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Kino’s Journey

By Shamus
on Thursday Apr 20, 2006
Filed under:


Kino’s Journey is a fantastic series. Kino travels from one land to another by motorcycle, visiting some very strange and unexpected towns and cities along the way. Most places she visits are more or less isolated, and only hear of other countries through travelers like Kino. Each land has different customs, technology levels, political structure, etc. To me it felt like a series of Twilight Zone episodes.

From the series review by Steven Den Beste:

Is there any underlying point to the stories, any unifying concept? Perhaps. It could be seen as an extended lesson in the law of unintended consequences. […]

H. L. Mencken said, there is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. That is really the theme of this series. Each place that Kino visits, there was a problem which was solved by adoption of a solution which was neat and plausible and far too simplistic. And in each case we eventually learn why the chosen solution was wrong.

Which brings me to my favorite episode of the series. In this case, it was Kino who adopted the wrong solution. But instead of pounding the point home, the story let me follow Kino through her reasoning. It used my expectations against me, and taught me early on that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions with this series. It was a bit disturbing and stayed with me for quite a while after I saw it. Single-episode spoilers follow:

We see a small bunny in the snow. Everything is quiet and peaceful. Then a red dot appears on the forehead of the little guy. By the time we realize it’s a laser sight from a gun the rabbit has already been shot though the head. We see the death of the animal happen right in front of us. Who would kill a small animal like this?

In American movies, killing small cute animals is very rare. When it does happen, it usually happens off-screen, and even then it is always killed by a villian. Like having a powerful man kill one of his own henchmen, the killing of innocent animals is one of those devices writers have used over the years to reveal the depravity of the bad guy. This has programmed us to have certain expectations when encountering this sort of thing. When the rabbit’s killer steps forward, we expect to be introduced to this week’s antagonist.

Except in this case the killer is Kino herself.

She steps forward and takes the dead animal and cooks it. Ah! This wasn’t an act of senseless slaughter, this was an act of survival. This anime isn’t afraid to show this sort of thing. Unlike American shows, they don’t shy away from the reality that humans eat Animals to survive, even cute ones. I nod with approval.

But Kino has doubts: She hopes that killing this rabbit was the right thing to do. We learn that she has come accross three men who became stuck in the snow weeks ago. They are merchants of some sort. They travel from town to town, selling their goods from out of their box truck. A snowstorm came and their truck was trapped in a ditch along the road. It was perhaps too far to walk to the nearest town, so they had no choice but to hold up here and wait for rescue. They started by eating their cargo, but eventually their food ran out. The snow has melted a bit, but now they are quite weak and unable to dig it out. They long to escape their predicament and return to their families.

I became irritated with Kino at this point: Why is she agonizing over the death of a rabbit? Certainly killing an animal for fun is mean, but killing a bunny to save the lives of three starving men is without a doubt the Right Thing To Do. I roll my eyes.

The men regain some strength as they eat. A few more rabbits die as she nurses the men back to health. The rabbit skins are hung on a nearby tree and again I nod in approval. Maybe the episode will have Kino learning that three men are worth more than a few rabbits? But this seems almost too easy. What other dangers are these men facing? Will they make it home to their families?

Before she leaves, she digs their truck out so that they can have a try at making it to the next town. Once the truck is free, the men thank her profusely, and then pull a gun on her.


These men are slavers. The goods they sell from town to town are human beings. They are grateful to Kino for her help, but they are out of slaves and need to get the business going again. They apologize for betraying her like this, but they insist they need to make a living.

At this point several facts came into focus: 1) These guys didn’t look all that skinny when she found them. 2) They said a few strange things which I attrributed to starvation and bad manners, but now seem more like a subtle warning that these guys were not what they seemed. 3) We never did get a good look in the back of the truck.

The slavers insist that Kino disarm. They would prefer to enslave her, but make it plain that if she resists that they will kill her. They heard her shooting the rabbits and have a pretty good idea of what sort of weapons she’s carrying.

But she has one gun that they have never seen and don’t even recognize as such. She surprises them with it and manages to kill all three.

Then she takes a look in the truck…

The men were telling the truth when they said that they ate their cargo. Human bones littler the back, and it’s clear that they sat here for quite some time, eating slaves until their supply ran out.

Slavers. Cannibals. Betrayers.

There is nothing left to do here, so Kino gets on her motorcycle and leaves. As she pulls away, the camera pans over to the hanging rabbit skins and I realize she was right all along: Killing the rabbits was a terrible waste.

Comments (8)

  1. Eric says:

    Even though she saved those men,those vile, evil, sumbitches that they are she did do the right thing by saving them. I mean it’s what jesus would’ve done.

  2. That is an interesting story indeed.

  3. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    What I don’t get is why the guys didn’t just use the slaves to get the truck unstuck.
    Their slaves for petes sakes. Manual labor is what they got them for.
    We should be asking why their first thought process was to eat human beings

  4. Otters34 says:

    Good question, maybe they were afraid that the slaves would try to escape while putside.

  5. Kazegami says:

    While this episode shows us what some people are capable of, it also shows us what the real world is like. Kino no Tabi, especially this episode, does an incredible job of revealing the horrors of the life of the depraved.

  6. Joel D says:

    This was the first episode I ever saw, and now I’m hooked. I need to hunt a buddy down and watch them all…

  7. kazegami says:

    I don’t think the slave traders were worried about the slaved escaping, seeing as they were all armed. the most likely reason they didn’t use them to dig out the truck was because the snow was falling at such a rate that it would have been impossible to make any headway. proof of this is the fact that the truck was burried in the snow.

  8. Slothful says:

    I don’t know much about hunting, but I think that if you shot a tiny little rabbit with a sniper rifle, the poor thing would just explode, or at least look a little less intact…

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