Kino's Journey Complete Collection (Thinpak) -

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Mania Grade: A+

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kino's Journey

Kino's Journey Complete Collection (Thinpak)

By J.J. Matthews     February 28, 2006
Release Date: October 25, 2005

Kino's Journey Complete Collection (Thinpak)
© ADV Films

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 bare witness to the whims of culture and the skewed effects of subtle circumstance. Kino is such a traveler. Sitting astride Hermes, the ultimate 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!

The Review!
For our main viewing sessions, we listened primarily to the 5.1 English audio, as I'm quite fond of this dub, and checked the Japanese track also. The 5.1 mix done for Kino is quite well prepared. Volume levels for effects and special cues are perfect. Everything got the treatment, too; ambient effects, voice, sound effects. It is all been mixed well. The 2.0 stereo Japanese track is also well produced with clean sound. This series is one where the 5.1 mix is nice, but for those who enjoy the Japanese, the 2.0 mix is more than adequate to carry the series nicely.

The opening and closing songs for Kino’s journey are beautiful, so make sure you resist the temptation and listen to them at least once.

The video for Kino’s Journey is pretty good. The transfer is clean, colors are true and there were no appreciable artifacts or anomalies. Aliasing is practically non-existent.

If you are watching the series on a large enough screen (probably anything over 50 inches), you may notice a line-effect. This series was made this way to impart a certain effect to the series, giving it a sort of vintage home movie feel, but on large screens, the lines separate a bit too much and while not distracting, it is noticeable. On smaller screens, you can see the lines, but their effect comes across correctly and they only add to the series’ atmosphere.

ADV has changed up the packaging a bit from the original Kino box, going with something a bit bolder for this thinpak release while still keeping with a fairly neutral color scheme. The box itself features two pieces of art, one a shot of Kino from behind against an empty white background, holding the two guns and ready for action, and the other featuring Kino and Shizu, with their sidekicks, Hermes and Riku, in the background. The covers for the individual disks are very striking, with portraits of three characters from the series, again against a pure white background, and including the first cover image.

The menus on this thin pack are laid out simply, appropriate for the series. The options are each episode, Previews, Language selection, and DVD Credits. No extras are provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its sepia-toned visuals and rather atypical character designs, it’s clear from the start that this series is something a little different, and that first impression proves to be well founded. "Kino's Journey" is like nothing else I've ever seen. It's a series that is thought-provoking without being so ‘deep’ that the story becomes incomprehensible. It treads close to surreality without losing its sense of down-to-earth practicality. It tells stories that have a solid moral to them without coming across as judgmental or preachy. It is compelling, insightful, whimsical, adventurous, and inventive. I really can't recommend this title enough.

The series tells the story of character named Kino who travels, along with a talking motorcycle (called a motorrad in the series) named Hermes, through a slightly surreal world dotted with what seem to be a series of autonomous city-states, referred to as "countries". Kino's only life goal is, simply, to be a traveler - journeying from country to country, experiencing the unique culture and customs of each land before moving on to the next. There is no goal to these journeys, and the only guiding principle seems to be Kino's own self-imposed rules to never stay in any country for longer than three days and to avoid forming any serious attachments with people met along the way. As the title implies...this series is about the journey, not any future destination. (In fact, one particular encounter manages to make the question "Where are you going?" seem vaguely ominous, as if answering it would be a horrible thing.). The journey itself is the destination.

This setup provides a framework for a series of standalone vignettes showcasing the people, places, and events that Kino and Hermes encounter in their travels. Each incident touches on some aspect of human nature, ranging from our more basic traits as a species (survival instincts, the urge to create and explore, etc.) to the broader rules and boundaries found in the societies we create (corporate culture, religion, censorship, elitism, etc.). Kino and Hermes act as observers and commentators, simply passing through and moving on except at those times when they are forced to get caught up in the action.

At its best, Kino's Journey can be incredibly thought-provoking, and certain episodes keep me pondering and discussing them for days afterwards. My favorite episodes keep changing as I think about them, but two that really stand out to me are episodes two and nine: "The Tale of Feeding Off Others" and "The Land of Books". In the first of these, Kino and Hermes encounter some men whose truck has gotten stuck in the middle of nowhere and who have been gradually starving to death. Kino is not so selfless as to share essential supplies with the men, but does offer to hunt for them, since they are too weak to do so themselves. Killing several rabbits over a few days, Kino is troubled by the paradox of saving one life by taking another, and questions what makes those men's lives more worth saving than the rabbits'. Hermes offers assurance that there's nothing wrong with choosing to help your own kind over another species, but Kino concludes that the men are worth saving simply because of the golden rule...doing unto others as you'd like to have done to you. At the end of the story new information is revealed that puts the question in a different light, and the answer doesn't seem so clear...was Kino's sacrifice of the rabbits still the right thing to do if the men being saved weren't worthy of saving?

