Pros: Character designs, philosophical themes, musical score, no fan-service, witty dialogue between the two main characters.
Cons: Sub-par background animation, some characters are developed and then abandoned.
Kino (voiced by Kelli Cousins) is a female traveler on a journey across the world, accompanied by her talking motorcycle, Hermes (voiced by Cynthia Martinez). How or why he possesses the power of speech is never revealed, but it doesn't distract from the series. Kino vows to never spend longer than three days in any one country, as she does not want to become attached to or involved with its inhabitants. This is the basic premise of the entire series, yet each episode, as well as the country its attentions are focused on, is radically different. There isn't much of a central plot, and each episode could stand on its own.
This anime contains literally no fan-service whatsoever, except for one episode where a few brief scenes show a young woman building a plane in her undergarments. This is one of the series' great qualities; Kino herself appears almost androgynous, assuring that the viewers are focusing on nothing but what they should be; the words that she speaks and the sights that she sees. The series also contains not a single hint of romance, and I believe that the most "foul" language to be heard is "damn it", once.
Kino's Journey illustrates the fact that beneath every façade is a hidden dark side. The series doesn't necessarily touch on anything new; one country is dealing with the aftermath of a war, one possesses androids that serve humans, one causes Kino to wonder whether or not she is merely a character in a story written by someone else, etc. However, the way that Kino deals with the situations she encounters is what makes this anime truly remarkable. She is compassionate toward those who are kind and lacks sympathy when dealing with those who are not, yet also retains an air of detachment no matter what the circumstance. Kino's Journey never becomes overly emotional or sentimental, with the exception of the final scenes of episode thirteen. That may tug at the heartstrings a bit. The series is incredibly mature, with tidbits of humor thrown into the conversations between Kino and Hermes. Action-sequences are scarce.
The series' soundtrack is superb, with an uplifting opening theme and beautiful closing theme. However, there are instances where the mood of the end of an episode doesn't quite fit with the more positive tone of the closing theme, but that can be overlooked. The background music is great as well, at times even haunting.
The art of Kino's Journey is refreshingly different, but the background art can be a bit lackluster at times. It is easy to tell characters apart, and you'll always know which of them is Kino.
In conclusion, Kino's Journey is an overlooked gem that deserves more recognition than it has received. It's a pleasant change from some of the more intensely philosophical and intellectual anime out there, in that you aren't left wondering about plot points or a character's outcome; the only thing that this series really makes you think about, in my opinion, is your own role in the world. The series is not trying to depress you, it is not trying to confuse you, it is merely trying to make you think. I would recommend this to anyone with a tendency to ponder about life and one's place in it all.
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In Kino's Journey, the protagonist, Kino, accompanied by a talking motorcycle, a Brough Superior motorcycle named Hermes, travels through a mystical world of many different countries and forests, each unique in its customs and people. Kino only spends three days and two nights in every town, without exception, on the principle that three days is enough time to learn almost everything important about a place, while leaving time to explore new lands. Kino says in The Land of Visible Pain that this principle is probably a lie, specifically noting "if I stay any longer, I'm afraid I will settle down." A phrase repeated in the anime and novels is "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is." Kino's Journey explores what the anime director Ryutaro Nakamura described as "a radical sense of 'beauty," and brutality, loneliness, nonsense, oppression and tragedy are often juxtaposed against compassion and a fairy-tale atmosphere.