Notes on Episode 1 of Kino’s Journey (2017): A Country Where People Can Kill Others

Management: This post is Part 1 of a cour-long project consisting of mental notes, observations, and musings of every episode of Kino’s Journey (2017). I will endeavor in this feature to avoid making any comments about the show’s technical aspects, but I may end up comparing it to previous episodes of Kino’s Journey (2003) when the story ground the former covers begins to overlap with what the latter has already explored.

Introduction

In keeping faith with my love of things Kino — if the blog’s header and name weren’t enough evidence for that affection — I felt it appropriate write and publish my  weekly thoughts (observations and musings) about the (as of the time of this piece) current broadcast of Kino’s Journey. The messages and lessons that the Kino’s Journey  franchises has imparted since I became familiar has been tremendously influencial in how I now view the world. My recent trip to Japan as a traveler has only rekindled my dormant enthusiasm for this franchise. The full title of this broadcast, Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series, is an unncessary mouthful to say though, and it’s also a chore to continue copy-pasting. As a result, I’ll just refer to the new anime adaptation of this franchise as Kino’s Journey (2017). If I feel the need to reference the old anime adaptation, I’ll just refer to it as Kino’s Journey (2003).

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Notes on Episode 1: A Country Where People Can Kill Others

Management:  This country was not covered by Kino’s Journey (2003).

We begin with Kino camped outside. She muses to Hermes about how she likes to travel despite her doubts about her character’s morality. She appears to be getting ready to fall asleep. A revolver lays atop her chest. Her palm clutches the handle.

The opening scene gives the audience a simple introduction to the overarching premise and theme of this franchise. Another way of describing it from the perspective of the literary classes I took in high school. I was asked try to piece an all-encompassing definition for “poetic” based on examples of anything that I reacted to as instinctually “poetic.”  Yet another means to describe it is based on the social science training in college. I asked myself while taking an anthropology course why anyone would concern themselves so devotionally to the study of culture. “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is” seems like a contradiction of logic at first glance, but for Kino, it is actually a paradox of humanity. As human beings, we constantly find beauty in human truths, because even if some of them aren’t exactly flattering, we still find those human truths relatable. It reaffirms to us that, wherever we travel or settle down, we aren’t alone.  If you want to look at this dynamic cynically, as Kino’s musing to Hermes in this scene might seem to suggest, this whole quest for finding beauty in human truths comes off as narcissistic self-validation. But perhaps we, like Kino, can’t help ourselves.

We begin again with Kino moving proper. Kino rides off with/on Hermes to their next destination. Kino spots a man with a face tattoo resting next to a river with his horse. Kino beckons Hermes to stop there and greet him.

The face tattoo man tells her that he’s also headed to the same place Kino’s heading. She wants to visit there for three days. He wants to live there permanently. The face tattoo man tells Kino about what he thinks the country over is like. Because their destination doesn’t have any laws in the books that state killing is prohibited, he firmly believes that it’s “A Country Where People Can Kill Others.” He discloses why he wants to go there. He feels stifled by the laws protecting the public order of his home country (formal rules instituted by a governing body legitimized by society) and the norms that reinforce it (informal rules enforced by the people in the society around you). He expects in his adoptive country that the absence on a prohibition on killing equates to the freewheeling atmosphere he’s always craved. He also mentions rumors that a man named Regal lives there, a serial killer who used to lead bandits and terrorists.

He demands that Kino carry half of his belongings with him to the gates of their destination. Kino refuses his rude imperative while giving him a reasonable explanation for why out of courtesy (i.e. she could go ahead of him, steal want she wants, sell what she doesn’t, be gone before he could catch up with her, etc.). She rides ahead of him, predictably carrying only her stuff.

She reaches the gates of the country, where the clerk posted there reiterates to her the country’s peculiarities (i.e. there’s no prohibition on killing, travelers can also be killed and are on their own, is she absolutely sure she wants to visit, etc.). She replies that she understands the risks soon after saying that she’ll only visit for three days. She mentions three days again at the end of the episode like it’s a rule. The gates open for her, and she drives into town. The town looks like a frontier settlement from all those Hollywood Wild West flicks, with the exception that main street doesn’t look especially dusty or bullet-ridden. The town is clean and orderly with few sheriffs, kids are milling around carefree, and the shops are buzzing with activity. The prohibition against killing doesn’t appear to have turned the country into an anarchic dystopia. With Hermes, Kino motors around the countryside to see the sights. She walks around town to buy provisions, eat at a restaurant, encounter the locals. Upon careful observation, she notices everyone (including an old granny) has a weapon of some kind that they carry around with them.

She seems to have a habit of sleeping face up, her hand clutching her gun, which is placed on her chest. She gets up early every morning to train her drawing speed.

