra responsibility of watching over someone. If you want extra context for this you’ll need to see the episode but it’s such a terrible first reaction to what just happened.
Next up was Kino’s big origin story. She grew up in a country where things get pretty dicey for kids and the original Kino learned this the hard way. It was nice to see the first Kino even though he looked pretty bad here. He’s definitely not quite as well trained as the current main character. It’s an interesting enough story. There’s not really a twist here compared to most of the other stories, but I suppose an origin didn’t really need a twist right?
Then we’ve got the terrible final episode. Kino and Hermes are travelling between lands when they run into a bunch of sheep. These sheep are particularly violent and just want to murder all travelers. Naturally Kino and Hermes are not exempt from this and so they have to be on the run. There is no escape though so Kino decides that she will murder all of them and does just that. The majority of the episode is Kino blasting them with fire, running over them, and then shooting them. It’s a really mean spirited episode that threw in a lot of animal violence for no reason. It’s a shame because the series hadn’t really had any animal violence before that. It was hard to believe what I was watching with that ending.
The character cast is very small since most of the stories make up their own leads. Hermes is a reasonable sidekick to Kino, but he does feel like a yes man half the time. He always gives her assurances that what she is doing isn’t all that bad which helps to justify her behavior. He’s also pretty helpless without her so it’s not like he can help much. Kino’s a unique character since she just looks out for herself and comes off as more of a villain than a hero half the time. She just wants to have a good time and so she does whatever she wants. If a villain helps her out she will likely return the favor and she doesn’t want to be burdened by anyone. I really wasn’t a fan of her in this series.
Shizu was great though and he stood out even more than in the original series. He was a great lead in all of his episodes and part of what made him so good is that he’s looking out for Ti. It’s not easy to have to be looking out for someone else like this, but he was ready. His dog’s decent, but the weakest of the 3. Meanwhile Ti is solid. She knows how to fight a bit with grenades and is a very solid supporting character to have. Her dynamic with Shizu is really good. I said it earlier, but I’d like to see more of them. Meanwhile the Master and her partner were also good. I liked the partner’s confidence. The Master tends to slam his ideas down, but he never loses his nerve and keeps on trying to be helpful.
The animation is pretty good. I wouldn’t call it excellent or anything like that as it’s going for a bit of a simple style, but it still looks clear enough to me. The character designs are on point and we get some nice action scenes as well. The best action scenes are always with Kino’s old mentor as they take the place down. We usually quickly cut away to the aftermath as this series isn’t really about the action but it works well when it occurs. The soundtrack is more low key so that part isn’t as impressive. I did like one theme though and coincidentally it always shows up for the mentor as well. It’s the main battle theme of the series.
So the series definitely has its ups and downs. One thing I’ll give the series is that it’s usually pretty interesting. Take away 3-4 episodes and the rest of it was pretty solid with the twists and that Twilight Zone feel. The series is at its best when everything feels rather odd and you don’t know what to expect. The mystery is what the series thrives on. If we ever get an actual arc where the whole season is one story I think that would have a lot of potential. I really wouldn’t mind if we switched main characters though.
Overall, Kino’s Journey is a series that will have a hard time really hitting the next level. Anthologies just limit themselves with the style that they have and I would say that the original Kino’s Journey was a little better. The title is like a modern day Twilight Zone so if that sounds interesting to you then you should check it out. Each episode has a different theme going on and there is usually a twist. Some episodes can be very light hearted and fun while others can be dark and dreary. You never know quite what you’re about to get. If you want a series that’s more consistent with its tone then you should check out Black Clover instead. That one’s sure to deliver with the epic fight scenes for you.