Review: Kino no Tabi (Vol 2)

(art by Kouhaku Kuroboshi)
(art by Kouhaku Kuroboshi)

For general information on this series: Kino's Journey entry

(Note: This site's central focus is on light novels officially translated and published in English, but at times I will post reviews for stories that have only been translated by fans. Please support the Japanese books that don't get English releases.)

Volume 2
Volume 2

Ready to feel old? The light novel series Kino’s Journey began 15 years ago, and its short anime adaptation first aired 12 years ago. It’s one of the more unusual light novel series out there, and it’s impressive to see volumes of it are still continuing to release and be received favorably by the light novel readership at large.

Kino’s Journey is a special series in that it’s not really… marketable? It’s not the type of story you expect to do well, I don’t think. It doesn’t follow any of the general manga or anime trends that have come and gone over the years. It’s not an action series or a romance. It’s not set in high school. There isn’t a dramatic overarching plot, or really any sense of escapism. The stories aren’t what I would call character-driven, nor are they even particularly setting-driven. Though the series is a travelogue, the various places Kino visits are always kept very simple, somewhat akin to fairy tales. The type of story I would label Kino’s Journey then, is a series of thematic vignettes.

Some of the stories in volume 2 were adapted in the anime; others were not. I enjoyed them all, and liked the variety in the concepts, tones, and themes Sigsawa employed from one tale to the next. Along with a short “frontispiece,” prologue, and epilogue, there are eight stories in this volume:

  • A Tale of Feeding Off Others (ep 2 of the anime) — Kino comes across three starving men trapped in the snow, and decides to hunt rabbits in order to save them; a very interesting examination of charity and selfishness within humanity
  • Overprotection — in which Kino witnesses how two parents force their young boy to join the army
  • Land of Wizards (ep 8 of the anime) — Kino meets a girl in a farming country who is determined to invent the airplane, much to the dismay of the locals; one of the more lighthearted stories in the series
  • Land of Free Press — a series of newspaper articles that all examine a single event very differently from one another; a fascinating look at perspective and pushing personal agendas
  • A Picture’s Tale — a nation is mesmerized by the tank-themed artwork of a specific painter, but does their interpretation match the artist’s intent? This story is split in two parts, one following Kino and the other following Shizu (the swordsman from volume 1’s Coliseum story)
  • Homecoming — an unusual story even by Kino’s Journey standards, as it follows the life choices of a boy who leaves his country and tries to become a traveler; a great example of the series’ love of irony
  • Land of Books (ep 9 of the anime, though it’s completely different) — a pretty amusing story, in which Kino ends up in a country of book critics; I feel Sigsawa was poking fun at his own storytelling medium here quite a bit
  • A Kind Land (ep 13 of the anime) — easily my favorite story in this volume, as well as in the anime; Kino travels to a town with a terrible reputation, but it turns out to be a place filled with the friendliest of people — Are they trying to hide something from Kino?

In some ways the fan translation of this volume feels a bit smoother and more “in the spirit of the original” than the Tokyopop translation of the first volume, but on the flip side much of this volume felt like it could have used a good deal more editing. Switching back and forth between tenses (e.g. present and past tense) and such are common issues, but much of this can likely be overlooked by those who read a lot of fan-translated novels. Fans of Kino wanting more than just the anime appetizer will certainly want to give some of the books a try, at the very least.

Cho's Rating: Recommended

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