Kino's Journey Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kino's Journey

Kino's Journey Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     June 21, 2004
Release Date: June 29, 2004


Kino's Journey Vol. #4
© ADV Films


What They Say
Idle traveler.
A winding road feeds turn after turn ?
Some soft curves, some harsh corners;
Sometimes leading to nowhere.
Tales differ from mouth to mouth.
Ear to ear they change yet again.
The answer to perception vs. reality
Is neither here nor there.
Toe to toe, the tall tales grow,
Blow by blow and woe by woe ?
Of love conquering all,
And wars promising peace.
See for yourself; eye to eye.
See yourself; live and die.
What you see is what you get,
And what you don?t, you won?t forget.
Kino is a traveler. A witness. A survivor.
And driven to discover the eternal destination.
Drift.

The Review!
When most series end, I tend to feel a small sense of loss knowing there's no more. With Kino's Journey, it's one of the few times I've felt considerable disappointment knowing there's no more.

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:
Probably my favorite cover of the series, the final volume uses the various shades of brown to showcase a large profile shot of Kino as well as a number of other people that Kino has come across during the various stories. It's a somber and almost theatrical-like style and it just sets the mood perfectly for these final episodes. 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.

Menu:
The menu layout is rather nicely done on a simple side with a rustic style border that has a slow pan of a green countryside but the bulk of it is taken up with Hermes and Kino relaxing against each other as small leaves blow in front of them. 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)
With the final three episodes of Kino's Journey I am once more amazed at this beautiful little series and the strength and power of its storytelling style. While I certainly wouldn't want all my series to be like this, getting one like this is rare and it really makes me appreciate it all the more. Kino's Journey is the kind of show that reinvigorates my excitement and interest in anime since it shows me things that simply aren't done elsewhere. And this last set of episodes continues that tradition beautifully.

In fact, the opening episode actually manages to make me enjoy a recap episode. Following Kino and Hermes as they float down the river on a simple wooden raft, Kino reflects on the places she's been in the past and a number of the people she's met. What's great about this recap episode is that it flashes back to stories and settings that were not in the episodes we've seen. We instead get several small stories, often just quick meetings between Kino and someone else, and a fast resolution or tale. A few minutes and its over, something not worthy of an entire episode but is worth telling since it helps to continue to build the world she lives and travels in. We even get to see an early stage of her journey when she was still in a simple dress and ended up meeting the older woman she would call Master, something we're teased with throughout the series. This is the kind of recap episode I wish more series would use, but I'm not sure many of them would be able to use it properly.

The two remaining episodes tell full tales and quite interesting ones. The middle tale is one that's something of a favorite among science fiction novels and TV shows over the years as Kino enters into a city where war has seemingly been abolished. We learn that they've been at war with a neighboring country for almost two hundred years but it all changed fifteen years prior. The city itself has plenty of monuments to the past and the symbols of war, but the place is peaceful except for a few squads that are in training along the outskirts. Kino learns that they're preparing for "the war tomorrow" and that she's more than welcome to come watch it. As with past novels and TV shows, there's a variety of ways in which the human mind has come up with to deal with war and to make it either more controlled or removed entirely. The method here isn't too far from some that I've seen in the past as the two countries have simply redirected their fight elsewhere and turned it almost into a sport. But there's a dark price paid for it and the final few minutes of this episode had me on the edge of my seat wondering how the violence would really play out. With a series like this, there's every chance even the lead could die?

The final episode brings Kino into a country that's pretty infamous for treating travelers badly, but she wants to experience it firsthand and see if the talk is true. To her surprise, the city is almost the complete opposite of the rumors and the people there are overly pleased to see her and she's welcomed in wherever she goes. Kino ends up at a hotel through the help of a young girl whose parents run it and she offers to be Kino's guide for the duration of her stay. She's intent on becoming a tour guide for the area when she's older and takes over the family business so she's glad to be able to get her first hands-on experience with Kino and show her all the beauty of the city. All the things Kino had heard about the city starts to fade away as she enjoys the time there and gets caught up in the lifestyle. So much so that she starts to contemplate staying longer than the three days she said she was at the start?

These final episodes of Kino's Journey are simply fantastic. I can't say that they're the best of the series as I don't think there's anything truly bad in the series. From a recap episode that blew me away to just about every twist and turn of every other episode, this series has held me captive with its style and delivery of its substance. While the series has a hook early on in the first volume about Kino herself, something that I did my best to not talk about for as long as I could, something that ended up causing a lot of really nasty emails to me since people were figuring I was a blind idiot, the series as a whole is something that really just focuses on telling engaging stories. With only one two-part storyline, the stand alone tales all managed to tell great stories that fit just right, they didn't really leave you wanting more or feeling like it was being rushed. Episodic anime series tend to be pretty poor since they're usually filled with repeated scenes and whatnot, but this series managed to avoid that and more of the other usual traps of such a format.

In Summary:
Kino's Journey was a series that had left almost no impact on me from the first trailers I had seen of it. With little hype about it before its release and not many people talking about it, the series was like a thief in the night that captured my attention and held on tightly. With its deliberate pacing and ambiguous stories it's something that won't appeal to a lot of people. But for those looking for those rare shows that sits on the fringe and gets critical praise but doesn't make the move to everyone getting into it. That's unfortunate because I think this is one of those series that will appeal beyond the anime hard core crowd and into the casual market if pushed just right. For those that do get it, I hope they enjoy it as much as I did as this is a series that's left a mark on me.

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.

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