Arminzerella's Reviews > Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World

Kino no Tabi by Keiichi Sigsawa
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Kino’s whole life changes when she meets a professional traveler who chooses to visit her town and stay with her family for 3 days. She meets him on the cusp of her operation – the one that will make her into an adult – and his strange ideas about life (do the work you love) appeal to her and cause her to question the validity of her people’s ways. When she voices her concerns aloud and tells her family that she does *not* want to have the operation, they turn on her. The traveler tries to intervene and is brutally murdered by her father. The motorcycle that he’s just restored, however, is the perfect escape for Kino who adopts bike, name, and philosophy of the man she knew only briefly and sets out to have her own adventures. By the way? The motorcycle talks. His name is Hermes.

Kino travels widely across the land, but only stays in towns for 3 days – it’s long enough to get a sense of the people who live there and learn the stories of their lives. And it’s an awfully strange land. Kino meets people who live in isolation from one another because they’ve altered their own genes so that they can (constantly) hear one another’s thoughts, a man who executed the entire populace of his town because they did not agree with him, and many others. It’s a little reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ “Voyage of the Dawntreader” when Prince Caspian and his companions are exploring the lands far to the East, and also a bit like Norton Juster’s “Phantom Tollbooth,” which also has strange lands and peoples.

The people that Kino meets are a bit one-dimensional and every town is completely dysfunctional in some way or another, but it’s like you’re on a tour of humanity. Instead of finding complexity and nuances in individuals, however, you’re seeing one thing expressed in whole groups. For the most part Kino doesn’t interfere in the lives of the people she meets. She touches them briefly, makes them think a little, and then moves on. She does get angry at the end and takes out a particularly bad monarch when she has no other choice, but she’d have preferred to handle things differently.

There’s a lot of story and background that’s missing – how Kino acquired all of her expertise with weapons, for instance, how it is that she’s so young and so deadly. And it’s definitely interesting and amusing that no one seems at all shocked to discover that Hermes can talk – most people treat him like he’s a real person.

I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series (8 volumes planned) and hoping that the novelty doesn’t wear off. It’s kind of a strange trip – quirky and slightly dark. This reminds me a bit of Paul Juster's Phantom Tollbooth.
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