As they are going through a seemingly peaceful countryside, Kino and Hermes are suddenly chased by herds of sheep. They end up at a large ravine. Unable to cross together, Kino descends into the ravine and leaves without Hermes. The sheep are unable to descend after her, but keep an eye on Kino wherever she goes.
It takes a while, but the sheep eventually tire of chasing Kino. Once Kino climbs back out of the ravine, she notices the car of an unwitting victim who fell to the sheep. Kino uses the dead man’s car to rescue Hermes, and has a showdown with the sheep before the two finally manage to cross the ravine (via an improvised ramp).
Finally, Kino and Hermes are able to make it to a country, and find out that the country had a hand in the sheep problem…
Okay, what the absolute hell was this episode? Really, Kino’s Journey? THIS is the episode you choose to end on? Now I really stand by my case that episode 11 should have been the one that they ended this series on. It was certainly better than this… mess.
I have no idea what kind of tone they were going for here. The whole thing was far too serious to be a comedy, as there was a death involved and… that freaking shooting standoff. But at the same time, the whole thing is too ridiculous to be taken seriously. I guess any animal is dangerous given the right capacity, but the concept of “killer sheep” is a little tough to swallow at first. The really bad CG sheep didn’t really help matters. Kino runs over a bunch of sheep in what’s supposed to be a really dramatic moment but… it just comes off as ridiculous when the CG’s that bad.
Also, I guess this whole episode was a jab at animal rights activists? I mean, I get the message here: don’t just blindly release animals back into the wild even if you have good intentions, because that might actually be more detrimental to the animals, the environment, etc. But it’s like episode 3 all over again. If you have to devise a breed of super-violent sheep just to get your point across, maybe consider that your story and moral isn’t as “clever” as you think it is. I guess there was supposed to be some “comedic” irony here, but I was too busy constantly going “what the eff” throughout the whole episode to find it funny.
I will admit, Kino’s standoff WAS pretty awesome. It was the best animated part of the entire episode, and it also shows off how good a strategist Kino is when it comes to fighting. Too bad everything else about the episode gave me such mixed feelings.
Oh yeah, there was a nice little segment towards the end of the episode. It was a little bit of fourth-wall-breaking where Kino and Hermes hinted at a possible second season. Good for Kino’s Journey if they do manage to get a second season, but I probably won’t be blogging it if it happens.
Out of five:
While I did give Kino’s Journey pretty good ratings for certain episodes; taken as a whole Kino’s Journey just felt somewhat lackluster. It took me a long time to pinpoint the problem I had with the series, but I think its best summed up as “directionless.” Kino’s Journey lacks direction. I realize that on some level, this was probably the point. Kino (and the others) are travelers who are traveling without any particular goal in mind. But there are two big problems I have with the series that contributes to the “lack of direction” feeling I’m getting.
The first is Kino. Even after having watched the entire series, Kino still feels like sort of an enigma to me. I still don’t entirely understand how she operates or what her moral codes are. At times she claims that she doesn’t want to get unnecessarily involved in other countries’ problems; but then she goes out of her way to defend a kid’s mural project in episode 3? (And yes, I’m still annoyed at that point.) If you asked me to describe what Kino’s personality is, I’d have trouble doing so. The best I could come up with is that she likes to travel and can be selfish at times. And… she’s a skilled gun-wielder? Maybe having Kino be “mysterious” is the whole point of the series. Or maybe the anime producers for the remake just suck at giving Kino a consistent character. I don’t know.
The second problem I have with this series is the chapters from the light novel that the anime producers chose to animate. Supposedly, these were the fan-favorites/most popular chapters. I don’t think that it was a smart move to animate just the fan-favorites, though; as they would not necessarily fit well together to form a cohesive series. As much as I liked Photo, she kind of had no point being in the series; since her story didn’t affect the other two major characters of the series (Kino and Shizu). It’d be different if Photo appeared in a second episode; but having so much significance placed on her (she appears in the OP, she had an entire episode to herself), and then to have her just be a one-off character… that doesn’t make sense.
Some of the episodes are also kind of… bizarre in tone. I don’t mind light-hearted episodes in Kino’s Journey, but it still has to be done correctly. Episode 9 is notorious for having the biggest mood-whiplash segments out of the whole series. And episode 12 still feels weird to me. It’s like something someone wrote from a fever dream.
I also have to critique the story presentation of this series. It’s ironic that, despite trying to have a twist every episode, this actually made Kino’s Journey episodes terribly predictable. Because it becomes painfully obvious that each Kino’s Journey episode/plot will have a “big reveal” or “twist” towards the end, so you come to expect it. Some of these twists are executed better than others—some of them are just downright dumb.
I also feel like the anime thinks that we’re all idiots or something. There’s too much exposition, not enough “show don’t tell.” All the antagonists in this series always act over-the-top villainous or asshole-ish. I don’t think this is the fault of the light novel, but rather the fault of the anime director. I was expecting this series to have a more nuanced execution, and some more subtle story-telling. But nope. The morals in this series feel like a slap in the face with how heavy-handed they are.
Even with all my criticisms, I do think that this series has some lovely backgrounds and music. The animation (when it’s not CG stuff) is also usually on the higher end. These things aren’t enough to make up for… everything else that I already pointed out above, but it’s something that needed to be said.
Overall, Kino’s Journey is a very mixed-bag of a series. It unfortunately became a bit more frustrating than enjoyable for me to blog, but it was certainly an unusual experience.
Out of five for the series as a whole, I give: