Kino's Journey: the Beautiful World (キノの旅 -the Beautiful World- Kino no Tabi -the Beautiful World-?), shortened to Kino's Journey, is a Japanese light novel series written by Keiichi Sigsawa, with illustrations by Kouhaku Kuroboshi. The series originally started serialization in volume five of MediaWorks' now-defunct light novel magazine Dengeki hp on March 17, 2000. The first volume of the series was published on July 10, 2000 by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko publishing imprint. As of October 2010, 14 volumes have been published, and over 5.6 million copies of the novels have been sold in Japan. In Kino's Journey, the protagonist, Kino, accompanied by a talking Brough Superior motorcycle named Hermes, travels through a mystical world of many different countries and forests, each unique in its customs and people. A spin-off light novel series titled Gakuen Kino began with the first volume published on July 10, 2006 by ASCII Media Works; four volumes have been released as of July 2010.
A 13-episode anime adaptation produced by A.C.G.T and Genco aired between April and July 2003 on WOWOW in Japan. Two visual novels for the PlayStation 2 were released by ASCII Media Works, the first in July 2003, and the second in December 2005. There have also been two 30-minute animated films produced, the first in February 2005, and the second in April 2007. A Kino's Journey light novel was only released as a promotional gift for the second animated movie. Additional merchandise includes an art book, three picture books, and a drama CD. A spin-off light novel series titled Gakuen Kino was also created.
In Kino's Journey, the protagonist, Kino, accompanied by a talking motorcycle, a Brough Superior motorcycle named Hermes, travels through a mystical world of many different countries and forests, each unique in its customs and people. Kino only spends three days and two nights in every town, without exception, on the principle that three days is enough time to learn almost everything important about a place, while leaving time to explore new lands. Kino says in The Land of Visible Pain that this principle is probably a lie, specifically noting "if I stay any longer, I'm afraid I will settle down." A phrase repeated in the anime and novels is "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is." Kino's Journey explores what the anime director Ryūtarō Nakamura described as "a radical sense of 'beauty," and brutality, loneliness, nonsense, oppression and tragedy are often juxtaposed against compassion and a fairy-tale atmosphere.
For protection and hunting, Kino carries a .44 single action revolver (called "the Cannon", based on a Colt M1851) that uses liquid explosives in place of gunpowder and a .22 automatic pistol (named "the Woodsman", based on a Colt Woodsman). Later in Kino's adventures in the novels, Kino also uses a pump action shotgun (based on a Winchester M1897) and a semi-automatic sniper rifle (called "the Flute", based on an Arisaka Type 99 rifle), along with a variety of other tools, including knives. In the anime, she is shown to carry no less than five knives on her person, including one which can fire .22 bullets from its hilt. Kino is an unusually quick draw and practices every day before dawn.
Technology in this world exists, sometimes to the level of science fiction, although anachronisms are common (for example, the same land that has talking robots also appears to have phonographs, yet simultaneously the world has only begun to develop heavier-than-air flight). The level of technology also varies from country to country. The world is not heavily magical (the only "magical" elements include land that moves, a talking motorcycle, and a talking dog), although it has a certain fairy-tale quality.
Themes and influences
The "beautiful world" Kino travels through almost always has its dark side. Often the countries Kino visits are places where the populace is oppressed, where a tragedy has occurred, or where the culture has become extremely strange because the rulers or people sought to do what they believed was right. The phrase "the world is not beautiful, therefore it is" (世界は美しくなんかない。そしてそれ故に美しい。 Sekai wa utsukushiku nanka nai. Soshite sore yueni utsukushii.?) symbolizes how the dark aspects of life, such as oppression and tyranny, make the good and happy parts of life all the more precious and wonderful. Though Kino may encounter such horrible people such as the king in "Coliseum", she also meets people who make the "beautiful world" what it is, such as the rebels in the Land of Books, the girl Nimya in The Land of Wizards, or the self sacrifice of the people in "A Kind Land -Tomorrow never comes-".
The use of violence and whether or not it can be justified is a recurring theme in Kino's Journey, from whether animals should be killed in order to sustain the life of others to whether an entire population should be destroyed in order to save two other civilizations. The problems inherent in communication are also a prevalent theme, for example the havoc wrought in societies by telepathy or diverging interpretations of prophecies.
