You can lead a horse to water…
What They Say:
Episode #4: “Ship Country”
Shizu and Riku arrive in a country known as the “Ship Country.” It sails from continent to continent, trading goods and taking on travelers willing to work on the ship. The country’s leader gives Shizu the job of overseeing the common people, but he says he’d rather work alongside them. His wish is granted, and he’s given a girl called Ti to be his guide.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This week a traveler comes to yet another country which travels. Instead of our usual tourist, we check back in on Shizu and his dog Riku. Unlike the city which Kino traveled in, with its high tech and comfortable lifestyle, this is a ship of fools.
At first glance, it appears this is another case of an oppressed lower class and a well-off upper class. Something that Shizu would recognize, a structure which he doesn’t support. When given the opportunity during his journey across the ocean to live with the peasantry or the ruling class in the tower he chooses the lower classes. They eke out a living in a decaying city of rusty metal, subsiding mostly on fish. Throughout his time with the people, he offers to work for his passage but his guide, a young girl named Ti, offers him none and simply leads him around the ship as a silent tour guide.
For many of the episodes of this series so far it’s easy to guess where the twist might come in. This episode kept me guessing. While it appears that most of the problems tend to be solved with violence, it is rarely the case. The violence only serves to protect the travelers so that they can keep traveling. Shizu discovers the city is slowly taking on water. Every time a new compartment fills the entire structure shakes and groans, but the populace remains oblivious to the danger they are in. (Plus, there’s an implication the population might be inbred. You know, for added stupidity.) All Shizu can do is confront the rulers, but the situation is far too complicated for a quick and easy solution.
There are plenty of stories about how a creature that has lived in captivity its entire life won’t know how to live in freedom. Shizu learns that lesson the hard way. There’s also an obvious echoing of how Kino and Shizu met, perhaps he now knows the frustration she felt at watching his country fall apart.
The end of this episode definitely goes for shock value. It’s a cheap tactic, and the machinations of the plot can’t be simplified to one simple parable. It’s easy to say ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.’ That leaves many loose ends, such as the hastily explained backstory for Ti. It’s the consequence of introducing a new reoccurring character in the middle of the usual standalone story. Even though I do like Ti, it would have been more effective if she had been the focus of her own story, rather than an accessory to the typical episodic parable.
A country that has the freedom to traverse the sea and trade should be wealthy, yet Shizu finds only decay, and a girl who has had the world abandon her. With so many dysfunctional societies in Kino’s world, it makes you wonder how they manage to hold it together at all. Perhaps this is a good warning to not look too closely at our own world and just how broken a system can get and still march on blissfully unaware of injustice and their impending demise. I find myself wishing that the next country our travelers come across is a peaceful one, for once. Although I hope we see Shizu, Riku, and Ti again in the future.
Episode Grade: B
Streamed by: Crunchyroll & Funimation