Kino: life goes on (fansub)

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?

6 thoughts on “Kino: life goes on (fansub)”

  1. The Library episode is definitely one that I need to rewatch, but my impression from my first viewing is that it wasn’t really an origin story. The implication is that Kino is really a sick girl in a devastated world, reading a book to escape the horror of her reality, but that brief scene could also be interpreted as a dream of Kino’s. Actually there was a lot in the Library story that I don’t think I fully grokked yet – such as the tale of the floating tank. But overall, the deliberate choice to use fliping pages between events in the Library episode – trying to imply that the whole thing was just another story – seemed more of an aesthetic choice. I am reminded of the way that the Three Men on a Rail Line all ended their encounter with Kino asking the same question – and the scene froze into an abstract. I think that they were trying to blur the line a bit, between story and meta story, but in one sense I think they were trying to make we, the otaku, question our reality while watching Kino rather than suggest that Kino shouldquestion hers.

    But that’s just my impression on one viewing. Can you expound a bit on why you felt that the Library story was the real origin?

  2. The world she lives in is too clean, too segmented, with the cities being too isolated. And too many of them don’t ring true. They aren’t real places, they’re lessons. Every one of them is a lesson.

    They feel like something in a kid’s book.

    And Kino is just too good, too heroic, too capable. That also rings false for the real world, but works quite well as something from a story.

    It isn’t just a sick girl in a hospital bed reading a book; there was a machine which actually gave her an immersive experience of the stories in the book. That’s what I think we’re seeing.

  3. It’s possible, but my impressions lean towards mirroring otaku above after multiple viewings. Maybe more will be revealed in the novel releases as I keep up with them as they’re translated and released in the U.S.

  4. I hadn’t looked at ‘The Land of Books’ as an origin story before, so I just went back and rewatched it. I still don’t see it that way.

    Here’s my take. The book that tells the tale of Kino in the hospital bed was written specifically for her by the Author. He is a psychotic. I can’t think of the precise medical term for him – maybe ‘Narrcissistic Personality Disorder’ comes close. The ‘Publication Society’, or the resistance, are also nuts. I suppose you could call them ‘co-narcissists’. The town tries to lock them up in the castle (a mental institution) both to protect the other citizens and for their own good. The Author has escaped from the asylum and his co-horts are trying to spread his philosophy, which basically boils down to ‘the world is a book and we are just characters in it’. They try to recruit Kino to their cause of rebelling against the state. When she rejects their offer, the Author tries again by writing a book specifically for her. He’s obviously a compelling storyteller – he has sucessfully converted the ‘rebels’ and even has Kino thinking about it for a bit when she wakes up after reading his story and wonders ‘Am I still in the world of the book?’

    Hermes sees them for the nuts they are and is quite amusing with his exasperated ‘Here we go again’ when the Author approaches them the second time. He also points out that the minister who runs the castle is also an inmate.

    Anyway, I think the hospital story was just a recruiting tool. As far as Kino being ‘too good, too heroic, too capable’ – maybe. It wouldn’t be an interesting story if the main character was too feeble. Other than her marksmanship skills and heroism in the Coliseum, she really isn’t too much of a superman. For most of the series she is just an outside observer who tries not to get too involved each world.

    BTW, I think the ‘Tale of the Floating Tank’ is just a story Kino made up to entertain Hermes (unsuccessfully, it seems). Note that when Hermes gives his critique of the story, they are leaning against the remains of an old tank, which inspired her to create that tale, I think. The book she originally has, and the one she takes out of the castle are the same – blank pages.

  5. astro that makes more sense to me. I also found the Author to be pretty unhinged and in some ways I would have found his origin story for Kino more believable had it limited itself to Kino being a sick girl in bed. But the moment that the end of the world was also revealed, it stopped making any sense. How is a world in which a single girl and her father are the last humans alive, and she’s stricken ill with a mysterious illness, but being kept alive via miracle technology, any more or less believable than the one in which Kino journeys?

    And that’s a good point about Kino’s abilities. If she was indulging in fantasy she’d be using those feats in every episode – kids are not the type to hold back. In fact in many episodes Kino almost seems like a bystander, or at least a verbal enzyme to catalyze the events. The episode where the girl flies in her contraption is a memorable example. Kino didn’t even believe the thing would fly, she later admits to Hermes. If that reality was actually an escapist dream it would have been Kino flying.

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