Kino’s Journey is one of those very acclaimed shows that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while, but then never get around to. It was put again on my radar last year with the new version of the show, but I still put it off for a bit longer, so I’m glad it was one of the options for this event. For Readers Request I will be watching the 2003 version.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect at all. This is one of those shows that fans say it’s really good, but I haven’t seen much talk about the ‘why’ so I wanted to find out on my own. One thing that made me pretty interested in Kino’s Journey is the fact that someone described it to me in the past as ‘thought-provoking’. I was also thought it had some pretty interesting philosophical questions and moments and that made me really curious.

The first episode did not disappoint in that regard!

The set up for Kino’s Journey is pretty straight-forward, even if it’s given to the viewers in small doses during the course of the first episode. Kino and Hermes the motorbike are on a journey across many countries. I assume this continent is pretty big since it’s implied in episode one that they have visited several places before and there’s more places to see.

Kino has a personal rule of never staying in a place for more than three days as that’s enough time to know what a place is like. Hermes is always trying to convince Kino of going back to their master’s place and that a journey is a pointless thing. It’s kind of cheeky dialogue coming from a motorbike, but I suppose that’s part of the charm and yes, Hermes indeed talks! I was a bit shocked at first, but well, it’s an interesting unexpected twist.

This first episode doesn’t have a lot of events going on in the first half, it seems more about the mood. At the beginning we see Kino looking for something in the sands of a desert and then later they’re seen making their way into a city and the course of the three days of them in the city. During that time they meet a man and have a pretty interesting conversation with him, the events are important in terms of logical storytelling, of course, but I must say that most of the charm of this first episode comes from the meaning beyond the conversations the characters have.

The first thing that struck me as pretty curious was the division of the episode in parts through title cards with text on them. They announce bits like ‘prologue’ or ‘part a’ and they have text on it that can be pretty memorable to read and it ties back to the musings in the episode. I really liked that and I’m looking forward to it being used more in future episodes.

The other thing I really enjoyed was these questions that popped up in dialogue every once in a while and that I assume is why some people regard Kino’s Journey as a more intellectual anime and why some people may describe it as thought-provoking. Questions like ‘have you ever felt jealous of birds?’, or fake dilemmas such as when Hermes and Kino both give their take on what the most important thing for a traveler is. The slow mood is great for this because you can take your time to think if you agree with the assumption or not and what your own opinion on these questions and situations.

The core of the episode was still the most interesting, quite a memorable first episode I will say! Kino and Hermes end up arriving to a country where there aren’t any people, seemingly, the place is very nice and cheap and things are done by these super charming robots. The place seems certainly idyllic, but there aren’t other people around. That is until Kino realizes that there are, but everyone is just shut in their own houses, alone.

Eventually she meets a man who tells her that the country is like this because everyone has taken this serum who allows them to read the thoughts of others and have their thoughts read. The scientists of the country wanted to create a better society by having people be conscious of other’s pain, but this backfired and eventually just pushed them all to be on their own since they couldn’t help hurting others and having hate grow instead.

He assumes the country will die out eventually as there haven’t been any children born so there is no new generation. The whole story is quite sad and it doesn’t really have a conclusion, it’s more like just showing that a place like this exists. I believe that a conclusion is not necessary as the important thing in my opinion is to think more about the intention of the scientists and the results and if those results would always be unavoidable.

This kind of society is very interesting as a thought-experiment! I personally wondered if I’d be happy in a place like this or if it would be hard. What the pros and cons would be for me and so on. I think we’re better off not reading each other’s thoughts, but the intention of wanting to create a better place by trying to get people to deliberately be conscious of others is something I can get behind.

I’m really looking forward to what other kind of stories I’ll learn about along Kino’s Journey, so I’m glad I picked up this show.