Movie: Road movies are plentiful in mainstream releases since they allow a set group of characters to interact with circumstances outside a fixed situation. This, in turn, allows the characters to grow or at least show other aspects of their personality rather than fall into the mundane parts of life that most of us seem to know all too well. The latest release of an anime show I've grown very fond of lately is Kino's Journey 3: Warning- Curves Ahead; a show that is built on a foundation of a traveling duo of characters who go from one place to another, picking up information on a host of different cultures along the path they take.
The show is set in another place and time, much like our own but after some sort of catastrophe. Kino is a traveler, a person on a sort of quest to see more of the world in a time and place where traveling is far less common than it is today. The world is divided into a bunch of city-states that are spread out a long way from one another. Kino rides a talking motorcycle, Hermes, and is somehow connected to a person called, The Master. Kino has seemingly left a secure position with this person and fears settling down more than anything else. Kino tries to make sense of the various cultures she encounters and survives on her wits with the help of Hermes and her collection of handguns (the primary one being a revolver-a manly man's gun).
The series leaves much to be explored and learned, with this third DVD serving to expand the concept started in Volume 1 and continued in Volume 2. Like those volumes, I enjoyed the replay value this DVD had to offer. Like a number of wanderlust shows of the past, Kino gets to see the world through the eyes of the cultures she encounters, making no judgments, only trying to figure out her own place in the world. Here's a breakdown of the three episodes on the DVD:
Episode Eight: Land Of Wizards: Potentials Of Magic:
The story this time centered on a young gal with sensibilities like Kino; she is fiercely independent and wants to follow her dream (although as an inventor, not a traveler). She is considered the town crazy by most of the residents and as the first traveler to visit this gal's town in years, it falls on Kino to support her new friend's dream of flight after the two hit it off almost instantly.
Episode Nine: Land Of Books: Nothing Is Written!:
After meeting a talking tank that plays into a lengthy riddle, Kino encounters a man that repays a kindness with a book. Upon coming across the town the man came from, Kino learns that it contains a legendary library but also a culture that believes in censorship. The forbidden fruit of knowledge is balanced against the danger of how the knowledge contained in the books could be used. A funny quote from the episode: "Critics don't ever make wrong decisions, that's why we trust them…".
Episode Ten: A Tale Of Mechanical Dolls: One-Way Mission:
While traveling in a deserted forest, Kino comes across a little old lady who promptly takes her and Hermes into her home. She cares for a family that spends the day in a nearby city. Apparently, the woman is really an advanced robot that works for the family but all is not as it seems as Kino digs a bit deeper into the mystery of the nearby city, much of which lies in ruins.
The series was by no means light and cheerful, a contradiction in terms to many, if not most, series currently in demand by fans. The episodes seemed a lot deeper than most shows I've come across lately and the more I watched them, either in Japanese or English, the more I got out of them. If you ever watched the Serial Experiments Lain series, you'll know the style of writing employed. I can't say that the anime style itself impressed me at first, it was dark and muted with a lot of grain, but as I watched the show, it grew on me more than I would have thought it would.
The themes explored here included censorship, independence, and family ties, each done in a somewhat unique manner. Kino was more of an observer than someone who actively changed the situations in which she encountered but she also participated when called to do so. Kino seemed ready to blend in or otherwise take action in order to survive the threats that crossed her path but didn't shy away from taking an active role either. I'm going to rate this one as Highly Recommended based on the depth of material but it certainly wasn't for everyone.
Picture: The picture was presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The colors were muted and not the ultra colorful style most anime is known for. There was grain and minor video noise but it seemed intentionally added into the picture for the purpose of poetic license. It made a nice change of pace from the more traditional styles I'm used to but the over scanned look will not be for everyone.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of the original 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese soundtrack or a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround English track. Both tracks had their own merits and I really liked listening to each, with slight nods to the original track for a lyrical quality. The subtitles were slightly different than the English language track but they were close enough in terms of what was said to think the same staff did them.
Extras: The only extras were trailers to Final Fantasy Unlimited, Wedding Peach, Angelic Layer, Happy Lesson, Azumanga Daioh, Danyo Panyo Di Gi Charat, sketches, a clean open and closing sequence.
Final Thoughts: I like series such as this one as they allow me to reflect on situations common to today's world at large as much as the smaller circle of friends I deal with on a daily basis. Kino's Journey has more than meets the eye in terms of skillful writing, superior music, and both vocal tracks were pleasing to this reviewer. I very much wish the series were going to last longer but it seems to be almost over and that's a shame as quality shows seem to die off too quickly these days in favor of the glossy productions the kiddies like.