In an interview with Keiichi Sigsawa done by Anime News Network, he stated that despite the similarities that have been pointed out between The Little Prince and Kino's Journey, it was not one of his main influences. In fact he did not even read the book until after he wrote Kino's Journey, at which point he stated that he enjoyed it and was honored that his book was being compared with The Little Prince. His main influence was in fact a manga named Galaxy Express 999. Galaxy Express 999 follows the journey of Tetsuro Hoshino and the space train Galaxy Express 999 as it stops on many different planets, each with very different conditions. The story is set in the far future, where people may buy indestructible machine bodies to make themselves immortal. However, immortality comes at a price of giving up your humanity. This is similar to Kino's Journey in the fact that all the planets are extremely different which gives the story an episodic feel. It also has a great deal of the philosophy that Kino's Journey is known for.
- Kino (キノ?)
- Voiced by: Ai Maeda (Japanese anime, video games), Kelli Cousins (English anime), Aya Hisakawa (drama CD)
- Kino is the main protagonist in the series and travels to different countries with her talking motorcycle Hermes, discovering their cultures and people. In the anime, Kino's gender is ambiguous in the beginning, but is later confirmed to be female in the fourth episode. Kino is a name she adopts after meeting Hermes, though her original name is hinted to be that of a flower in the Land of Adults. It is heavily hinted that her name was once Sakura, as the name fits the conditions Kino herself mentioned.
- Hermes (エルメス Erumesu?)
- Voiced by: Ryuji Aigase (Japanese anime, video games), Cynthia Martinez (English anime), Junko Noda (drama CD)
- Hermes is a talking Brough Superior motorcycle and is Kino's loyal companion; although it can be reluctant sometimes, it faithfully accompanies Kino through all their travels. The relationship between Kino and Hermes is presented as symbiotic—as explained in the Land of Adults where Hermes provides speed, and Kino provides balance. In the first couple of episodes of the anime and almost all of the chapter in the novels, it has a tendency to mispronounce words and phrases. Its name is a reference to the Greek god Hermes. Although its name is spelled "Hermes", in the third book it emphasizes that the "H" in its name is silent.
- Kino (original)
- Voiced by: Kazuhiko Inoue (Japanese), Chris Patton (English)
- Not much is known about the original Kino, only that he is a young man who traveled by the same three-day rule that the main character Kino does. He is very calm, wears glasses, and is most likely the reason why the main character goes on her journey as she often makes statements similar to the original Kino's and even quotes him on occasion. In the novels, the original Kino explains that he makes a living selling medicinal herbs and unusual items he finds while traveling.
- Shizu (シズ?)
- Voiced by: Takashi Irie (Japanese), Clint Bickham (English)
- Shizu is a young man with a great talent for swordsmanship. He travels in a dune buggy with Riku, his talking dog companion. In the anime, he only appears in one episode, but he appears in multiple stories just about him and Riku in the novels. Riku narrates all but one of these stories. Later in the novels, Kino and Hermes meet up with Shizu and Riku again, but Kino only seems to remember Riku's name.
- Riku (陸?)
- Voiced by: Hōchū Ōtsuka
- Riku is a talking dog who travels with Shizu. He is large, white, and always smiles. Apparently, in the anime, Riku has only spoken to Hermes, as Kino does not believe Riku can speak when told about the discussion Hermes had with him. In the original anime version, Riku also speaks to Shizu, but in the English version, only barks or whimpers to him in these instances. In the novels, Riku speaks to both Kino and Hermes.
- Sakura (桜?)
- Voiced by: Aoi Yabusaki (Japanese anime), Hilary Haag (English anime), Akemi Satō (drama CD)
- Sakura is a girl from the country Kino visited in the last episode of the anime series. She shares many similarities to Kino, such as her parents also owning an inn. In the English version of the anime series, her name is changed to Lily in order to preserve the explanation that her name, pronounced slightly differently, becomes an insult. The children call her "Silly Willy" instead of "nekura" (根暗?, meaning "gloomy") and "okura" (遅ら?, meaning "slow") in this version.
- Shishou (師匠 Shishō?)
