“Whenever people see birds flying through the sky, it’s said that they get the urge to go on a journey.”
To begin, I should mention that this will be part of a mini-meta-commentary-esque-ish series that I will be working on—all parts and parcels for the interpretation of Kino no Tabi in its entirety. That is, analysis of each and every episode in the original TV Series, and perhaps the specials. This is a diverse and, considered by many, allegorical series, thus sometimes necessitating the knowledge of other scholarly
magicians mahou shoujos. DDK will be collaborating with me to write some blog posts, while “shorter” episodes will less likely get this treatment. Without further ado:
This is one of the shorter episodes in which the plot focuses more on Kino and less about the society that Kino is visiting. It’s the introduction episode, after all. The beginning commences in a blurred flashback with Hermes, Kino’s talking motorcycle (yes, he is an abnormal motorcycle), complaining about the adverse, dry weather. The setting reminds one of the constantly recurring desert imagery in Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, or just any isolated debris altogether.
On the surface, this is a desolating country entirely run by machines. And that is partly true. However, this country initially had a peaceful reign and a successful scientific breakthrough with the creation of a chemical which allowed everyone who drank it to read minds (telepathy). Believing it to be a remedy for ambiguity and miscommunication, a majority of people tried it. The result? With no antidote and no take-backs, society turned into chaos. Minuscule thoughts and loathings would be transferred to one another, relationships became corrupt after excessive transfusion, and worst of all, people isolated themselves as the only solution to live. Henceforth, people led on humble and peaceful lives through individual agriculture, pastimes, etc., leaving all the technical works to robots.
Much like telekinesis and other psychology theories, telepathy and mass distributions of supernatural powers are a recipe for disaster. Quite literally, the society regresses whilst aiming to achieve what is theoretically and inherently inhuman. The consequential phenomenon reveals the importance of prudence; the resolve with responsible tongues; the boundaries of humanity; and the necessity for “authentic” communication.
Partially embodying a negative connotation towards technology, the supposed remedy for communication is in fact a dosage of horrifically effective hallucinogenic drugs. The delineation of human interaction is very vague, and the dynamics surrounding it even more so. Perhaps what this episode suggests is that human interactions, especially verbal ones (a traditional and one of the oldest means of communication), need not be over the Internet, phone, or via email; human interactions cannot be replaced by technology. Although the provided examples may not be extremely prevalent as of today, the exaggerated telepathy model appears to be a reasonable comparison for the concern. And sure, technology can be an enhancement, but the imperfection of human speeches and languages are often what makes them rightfully human. It’s cliched to say, but we need our facets, lies, and alibis, to have rewarding, healthy conditions, in contrast. Plus, ambiguity makes the puns which make the subtly awesome jokes.
One of the intriguing things is that the entirety of the society’s bizarre condition is told through the lens of a man who fell in love with a woman, who, with the help of telepathy, realized her and the man’s mutual love for each other. Aw, how romantic. Except not, because that very power drives them away from each other as they soon realize the incompatibility of their separate interests. The woman leaves, eventually. Prior to obtaining telepathy, the woman had a quirk: she liked gardens. Likewise, the man had a quirk: he liked listening to a particular song. Together they shared those quirks, and despite caring less about each other’s values at first, both amusements end up being prominent roles in their attempts to cope with themselves and loneliness.
How bittersweet, yet how befittingly Kino.