I’m not usually a big fan of Secret Santa arrangements. In fact, I recently went on a long diatribe about the evil of Secret Santa with my wife (who thinks I’m a Grinch). But when I’d heard about what Reverse Thieves does each year, I immediately jumped on it.
I was terribly excited, until I saw my recommendations – there was not one anime I had an interest in among my picks! First, there was Tsukuyomi Moon Phase – a show I had flirted with watching at one time, but really wasn’t too keen on watching. A second choice, Kino’s Journey, looked dull to me. So, I settled on a unique-looking series called Kaiba.
It was a little too unique for me.
I stopped halfway through the first episode. And lucky for me that I did, because the choice I settled on has ended up becoming a new favorite. Although it took a few episodes, Kino’s Journey got it’s hooks in me and hasn’t let go.
Like I said, though, it took a bit of convincing. Prede linked me to an interesting note he wrote about the show on his MAL account, which encouraged me to watch. But even when I started, I found the animation unattractive and the show too slow for my (typical) tastes. Perhaps most distracting were the voices, as I saw it with dubs the first several episodes. While I enjoyed Kelli Cousins’ mature voicing of the lead, Cynthia Martinez’s Hermes sounded so much like Pucchan from Best Student Council that I had a hard time taking the show seriously.
But I kept watching, at least not to let my Secret Santa down. Mostly episodic in format, the show follows a girl (sexually ambiguous at first) named Kino and her talking motorcycle, Hermes, as she journeys through her world, spending three days at each country she visits. Most episodes play like fables that reveal the human condition. Combining the fantastic, mundane, and anachronistic with creative stories, settings, and twists, the series is gripping. From a person who views characters and character development as the most important thing, it’s saying something I enjoyed the show so much despite the series only having two major characters who change little (or not at all) in the course of the series. I also enjoyed the voices of Ai Maeda (Kino) and Ryuji Aigase (Hermes) when I finally started watching the sub.
By the way, Kino is undeniably likable. As Poo-Chii says, it’s impossible to hate her. Strangely enough, Kino reminds me of Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop. Both are cool and capable, and rarely let their truest emotions show. Each also has an interesting background that dramatically informs how they live their lives. And although very different in tone, both shows are episodic in nature.
But back to the show at hand. At first glance, Kino’s Journey seems to reveal all that is bad in human nature: selfishness (episode 2), fear (ep. 1), hedonism (ep. 6), vengeance (ep. 7), and bloodlust (ep. 12). At times because of our nature, life is full of sorrows, expressed through emotional distance (ep. 1) and death (ep. 13).
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the dearth of morally strong characters in the series, there are a few the audience can admire. And in a depressing land, they stand out, like Nimya, the girl who wanted to fly, and Sakura, who reminds Kino of herself.
Really, Kino’s fantasy lands are very similar to our own. The depravity of mankind is alive and apparent in our world as well. Yet, there’s beauty to be found – and not just in nature. As Kino tells Hermes, the beauty of humanity is similar to the beauty of the world.
And there’s also beauty in life – Kino shows this by how she values life, both of humans and of animals. Perhaps she learned this best of all at the beginning of her journey, which Kino is able to start because of one man’s sacrifice. It’s this sacrifice, by the original Kino, that best demonstrates a connection to Christian spirituality. One man takes the punishment and dies for the “sins” of a girl in a world gone awry with sin. Because of his sacrifice, the new Kino is able to live a new life. She is given a new heart, using New Testament terminology. But the man doesn’t leave her to an adventure by herself – Jesus said that He would leave the Holy Spirit with us, and the first Kino does the same, leaving Hermes to help Kino on her journey. Because of the Christ figure’s sacrifice, she doesn’t have to to live the half-life she was destined for – Kino can live a whole one, experiencing the wonders of life anew.
Luckily, I was able to journey along with Kino. Thanks, Secret Santa, for a wonderful gift this Christmas.