People sure were spot-on in describing this show to me as thought-provoking! Episode 5 of Kino’s Journey was particularly so as the behavior of Kino and people she met struck me as quite interesting and made me think of what I’d do in these same situations.

There’s roughly two different focuses here in this episode, with the first one being sort of the main and taking up more screen time and the second seeming like an extra story that could be tacked anywhere. Not that the second story is less important or compelling, but it doesn’t seem related to the first part with the exception of Kino’s presence as a witness in both.

The first part deals with Kino encountering three different men on the train tracks she following to go to her next destination. The train tracks are old, rusty and overrun with weed, but soon enough she finds a man cleaning them. He’s leaving them spotless! Kino talks to the man and finds out that he’s been working on this track for 50 years now, since the railway company hasn’t told him to stop yet, he’ll continue until he’s done.

Kino and the man share a meal and he asks Kino to tell him a story. She tells him about the country where people don’t have to work. I really liked the alternation between the bright colors and the more somber and dreamlike quality shades of these scenes, by the way. The country has a lot of technology that made automatization for everything possible so people are not required to work. The funny thing is that you still see them riding around their little cars in suits, so I suspected something was up. Lo and behold! It was. It turns out that people in this country still work because they want the stress or they will become lazy.

Kino seems shocked by the meaninglessness of these actions, or maybe I’m projecting hard because she doesn’t really say anything. The man, after hearing the story, calls them crazy, but there is a nice shot of the clean track here which shows the clear parallelism the show is trying to establish. How is this man’s work not meaningless as well?

This sentiment becomes more pronounced once Kino meets another man a while later who is disassembling the clean tracks. It turns out he’s also been at it for 50 years, but he hasn’t stopped because the company hasn’t told him to. This man also asks Kino for a story and she once again talks about the country where people don’t have to work. The man laughs and says he wishes he could live there because then he wouldn’t work. This bit emphasizes that work is actually a choice. We are compelled to do it for various reasons that we consider pressing because we live in societies that have established these rules, but even following rules is a choice.

I would say it’s pretty easy to figure out that the next time Kino meets someone, this man is reassembling the tracks. He’s also been at it for 50 years now, but he won’t stop if the company doesn’t say anything. This time around when the man asks Kino for a story, she says she’s not a good storyteller. This puzzled me for a bit at first, but then I figured she felt like she hadn’t taught the other two anything, so why try this time around?

Then we move to the other story. Kino visits a country that seems completely empty. Hermes comments that they have been checking the place for three days, but they didn’t meet anyone. Just as Kino is getting ready to leave, a ragged man appears. He seems to be the solely inhabitant of the country now and he’s overjoyed to meet Kino.

He tells the story of the rise and fall of his country from the moment they overthrew the previous monarch and they established a system where everyone could vote (doesn’t this seem awfully familiar?), but then the system eventually deteriorated as well and became twisted to the point where every disagreement would end in a vote followed by an execution. It really shows that when it comes to politics the issue might not necessarily be the ideas and theories, but the people.

In the end Kino departs on her journey once again and the episode finishes with a very amusing scene of Kino and Hermes deciding where to go next.