“Colosseum”: A Blast from the Past?
I’ve got to start this review by admitting something. Right now, I feel like the proverbial old man shaking his stick and yelling “get off my lawn” to the new kids. You see, “Colosseum,” this week’s episode of Kino’s Journey, was also one of the best episodes from the 2003 Kino and I’m afraid I prefer the old show’s adaptation of this story in almost every way. (Or rather, it was two of the best episodes since anime studio A.C.G.T. did it in two parts). I believe, however, that most of you will not have seen the old, and would be quite bored by a comparison with the new, so going forward I will be attempting to judge this episode strictly on its own merits. Watch the old one if you like the new; that’s all I’ll recommend.
Anyway, “Colosseum” tells a powerful, thought-provoking story of violence and morality. As the name suggests, it’s an episode centered around a gladiatorial tournament—think Kino’s take on The Hunger Games (even though Kino came first). Instead of getting to visit a highly anticipated country, supposedly full of lush forests and plush living, Kino instead finds herself fighting for her life in a tournament for citizenship, in a country that is, in fact, rife with class conflict and despotism. Any traveler passing through the country is automatically roped into the fights, with the promise of both citizenship and the ability to make a new law if they win.
Unfortunately, however, because of time constraints, we have to learn many of the details of this woeful country’s decline from Hermes in a particularly egregious dump of exposition somewhere in the middle of the episode. The moral is still strong and the climax quite shocking, but our ability as viewers to connect with and feel the plight of the country’s citizens is lessened dramatically by the fact that we don’t get to hear their stories firsthand. Still, the action is riveting, and the CG animation gives us some beautiful sequences that would not have been possible 14 years ago. Of particular visual note is the denouement, where Kino throwing rocks into a clear blue pond gives us a symbolistic glimpse into her troubled mind.
This episode also introduces us to Shizu, a master swordsman with a talking dog (which Hermes is, ironically, shocked by). In many senses, this episode serves as his origin story, and based on his appearance in the show’s opening sequence (seen in this episode for the first time), he may play a recurring role.
Overall, while beautiful, compelling, and action-packed, this episode is ultimately a victim of its own tight pacing. It works well and tells a heck of a tale, but…well…again, I have to say, watch the 2003 show if you want the full backstory.