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Kino's Journey: Volume 1

Written by: Chris Verkoeyen "demandred5151"
Studio: ADV Films
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Release: 2004
Running Time: approx. 100 minutes
Episodes 1 - 4 (1st of 4 DVDs)

Overall Rating: A-

Description:

Kino is a Traveler, a drifter who lives off the land. She packs two pistols, and more knives than can be easily counted. She has no one for company but her sentient motorcycle Hermes. Together Kino and Hermes explore their world and the many unique cities and wonders it contains. The only rule Kino lives by is: Do not stay in one place for more than 3 days. For if Kino were to stop traveling, she would cease to be a Traveler.

 

Packaging:


Volume 1 of Kino's Journey, titled "Idle Adventurer", comes in a standard white clamshell case, but I am pleased to note that the nubs holding the disk in are the best kind (the yin-yang symbol that says press here). The DVD cover is striking, showing a solemn Kino gazing out at you, while behind her are strange symbols on a black and blue background. The back cover is also well done, and there's a small poem to boot.

 

Menus:
 

Nothing fancy here. The main menu shows Kino and Hermes amongst blowing leaves, while scenes of the countryside change in the background. Submenus feature more shifting scenery. Load times are nice and fast.

 

Audio:


Crisp and clean, especially the 5.1 English track. Only at the beginning of episode 3 where Kino whispers to herself is there a need to up the volume a bit. Both vocal casts put in strong performances. I particularly liked Cynthia Martinez's gruff Hermes. The opening theme, "All the Way" by Mikuni Shimokawa, is fantastic and has become one of my favourite anime songs. Unfortunately the ending, "The Beatiful World" by Ai Maeda, doesn't quite measure up. It's okay, but she should stick to acting (and looking cute!)

Visual:

A bit of a letdown when compared to the wonderful cover art. Except for Kino, character designs are a bit simplistic. Colours have a slightly washed out appearance. And if you look closely at the screen you'll notice faint horizontal lines. I thought there was something wrong with my DVD, but apparently these were put there by the director to give a more aged feeling to the visuals. Not really a big deal, they're hard to see anyways. The animation itself is surprisingly fluid. The few action scenes are all nicely done. And there is no recycled footage or long, pointless pans.

 

Extras:


The disk contains the standard ADV offering of clean opening/closing, production art and previews. Inside the cover, the insert opens up to reveal a short story by Keiichi Shigusawa, the author of the Kino's Journey series of novels. A nice touch that sets the mood for the anime itself.

 

Content (beware, contains spoilers):

 

Understandably, the fact that Kino and Hermes stay no more than 3 days in any country gives the series a very episodic feel. Each country has its own unique customs, some strange, others repulsive, and Kino and Hermes discuss these and try and fit them into their own worldview. This is not a series that has a clearly defined plot to track through it. Rather, each episode seeks to raise an issue and have the characters ponder it. The first episode shows a country where every person avoids human contact. In the second episode Kino mulls over how we should weigh life. The third features a country whose people live their lives by the prophecies of a book. The fourth delves into Kino's own past. Taken alone, each is an effective exploration of a moral dilemna or a commentary on humans in general. Together they illustrate, as the series' tagline states, that "The world is not beautiful; therefore, it is."

Conclusion:

A solid start to a very unique series. I enjoyed it, but would advise you to first sample an episode or two before rushing out to buy it. But if you're one who welcomes a bit of philosophizing in your anime, then here's the show for you.