Notes on Episode 3 of Kino’s Journey (2017): Bothersome Country

Management: This post is Part 3 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.

Notes on Episode 3: Bothersome Country

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

Undecided about what to do (and presumably where to travel) next, Kino and Hermes are given their answer something like a fortress emerges into their view. Thinking that it’s a country, Kino decides to check it out. Noticing her down below and confirming that she’s a traveler, the man in charge of admitting travelers and migrants invites her into what is, in fact, his country. It is a country on moving treads. She accepts his invitation and says she’ll stay for 5 to 10 days. He states to her that, like his other countrymen, he juggles multiple jobs. For example, he serves as an immigration officer, the chief diplomat, and  a tour guide.

His country is one that’s heavily modernized and technologically advanced. It bears visual similarities with the technological levels of today’s first world countries (sans the gigantic death laser later brought up), but the anachronistic nature of the show makes his society’s technological levels stand out all the more. The enormous amounts of energy used to power his mobile society comes from a reactor that requires the country to be constantly on the move to prevent it from overheating. That need complements a certain lifestyle that his country’s people have adopted: traveling with their entire country in tow. The moving country travels from one land to another. Drones take pictures of the surrounding vistas and project them onto the country’s interior surfaces for its citizens to enjoy. Graduating primary school classes in this country practice a unique send-off project: they paint a mural of their favorite vistas on their moving country’s exterior surface.

But unlike Kino’s presence while traveling around (with some caveats), the traveling country’s escapades leave noticeable large-scale negative footprints on the places it leaves behind, negative footprints that the immigration officer-cum-tour guide describes (and I paraphrase) as unfortunate bothers his country has to impose to maintain its citizens’ lifestyles. Parts of the environments that these people enjoy are spoiled wherever their country passes. Moreover, the country refuses to compromise their traveling lifestyle when the obstacles to their forward progression shift from the environment to other countries. The immigration officer-cum-tour guide-cum-chief diplomat allows Kino to witness him attempt to negotiate right of passage with a general of another country (which, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just call “that other country”). That other country has sealed the entire area — of which they’ve asserted as part of their sovereign territory — with walls that create an effective corridor/choke point. The walls prevents anyone from passing through without eventually meeting their gates and paying a toll for access. Being told by the other country’s general to turn back or else, and with no other options to move forward (not even a way to travel around the walls), the traveling country decides to force their way through.

Using the massive amounts of energy their reactor produces, they employ a massive laser that blows a hole in a section of the wall that they then start immediately making their way towards. The thick armor plating of the traveling country-cum-mobile fortress handily survives the retaliatory fire from the other country’s stationary artillery cannons. The traveling country sticks to the route that avoids the least amount of houses of that other country’s that they could run over, but given that that path is the where all that other country’s farms are, there are undoubtedly livelihoods that are ruined due to the traveling country’s actions. That’s not to mention the potential famine that the traveling country threatens for that other country for rolling over their crops. That’s also not accounting for the potential casualties the traveling country caused to the farmers who either didn’t get out in time or refused to abandon their properties. The other country is powerless to stop the traveling country’s advance even as they track it. In something of a petty retribution, they aim their mobile missile batteries at the defacement of the graduating school kids’ mural.

There’s a metaphor to be had about how a totally or at least partially ruined mural is a better reflection of the traveling country than the traveling country’s citizens give it credit for. There’s at least an argument for poetic justice that could be made, but Kino steps in before the damage to the mural becomes serious. As the traveling country’s leaders toy with the idea of using their super destructive laser beam to stop the mural from being ruined (because it would hurt the children’s feelings if that happened, apparently), Kino decides to volunteer her impressive sharpshooting skills to incapacitate the artillery spotters’ equipment. Thanks to her, most of the mural is saved, and people didn’t get laser’d. That laser is ridiculous.

Kino thinks its ridiculous, or she thinks that power, at least, that the traveling country possesses because of it is ridiculous. After blowing yet another hole in another wall on the other side of that country’s borders, the traveling country successfully leaves it behind. Shortly after, Kino says her farewells to her tour guide, who’s grateful for her help. Before leaving, she asks him why his country doesn’t harness its power to conquer and subjugate other lands. He responds that his people are not interested. Traveling around is satisfaction enough for them. Additionally, while his country might have some bothersome qualities, they’re not actively trying to seek out trouble. They tried to mitigate the damage to surroundings and others as much as they could even while they pursued their lifestyle. Kino finally departs from the traveling country, and mentions that that other country which tried to refuse the traveling country’s request for passage had its own bothersome qualities too. It sought to monopolize an entire area for itself. It charged passersby hefty tolls for passage through its corridor/choke point, knowing that there was no other alternative option they could possibly take to travel past it… unless they were somehow capable of forcing their way through. Luckily, Kino was with just such traveling company that were perfectly capable and willing to do that.

Kino rides off to her next destination. Hermes teases that the next mural the traveling country’s next graduating class will create will probably depict Kino’s heroics for them. Kino finds the thought embarrassing.

In the context of the past episode, this episode articulates more illustratively the kinds of negative exchanges that travelers may have to endure with the countries they visit, and visa-versa. The Colosseum country from the last episode sought to impose its cultural customs onto Kino by (among other things) forcing her to participate in the fighting pit. Kino imposed her personal outrage on the Colosseum country by destroying it from within (via her law). Call this description euphemistic to the magnitude of what transpired, but both traveler and country in the aforementioned instance were being “bothersome” to the other.  The traveling country from this episode was a bother to that other country when it forced its passage through its walls and its farmlands. That other country was being a bother to the traveling country with its walls and its posturing.

Digging deeper into this bothersome angle, by turning an entire country with bothersome qualities into a kind of traveler, the show magnifies an issue that all travelers end up being complicit in contributing to wherever they go. Kino’s imposition on the Colosseum country had drastic effects similar to the traveling country’s imposition on that other country, but even the far less drastic damage that ordinary travelers leave behind still count as a “negative.”  Like how the traveling country trampled underfoot the same environment whose sights they enjoyed, many visitors to national parks leave waste behind that negatively affects the health of the surroundings they journeyed to marvel at in the first place. Individual travelers, too,  end up imposing bothersome things on the countries they travel to, and visa-versa.

Why do travelers like visiting different countries then, and why do countries welcome visiting travelers? Travelers enjoy the adventure of it all and the new experiences they accumulate. They view the inconveniences they encounter along the way as either aspects to tolerate to get to the enjoyable stuff, or exciting challenges to overcome that they feel rewarded for adapting to. Countries, too, benefit from the influx of travelers for reasons outside of tourist dollars. They get to show off the customs that they’re proud of to outsiders. They also open themselves up to the possibility for outside aid toward problems their societies are dealing with or new ideas that might re-invigorate their communities. There’s a risk for bad exchanges between both parties, but there’s the opportunity for beneficial ones as well.  The traveling country received valuable assistance from Kino’s marksmanship, and Kino got a possible monument from the traveling country in her honor. Kino and the traveling country left marks on each other, but in this case, they weren’t negative ones.

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