Editorial of Kino’s Journey Episode 1: Land of Visible Pain

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“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:

 Overview:

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.

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Society Profile:

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.

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Analysis:

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.

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6 responses to “Editorial of Kino’s Journey Episode 1: Land of Visible Pain

  1. STELLIOOOOOOOOOOOOO <3

    Welp, I promised you I'd reply to every one! Here it goes!

    I'm going to start things off grand with a nitpick. Hermes has the perpetual intonation of a whiny child begging to go to the bathroom. The only reason he's there is as an idiotic foil for Kino's vague, pseudo-philosophical musings. It's not a huge issue, but Hermes has just always bothered me for some reason. Kinda like scan lines and every other snowballing super-bad idea in Kino's Journey 🙂

    This episode is an especially bad one. Kino's Journey is a show I was /certain/ I'd like, a show I really, really tried to like, so I was still in denial when I first watched this episode. But each successive episode allowed, or rather forced me to see more and more of thing thing called "the light".

    The downright common-sense and hamfisted moral the show is trying to extoll here is hardly worth spending an entire episode, or even a fragment of an episode over. Of course people don't like it when they can hear everyone's id. That's why people don't just shout whatever's on their mind the second it comes to them. And the only reason this episode is able to successfully introduce the characters is because there's fucking nothing to them. Kino is an empty-slated author mouthpiece, and Hermes is a imbecilic boycycle that needs to go to the bathroom. The people they meet are just as one-dimensional. The narrative arc of this episode is that of a… super, super flat thing (#ProSimile).

    In and of itself, this is an unsatisfying story, but what's worse is how it does the topic of the episode a great disservice by barely scratching the surface. Kino's Journey is a show that likes to overextend itself. In an attempt to examine a broad topic like "Communication" in one episode, it ends up being a mere morsel of what it could be: a somewhat fatal problem nearly every episode of the show has. There's so much more to communication that's left by the wayside, and when the one facet of communication you try to focus on is as insubstantial as this, it's hard not to be disappointed. Kino's Journey is basically a hastily cobbled together Cliff's Notes on things that can kinda sorta be considered philosophical. Other works, particularly in science fiction, have tackled every one of Kino's Journey's major themes with much greater success, because they give the proper care and attention to whatever subject they're covering.

    I also take issue with Kino's Journey's Grand's Structure's… Dissecting society in the way that it does is extremely problematic, and it ignores all the ways that difference facets of said society interact and coalesce. While this episode is one of the less egregious examples, I can't help but feel that the communication theme would be better served integrated naturally into a better, more well-realized setting, a la GitS: SAC. There's nothing particularly elucidating behind Kino's approach, it just ends up feeling dumbed and watered down.

    I think you're over-thinking it when you posit that the episode is supposed to be a commentary on technology's relativity to communication. There's nothing in the episode to really suggest that outside of happenstance. Sure, a technological advance is the catalyst for the episodes, but it's not really featured beyond that. That's not really comparable to our current situation with technology-fueled communication, unless you're really stretching it. The way we communicate is evolving constantly, and to frame the entirety of said communication under the hackneyed lens of "everyone speaking one's id", however inadvertently, would be a beyond base approach to take that borders on propaganda (another oh-so-lovely trait of Kino's Journey). I mean, we're having a perfectly civilized discourse here. Proof positive, yo.

    It's shit as a stand-alone story. It's shit as a social commentary. It's shit as a philosophical musing. Even as a piece of propaganda, it is shit. I haven't even gone into the terrible production values (pointless scan lines pls) and the show's idiotic back-of-the-box phrase, but we'll save that for next time!

    (inb4 "yeah, well, Utena is badegorical" :)))))))
    Now go learn mahjong 🙂

    • Your <3 made it almost okay to be as discombobulating as this post was. Almost. 🙂

      On the subject of the episode being unworthy of discussion: I don't think you can ever say that something isn’t worthy of “discussion.” One can sometimes learn the most out of questioning something very simple, very fundamental. In the case of this episode and Kino in general, the subject is executed properly. However, instead of spelling everything out, it constructs a society to scrutinize and often satirize everything that’s dysfunctional about it. If something shouldn’t be depicted or further analyzed in media, the problem doesn’t lie with the subject itself. Instead, it should be the treatment of the subject that matters, and not the media’s inclusion of it. Therefore, saying that it "is hardly worth spending an entire episode, or even a fragment of an episode over" -blank- is erroneous. Kino is merely being skeptical about traditional concepts of communication. Will you then argue that excessive skepticism, to the point of paranoia, is sometimes unnecessary, I would likely agree. However, Kino is not that; it's only taking from what's occurred over history and synthesizing its own commentaries alongside it.

      On the interpretation of the episode, and claims of it being propaganda: “By barely scratching the surface” is an over-generalization of what Kino’s Journey has done in this episode, though I do agree with you that this is one of the worse episodes Kino has to offer. However, this is partly justified because half of the episode is spent capturing and establishing Kino’s character. You can’t expect 20 minutes to be filled with astonishing character development and a fast-paced exposition of the matters entailed by communication, nor should you seek for it. Kino is none of that. It’s slow-paced and becomingly so.

      And you also compare Kino to other works of fiction, which I would say is pushing the boundaries. Sci-fi is a limitless genre to say the least, and cross-media comparisons are nauseating to begin with. Not only are they messy but the groundless concept in the first place is just ludicrous unless there was an undeniable influence or the like (besides the fact that most genres were invented in books in the first place). That said, Kino is special because it utilizes the fact that it is an anime fairly well. Frames that depict the atrocities invoked upon people, the indifferent personalities that people develop consequently (akin to victims of riots or wars), and how insignificant people are in stopping societal authorities are delivered at an all-time high quality. Kino does not aim to dissect a single a singular landscape, a futuristic setting in the case of GitS: SAC. I have ambivalent feelings claiming that Kino focuses mostly on historical themes, but I feel that maybe it’s even more than that. It basically preaches a philosophy that’s profound about human societies; it attempts to depict the world as it is and maybe always be, as long as some elements (most importantly human) exist in society. Its focus is neither on the exposition nor the functions of societies per se, but rather why and how they often lead to corruption. I know it’s silly to say but you can’t justifiably critique a show for its attempts at a simpler endeavor just because you don’t get to see the entire picture. World-building is important, and I think Kino does a fantastic job of it in its own respects, but whining about it “feeling dumbed and watered down” is just a personal preference about how a society should be explored. Should the viewer have closely bonded with the characters before the episode of the subject is over, should all the subjects be elucidated upon before moving on? I don’t know, it depends on the subject. And in the case of Kino, I think it does an excellent job at balancing rudimentary storytelling and a sense of pessimistic attitude imbibed into the work that doesn’t really require the meticulous elaborations that you suggest would help. Also, calling it Cliff’s Notes doesn’t make it unauthentic because Cliff’s Notes is legit, yo (not really, but seriously, you can’t do that man, and plus I don’t even use Cliff’s Notes often so I don’t really get what you’re saying. Tsk, tsk.).

      Telling me that my interpretation isn’t applicable because “there's nothing in the episode to really suggest that outside of happenstance” is also illogical. You do say that I’m stretching it, which admittedly I think I might be, but since the pieces of the puzzle still fits, it’s unfounded to say that my interpretation is ultimately fallacious. I’m basically extrapolating on what Kino has deftly presented and making my own interpretation of that in connection to modern-day technologies. Nothing wrong with that. Also I’m not one of those gurus who thinks that coincidences are a thing so… yeah *Penguindrum smirk*. The id is literally what happens but the interpretation that I offer is an overextending metaphor that Kino might or might not have attempted. Whether or not it was intended, I offer what I perceived. Your interpretation is probably more authentic since it’s taking the episode as is, but opinions, opinions.

      Still, your greatest fallacy of all is calling Kino propaganda. Please. Propaganda would mean that Kino’s Journey is a brainwashing piece of work that offers only a prejudiced side to the conflicts. And Kino is quite possibly the antithesis to that. It remains mostly neutral. Sure, it depicts death with sentimentality and makes the greater evils of societies seem corrupt—but isn’t that justifiable? That Kino is simply depicting the rigorous life as is, instead of painting it with rosy colors (which is what propaganda is essentially all about)? Since you don’t elaborate on this so-called "propaganda thing" (and it’s best that you don’t, because you’re wrong 🙂 I’ll just hope that that’s a typo or something.

      On the characters: Quit bullying Hermes; that’s just the way he talks. He does not ramble about "pseudo-philosophical musings," what you're looking for there is Julian Mintz from LotGH. Most of what Hermes says is to enhance the meaning of Kino’s journey, which he negligibly takes role in. And the parts he does take part in are still to add a subtle, heartwarming message. Like the episode in which Hermes meets Kino. And we’re not even to that episode yet, so hold your horses RMN pre-ejaculation. Kino the character is also a great character and not a gimmick utilized by the author as you suggest. That’s like critiquing a soldier for remaining silent after his family’s been killed; you’re merely asking for some ludicrous development out of the characters or something. Given her past she acts with prudence and her character remains intact with her somewhat damaged psyche; she remains consistently phlegmatic for that reason. Yes the characters Kino encounters aren't as fleshed out but that’s not the main goal to begin with as much as to depict to devastation that those characters will or have experienced.

