Kino's Journey Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004



What They Say
Destination is a state of mind. Travelers not only find themselves in a variety of locations and geographic phenomena, but they also bear witness to the whims of culture and the skewed effects of subtle circumstance. Kino is such a traveler. Sitting astride Hermes, an internal combustion companion, Kino searches for life?s answers, life?s questions, and the myriad of interpretations connected to them. A wielder of cutlery, firepower and a piercing tongue, Kino is ready to embark on a journey unlike any other. Drift along for the ride.



The Review!
The first volume of Kino's Journey manages to completely surprise us, disgust us and have us laughing at things we never thought we'd laugh at.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a solid stereo mix with some very good moments of directionality throughout it for both dialogue and for special sound effects, such as gunshots or movements. The English language track got the bump up to a 5.1 mix which takes the existing materials and adds a touch more clarity and definition to it. Both tracks come off sounding good and are problem free.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Kino's Journey is probably one of the most frustrating transfers I've had to deal with in a number of years. The first thing that has to be gotten out of the way is that the transfer is essentially flawless. There's no cross coloration, aliasing looks to be non-existent and colors are fantastic looking and solid. This is a great looking anamorphic transfer by all accounts. So what's the problem? It's filled with what you'd normally call scanlines. They're highly visible throughout the print, though some of the more active scenes are less prominent with it. But with so many wide areas of solid color, the scanlines are very visible. But, they're not really scanlines. They're a visual choice applied by the director presumably as this is exactly what the Japanese DVD releases look like as I've confirmed. Depending on the sensitivity of your eyes to things like this, the print here may be completely unwatchable as it's very distracting at times and frustrating since otherwise this would be smooth and clean.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the first Japanese release, the cover is a stylized image of Kino in an outfit not normally seen while the backdrop has strange imagery across it. It's hard to explain, but there's something really intriguing with the design and the way it's done here. The back cover provides some limited idea of what the shows about in a poem-esque way alongside a few pictures from the show. The discs episode numbers and titles are listed as well as the discs features and production credits nice and clearly. The bulk of the technical information is slotted nicely into the technical grid at the bottom, making it easy to see what you can expect. The insert has a cleaner version of the front cover and opens to a two page spread with some illustrations of the characters set to a story that was written presumably for the Japanese inserts, all fully translated here. The back of the insert is a summary of what to expect on the disc itself.

In addition to the disc release, there's a disc + box release. Sadly, I don't think ADV has produced a solid small box yet for a four disc series, so this one is the slightly puffy fold-up box. Each of the main panels has a shot of Kino while the spine has a nice illustration of Kino set against a cast of people he meets throughout the series. Included in the box is a cute metal license plate with Hermes name on it and the series logo.

Menu:
The menu layout is rather nicely done on a simple side with a rustic style border that has a slow pan of the countryside animation inside it, but with a shot of Kino and the motorcycle in and out of it as leaves blow by. The opening song plays along to this, albeit far too briefly. Episodes can be jumped to directly from the main menu though as seems to be custom now, scene selection has gone out of favor. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate.

Extras:
The opening and ending sequences are presented in their textless form and anamorphic here, and we also get a few minutes worth of mixed color and black and white production sketches of various characters from these episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kino's Journey is a fabulously frustrating little show on so many levels. Going into the series with knowing nothing about it at all, every bit of it was a discovery. But let's get one thing out of the way ? if this is the kind of show that ADV Films is interesting in co-producing, then the fears of "western money" corrupting anime are all for naught. This is not something I expected them to put money behind. I can't imagine this being a mainstream show. I can't imagine this winning over hordes of fans.

But my god does it draw you in, shock you and then completely futz with your head. Just when you think you know how things are going to go forward with the episodic tales of Kino journeying to various countries, bam, the perception changes completely.

Kino and the world he inhabits is interesting. Kino is what's known as a Traveler, a proper "profession" of sorts, someone who journeys throughout the various countries of the world. Kino's particular rule is to never stay more than three days in a country before moving on. That amount of time is just enough to get a real feel for a country, plus if you stay longer that's time not spent in another place. Each country has its own set of rules and laws, but there are some basic ones that apply to Travelers. The most obvious is that they're not supposed to cause trouble after they check into a town. They have to respect the laws of that land. It's essentially a variant of the Prime Directive from Star Trek taken to a much smaller level.

Kino's travels bring him to all sorts of interesting countries. Each episode brings him to someplace new, though there is a two-parter later on and there's some continuity in getting to see his past. The opening tale has Kino entering a really nice looking European style city but it's filled only with machines that fulfill his every wish. Meals are taken care of, shops are maintained by robots and the city is clean and quiet. But no people are about. Kino actually comes across some on his way out of town however, and discovers the secret of the city. A few years prior, the scientists of the city created a drink that would allow telepathy among the citizenry. The reason for this was that if everyone knew what everyone else was thinking, nobody would hurt anyone else and everyone would be happy. But when utopia is sought, something always causes it to go wrong, and now people avoid each other like the plague, afraid that the smallest of things could cause pain to them.

Another city the Kino visits is going through something strange, where everything that he asks for his freely given to him, from food and boarding to weapons and ammunition. Apparently a preacher had found a text of prophesies and one of them talked about the end of the world. That time has apparently come according to the texts so everyone believes that the end is here, which means money means nothing and their time is just about over. Kino's not a believer of course, but he respects their traditions and goes along with it. When the sun comes up the next day and the world is still there, everyone goes into mild shock and then almost immediately picks up on a new tradition. The tradition of the city is to come up with a unique tradition to please each traveler that comes by, always reinventing, always coming up with something new.

With new series, if we're unsure of what a show is like, we watch it after our kids go to bed so we can see if it's safe for them to either watch or be in the room during. Kino's Journey looked safe at first, but as we saw the previews for the second episode we definitely thought twice. The story there has three men who are stranded after an early snow got their truck stuck. Kino ended up coming across them after they'd been weakened by a lack of supplies and offers to help by hunting for them and then when they're strong, getting the truck out. With meager food in the early snows, Kino is left to hunting rabbits, which he does with a laser guided pistol. Which we see in detail, repeatedly, as he gets them square between the eyes. Now that alone would give our girls nightmares, but then Kino goes and displays how they're skinned and prepared. It wasn't expected, it wasn't done up ugly, but I couldn't help but laugh at the entire sequence.

The last episode on this disc has the same impact on me that the "surprise" episode of Rahxephon did. The episode is creepy enough as it is, where kids are surgically operated on when they turn twelve so that they become happy productive adults and defectives are simply eliminated, but there's such a twist in how this plays out that it's completely surprising and causes you to re-evaluate the first three episodes as well as how the series is. There is a really creepy and disturbing layer to this show that comes out as it plays along, something that doesn't come through in the trailer or promotional bits to the show that preceded its release. Up until the last episode, I was averaging the show to be something like a B range, but that last episode so completely altered my view of things that it had to go higher. It's hard to explain without giving everything away unfortunately.

In Summary:
Kino's Journey is frustrating in a few ways, particularly the transfer. The content of the show itself started off interesting, proved to be disturbing, then almost comical, only to take a drastic turn that really and truly blew me away. It's rare that a show manages to do that and I can't help but to give it a big nod for pulling it off and doing it so beautifully. This is not your normal show and it won't appeal to everyone, but I can't help but to highly recommend it. Just make sure to watch it all in one sitting.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kino's Journey