Loli Kino is a miracle of the universe.
After having so many fresh episodes to enjoy, it’s a weird feeling to suddenly have them re-adapt two of the older stories back to back with A Kind Land and Land of Adults. Firstly, I think I finally recognise all of the references in the OP. As the season went on, characters like Photo or Ti became familiar to me, but the three scenes I didn’t understand until this episode was the man with the coat and his back turned to the camera, the loli with the long hair and the strange ladder-like ornament with angels and people around it. The loli is, of course, Kino (Sakura), the ornament is meant to be some kind of ‘stairway’ representing the transition that children in Kino’s home country make to becoming adults, and the man is the first Kino. I didn’t recognise him at all because they changed his design so much! He used to have glasses and black hair, with a different haircut! I mean Shizu changed as well, but not this drastically!
I can’t quite remember, but I also have a feeling that there were some lines missing from this version of Land of Adults. I’m pretty sure there was a line about birds somewhere – because later on, in another story, Kino (Sakura) says something to Hermes about how people get an urge to travel whenever they see birds flying in the sky. Hermes asks her who told her that, and Kino (Sakura) says she forgot, when the line actually came from Kino (Kino). It’s one of those things where you can easily pick up that she’s not telling Hermes the truth, just like how she monologues about not remembering what her old name was but then has an emotional look on her face when she meets the orange Sakura. It’s kind of a pity that lines like those weren’t included – I remember reading a post somewhere about how the 2017 adaptation hasn’t adhered so much to the whole ‘the world is not beautiful, therefore it is’ tagline that the 2003 series had. While that’s a little vague of a criticism to make, I kind of get what they mean. Still, with Land of Adults I don’t think that wasn’t an issue, since it was faithfully adapted for the most part. In fact, I think the way it played out was very classically Kino – in the sense that it presented a society and its way of living in an exaggerated form as a way of engaging in social commentary.
The children in the Land of Adults are essentially lobotomised as part of a ‘ceremony’ they undertake at the age of 12 so that they can become ‘adults’. That, of course, means absolutely nothing in line with how we would generally define adults, as the real Kino noticed – because it’s just a dividing line between those who have had the surgery and those who haven’t. If I had to define Kino (Kino), to me he would be closer to a child for the sole reason that he hasn’t been brainwashed – it’s a Land of ‘Adults’ only insofar as it consists of (and is run by) people who are ‘adults’, i.e. those whose brains have been messed with. It’s actually quite a clever scheme since it basically sustains itself – the children are conditioned from birth to accept the surgery as being a wonderful thing while they’re still too young to know any better, and that’s permanently edited into their thought processes as an unquestionable reality once they actually do have the surgery. They then grow up into the next generation of ‘adults’, who teach the same things to their own children. So on and so forth. It creates a perfectly running but essentially hollow country full of people who condemn themselves to having no free will, and any dissenters like Kino (Sakura) are killed off before they can cause any trouble.
The way this translates into our own society is that we’re more similar to the Land of Adults than you might expect. Of course, it’s not that extreme in real life, but the foundations aren’t that different. It’s never explicitly said what the surgery does to your brain, but I think the general gist is that it removes all negative thoughts and feelings, so that people will never complain or get angry or be lazy when doing the jobs they’re assigned to doing. It removes all thoughts of resistance or unhappiness, in other words. The one exception to that is, clearly, if anyone says anything bad about the surgery, since having it makes you end up believing that it is literally the best thing in the world. Now, in our society, no-one’s made to undergo any sort of actual lobotomy. But beyond that, there does exist the same sort of social pressure – people are expected to go to school, get a degree (which is increasingly seen as a requirement), get a job and contribute to society. You’re not stabbed with a knife if you don’t do that, but you’re looked down upon if you try to break out of that pattern. And even then, that sort of rigid authoritarianism hasn’t been uncommon in the past, or even in some real countries today. From what the adults speaking to the first Kino at the end was saying, it seems like they are perfectly aware that there are other ways of living, but reject them and remind Kino to keep his distance – again, probably a way of thinking put into them by the surgery.
A few more points. First, I’m not sure what the ‘special candy’ was. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen the original Episode 4 of the 2003 series, and I honestly can’t remember whether that was always there (I don’t have a copy of the episode with me now, so I can’t go and check). If I had to guess, I’d say the candy might be there to drug them and calm any thoughts of resistance or unwillingness to undergo the surgery, just in case. Otherwise, it seems awfully risky to set up a ‘final week’ system where children can do anything they want before becoming ‘adults’. Second, I’m also not sure what the powder that Kino (Kino) had sprayed on him was. I really don’t have any guesses this time. And finally, loli Kino was the cutest and the best. I’m so glad her smile was protected, I love Yuuki Aoi’s singing so much. The grown-up Kino in the field of flowers had better singing, but her younger self’s version was so adorable.
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The timing of the episode was a little strange. The first anime introduced this episode first before the previous one, so you get some inside references from the Kind Country. Having it appear after that makes it feel a little disjointed. I mean, I guess I can understand if they don’t want to follow the old anime rigidly and be their own thing, but still, something to note.
Putting aside the timing of this episode, it doesn’t seem too bad at all. I like the visuals, and the creepy old man had the most disarming smile. I also really liked how the episode made use of its colors. The muted greys indicated that it was a flashback, but it really brought a sense of foreboding as events play along. I also liked how the colors changed once Kino left the country. From dark, sullen greys to a bright field of color, it really showed the change that Kino was experiencing.
My only reference to this episode was from the translated novel and the manga version. I never saw the old anime episode much, and from what the translation says, the powder (actually insect repellent) applied to Kino seemed to be for the purpose of humiliating him. It didn’t mention that he had glasses or dark hair, only that he was rather thin and pale, like Professor Lupin. I think in a way, he was kind of cool looking here. It also never mentioned any references to candies or such that were eaten every day, so this seems to be an original thing.
Also, seeing Kino with long hair and bright eyes is nice. It really is nice to see her eyes like that when compared to her current self. So younger and less world weary (is that the right term here?).
I loved the colours as well. Kino (Sakura)’s expression and the birds flying in the sky (the same blue ones from the OP) were brilliant too. It’s such a pity they didn’t include the male Kino’s line about birds in light of that.
To humiliate him? Hmm, that’s interesting. Understandable too, given that this country doesn’t seem to like travellers, and having powder on his head would identify him as a traveller in front of other citizens. The way Kino’s parents reacted for a second when the male Kino first entered their inn indicated as much (also odd that they’d run an inn if they don’t like outsiders, but post-surgery I guess they’re not mentally capable of figuring out the irony).
The 2003 male Kino looked like this! I thought they’d have kept his hair at least, but the new one was nice too.
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