      It's great as a stand-alone story. It's great as social commentary. It's great as a presentation of something profound. Even as a neutral and undogmatic philosophy, it is great. I haven't even gone into the great production values (and the greatest aphorisms of all times) and the show's immaculate front-of-the-box phrase, but we'll save that for next time!

      "Dolphy is not beautiful, therefore she is."

      Yeah, well, Utena is badegorical.
      Now love Ran and appreciate her beauty 🙂

  2. MY SIDEWAYS SMILY FACES ARE RUINED

    1/10 blog, never coming back.

  3. “On the subject of the episode being unworthy of discussion”

    First sentence and already strawman-ing! Slow down, stellio! No one said this. At all. I may think the actual subject is entirely insubstantial and not worth /the show/ exploring (as half-assed as it does), but I never said it wasn’t worthy of our discussion.

    “However, this is partly justified because half of the episode is spent capturing and establishing Kino’s character. ”

    Cool unsubstantiated claim there. WHAT CHARACTER? You’ve yet to explain what there is to her character, and why this could not have been more naturally accomplished in the “”””meat”””” (HAHAHAHA) of the episode. I’ve already said there’s absolutely nothing to her character. She is an empty-slated author mouthpiece of the worst kind, and the few fragments of characterization she does have changes at the drop of a hat when the author haphazardly needs it to (we’ll get to this in a later episode, when it rears its ugly head.)

    I don’t think propaganda means what you think it means. Just because Kino is a neutral to a fault, complete nothing of a protagonist, does not mean the show is. In each episode the show clearly has a stake in one side of the conflict. Ostensibly, this is fine; writing from a certain distinct point of view–one /trying/ to explain their stake in any given conflict–is fine. The problem arises when you have to be incredibly reductionistic to the other side of the conflict to make your point, and Kino is blatantly guilty of this at every turn. It’s mostly harmless, at least in a sociological respect, but it is propaganda nonetheless.

    I did not compare Kino directly to any sci-fi. I merely used sci-fi as an example. Kino’s stories are sci-fi in essence, the standby “what if…” questions that each episode is founded on are a benchmark of sci-fi. The difference between Kino and its ilk is that Kino NEVER goes into any of its subjects nearly enough. It gives you an horribly insubstantial and one-sided taste of it and never goes further. Sci-fi is at its best when it picks a subject, explores the subject to its fullest, and allows time for exploring the difference facets of their central thesis.

    NOT DRAWING ANY DIRECT COMPARISONS HERE EVEN THOUGH YOU TOTES COULD WITH THAT SHITTY “NO ONE NEEDS TO WORK” EPISODE LATER IN THE SHOW, but books like Player Piano by my homeboy Kurt Vonnegut take their subject and thoroughly explore every aspect of their story, from many different perspectives. His authorial point in that book was strong enough, as was his respect for the audience’s intelligence, that he could explicate several different and conflicting sides of the conflict (imagine that! :O) without being blatant reductionistic to either side. And it’s a much stronger work for it. It has a clear perspective without veering into propaganda.

    Cliff’s Notes are just truncated, soulless books detailing certain bullet points of their subject novel/whatever. Kino, being an entirely insubstantial, one-sided, and unfulfilling work, fits the bill perfectly. It never delves into its subjects nearly enough and merely gives a fatally amputee’d version of whatever hamfisted moral/philosophy it’s belligerently attempting to delineate.

    “Like the episode in which Hermes meets Kino”

    hahahaha, we’re going to have some “”fun”” with that one. The entire foundation of Kino’s character is so fucking bad and steeped in the show’s own shitty problems, but yes we’ll get to that one when it comes (namely, never, because you have stopped writing these).

    “Even as a neutral and undogmatic philosophy, it is great.”

    PFFT

    “I haven’t even gone into the great production values”

    PPPPFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTTT

    PS, Ichigo > Ran

    PPS, just admit you were wrong all along, end this silly charade, and go learn mahjong.

    PPPS, not proofreading because you sure didn’t.

    • u r (not) right; u r (not) fat.

      by logic, i win. woof!

      (i’ll try to respond to this THING after i’m done writing posts for the rest of the episodes so then we’ll have more variety to discuss.)

      i also hate stress and i get stressed having only 1 post to respond to, making it feel as if it all counts on this one reply to this one specific episode, when it rlly doesnt. anyway hope you can understand, because you are wrong arigatou~