Anime Blu-ray review – Kino’s Journey

Studio: A.C.G.T.
Publisher: ADV Films
Distributor: Section23 Films
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Edited by CrimsonMomongaSSS

Do you want an anime that takes you on a road-trip through an unknown world? How about an air of intrigue and mystery surrounding the lead characters and the lands they explore? Need a show that can be surprisingly thought-provoking and philosophical, but incredibly relaxing to watch at the same time? Well, ADV Films has got you covered with Kino’s Journey. No, not the 2017 version, but the original 2003 anime series! Many thanks to Section23 for the review unit.

Our hero, Kino, is on a journey around the world. Shocking, I know. Never spending more than three days and two nights in any nation, Kino and the trusty talking Motorrad Hermes stumble into one adventure after another. From unexpected revolutions to encounters with creepy hypnotists and even sentient tanks, Kino and Hermes have more than their fair share of tales to tell. With the wild and wonderful world they wander, one can only hope that Kino and Hermes survive the day, lest they take their tales to the grave. Join them on their expeditions and experience the beautiful bounties of this wide world in Kino’s Journey.

Kino’s Journey was definitely a journey for me. (Ha!) From its unique storytelling style to the interactions between Kino and Hermes to the overall relaxing vibe of the show, this is one anime that I would happily force my friends to watch given the chance. The philosophical aspect of the series makes it a mentally taxing yet highly stimulating watch. I particularly enjoyed the early episodes where they slowly began developing the world. While watching the show, the ‘five Ws and How’ were constantly at the forefront of my mind. Who is Kino? What is the goal that inspired this journey? Why is this motorcycle able to talk with humans? When will the next surprise jump out at them? Where will they travel next? How will this latest adventure end? With these questions and more bouncing around in my head, I couldn’t help but want to see more with every passing episode.

In addition to the thought-provoking narratives, the style of the storytelling itself was markedly unique to me. It tells its tales in a not-so-linear kind of way. You’re given events and pieces of information, but you’re not outright told how they fit together. There’s no convenient explanation or summary for you, and sometimes the conclusion to an adventure is left entirely up to your own interpretation. However, it is because the story is told this way that it allows you a deeper understanding of the world in which Kino lives. Bit by bit, you will put together the scattered fragments of the overarching narrative until all of a sudden the pieces fall into place and you are swept away by the realization, understanding, and implications. Rather than just dumping exposition on you, through the places Kino sees and the people Kino meets, Kino’s Journey sets up and delivers a worldbuilding experience based on your own conceptions.

The individuals that Kino meets during this long trip form a rather diverse cast. Including the talking Motorrad companion, every named character has a story of their own; none of them are there just to be plot devices. While some are unrepentantly villainous and others endearingly innocent, no character encountered on the journey, named or otherwise, is meant to be overlooked. It’s impressive that, given the frequently serious tone of this anime, not even the joke characters are easily forgotten.

Yes, that’s right, joke characters. Kino’s Journey, though thought-provoking, is also a surprisingly funny show. From the well-delivered (and sometimes dark) humor and deliberate animation decisions to the script itself, this show did not disappoint in the laughter department. From a societal standpoint, the anime has aged pretty well. Many of the jokes are just as good today as they were back then, and some of the casting choices (made in 2003, mind you) are also stingingly apt given recent events within America’s anime subculture. While the show as a whole was quite serious, it somehow also felt like the type of show where you could smoke a blunt, get astoundingly high, and have your mind absolutely blown by the combination of storytelling and jokes. Somehow, Kino’s Journey both felt incredibly chill and had absolutely NO CHILL WHATSOEVER.

This series was an absolute blast to watch, and it’s even better with friends. My only issues were with the disc itself. I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, but my disc was incredibly hard to remove from the case. It makes me so happy that I can just watch the series via HIDIVE instead of having to wrestle with a disc jacket ever again. The contents of the disc were without problems for the most part, but I did have an issue with the implementation of the menu. Instead of a non-obtrusive pop-up menu from which to access settings or episode selection (like most of the other Blu-ray discs I own), you instead have to fully exit to the main menu and interrupt whatever episode you were on. Again, this may not be the case for everyone, as I did play the disc via PlayStation 4® and my custom-built PC via Blu-ray disc reader, but the issue did occur on both. The second issue is that while it looks alright on my television screen via PS4, there were black bars surrounding the show and, as you can see from the screenshots, aside from the menu it didn’t really look that great on a 1920 x 1080 screen. On the other hand, my television and PS4 output at a resolution of 1280 x 720, so that may have had a part in how it looked. Outside those issues, however, the anime was pretty close to a perfect watch.

All-in-all, I truly enjoyed experiencing Kino’s Journey. From shocked disbelief at the apparent return of FMA’s Father Cornello to actually falling asleep once or twice from how relaxing (and draining) the show is, it most certainly was a show that deserved my attention. For the price of $49.98 USD on the Sentai Filmworks store (currently $32.99 at time of writing), I recommend watching Kino’s Journey, be it by Blu-ray or HIDIVE. My personal recommendation is to get yourself a HIDIVE subscription and watch it there since it looks a little better on a PC screen and you won’t have to wrestle a disc out of a case like a bear. However, I do enjoy having the disc and being able to watch it if my internet ever conks out, which it’s liable to do on a weekly basis. Ultimately, the choice is yours. It’s a beautiful show no matter which option you pick.

Lolinia gives Kino’s Journey 7.8 out of 10.0 (78) Moé Blobs.

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