- Voiced by: Junko Midori (Japanese anime), Jennie Welch (English anime), Akeno Watanabe (second video game)
- Shishou is Kino's master who taught her marksmanship. She lives in the forest and does not travel. Her actual name is unknown; "Shishou" is a title meaning "mentor" or "master" (although Kino does not realize this at first). In the final episode of the anime, which chronologically takes place before most other episodes, the gunsmith that made The Cannon told Kino he gave the gun to a young woman that insisted everyone call her "Shishou." She traveled between countries and stirred up trouble wherever she went, meaning that Shishou was once a traveler. In the novels, multiple stories are devoted to her travels alongside a man referred to as her "student", when she was in her late twenties. She and her student are shown as being incredibly greedy, even to the point of being cruel. They travel in a battered yellow car.
Kino's Journey began as a series of light novels written by Keiichi Sigsawa, and illustrated by Kouhaku Kuroboshi. The series originally started serialization in MediaWorks' now-defunct light novel magazine Dengeki hp with the release of volume six on March 17, 2000. The first volume of the series was published on July 10, 2000 by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko publishing imprint. As of October 10, 2010, 14 volumes have been published. The eighth volume of Kino's Journey, originally published in October 2004, was Dengeki Bunko's 1000th published novel. An additional volume entitled Kino's Journey -the Beautiful World- Country of Theater -Kino- (キノの旅 -the Beautiful World- 劇場の国 -KINO- Kino no Tabi -the Beautiful World- Gekijō no Kuni -KINO-?) was only released as a promotional gift for the second animated movie. A collection of special chapters entitled Kino's Journey: the Sigsawa's World came with the first volume of ASCII Media Works' light novel magazine Dengeki Bunko Magazine on April 10, 2008.
The light novel series has also been translated into Chinese, Korean, and German. Tokyopop licensed the novels under the original title Kino no Tabi for release in North America, and the first volume was published on October 3, 2006. The chapter order of Tokyopop's English release of the first volume differed from the original Japanese release. According to Tokyopop representatives, there are issues with the licensor that have left them unable to release further volumes of the series. Tokyopop used an image from the sixth chapter-title page from the original novel for use as the English novel cover.
The first volume of a spin-off of the regular series titled Gakuen Kino was published on July 10, 2006 under Dengeki Bunko; as of July 10, 2010, four volumes have been released. The series is a collection of parodies originally published in three spin-off magazines of Dengeki hp: Dengeki p, Dengeki h, and Dengeki hpa. The spin-off features Kino as a magical girl in a school setting. Gakuen Kino was translated into Chinese and Korean.
A 90-six-page art book containing illustrations by Kouhaku Kuroboshi was released by ASCII Media Works in March 2003. The book contained illustrations from Kino's Journey and the Allison series of light novels, which is created by the same people as with Kino's Journey. Also included in the art book are original illustrations never released in the novel volumes, and an original Kino's Journey short story by Keiichi Sigsawa. Three picture books were also released by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko Visual Novel label. The first, released on December 3, 2003, contained forty-eight pages and is entitled Country of Memories -Their Memories- (記憶の国 -Their Memories- Kioku no Kuni -Their Memories-?). The first picture book came bundled with an audio CD containing image songs (one of which is based on the tune of Pachelbel's Canon). The second book, released on March 30, 2005, contained eighty pages and is entitled The Traveler's Story -You- (旅人の話 -You- Tabibito no Hanashi -You-?). The second book was released in two editions, with the difference between the two being a DVD of the first animated film Kino's Journey: In Order to Do Something –Life Goes On–. The third book, released on December 25, 2007, contained 40 pages and is entitled My Country -Own Will- (わたしの国 -Own Will- Watashi no Kuni -Own Will-?). The third book came bundled with a DVD of the second animated film Kino's Journey: Country of Illness -For You-.
An anime adaptation produced by A.C.G.T and Genco, and directed by Ryūtarō Nakamura, aired on the WOWOW satellite television network between April 8 and July 8, 2003, containing 13 episodes. The anime series was also broadcast across Japan by the anime satellite television network Animax, who also aired the series across its worldwide networks in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia. The episodes were released on six DVD compilations released between June 18 and November 19, 2003; the first volume contained three episodes, while each of the subsequent volumes contained two episodes. The series was re-released on DVD in popular editions again in six volumes, with the first three volumes bundled together and sold on January 19, 2005, and the last three volumes bundled together and sold on February 16, 2005. In addition to the main series, there is also a 12-minute long prologue entitled "Episode 0: The Tower Country -Freelance-" which was released as an original video animation with the first animated movie's DVD release on October 19, 2005.
