Once again the deliberate quality of Kino’s Journey impresses me in the first part of what I assume will be a two-part arc. This time around Kino and Hermes arrive in a city that is famous for offering their citizens an amazing life experience, but there’s a lot of small print stuff that Kino didn’t know about before arriving there.

When a visitor arrives they are forced the join a competition for a spot as a first class citizen. Participants are forced to work as slaves if they lose and they can only be deported out if during a match they surrender and the opponent accepts their surrender. For many participants though, it is always a match to the death.

Kino devises a plan to just offer to surrender on the first fight, but then it turns out she wins by accepting someone else’s surrender. We don’t see who her first opponent is or how the match goes. Hermes is shocked that Kino has changed her mind so readily, but I assume she was trying to protect someone from death and slavery (and fighting to the death) by giving them the chance to be deported out of the country, even if that meant her own sacrifice.

There seems to be a group of seasoned fighters who are participating and we learn that besides earning a place to be a first class citizen in the city, the winner will also have the chance to add a rule to the country. This system was installed in place seven years before when the previous king was killed by his treacherous son who then turned around the country. It seems first class citizens can enjoy a lavish live with lots of party and leisure, but there still hasn’t been a glimpse of that.

There is a chance to see what the low-class citizens look like though! Kino’s guide takes Kino to his part of the town after she requests to see it. They live underground around the sewers in a place that seems forgotten by humanity and hope. His kids are doomed to be slaves for life unless they win one of the competitions.

The situation is sad, but it’s still presented in a way that is neutral, just for the observing eye, little judgement whatsoever from the direction. The animation in this show isn’t super impressive, but I find the art style really nice, even considering how it has aged.

Kino ends up fighting a couple people and then gets closer and closer to the finals. The episode ends when there’s just a handful of participants left. I’m personally rooting for a male participant who owns a dog, since he seems to be entangled with the past of the city. He was around when they talked about the previous king and I suspect he might be related to the royal line of the place, but at the same time I’m also rooting for Kino as I’d be really curious what kind of rule she would install were she to win and we also might be able to get a glimpse of the upper part of the city if that happens.