While episode two is a fairly straightforward encounter, "The Land of Books" is probably the series' most challenging – requiring the viewer to pay attention to keep up as the story plays around with our perception of reality while taking on censorship, freedom of speech, and the magic of books. In a land where books must be screened by a panel of "Critics", Kino gets caught up in a cloak-and-dagger type of scenario with an underground movement of book-lovers trying to overthrow the power of the Critics and gain access to all the books that have been locked away. It’s a fairly standard scenario, but what makes the episode fascinating is the way it runs with the book-theme, raising questions about the reality of books and manipulating our perceptions of the Kino-verse. In the opening scene, for example, there is a brief vignette about Kino encountering a tank along the road, but as the tank moves on, a shift occurs and we realize that Kino was actually reading a book ABOUT a traveler having an encounter with a tank...and yet, when the episode wraps back around to that moment again, it seems to be truly happening. The lines between what is real and what is just a story in a book are twisted back and forth…and since we as viewers know that all of this truly *is* just a story, it adds a great sort of “meta”-level to the other issues addressed by the story.

Without going into detail about them, I also want to mention a couple of other episodes I am particularly fond of: “Land of Adults”, “Three Men Along the Rails”, and “Her Journey”.

Although the main emphasis in "Kino's Journey" is certainly on the thought-provoking content, the series also proves to be quite entertaining in less cerebral ways as well.
There is quite a bit of humor in some of the silliness of people met along the way, and Kino and Hermes are a great road-trip duo. The series is dotted with little moments of banter and conversation between the two of them that are just plain fun, lightening the tone and making the characters feel more fully developed. One of my favorite throwaway bits is a brief interlude where the duo come to a crossroads and must choose left or right. Kino votes right, Hermes votes left. Kino agrees to go left, starts down that road, then swerves to the right path anyway, making the point that the driver gets to make the decision. It's just a small moment, but it's character work like this that makes the two of them more than passive observers of their surroundings.

One final thing I want to mention about this series is how unique the storytelling approach is. The strange twists that "The Land of Books" makes in its narrative structure are one example, but what is really neat is how the series changes up its storytelling approach from one episode to the next. They aren’t drastic differences, but each episode has its own sort of character within the larger series; some episodes focus on a single standalone incident while others consist of multiple encounters in a single episode or (in one case) a single encounter across multiple episodes. In at least one instance, an episode is told primarily from the point-of-view of a character other than Kino. Some episodes have a relatively straightforward beginning-to-end structure while others are built as flashbacks or stories-within-a-story. Some focus on relatively innocuous aspects of human nature, while others dwell on our darker, uglier side. There is even one interesting little twist in the final episode that sheds new light on some comments made in the first episode, giving the show a feeling of coming full circle and bringing us back to the very beginning again.

I suppose the lack of any big finale with definitive answers would be seen as a drawback in some shows, but it is perfectly in keeping with the rest of "Kino's Journey" and only encourages the viewer to go back to episode one and enjoy it all again. Even after several viewings and knowing how each episode turns out, the rewatch value of "Kino's Journey" remains high for me.

In Summary:
With a unique look-and-feel, varied episode structure, and meaningful content, "Kino's Journey" is truly a must-see series. It's like nothing else out there in the way it presents such thought-provoking material in such a relatively simple format, making its message and ideas accessible and engaging even for viewers who wouldn't normally go for a "deep" anime. Ultimately, "Kino's Journey" is some of the best story telling you can find in any medium or genre; it entertains while also expanding our horizons and making us think about who and what we are, what we're doing here, and what it means to be human. Plainly put, “Kino’s Journey – The Beautiful World” is an intelligent, entertaining, not-to-be-missed series.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Marantz DV4300 Progressive scan DVD player via HD component connection, Marantz VP-12S3 DVI/Component HD DLP Projector, 110” 16:9 Stewart FireHawk Fixed Wall Mount Screen, Marantz SR9300 7.1 A/V Receiver 140 watts/discrete channel (7), DTS/DTS-ES/DTS Neo: 6, DD, D-PLII THX Certified 7.1 speaker system


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