Postponing the last two 12 Days of Anime posts, I bring you a post of another anime event that I participated. Secret Santa, organized by Reverse Thieves, gives people an opportunity to let each participants to recommend and be recommended a show to watch, of which each participants will write a review of the show that he or she had watch by Christmas. This year I was given Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World, Bokurano, or Usagi Drop. Having postponed watching either one of them till the very end, I chose Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World because it was interesting at first glance and was also the shortest. I guess it was a good choice.
This is such a fitting time to talk about Kino no Tabi -the Beautiful World-, especially with the whole Mayans Doomsdays prediction shown to be false recently, it first raised questions about the end times, of how we should live our lives knowing that the world will end at December 21, then with the prediction being shown to be false, it also raised the question of trust, of who or if to trust in any prediction (especially non-scientific ones), especially if there are several interpretation of the same source. No, Kino no Tabi is not trying to convert you to any religion, but it does raises philosophical issues like those above.
The show mainly involves of Kino and her talking bike, Hermes, to various places, meeting various people and societies, usually going to one place per episode. When interacting with the people, Kino would get to understand their culture and customs. By interacting with the people, she might end up helping, destroying or make no difference to the that society by the time that she leaves, which she always ruled it as after staying for 3 days and 2 nights. By showing the cultures and customs of various societies, the show exposes both Kino and the audiences to various philosophical and politics issues, ie some society’s culture points to the issues related to work ethics (reason to work, work vs leisure).
With the structure of the show, with Kino going to a new place every episode, the plot of each episode tends to starts and ends within the episode, ie a self-contained episode, with the only thing common between each episode is that Kino and Hermes is in it. This might turn some people of by not really providing a continuous plot, but by doing that, the show was able to show more cultures, raising up more philosophical issues, which I think was a good trade off.
Released 9 years ago, the series’s animation does start to show its ages, but ironically, I think having the show look dated is one of the show’s charms. One very interesting decision that the animators did was to overlay the animation with horizontal lines throughout the show (unless that is only unique to release that I got), making as if I’m viewing the show not directly from my LCD screen, but maybe something, say a CRT monitor. In turn, those horizontal lines made it seem that I was not watching the show as if the events were unrevealed as I watch it (ie live), but that everything that happened in the series was written in a log, or a traveler’s log, and the show is just playing back those logs. Hence, the horizontal lines plays nicely with the dated animation in having this antique feel, is if an elderly is retelling stories of their youth. Ironically, when Shaft took over A.C.G.T for the 2nd film, by updating the animation, I actually find it less appealing precisely because it stopped looking antique, something which I have come to like.
The animators also focused on displaying the scenery around Kino from time to time, giving both focus to nature and each society’s culture and status based on their architecture (industrial vs close to nature, run-down vs nicely kept). By focusing on scenery, the show, like Aria, invites the audience to explore the the world that is portrayed in Kino no Tabi -the Beautiful World-, hence making us audiences interested in following Kino in her journey in to different countries, meeting random people.
I don’t think I have come across an anime that is so efficient in raising up question about humanity, philosophy, living habits etc recently than Kino no Tabi, which I think is the biggest strength of the show, so much that when I can grab less out of a particular episode, that episode was only mediocre. I also like the art, as it usually looks rather calm (OP and ED also shares this kind of calmness) and its focus on the background reminds me of Aria, one of my favorite shows. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that the show is as good natured as Aria, with the show constantly showing the ugliness of humanity (also used to bring up question about philosophy). I also really like how the show, while giving an example of one side of an issue in the form of a society, usually doesn’t go to the conclusion that one side is better than the other, hence giving leeway for the audiences to think and discuss over that issue instead of being spoon-fed a particular side.
In short, Kino no Tabi -the Beautiful World- is really good at raising deep serious question for the audience to ponder about, but for anything else, there are better shows. Hence, don’t expected to be mind blown by the action, music, plot nor animation. Also this is not a show that you can enjoy with your brain turned off (you will either miss out on the juicy details or you will hate the show for forcefully making you think when you just want to relax). As for I, this will be one of those show that I will rewatch, because I’m sure that I miss some good stuff the first time I watched it.