Usual disclaimer: I have not seen the original Kino no Tabi anime from 2003, let alone read the light novels and please don’t kill me over that if you’re a fan and/or happen to dislike this new adaptation. In my defense, I was like 7 in 2003 and the only anime I was watching was like Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh. And as someone who is now trying to stay current with anime, it’s tricky finding the time to watch older shows. Maybe, I’ll get around to the 2003 version of Kino no Tabi; I’m certainly a lot more interested after watching the 2017 iteration.
So Kino no Tabi is about a girl named Kino who travels from country to country at three day intervals with her talking motorcycle, Hermes, and yes I am not making the last bit up. How exactly can a motorcycle talk in this world is beyond me and if there ends up being no explanation as to why, it wouldn’t really surprise me. The fact that Hermes can talk is even treated as a very normal thing by the other characters in this show; it’s as though they see talking motorcycles all the time. And if I’m begin honest, I found myself suspending my disbelief anyway since there was an even more peculiar thing going on in this premiere. The first country we are presented with is one where killing is not prohibited and to Kino’s surprise, all the citizens there are really polite and peaceful.
As I watched the episode, I was wondering as much as Kino as to how this kind of tranquility could exist. I was afraid that this would go the Purge route and just say the law exists and it just so happens to work. It could’ve easily gone there but fortunately the story explains why just as Kino is challenged to a duel by a guy who moved into the country so that he can commit murder without penalty. As it turns out, while the townsfolk didn’t prohibit the act of murder, they don’t permit it. Everyone more or less just wants to live good lives and the law just allows them to kill anyone who would dare disturb their peace. It’s a pretty smart twist and to the credit of the show, it does a good job articulating that these people mean well but it’s a little messed up that they’re all armed and ready to kill (are the children also armed?). My only concern is that this feels more like a one-off theme than anything that would arch over the course of the entire show though I could be proven wrong in later episodes.
Kino herself is a pretty interesting character. I really like how she’s fully armed for entering this strange country but first takes the time to understand how its society operates first. You see her wandering around town and make small talk with various people to see what life is like in this country. Her decision to take cover behind Hermes during her duel really reflects how well she understood the law works, even recognizing that the townspeople were walking away to retrieve their weapons to kill anyone who takes action during the duel. Kino clearly knew that if she had taken part in the duel, she’d get murdered along with her challenger. I’m also really liking Aoi Yuuki’s performance as Kino. Yuuki has terrific range as a seiyuu and while I do love some of her sillier performances (FROPPY! FROPPY!), it’s refreshing to hear a more subdued and quieter performance from her again.
By contrast, Hermes appears to be a more passive observer than Kino, especially since he’s a motorcycle and can’t really explore unless Kino is driving him. He’s ultimately not as curious about the “murder is totally a-okay” country as Kino is and instead throws questions and inferences at Kino’s observations. This attitude is even reflected in Soma Saito’s performance as the character; he provides a pretty neutral tone in Hermes’s voice. There’s some potential in that disconnect and hopefully future episodes will elaborate on it.
All things considered, I can definitely see the appeal of Kino no Tabi; there’s some strange qualities to it but this first episode kept me engaged from beginning to end and the twist made the plot work really well. Honestly, I’m tempted to try the 2003 version. I’m curious to see how these two anime adaptations compare with one another especially since both anime have entirely different casts and crews attached. But for now, I’ll definitely check out some more of the 2017 version.