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Kino’s Journey Complete Collection UK Anime DVD Review

12 min read

How it all began…

What They Say:
Three days. Two nights. That’s how much time Kino and Hermes allot to each new place they visit before drifting off again, crossing a mysterious land filled with mystical sights and strange customs. Kino’s an enigmatic loner, skilled with weapons and always anticipating what might lie around the next hill or bend of the river.

Hermes is Kino’s friend, companion, and motorcycle, gifted with the ability to think and speak, seldom as bold as Kino, but always there when speed is required. What is their goal, their ultimate destination? Like life itself, it’s all a mystery that one can only solve by taking the journey. All Kino and Hermes know is that adventure, danger, and new wonders lie on the horizon, waiting to be encountered at each passing stop. Join the odyssey and drift along for the ride in Kino’s Journey

The Review:
This is based on the original release except with one noticeable exception is that we have a 5.1 audio release in English as well as the standard 2.0 stereo release in Japanese. There were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. There were no problems with the video synching in with subtitles so definitely acceptable as a DVD release.

The video is different as it is back in its original 4:3 chrome style release so we don’t get full screen HD and it is in the original format of the black bars on either side – and like the original release sadly does suffer from blurring effect when you pause it – it would have been nice for an updated version (if possible) but this is pretty much a re-release from the original ADV Films release that did get one in the UK (I think it was 2005 when it came to the UK originally) so in that regards, disappointed – what makes this sadly worse is that the lining effect is very noticeable in this release compared to Chrono Crusade and Kurogane – considering the much duller colours of the animation this is very problematic to the point of being distracting and I can’t say I remember this being so noticeable in the original release so sadly problematic.

The menu is pretty basic – each disc (3 in total) has an image of some of the characters (Kino on disc 1, Shizu on disc 2 and I think young Kino on disc 3?) with the selections being Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras on discs 1 and 3. All are easily maneuverable and selectable, but again the style of the animation seems to make it almost liney or blurry even in the menu screen. No issues with selection or returning to the main menu via the show.

The only extras show it is pretty much a straight conversion from the original release and even more so than the previous reviews – why? Because on disc 1 we have the clean opening and ending, and also from ADV FILMS (which sadly doesn’t exist nowadays) – Elfen Lied and Mezzo for the record are the trailers.

Disc 3 has some nice production sketches though which is about 6 minutes long and pretty much go through the designs of almost everything and everyone, which is surprising considering it is pretty much a one girl and motorrad show – but yeah, all the episodic characters, the weapons, the designs, the buildings, nothing is left off so that was pleasant at least.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Time for a brief history lesson.

When I first started doing reviews for The Fandom Post (then AnimeonDvd) I was asked to submit a tester review for a UK series I owned in the style – this was back in 2011 I believe – and the series I chose was Kino’s Journey. And after I did that, I got the position and have been doing it since.

So it feels appropriate with the recent classics line Anime Limited have been doing that this would be one of them – the original release did get a UK release as well (back in 2004) and considering it was at the time then (and maybe now) considered a niche series, it was surprising but a pleasant surprise. The light novels were popular still in Japan (a couple DID get a western translation release but sadly didn’t continue in the long run) to the point that a new version of the series got released in 2017 and is available on Crunchyroll – some episodes are remakes of episodes from the original, some are completely new material (as in stories from the novels not done in the original, for example Shizu is in a few more episodes) and some are a bit of both. I watched the new series and thoroughly enjoyed it so it got me getting ready to rewatch the original series….

…would it be still as good as I remember or has it faded with age like the animation has sadly?

The first thing that you need to know if you are getting into this new is that this isn’t a typical plot ridden or beginning, middle and end story. Each episode is very episodic with the exception of a two-parter story and focuses on Kino and her travels around the world, discovering lands and what their customs are. The subtitle for it is ‘The Beautiful World’ and she has to discover what is truly beautiful about it. Along with her smart-alec motorad Hermes (a talking motorcycle for all intents and purposes), the two take their travels and discover what is beautiful, what is truth, what is a lie…and does she need a reason to use her guns…

The first three episodes are stand alone stories (episode 3 even has 4 travels in one episode) which focus basically on her exploring and what the customs are. The first one has her and Hermes travel to a country which is apparently inhabited by just robots who are able to feed her and house her for surprisingly cheap. It isn’t until she notices the countryside that there are people living there and there she learns the countries inhabitants are mind readers – which was initially a blessing but soon became a curse hence the low population and why they are spread out. The second episode gives us more on Kino’s skills as she saves three travellers who are snowed out and is forced to kill three rabbits to feed them, but once they get free from the snow and Kino discovers who they are, she is able to give payback for the rabbits she killed (and you get to see how many weapons and just her genuine skill is as a traveller on the go – guns and knives this tough lass on her could open up a store) whilst episode 3 is several side stories that are connected to each other when she is travelling – one country thinking the world is going to end (so Kino gets free stuff, so when the world doesn’t end she quickly makes her escape :P), one country whose tradition is trying to make new traditions for travellers (though they don’t realise because of that they have their own tradition – sadly we don’t get Kino in cat ears), the third one a rather sad story of a poet being forced to create a depressing poem for the king and that it is read out loud by a young girl every day – and tying into that the fourth one is about an army ready to destroy said country saying the poem is the Book of Prophecy that will cause the end of the world (tying into the 1st tale) and thus, destroying the country will solve it.

Yeah, it’s definitely one of those ‘our rules are weird but those are our rules’ when it comes to the countries in this show.

