There are massive SPOILERS in this review.
(Since Kino was officially revealed to be female in the last episode, I’ll refer to Kino with “she/her” pronouns from now on.)
Kino’s curiosity leads her to a country with lovely scenery but an extremely bad reputation. The country’s citizens are said to be unwelcoming and rude to travelers. However, when Kino gets there, the country appears to be inhabited by very kind people.
Kino stays there three days, and befriends a girl named Sakura. Sakura’s parents own a hotel, and Sakura herself wishes to grow up to be a tour guide. Kino is also gifted a gun by the local gunsmith.
Because the residents are so kind, Kino is tempted to stay longer than her three day limit. However, the people of the country say that she cannot stay any longer, and Kino leaves on the night of her third day. In the middle of the night, a pyroclastic flow from the nearby mountain engulfs and completely destroys the country while Kino watches in horror from afar.
The next morning, all that is left of the country is ash. Kino discovers letters hidden amongst the parting gifts that she received, which explain the situation of the country.
I spoiled myself on this particular story a while back. This is actually a re-telling of the last episode of the original Kino’s Journey. So I already knew what the “twist” here would be, but it was still a pretty heart-wrenching watch. Part of me wishes I could have watched this totally unspoilt–I wonder what my reaction would have been then? But I digress.
The atmosphere in this episode was just lovely. I think this is the first time we’ve ever gotten this good of a look at a country that Kino visited. The backgrounds and scenery were gorgeous. Furthermore, we actually got a nice view into the country’s people and some of their customs.
A couple things to note in this episode: Kino gains her second gun here, so the story of this episode takes place before the Coliseum arc (where Shizu is introduced). From what I’ve read, Kino’s Journey (the light novel and original 2003 anime) didn’t follow a linear timeline and jumped around at points. I wasn’t sure if that was happening in this series, as all episodes involving Shizu are definitely being shown in a linear fashion. But I think this episode proves that this Kino’s Journey anime also has a non-linear timeline… sorta.
On a side note, I get the feeling that the gunsmith man was actually an older Apprentice, because of his knowledge of Kino’s master. But at the same time I really hope that isn’t true, because that would mean that he’d have died a pretty gruesome death…
I thought this episode was pretty good overall, but I do have a few small criticisms. I think the “twist” could have been foreshadowed better. I knew about the mountain erupting beforehand, but the eruption still felt way too abrupt. The whole thing came out of nowhere. The eruption could have been easily foreshadowed by simply having more shots of the mountain in the background or something; because we only get a real good look at it at the very beginning of the episode, when Kino is surveying the country. If you weren’t looking closely, you wouldn’t even realize that the country bordered a mountain until the last few minutes of the episode. I feel that the abruptness of this plot twist really brings down the quality of the episode, making the pyroclastic flow feel like an asspull to gain easy sympathy.
Despite being more atmospheric than past episodes of Kino’s Journey, this episode still felt strangely rushed at points. It didn’t feel like three days had passed when Kino’s three-day limit was up. There were also some scenes shown as a montage when Kino is reading the letters left behind to her, which I felt would have been much more effective had we seen these beforehand outside of the montage. Unfortunately, this is likely due to the episode time limit forcing the producers to only include the most important points of the story. The OP and ED were already cut out for this episode, so there wasn’t much more they could do outside of making this a two-parter, which would have been excessive.
I guess I can’t talk the volcano eruption without at least mentioning the country’s citizens. The heart-wrencher here is that they citizens knew beforehand that they would die. Instead of deciding to flee the country, they decided to stay and face their fate. They actually were truly horrible to travelers in the past, but after learning that their days were numbered, they decided to try to be as nice as they could so that the last memories of their country wouldn’t be tainted.
Depending on your opinion, you could say that the citizens were stupid for not fleeing. I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about the whole thing myself. The adults all knew of this, but not the children; so you could say that it was unfair that the children had to die as well. However, Sakura’s parents did attempt to make her leave the country, so it’s not as if all the adults were just willing to let the children die. But Sakura refused to go; and it’s implied that Sakura also knew about her country’s impending doom. That… that honestly just makes the whole thing more depressing.
It’s even more depressing seeing just how pained Kino’s reaction to this whole thing is. This is probably the most emotion we’ve seen from Kino outside of the Coliseum episode. But despite how sad this episode was, it does ultimately end on sort of… “hopeful” note. Kino resolves to remember the country as an extremely kind and wonderful country, which was what the country’s citizens had wished for.
Out of five for this episode: