Back on the Road with Kino and Hermes
The curtain has finally risen on the first episode of the new Kino’s Journey, titled “Jungle’s Law: A Country Where One Can Kill Others.” I won’t get too into a comparison between the 2003 show and this new attempt, except to say: 3D animation elements aren’t always an improvement. The 2003 show made up for its lack of budget with an art style that felt almost like a world shown through a soft-focus lens: simple and minimal, almost magical, and only detailed when it truly needed to be. The new show seems to have the opposite problem. With a real animation and 3D CGI budget, everything bristles with detail, paradoxically making everything in the world look a little…mundane, by comparison.
Anyway, this first episode does manage to keep its viewer sufficiently off-balance with its setup. We begin following Kino in media res as she and Hermes motor toward a country with a reputation for lawlessness because killing is “not prohibited” by their laws (note the exact wording: it’s important). Kino learns most of the details of this dangerous-sounding country from a brash, annoying shounen manga stereotype of a man she meets on the side of the road, who is looking forward to living out his own personal Quentin Tarantino fantasy when he immigrates to the country in a few days.
Prepared for a rough time, Kino and Hermes enter the town on their guard. In classic Kino fashion, however, the reality of the town defies their expectations. The people of the town seem far more interested in filling Kino up with sweet crepes than hot lead. Their hospitality leaves Kino scratching her head a bit, as, ever perceptive, she can’t help but notice that everyone, from the very old to the very young, is subtly packing heat. The fact that the town looks like the set of a spaghetti western on the backlot of a Hollywood studio doesn’t help either.
Overall, the first episode of the new Kino is a bit simplistic.
Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the moral of this episode is, unfortunately, pretty easy to figure out. It’s a tale of community justice which anyone familiar with westerns will recognize instantly (and also a theme which The Ox-Bow Incident had some choice things to say about, actually…but that’s a commentary for another day).
Overall, the first episode of the new Kino is a bit simplistic, especially compared to the 2003 series. The show does pay homage to the classic Kino scenes: Kino’s quick draw practice before dawn; Kino and Hermes having deep conversations by the campfire, and it also keeps the old show’s idiosyncratic vocabulary alive by calling Motorcycles “Motorrads” and handguns “Persuaders.” Still, while the tone of episode 1 is sufficiently off-balance and mysterious, the moral is fairly trite and the villain entirely out of place. He might feel at home in Naruto or Haikyuu or some other equally histrionic series, but not in the pensive world of Kino. Fortunately he dies, and Kino moves on. So should we all, perhaps…