Episode 4 is pretty much the only major back-story episode we get as we learn who Kino was beforehand – her country was one where at age 12, the children have surgery in their brain to as they say ‘pluck the child out of them’ so they can become functioning adults. It is coming to her turn when a traveller named Kino (the girl’s original name is never known) stays the day and becomes friends with her, disagreeing with the notion. The girl then asks her parents if she cannot have the operation which makes them and the entire town just explode with anger. Again, it feels like it has to be this way and no-one else can reason with them…to the point when Kino is about to leave, the only way the country thinks this can be rectified is to kill the girl. Kino sacrifices himself to save her (which then the crowd doesn’t blame themselves and to think rationally as an adult? Get the knife out the body and kill the girl…yeah…) and then his motorrad reacts to her to escape. Thus begins the girl and her new name…Kino, with her motorrad Hermes.

After that, it is back to adult female Kino seeing that her country isn’t the only one with ridiculous rules. She is forced to fight in a tournament to become a 1st class citizen just for being there (she always has a rule where she stays in a country for 3 days) and if they win they can make a new law. Kino is a badass and manages to defeat her opponents and forcing them to surrender (if they surrender they can leave otherwise it is to the death). One other fighter manages to do this – a swordsman named Shizu who has a dog as a companion…who like Hermes, is shockingly able to speak. It leads to the two facing in the final which Kino manages to win and then kills off the tyrant King and making a law that works for the country as it is chaotic but gives a chance for everyone to be equal. It is stand alone because Shizu is a much more focal character in the novels (and the new anime) but for the moment, he is just for this two parter.

After that, it is stand alone, but some combination of fun, dark and tragic. The fun one is in the Land of Wizards and the pilot girl Nimya who is shunned for wanting to create a flying machine but thanks to Kino’s help (and her infectious energy) she succeeds, the Land of Books where writing is forbidden and most books are considered harmful for people, yet Kino gets involved with a rebellion group and you wonder what is fact and what is fiction, the village where an elderly ‘mechanical doll’ is working for her family…when it turns out she is human and the family were dolls which turns out to be rather tragic, a few stories with other travellers (all tied together in some way), people working the rails (one cleaning the rails for 50 years, one removing the rails for 50 years behind him, one putting new tracks on for 50 years beforehand where Kino tells a story of a country that works just to get stress levels when technology can do everything for them), the peaceful nation that abandoned war against each other…and the way they did that was to fight a war as a game against some defenceless tribal people (nearly leading to Kino getting killed when they take their aggressions on her) and then the final episode where she visits a land where travellers are apparently shunned, yet is treated with love and respect and makes a friend of a young girl named Sakura – to the point she wants to stay longer than her usual 3 days.

When they force her out, she realises why…and is quite the shocker of a last episode when Sakura has handed her a letter and she could have left the country to train as a tour guide…almost to the point of a tear jerker which is unusual for just 20 minutes of an episode to get attached like that…

So the first thing you have to say is that this series isn’t for everyone. The episodic nature combined with the rather slow pace some episodes take does make it feel like a niche series. With only two main characters and potentially needing knowledge of the original light novel series to fill in the blanks (there are OVAs and movies as well that did that) it is not your typical series, and even today would seem a bit out of place. Combined that with the gritty, almost off-putting animation and dark style, it doesn’t feel like something that is obviously enjoyable.

However, if you go with that, it is shockingly compelling.

I still love this series even after 13 years from when I first got it. Kino is such a likeable character and plays off the sarcastic Hermes well – she is smart, strong and focused – she shuts people up who underestimate her, but is also kind when she wants to be, but not naïve so she trusts everyone. She can be very friendly (the episodes with Nimya and Sakura showcase this quite well) but also won’t hesitate to defend herself (the rabbit episode and the war one good examples, she shows her chops in the tournament one but there, she purposely doesn’t want to kill anyone). Hermes whilst no visual aids due to being a motorrad, the voice compliments Kino’s words well (to the point they seem like an old married couple) and the episode where Kino escapes her country is the beginning of a long trusting relationship.

There is no plot to say of this show, it is just Kino travelling with learning of customs, and dealing with them, but there is a lot of heart and thought. It tells the tale of ‘these are our rules, and as dumb as they may seem to you, it’s what we have to deal with’ which is pretty much a story in almost any country here today – whether you like it or not. Kino echoes the viewers thoughts but is powerless to do anything about it, bar air her grievances and her disagreements – the tournament two parter her law to try and sort it out is still due to fighting, but it is the way the people know – just everyone has a chance to try and save themselves and have a first class life. The character of Shizu and his backstory was alluded to (shown more in the novels and new series) so more interest in this series can be allowed – and the last episode with Sakura actually did make me tear up despite knowing what was going to happen.

Yeah, the high grade is more my own personal preference as I love this show – but am fully aware this isn’t going to be for everyone (I even mentioned this show in a panel I did a few years ago at an anime con for shows that are underrated and I love…BUT also mention who wouldn’t like it). That said, at this price I’d whole heartedly recommend it for something that isn’t quite the norm, but isn’t an old-school series because it still feels incredibly unique in today’s market and am happy there is a new generation of fans that could give it a shot.


In Summary:
Along with Chrono Crusade and Kurogane, this is the 3rd of the budget releases that Anime Limited have come out with and whilst Chrono is more fleshed out, I personally enjoyed Kino a little bit more. The episodic nature and unusual art/animation may put people off, but if you get into it, it is surprisingly compelling and could easily be something you could interpret into today’s world and society. Kino and Hermes are a great duo, the stories and tales are all individual, you get some good action sequences as well and there’s enough hints and background that you want to know more. With the new series out on Crunchyroll, you can immediately hop into that as well – highly recommended.

Production Sketches

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Anime Ltd
Release Date: 19/03/2018
MSRP: £19.99
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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