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Kino’s Journey The Beautiful World Complete Collection Essentials Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
As a twelve-episode run of standalone stories, Kino’s Journey delivers beautifully.

It’s a beautiful world in all kinds of ways.

What They Say:
Kino and her talking motorcycle, Hermes, travel from country to country collecting stories and memories. With just three days in each place, Kino learns about different cultures and all the fascinating stories they weave.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The show has its small moments where it bursts out with gunshots or other action elements but most of it is focused elsewhere. The quieter moments are wonderfully captured as Kino discover the world and listening to it is an important part of it. The dialogue is conveyed well as it’s almost all conversational when you get down to it and there’s some decent placement to it as well. The bigger moments work just as well such as the sounds of the motorrad or just the surprising sounds of a massive herd of sheep. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes of this series are spread across two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by studio Lerche, the show is one that looks wonderful with its backgrounds, the brighter and more vibrant color palette for most of it, and a good bit of fluidity in the high-motion scenes where it’s really needed. The previous series was done with a very particular style that was jarring but this one is more traditional in a cleaner look for it that lets the quality of the animation really shine through. Funimation’s encoding is definitely well done here as the colors are bold and vibrant without any noise to be had or breakup in general. It’s a very clean looking transfer that handles everything just right that will please fans as there’s little to complain about.

It’s not often that a later priced-down release gets different artwork but I’m always interested when they do since the potential for interesting choices is there. This edition goes with the more familiar key visual piece for the show but with just Kino and Hermes set against a kind of bronze-ish color, which is a nice contrast to the heavy greens of the two characters. It’s kept simple with a good font for the logo as expected and it has a neat kind of journey feeling about it. Even the Essentials stripe along the top doesn’t feel like it works badly. The back cover has a couple of shots from the show and another key visual done as photographs while the right side has a decent summary of the premise in a typewriter style font. The key visual piece here was the cover for the prior release, which I like being used. It’s all set against the same bronze-ish background and the extras are clearly listed and the technical grid breaks everything down cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included but we do get artwork on the reverse side with more of the Japanese artwork of Kino in different places.

The menu design for this release looks good as both discs go with a static screen image, the same one, utilizing the cover artwork of Kino. It’s a zoom in on her face and it works well with some good detail throughout it that’s appealing while also coming across as more colorful than the cover piece itself with the paper materials. The navigation is kept simple to the bottom with standard selections to move about it. Everything is smooth and easy both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback, but I do wish it had used more artwork instead of the same image for both discs.

The extras for this release are pretty standard in that we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequence. We also get a six-minute interview piece with the original creator who talked about his excitement of a remake being given the green light, some of his other projects, and just a kind of light but nice view of the property as a whole. With so many novel and manga creators getting little attention in extras over the years, this was a welcome addition.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series that began in 2000, Kino’s Journey is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the fall 2017 season. The show is a remake of the 2003 series and covers some of the same stories in a new way as well as adapting other stories. The novels from Keiichi Sigsawa have been running for almost twenty years at this point and the 21st volume landed the same year as the anime did. It’s not a mainline project for Sigsawa and with it basically being a series of short stories and explorations it’s not something that really needed a heavy and fast push to get through the material. It’s the kind of work where, like the anime, I’d love to see more of it every few years digging into more of the stories and the kind of quiet tension that it builds.

The general premise is that we follow Kino, a young woman who is traveling around the world to various countries that are like feudal nations. She spends three days and a couple of nights max in them so as to get to know them in a basic way but without becoming too attached or causing too much of a problem while there as most countries are fairly well isolated in their nature. They all have their own particular style about them in terms of what makes them tick and some are more dangerous than others. For Kino, it doesn’t delve into revealing who she is or what makes her tick but we do get the origin episode revisited in this incarnation and it does make it clear why she does all of this and just how much it means. This incarnation doesn’t seem to try to hide Kino’s gender as much as the original run did but it’s still not all that important to the story overall other than how it allows her to blend into either gender as needed depending on who she’s dealing with.

What draws me to a show like this is just the nature of how it operates. These are like first contact stories as you get some countries that hide who they really are while others are very up front about it. Some are putting on a brave face even in the knowledge that their end is coming. We get that a couple of times, one with a nation trying to rehabilitate its image before the end comes after spending years being known as a terrible place. Another is a nation that’s essentially a massive ship going along the coast that is close to falling apart and sinking into the ocean. Some know what’s coming and are trying to find a way to get it fixed through bringing in travelers that can help while the bulk of the population wants nothing to do with such things, believing in the eternal journey of their nation as a foregone conclusion. The level of denial and self-delusion that comes into some of these nations is engaging to watch because they’re shooting themselves in the foot so willingly.

Lerche did a great job in capturing these various nations well with a mostly feudal kind of feeling to them that feels like it’s logically consistent even though they’re all operating so differently. One that stands out as very different is the “traveling” country, which is a mobile nation that’s really intriguing. They do their best to not leave much of an impact on any nation it visits but their treads leave just that everywhere, though to be fair every nation leaves its own impact in a big way. It’s really neat seeing how they come up with their own culture by acting as a kind of traveler themselves but with the power to go anywhere. Which is a problem when they come across one country that has built a wall all around itself and made it so that you can’t even go around it. The resulting “fight” isn’t what you’d expect since the nation is more advanced (yet its residents more ignorant of how to run it) but they’re trying to deal with the wall in as peaceful a way as possible. It’s the kind of story where watching it unfold you can understand both sides in what they do and how they have to survive in this world like this. The traveling country really offers something fascinating.

In Summary:
Almost two years after the first home video release we get the priced-down version of this and just like the original series it’s a worth rewatch. As a twelve-episode run of standalone stories, Kino’s Journey delivers beautifully. With some of the tales being told having been done in the previous series they still come across well here with a new way to present it. The journey that Kino is on makes her the perfect kind of observer for it all, to see what tempts her into staying or working for her in a way that others don’t. While standalone stories may seem like an easy thing to put together it takes a special kind of magic for it to all come together right, from the world design to what it is that it wants to explore. And, critically, the main character. Kino is a wonderful one to see the world through with her talking motorrad Hermes that only she can hear. Each country could sustain a lot longer run individually but keeping it to a single episode and a few days offers up so much engaging material.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Kino’s Journey: An Interview with Keiichi Sigsawa, Textless Opening & Closing Songs

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 18th, 2020
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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