I have finished the Kino series, and my overall thoughts are that it was a fascinating and evocative story. I wasn’t bothered by the episodic format and actually feel like I did come to know Hermes and Kino by journey’s end. I think that rewatchability in my case is probably high, especially given the near-mythic quality to some of the episodes (three men on a rail line comes to mind).
I also took Don’s and astro’s advice and watched the fansub of “Life Goes On”, a brief Kino story that fills part of the gap between “Land of Adults” and the rest of the series. In general, I agree with the concensus that the story was mediocre, though still essential.
Some thoughts on Life Goes on below the fold…
The story is fairly simple. Kino has found a mentor, an old and mysterious woman who is training the child how to shoot, how to be self-reliant, etc. Kino practices with the Persudader and other weaponry – including a gatling gun of some sort (used to cut down a tree!). The teaching sessions are a combination of sophisticated professional marksmanship and girly enthu. Her teacher (the Master she referred to in Coliseum and whom we get glimpses of in Disc 4) observes that the girl is a genius, and we can see how quickly she masters the skills she will need.
The main story is how Kino makes her first journey, on a quest to find out more about the Kino to whom she owed her life. The details are not really relevant though. The single most interesting thing was the issue of Kino’s gender. In Coliseum they joke about Kino being mistaken for a boy, even right to the end of Part II. But until watching Life Goes On I hadn’t really given her gender much thought (though I did also mistake Kino for a boy in the first ten seconds of Disc 1). As the fansub tells us, at various times Kino uses either the male or the female version of the self-pronoun “I” (colored pink or blue in the sub text accordingly). I’ll have to rewatch to itemize the exact association, but in general Kino seems to shed her female girl identity and fully embraces the masculine Kino identity over the course of the episode. It’s a shame my command of Jspanese isn’t even close to being able to track the pronoun for the rest of the series; I think that it would be helpful indeed to have that information. The fansubbers clearly are a value-add here… I wonder if the whole series is fansubbed somewhere?
With respect to the Master herself, I assume she was a paid assassin at some point in her previous life. The fact that she entertains guests – ranging from common folk to fancy VIPs – who beg her (unsuccessfully) to intervene in various affairs suggests that she is a legend in her own right. Ultimately she remains a mystery – she has genuine afffection for Kino, and probably sees herself reflected therein, but her general motivations are murky as ever.
One wonders why she didn’t warn Kino about the nature of the mission, actually. And why Kino didn’t think to ask. After all, the woman Kino enocuntered was precisely the one that the couple had come to the Master to take care of. So the Master knew what country Kino was going to and who she was likely to encounter. It is likely that the whole thing was a test of sorts – and Kino sets off on the journey as a pigtailed girl and comes back as a male, in a sense, so she clearly passed. Did Kino understand it to have been a test as well? Or is Kino just genuinely innocent?