Noticing the rifle propped prominently behind him, Kino asks a shopkeeper what it’s for. He replies (a shot of the shopkeeper centers on the gleeful muscles of his smiling face, light and shadow partitioning his face in a symbolic duality of man) that it’s for killing. For clarification, Kino asks if the threat the gun poses deters people from stealing from his shop. The shopkeeper doesn’t qualify himself. He reiterates that it’s meant for the killing time, while adding that the killing time happens irregularly. He keeps his gun nearby so he can be prepared to participate when it does happen. An old man at a restaurant invites Kino to morning crepes and tea. Kino accepts. During the starchy and caffeinated breakfast, the old man asks a little bit about Kino’s travels before telling her (with the same gleeful look) she’d be a good fit for this country if she ever wanted to settle down. The old man seems to detect that Kino’s killed before, and that she’s willing to kill again. Kino declines his implied invitation, they finish their meal, and he thanks her for her company and stories. It’s possible that the old man probing Kino in an attempt to understand what kind of killer she happens to be (i.e. the if-I’m-forced-to kind or I-actually-like-killing kind). Kino seems to kill more for self-defense than personal pleasure.

The face tattoo man appears, boldly proclaiming that he’s now a citizen of this country. Frustrated that she wouldn’t help him earlier, he declares that he’ll kill her if she doesn’t hand over her belongings. She doesn’t oblige him. Just before he tries to make good on his threat, he’s assailed by the townspeople. A crossbolt pierces his arm and disarms him. The townsfolk all come out from on the street and appear out their windows, brandishing all manner of weapons proper and improvised (i.e. guns, crossbows, knives, hatchets, etc.). Another crossbolt pierces his foot and immobilizes him. Fear and terror take a hold of him. The townsfolk let him languish, refusing to end it quickly. They all seem cultishly eager to get a piece of the killing. The old man comes forward, explaining that the lack of a prohibition on killing doesn’t equate to a permittance of it (law of prohibition on killing vs. norm of permittance on killing). It’s an informally understood rule among the country’s longer lived residents that everyone should gather together and kill those who try to kill others first (those who misunderstand and violate the prohibition vs. permittance killing distinction).

This norm seems to explain why the town is well-kept and orderly.  It doesn’t explain though why the country didn’t do a better job informing travelers and immigrants from the outside about the prohibition-permittance distinction. It also doesn’t explain why the citizens of the country sound and look enthusiastic about the next time they’re permitted to kill someone.

The old man pulls a sword out of his cane and thrusts it in the face tattoo man’s chest. The face tattoo man dies, his trauma finally ended. The old man discloses to the face tattoo man just before that he’s notorious serial killer and bandit-terrorist leader Regal. What do serial killers especially and stereotypically like to do? Could you imagine a fully rehabilitated and retired serial killer? It makes you think if the townsfolk aren’t secretly Regal’s former bandits and terrorists, or at least people who at least share a similar mind for sadism as he presumably still possesses. It also makes you wonder if this rule was set up in the first place so that the townsfolk can prey on ignorant travelers and newcomers — satisfying whatever bloodlust they might still have without destroying the town in the process. What would the episode otherwise gain by making Regal such an prominent figure in the tale told? Assuming the literary principle of Chekov’s Gun is applicable, the inclusion of serial killer Regal and the unhinged townsfolk adds a more complex, sinister, insidious element to this otherwise open-and-shut thematic resolution to the episode. On the surface, their actions seem like the killing they do is out of self-defense. On closer examination, their faces seem to give away that they also enjoy the act of killing.

Kino departs from the country after three days. Kino rides with/on Hermes to the next destination She spots a man wearing a shawl. Kino beckons Hermes to stop there and greet him.

The shawl-garbed man tells her he intends on immigrating to the country she just left. He wants to live there permanently. The shawl-garbed man tells her what he thinks over country is like. Because he’s heard of the well-maintained and orderly state of its society, he believes that country would be a safe place for him to live. He discloses a little bit about himself. In his home country, he’s been forced to kill many people in the past out of self-defense, that he has empathy for those victims of his who probably killed for the same reasons, and that he’s become sick of leading that life. He asks Kino to confirm if that country is, indeed, safe. Kino replies that it is, depending on his perceptions. It seems like an otherwise safe place for someone not looking to stir trouble, but the townspeople might expect him to join them during the killing times. Given his confession of being tired of killing others, he might feel uncomfortable enough with the practice to object to settling down there. However, he doesn’t follow up with any questions concerning this custom (he might not know it exists). Kino also doesn’t  inform or remind him of it (she might have chosen not to). He thanks her. Kino leaves him.

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