Kino no TabiKino No Tabi: The Beautiful World tells the story of Kino, a young traveler who seeks only to travel and encounter new countries, stopping at each no longer than three days in a row. Travelling on the trusty, talking motorcycle or ‘motorrad’ known as Hermes, this unlikely pair encounters and explores the various cultures and differing mindsets that make up this world.

However, as Kino slowly begins to learn, there are a lot of different mindsets to be found – and not all of them are necessarily good.

Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World is a 13 part anime series released in 2003 and directed by Ryutaro Nakamura, the same man who directed the similarly thought-provoking Serial Experiments Lain. The anime is based on Keiichi Sigsawa’s popular light novel series of the same name while Studio Wombat is the company behind the animation production.

The thing about Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World is that it is from the start, blindingly pointless.

The show positions itself as a more psychological, mature title, and as such makes a lot of social and just general comments on the nature of human beings, using Kino’s various encounters as the vehicle with which to drive these points forward. These stories are all well crafted and beautifully told, and you’ll soon find yourself weaved into this peculiar tale by the hauntingly beautiful sounds and sights of Kino’s world. The other nice thing about this fairly short show is that it is not afraid to throw in some twists and turns and there are quite a few surprises and cleverly written twists in store for you, making it even more worth your while to stick it out to the end.

That said though, it is not really like the show has a start or an end. Instead, you are taken on one long, never ending journey, and this may put some of the less experienced or more immature viewers off to a degree. Still, it does present some interesting comments on society and people as a whole, making it one of those more intriguing titles that is probably better to watch than to ignore.

Visually, Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World is a work of beauty. Stunningly detailed characters and backgrounds using a beautifully toned down colour palette makes for a visual treat, enhanced by the particular drawing style they employ throughout the series. This isn’t your standard mass produced TV anime fare, and Kino certainly does look the part as something aimed at the slightly more mature market.

The voice cast throws up an interesting dilemma – I can’t help but enjoy the main character’s voice (voiced by Ai Maeda), but after one particular twist in the story, I am no longer sure if the person is still suitable for that particular role. Anyway, besides that, the rest of the team do an outstanding job and Kino No Tabi certainly sounds fantastic. Of course, this is further enhanced by some hauntingly beautiful score compositions as well as generous doses of mysterious single note sounds and pieces, all weaving together to create something that almost comes across as heavenly at times. And add to this a beautiful opening and closing track (“All the Way” by Mikuni Shimokawa and “The Beautiful World” by Ai Maeda respectively), leaving us with the perfect aural package.

Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World is certainly something different. It is not your standard anime fare and is perhaps only really suitable for those more mature, thinking anime fans that can get the most out of this high brow title. That said, it is beautifully presented, both visually and aurally, making it a must to just experience an episode or two. However, be aware that the story told in its short run doesn’t really go anywhere and only if you can stomach that fact, should you bother to watch and enjoy this entertaining and fairly thought-provoking title.

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