Massive SPOILERS abound.
A girl who lives in the “Land of Adults” meets with a traveling man named Kino a few days before her twelfth birthday. The two end up bonding while the traveler fixes a broken motorrad, which is eventually named “Hermes.”
The girl tells the traveler about a surgery that all children have to undergo on their twelfth birthdays. She says that the surgery is done to “remove the child” out of them so that they can become fully fledged adults, and be able to do tasks that they dislike—because that’s what being an adult means. The traveler is noticeably disturbed by this.
After conversing some more with the traveler, the girl begins to have doubts about the whole process. On the day before her twelfth birthday, she asks her parents if there is another way that she can become an adult, without having to undergo the surgery. Her parents react violently to this request. The girl’s father attempts to kill her with a knife, but the traveler sacrifices himself so that the girl can escape on the motorrad.
The girl eventually becomes the Kino that we know of in the present day.
Hey, it’s Kino’s origin story. With the way Kino’s Journey was progressing, I was almost sure that Kino’s origin story would have been saved for the last episode. And some part of me still wishes that were the case; because this would have made for a pretty decent final episode. But instead, it became the penultimate episode.
There were quite a few people unhappy about this episode’s placement in the series. Many were saying that this episode should have come before the last one; as Sakura was supposed to be a parallel to Kino’s own childhood, so most of the impact of the last episode was lost. I don’t feel too strongly about this either way, but I do think that having such heavy episodes back-to-back was maybe a poor decision.
While I felt that this episode was good for the most part, there are a few things that kept it from being as good as the last episode. Again the story feels way too rushed. It may be due to the 22-minute episode time limit, but this episode felt like it was just hitting the necessary story beats to get to the conclusion. I really wish we could have seen more interactions between the previous Kino and the current Kino. Yes, they did have a little singing segment, but that was it. Their brief interaction made girl-Kino’s decision not to have the surgery seem kind of abrupt. I also really wish we could have seen more of current-Kino’s country apart from the hotel where the traveler stayed.
The surgery procedure isn’t even properly explained, which is strange for Kino’s Journey since past episodes went overboard with the exposition stuff. Well, maybe not so strange since current-Kino didn’t even know what the surgery entailed. However, I think this is one instance where some more explanation could have really helped the story. It’s not super obvious, and I only knew about it because I spoiled myself beforehand; but the surgery is something akin to a lobotomy that makes the adults of the country feel happy performing any task given to them. Which includes murdering their own daughter. Now, I have not seen the original anime, nor do I know how the original light novel story went; but I feel like having this knowledge in mind makes the episode a lot more horrifying.
Apart from those criticisms, this episode was a real treat to look at. There’s a very strong grey/purple/red color scheme going on here. I especially liked how grey colors were used for the dramatic scenes; which eventually gave way to brighter colors once Kino finally left her country. It’s nothing new or original, but it’s a more subtle way of transitioning the tone of the story.
I didn’t notice it until someone on My Anime List pointed it out, but Kino gains a more purple color scheme in this episode. Generally, her hair and eye color ranges from either dark green or dark blue depending on the lighting of the scene, but in this episode her hair and eye color were very definitely purple. I’m assuming this was done for artistic purposes, either to fit the tone of the story better or to fit in with the major color schemes of the episode better.
Overall I would consider this a fairly good episode of Kino’s Journey despite its shortcomings. It certainly makes enough of an emotional impact. The next episode is already the last one of the series. I’m hoping we end on a more optimistic note.
Out of five:
(I was really considering just giving this a 3 and 1/2 rating as I still felt the last episode was stronger. But whatever. You get a four out of five this time, Kino’s Journey.)