You know what’s more painful than that ending? Watching the rest of the episode whilst knowing full well what’s about to happen. Unlike the Colosseum episode, this was animated quite faithfully with an even cuter Sakura than before (sorry Aoi) but that just made the plot twist hurt even more. There were even massive flags raised the entire way through, from the subtle backdrop of a mountain (which was actually the volcano) when the episode started, to Hermes saying that this country might leave such strong memories that Kino will never forget it. I certainly haven’t forgotten it since the very first time I watched Kino – I haven’t come back to rewatch this particular episode before, but it’s incredibly hard to forget something like that when it was literally the final episode  of the 2003 series. The pyroclastic flow surging down and killing the entire populace was one of the very last scenes you were left with before the show ended, which left you with a sense of shock and disbelief much like Kino felt as she saw them all die without being able to do anything about it.

To me, it’s a little strange that they chose to animate this episode before doing Land of Adults. I know it’ll be the episode after this, but a lot of the subtext in A Kind Land is lost if you haven’t seen Land of Adults first – because, of course, Sakura is practically a carbon copy of Kino (Sakura) from before she met the real Kino. Like Kino (Sakura), the second Sakura’s parents run a hotel for travellers as well, Sakura herself has wonderful hopes and dreams, and was bullied with the same names as Kino was when she was a loli. The parallel will still be made clear in Episode 11, but the order ends up being weird because it’ll look like the original scenes are mimicking this episode, when in reality it’s the other way round. Every time Kino meets a kid who wants to be like her and go travelling, you’re reminded of Kino’s own origins, and so in terms of episode order it’d have been nice for Land of Adults to have come a little earlier. The comparisons would also feel less forced if the relevant episodes don’t come right after each other, and this was something the 2003 anime avoided with sufficient spacing as it had Land of Adults as Episode 4, with A Kind Land being Episode 13.

Anyway, one of the points that arguably was left unclear is whether Sakura actually knew that she was going to die. Her mother’s letter did state that only the adults knew, but Sakura’s gift suggests that she somehow found out about it as well, and came to the same conclusion as the adults did. I’m not actually sure which version I would prefer – because the latter would mean that, when she led Kino up to enjoy the panoramic view of the town and talked about her dreams for the, she very well knew that they would never come true. It also changes your perception of that scene in her inn where she chose not to join Kino (without Kino having said anything about agreeing to take her on) and become a traveller like her. You could say that it’s because she, just like the rest of the town, wanted to leave Kino with the happiest memories of them as they possibly could, but I’ve never really understood the supposed logic behind that. That’s because it would only work if, after Kino left, she had gotten far enough from the country to not know that everyone in it was about to die horribly. Anything she might or might not have thought about the country is warped now that she’s seen what she has. All she’ll remember instead is the decision the adults made, the image of the entire country being covered in lava, and her own selfishness in feeling a twisted sense of relief. It’ll certainly be something she never forgets, but for all the wrong reasons.

The other thing worth mentioning is that I definitely can’t agree with the decision the adults made. I don’t mean the fact that they themselves chose to stay – I do think that was foolish, but that’s their choice to make as autonomous adults. What didn’t sit right with me was the way they dragged all of the kids to their deaths with them. Sakura’s parents were clearly hesitant about it, but I have no idea how Sakura’s refusal to become a traveller and her decision to pursue her dreams within the country led them to the conclusion she should die with the rest of them. I also can’t imagine someone like Shishou’s former apprentice agreeing to die as well for the same reasons as Sakura’s parents and the other citizens (out of some sense of obligation and patriotism towards the country that gave them a place to belong after their ancestors were kicked out). It could be because he’s gotten old, I guess. He might have been reaching the end of his natural lifespan too. The point is, it leaves a bitter taste to know that not everyone in that country was aware of the impending eruption. All the other options might have been impractical – Kino can’t take Sakura along, it wouldn’t be great if the citizens were all left homeless if they evacuated, and it might not have been much better if just the adults died and the kids were booted out to save them. But at least with all of those scenarios, there are people still left alive. Surely that must be better than condemning everyone to death just because part of the population believes its the right thing to do, although admittedly it’s not the strangest way of life we’ve seen from a country’s inhabitants.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. jsyschan

    Just…why…. I keep on think of Orange episode 12 when I think about this story.

    I haven’t seen much of the old anime, and I really hate to compare it to the old one. It’s just nice at times to enjoy this series for what it is. I think I prefer Sakura’s character design a bit more here, and the gunsmith was definitely better here I feel, if you get the message.

    I really liked how expressive Kino was here, and this shows in her interactions with Sakura. Kino’s an awesome gun-wielding traveler, but don’t forget, she is still a teenager. In all the countries we seen thus far, she’s been kind of neutral in a mature-way, but seeing here in a town treating her especially well is nice. I guess it’s kind of nice to see her so….happy..for a lack of a better word here.

    When I first read Kino’s Journey, I had questions about Kino’s character, whether she was a good person or not. She’s steadfastly neutral in all her encounters, never trying to change things or such, just visiting and passing by, never really leaving any lasting change if any. I feel that this episode for an instant showed a bit of how Kino is a good person by showing her sadness at the situation. In some ways, the old anime expressed it a bit better through her body language and expression; here, she seemed slightly emotionless for my taste, but it’s alright. For me, I guess seeing this genuine sadness is proof that Kino’s a good person. Correct me if I’m wrong; perhaps I just genuinely want to see Kino like this.

    I read the manga of this story, and I read a translation of this on Baka Tsuki. In the translation, the wording was slightly different. This episode followed the manga. It’s this change from the translation that kind of confuses me. Is it truly egotistical for Kino to feel this way? Pragmatically, Hermes is right in that he can’t take two passengers, and subjecting Sakura to Kino’s life is questionable. Also, if Sakura’s parents were forced to do whatever it takes to save her, is that egotistical of them? Given the reputation of the town, is it egotistical of them to change after their bad reputation?

    I think in a way, Sakura probably knew, like you said. She seems intelligent enough to know about it somehow, hence the seed and the last note. It’s been three months I think since they found out, so Sakura must have had time to find out and process this. If she knew and left with Kino, that would probably change my view of her. Perhaps she was truly kind (unlike the others who wished that they would be remembered as a kind country).

    I guess to cap this comment off, I think in a way, the gunsmith is passing the torch along, so that his spirit live on through Kino.

    1. Vantage

      The gunsmith scenes were much better in light of Episode 7. Even with the Woodsman making an appearance and his direct reference to Master, I think it was still a little hard to figure out that he was Master’s apprentice if you weren’t paying attention. You could kind of see his younger self’s excitement after Kino accepted though, I really liked that.

      I think Kino’s deep sigh at the end (after reading Sakura’s letter) conveyed a lot. It felt like that was the final nail in the coffin for her, whether because of the way in which she found out the truth, or the realisation that a child willingly chose to give up her life. Kino definitely doesn’t show emotion very often, which adds impact to the rare times when she actually does. The only other time I remember off the top of my head is when she killed a bunch of people in a forest who tried to ambush her (I can’t remember the exact details of that story though).

      I guess egotistical is here synonymous for selfishness, or acting in the way one personally wants to or believes in. Which would make it egotistical of Sakura’s parents to have decided to take Sakura along with them to their deaths (while under the impression that she’s unaware of it all). Kino prioritising herself and her situation would also be egotistical. But in the end, I’m not sure we can fault these characters for acting like they did – if Sakura’s parents had forced Sakura out of the country in order to save her life, for example, it’d be equally as egotistical but not something I’d fault them for given that a child’s life is at stake.

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