A robotic human and a humanlike motorcycle travel the world gawking at people’s misfortune.
I wanted to like Kino more than I did. There’s creativity in the various settings and ideas, and almost every episode had a kernel of potential in its premise. But it never grows into anything meaningful or memorable. A lot of the writing is very dry, with characters expositing to Kino about how their country works. Sometimes it’s just contrived, with people acting in implausible ways to serve the story. Yes, you can exaggerate a particular aspect of human behavior, or take it to the extreme, in order to make a point, but when Kino’s Journey does it, it never quite works. Sometimes it poses a moral question, but then shies away from trying to answer it.
When Kino rescues a group of stranded men on the brink of starvation, only to discover they’re slave traders, that’s an interesting situation. Would it have been better not to save them? If you let them go, would you feel guilty, or even complicit? But what’s the alternative? It makes you wonder how Kino will respond. But instead, the men try to capture her and sell her into slavery, which is not only kind of stupid, but absolves Kino of the responsibility of having to make a choice. She can just kill them and not worry about it. It brought down what was (and still is) one of the better episodes. And it’s not alone, many episodes trip before the finish line.
Kino herself is partially to blame for the show’s problems. Her philosophy as a traveler is not to interfere in the affairs of the places she visits, which allows her to simply look, but not touch. By avoiding getting moralistic, Kino’s Journey is instead just empty. Perhaps it’s unfair to demand it answers difficult questions, but it should at least say something. And on top of that, Kino’s portrayal isn’t consistent either. One episode she’ll watch a man get shot and killed when she could’ve saved him, another episode she’ll step in to help a stranger. And in one particular episode she plunges an entire country into chaos because she didn’t like how it was running its business.
Ultimately, Kino’s Journey just feels like a waste. It wasn’t exactly bad, but I didn’t feel like it was worth watching either.