With my Haruhi DVD review still firmly stuck in the work-in-progress phase, I’ve decided to give my writing muscles a bit of extra exercise by blogging about another recent acquisition. Today the spotlight falls on ADV’s Kino no Tabi (Kino’s Journey) R1 thinpak collection.
From the moment I cracked this beauty out of the shipping carton, I knew I had something special in my hands. For one thing, the artwork looks absolutely gorgeous. Nothing flashy in either the choice of colours or the overall composition – just a sort of understated, straight-talking elegance that marvellously reflects the show’s no-nonsense approach to storytelling. I especially love the design used for the spine; it looks really good on my DVD shelf.
OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION (from the DVD insert)
Destination is a state of mind. Travelers not only find themselves in a variety of locations and geographic phenomena, but they also bare [sic] witness to the whims of culture and the skewed effects of subtle circumstance. Kino is such a traveler. Sitting astride Hermes, the ultimate internal combustion companion, Kino searches for life’s answers, life’s questions, and the myriad of interpretations connected to them. A wielder of cutlery, firepower and a piercing tongue, Kino is ready to embark on a journey unlike any other!
The cover art on the three DVDs in this thinpak collection matches the style and mood of the box illustrations. Even the menu (NB: at this point I’ve only played the first volume – the one on the left in the photo above) hews to the sophilence that sets this series apart from anything I’ve seen so far. There isn’t much in the way of bonus features – just the usual choice of languages (English + Japanese), chapter selections and previews of other ADV releases – but it’s all par for the course for an anime that pretty much speaks for itself.
I’ve only seen four episodes so far (out of thirteen) but this series is really growing on me. And I don’t use the word “growing” lightly here; I think it exactly describes the impression that I’m getting from Kino no Tabi. Even firmly entrenched favourites like Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu or Azumanga Daioh never had this sort of effect on me. They’re great fun, have a good rewatch value and (as hard as it may be to believe) do have their moments of sophistication, but as far as staying power goes they rank pretty low on the scale. As for KnT – well, let’s just say that as I’m typing this, it’s been half a day since I turned off the DVD player (with great difficulty, mind you) but the dialogue and images and, most powerfully of all, the mood that flowed through the screen still linger in my head. It’s like comparing iced tea to vintage port: I love both of them, but iced tea is the sort of drink I can imbibe almost without thinking; a second or two after it goes down my throat the taste and sweetness are all gone. But I’d never drink a glass of vintage port in the same way. I’d savour it, sip it at a relaxed pace, let the rich sweetness wash over my tongue before allowing it to pass into my body – and long after the last drop has left my mouth the warmth and flavour are still there.
The character design is clean and simple, but not blandly so. The backgrounds are equally sophilent, painted in down-to-earth tones and employing fewer sharp lines than many recent series. (Picture looking at a succession of watercolours.) The voice acting – here, as in all cases, I refer exclusively to the Japanese dialogue since I never watch anime dubbed – is wonderfully done and in keeping with the characters’ personalities. As for the story, I haven’t seen much of it yet but I can say that what I’ve seen so far is very impressive. KnT is a lot more serious than your usual Sunday morning fare, dealing as it does with some weighty moral and philosophical issues – but the great thing is that it never does so in a cheap, preachy, jargon-laden way (thinking of the pretentious wasteland known as the Matrix trilogy may give you some idea of what this beautiful series is not). It all comes across in a quietly accessible manner, the message delivered in something resembling a one-on-one exchange with a well-spoken priest as he patiently dispenses advice and accepts questions after confession (as opposed to some high-and-mighty televangelist hurling random thunderbolts from his podium).
Of course, I plan to set out my thoughts in another post once I’ve completed the whole series. After all, something down the line could change my opinion, whether for better or for worse. But as far as beginnings go KnT is definitely putting its best foot forward – and wherever the journey goes, I’m ready to be taken along for the ride.