The 13-episode anime series was licensed for North American distribution by ADV Films. The episodes were initially released on four DVD compilations released between February 24, 2004 and June 29, 2004; the first volume contained four episodes, while each of the subsequent volumes contained three episodes. The first DVD volume was sold in two editions, with the difference between the two being a series box all four DVDs could fit inside. A DVD box set entitled Kino's Journey: The Complete Collection was released on October 25, 2005 containing three discs. In 2009, the series was re-released on three DVDs in a single case.
Kino's Journey has been adapted into two visual novel adventure games for the PlayStation 2 by Tycoon and ASCII Media Works. The first game, entitled Kino's Journey -the Beautiful World-, was released on July 17, 2003, and a "best" version was later released on November 25, 2004. Most of the story for the first game is taken from volumes one, two, three, five, and six of the original light novels, but there is one scenario written specifically for the game by Keiichi Sigsawa. The second game, entitled Kino's Journey II -the Beautiful World-, was released on December 1, 2005, and a "best" version was later released on March 8, 2007. Like the first game, most of the story is taken from the light novels, but there is another original scenario written by Sigsawa. Additionally, the second game came bundled with a thirty-six page book entitled Various Stories -a Beautiful Dreamer- (いろいろな話 -a Beautiful Dreamer- Iroirona Hanashi -a Beautiful Dreamer-?) containing the story of the original scenario written for the game. Both of the visual novels were voiced, mainly using the same cast from the anime series. At one time, ASCII Media Works had planned to release a version for the PlayStation Portable.
Two anime films have been created as part of the Kino's Journey series. The first, Kino's Journey: In Order to Do Something –Life Goes On– (何かをするために―life goes on.― Nanika o Suru Tame ni –life goes on.–?) was produced by A.C.G.T and directed by Takashi Watanabe. It premiered in Japanese theaters on February 19, 2005. Spanning 30-minutes, the film is a prequel to the series, showing Kino being trained by her teacher, learning to ride Hermes, and discovering her naturally excellent marksmanship before eventually deciding to return the original Kino's coat to his mother.
The second film, Kino's Journey: Country of Illness -For You- (キノの旅：病気の国 -For You- Kino no Tabi: Byōki no Kuni -For You-?), premiered on April 21, 2007 as one of the three movies released at Dengeki Bunko's Movie Festival. Produced by Shaft and directed by Ryūtarō Nakamura, it follows Kino and Hermes journey to a highly advanced country where the people live confined in a sealed environment. By request of her father, Kino tells about her travels to a sick girl who is hospitalized there.
Music and audio CDs
A Kino's Journey drama CD was available through mail order via volume fifteen of MediaWorks' now-defunct light novel magazine Dengeki hp released on December 18, 2001. The drama tracks on the CD were originally broadcast on ASCII Media Works' radio program Dengeki Taishō in 2001. Two pieces of theme music were used for the anime: one opening theme and one ending theme. The opening theme is "All the way" by Mikuni Shimokawa and the ending theme is "the Beautiful World" by Ai Maeda; both singles were released on June 18, 2003. The original soundtrack for the first visual novel was released on July 24, 2003. The ending theme for the first animated film was "Hajimari no Nichi" (始まりの日?) by Ai Maeda, and was released on Maeda's Night Fly album on March 16, 2005. The second animated film's ending theme is "Bird" by Mikuni Shimokawa, and the single was released on March 14, 2007.
A manga adaptation of the spin-off series Gakuen Kino is illustrated by the dōjinshi group Dennō Ōwadan. It began serialization in volume 10 of ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Festival! Comic released on February 23, 2010. The manga continued serialization until volume 14 of Dengeki G's Festival! Comic published on October 26, 2010. It was transferred to ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine with the December 2010 issue.
As of the release of the eleventh light novel on October 10, 2007, over 5.6 million copies of the novels have been sold in Japan. The first novel which was published in the US generated positive reviews. Newtype USA named it the Book of the Month for November 2006 and called it "inviting and addictive," while AnimeOnDVD said it "sucks you in," and "allows you to experience the journey" with the main character. The series has ranked three times in Takarajimasha's light novel guide book Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi!: second in 2006, fifth in 2007, and sixth in 2008.
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- Official website (Japanese)
- Kino's Journey at ASCII Media Works (Japanese)
- Second animated film's official website (Japanese)
- Kino's Journey at Tokyopop
- Kino's Journey (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia