This is simply one of the most beautiful anime ever made. It is a great sin that there is nothing on E2 about it. I can't begin to describe it to you, but I will try, just so that your interest will piqued and hopefully you will go stream or download it, at the least.

Okay, let's blast through the characters quickly, only because that's a thing that these sorts of articles must include. The two main characters are Kino and Hermes. They are not necessarily that important to a given story, although you may grow attached to them. Kino is a young kid that travels from place to place, spending three days at any country as a rule. She is an expert with a pistol, and practices drawing it quickly as a morning routine. Kino's dialogue is mainly a way to express her ideas about the world, or to simply make small talk. Hermes facilitates this philosophizing by asking questions. In other words, they shoot the shit with each other. Oh yeah, Hermes is a "motorrad", a kind of motorcycle or moped or something. I won't give away why it can talk, as there is an episode that is sort of about that. Though it might be reasonable to note, that at least once Hermes saved Kino's life.

Every episode of Kino's Journey concerns at least one new country, where the people have a different custom that sets them apart.

Land of Books - 本の国1

There is a place that is famous for collecting books from all over the world, but at first it seems that they are screened and censored to prevent people from becoming crazed. Books may drive some people to crime, they reasoned, and it may cause many others an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. There is an underground resistance of those who just really love reading, and there is a man named 'the Author' who believes the distinction between fantasy and reality is really illusory, and that the entire world is a story he wrote.

Land of Visible Pain - 人の痛みがわかる国

At first, this place seems to be uninhabited, the town being maintained by robots and machines and nothing living. This is a country where everyone can read the thoughts of everyone else and their relationships slowly crumble as the little white lies they told to protect each other are slowly exposed.

There are many of these kinds of stories, fables or koans, often light and whimsical on the surface. There is one that has a critique of democracy, and another that weighs human life against animal2. There are many small vignettes in some episodes, that are usually a little bit sillier. For instance, there was this one country that thought the world was ending. Everything was free. Then the world didn't end. Despite the playfulness of some of these stories, I have never seen an episode of Kino that did not leave a feeling of awe and heaviness.

I wouldn't say this effect is only from the philosophical issues handled, but rather more from the atmosphere. The end sequence to Kino's Journey is breath-taking. The quality of the art is something that creeps up on you over time; it isn't such an incredible display on the surface as say, Ghost in the Shell, but it is definitely great in a subtle way. The scenery a lot of times has a vaguely watercolor look to it, and besides that there's little I can say. This show tries to guide you to the same conclusion they have made. In the preview for episode twelve, Hermes asks Kino what she finds beautiful. At first, she lists the sky, the Earth, birds, animals. And then people. They're beautiful. "Probably as beautiful as the world."

1. Man, kanji looks spiffy on here. Anyway, apologies if you can't read3 that. I can't help myself. Anyway, if you're on Windows, I think you need to find the disc, or at least a MS Office Disk (yeah, I know, it makes no sense), pop that in and then dive through some menus somewhere to "Install East Asian Language Support." If you're on Linux and you can't already see those characters, then what? Seriously? If your distro has a repository, then just download the fonts. Otherwise, you probably know what you're doing.
2. A Tale of Feeding Off Others - 人を喰った話 Kino chooses to save the people, not because she sees their lives as more important, but because in a similar situation, she would want the same done for her. ("Charity is not for the sake of others.")
3. If you were looking for a handy translation dealio, then Rikaichan is pretty awesome on Firefox. Anyway, the English is basically 1:1 on most of those, so don't worry.

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