Beautiful cinnamon roll too good for this world, too pure.
Well. I must confess that, after last week’s Land of Liars, I was expecting a slightly comfier episode. Something like a cute story about flying planes in the sky, perhaps. But at least now I know who the cute girl in the OP is! I’ve always wondered who she was every week when sitting down to watch Kino (as well as why she was important enough to deserve a spot in the OP to begin with) and at last my questions have been answered. Unfortunately, I’m also getting the feeling that she won’t be a recurring character like Shizu is, which is a real shame as her life story is quite an interesting one.
I don’t like bullying. If you’ve read my posts on the Nanoha spinoff ViVid Strike, which aired around this time last year, you’ll know my stance on this very well. I still believe, to this day, that Rinne’s bullies had it coming when she severely maimed them and sent them to hospital as revenge for what they put her through. It’s important, by the way, to make a distinction between that and the sort of stuff you see in comedy or slapstick shows. The cute kind of bullying, like with Satania from Gabriel Dropout. What I don’t like is bullying to the point of abuse – the kind that goes way too far, leaving you feeling really uncomfortable and perturbed. That is easily what we saw today with Photo and how the merchants treated her. I mean, she was a slave. Putting aside the morality of it all, they were pretty terrible merchants in the first place – her productivity would clearly drop if they overly mistreated her, and if they sold her to a country that engaged in slavery (of which I’m sure there are many in that world) they could have turned over a nice profit given how cute she is.
Photo herself also irritated me slightly, given how zealously she stuck to her beliefs. I’m almost certain the country she came from was run by some sort of brainwashing cult, actually. The kind that preaches ideals that are virtuous and just to its followers, who end up being exploited and taken advantage of by whoever calls the shots. So I can understand why she was like that – because in the end, being a product of her environment, it’s not surprising that she would just mindlessly stick to what she was taught, and stay wilfully blind to the reality that not everyone was inherently good and should be forgiven no matter how cruel or abusive they are. Seen in that way, her subconscious desire to see the slave owners dead was her instinct as a self-respecting person coming to the forefront – it’s simply human nature to feel such emotions when faced with the prospect of being slowly tortured to death. I think that’s what the motorrad meant by Photo being a newborn human at the end – that first, she was free, and that second, she was finally starting to become a functional person after living her whole life the way she has, complete with the ugly human emotions that made her all the more human.
In the end, the characters in Kino are always exaggerated in terms of how their personalities are depicted. They’re meant to represent a certain way of life or standpoint such that the story becomes a microcosm of our real world society, which is why Photo and the merchants were so extreme in the way they acted. By turning the characters into caricatures like that, it becomes easier to put into perspective Photo’s decisions and think about them in more depth. For example, whether, even though the merchants mistreated her to the extent they did, she was right to forgive them still and try to save their lives. Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer, though I would steer towards a reminder that it’s a heavy thing to say that someone is beyond all forgiveness. At the same time, I think she definitely didn’t need to feel as bad as she did about the part she played (or didn’t play) in the deaths of the merchants. Her motorrad was absolutely right in saying that she couldn’t have done a thing to change the outcome. Even if she’d spoken up, they wouldn’t have listened. Everyone except for maybe the old man would have carried on eating after throwing some rocks at her. The self-preserving Kino would have happily sat back and watched them if she was in the same situation.
I’m really happy that things turned out well for Photo. Her world view was extremely unhealthy, if only because others would only be all too willing to take advantage of her kindness and idealistic beliefs. It’s admirable, sure, but it’s not realistic, and even if she left her home country on good terms she’d have ended up as a slave (metaphorically, if not in reality) before long, which might be why she was introduced as one. It’s sort of like how I feel about Shizu, except for very different reasons. As an episode, I think it’s the sort which tends to have more of an impact on you in the moment (though I’d love an episode or two featuring Photo on her travels before she decided to settle down). In hindsight, your memory of it can be condensed into something quite straightforward since its characters were so black and white, and it doesn’t leave you pondering in the way some of the others have.