Kino's Journey Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, April 03, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 06, 2004
What They Say
Destination is a state of mind. The traveler knows that it is not the end of the journey that is important, but drifting through the beautiful world, the small unintentional destinations scattered along the path, that makes a worthwhile trip. Be it conversational contact with three men working on the rails, or the exertion of the body and the careful doling out of lead slugs and mercy in a Coliseum. Kino travels through it, drifting along with the breeze. Drift along for the ride.
Kino's journey continues in an amusing single story episode and a surprising two-part storyline that again illustrates Kino's nature perfectly.
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.
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.
With the two part storyline on this volume, I was glad to see the artwork from the 3rd Japanese DVD release used that has one of the fighters from that story along with the dog and the very eerie image of all the faces in the background. The style is very similar to the first cover and just draws me in. 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 on one side while the back of the insert is a summary of what to expect on the disc itself.
The menu layout is rather nicely done on a simple side with a rustic style border that has a slow pan of a ruined city 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.
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 essentially came out of nowhere for us, other than knowing it was licensed. The first volume completely threw us off in terms of what we could even think of expecting the series to be like based on the trailer we had seen once beforehand. But those four episodes managed to entice and intrigue us. Though some of the ideas are fairly standard, their execution and style meant that we were hooked pretty quick and eager to see more. Thankfully, the second set of episodes here pulls off much of what made the first volume so enjoyable. Well, without that surprising twist during the fourth episode.
This volume plays things a little different. First it drops down to just three episodes, which is disappointing in and of itself. The second thing is that there's a two-part storyline, the only one of the series I believe, that takes its concept and does feel like it's stretching it out a bit before it gets to the point.
The opening episode has us once again following Kino as he's riding down the rail tracks on his motorrad. Along the way, he ends up meeting three people and tells the first two the same story. The first person he comes across has spent the past fifty or so years polishing the rail tracks and cleaning around them. The second person has spent the past fifty years breaking down the tracks and placing them into piles so that they can be picked up. The third person has spent the past fifty years taking the piles and building the rail line. All of them have been performing their jobs for the company that hired them in their teens, their first and only job in fact. None have been home and none look behind themselves either to see what's going on. They're all focused on their jobs.
In exchange for telling him their tale, Kino tells the first two people about a country he went to that was so modern that people didn't have to work as everything was practically given to them by their machines and automations. But even with a utopia like this, the people didn't like how it made them feel or the idea of being so completely lazy. In addition, they didn't completely trust the machines that were running everything, so they created jobs where they have to validate the machines numbers and accounting. But since the machines can go so much faster in their calculations, the people of the city have a huge backlog of papers to verify. This causes them stress and with the stress they feel human and not lazy.
The tale, combined with that of the rail workers, says plenty about the working situation of many out there and does it in a really simple way, at least seemingly. Kino's reactions to the way the men work and the way each of their jobs is making the other seemingly irrelevant is interesting, especially when he gets to the third person and doesn't even bother to really spend any time talking with him. Suffice to say, one hopes that the company that they work for doesn't operate in a similar manner.
The two-parter brings Kino to a country that's spoken of highly by other travelers as a place to be sure to go and visit. Its people live among the trees and forest in their wonderful city and are the friendliest there are out there. So when Kino arrives only to find that he's trapped inside it now, he's unsure of what's happened. Seven years prior, a new king came to power and changed the way the city work. The bulk of the people were sent to live in the sewage and undercity while those who qualified lived as first class citizens. When travelers and strangers come to the city, the king has ordained that they must compete with others to become a citizen, at which time they can add a new rule to the laws of the country. Kino's not interested in any of this but the situation becomes forced and he opts to be part of the initial group of over sixteen people who will fight or surrender in their efforts to become a citizen. Each of them has their own reasoning and it's very projected that one of them is the son of the king, but with it being so heavily pointed out you know that things won't work as expected.
The two episodes them proceed to be essentially a tournament show where we go through the ranks of those who are fighting and Kino makes his way through it. Some of the fights we see, but we skip several of the early ones in favor of just the more important matches towards the end. There's an assortment of people trying for citizenship for varying reasons and each of them show their cause in some way. There's also an amusing moment when the king comes and talks to the semifinalists and offers the two women a chance to skip out on the contest and be his bride instead, earning citizenship and more. Naturally they refuse (Kino included!) and move on to the matches, but it says quite a lot about this king that hasn't already been said by the conditions of the city or the underside where the bulk of the people live.
While it did feel drawn out with all the fights, I'm unsure of what could be removed easily enough to give it the same feel and the same ending, since there's a good spot of time spent on the epilogue and what happened in the final fight. This all plays off well against both the opening episode on the volume but also the second story on it with the way one country dealt with its problems of who to be king and how to rule the country after the death of the previous evil king. The various ways the countries deal with its self management is explored throughout this volume and it's quite well done when you step back and take these as a whole and then again with the previous four episodes in the series.
While not as surprising as the first volume was, since that had its own hook, this batch of episodes plays out very well when taken as a whole. The individual episodes seem weak at first and like simple little tales, but as they continue to be woven and tied together, the larger picture painted of this world is all the more enticing. From the lack of intervention for the most part from other countries to the bizarre way people choose to have themselves ruled, Kino's Journey is providing a different look at the way the world works and does it with style and substance. While not as great as the first volume, there is more than enough here to distinguish it on its own and make me want more still.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Sketches
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: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kino's Journey