Manga by Iruka Shiomiya
Original Story by Keiichi Sigsawa
Original Character Design by Kouhaku Kuroboshi
Translated by Jenny McKeon
Production by Grace Lu & Anthony Quintessenza
Kino’s Journey Volume 4 continues the story of Kino and Hermes, as they venture to new and diverse countries. Throughout their adventure, Kino witnesses the wonders of innovation, the pressures of society, and fleeting values.
In “Land of Magicians”, Kino meets a young woman who wishes to fly an airplane, despite having no support from her country. Curious about the invention, Kino helps the woman in her venture, and they eventually are able to have the plane take flight. This is a simple story, but it fully embodies the series’ fascination of the unknown. Kino gets to observe the creation of something completely unknown to the country they are visiting, and witness firsthand the creative potential of humanity. Overall, it provides a solid baseline for the volume, and further draws you into Kino’s adventures.
“Overprotective” showcases Kino’s brief encounter with a family. The husband and wife are arguing about what their son should wear when he enlists for the war, but they ignore that their son has no desire to join the war effort. Rather than consider their child’s feelings, the couple merely values the social status that their son can provide them by going to war, and uses those possibilities to justify their actions. What makes this conversation so interesting is Kino’s consistent neutral stance on the topic. Throughout the discussion, Kino probes the couple with objective options they can take, but Kino never takes a clear stance on the topic. This is emphasized when the family leaves and the child looks back to Kino in fear, but Kino simply stands in place. Kino remains an observer of society rather than a participant in it.
“The Story of Paintings” is by far the volume’s most fascinating story, being split between the perspectives of both Kino and Shizu. Kino’s portion of the story centers on a country that is obsessed with paintings of tanks, feeling that they are a strong commentary for their previous war struggles. That said, when Kino eventually meets the artist of the tank paintings, they learn that the artist simply draws tanks because he loves them. Both the citizens of the country and the painter value these tank paintings, but their reasons come from drastically different perspectives. That said, when Shizu visits the same country shortly after, their perceptions have changed. As the citizens of the country distance themselves from their warmongering history, they start to believe that the tank paintings are worthless and begin burning them. Traumatized by their actions, the original artist is no longer capable of painting tanks, now only creating valuable abstract art that he has no passion for. The story conveys a strong commentary on the fleeting nature of our personal values. What the citizens of this country once viewed as high art gradually diminished to mere ink on a canvas. As their personal mindsets changed, so did their perception of the world around them. The painter represents a static mindset within a changing society, being cast away as his interests conflict with those around him. There is no resolution to the painter’s struggle, and as Shizu leaves the country, he is depressed that such talent has gone to waste.
While Keiichi Sigsawa’s original story remains at the core of this manga, what makes this adaptation stand out is Iruka Shiomiya’s artwork. Every country that Kino visits feels visually distinct, and there is a fantastic sense of scale to the world as a whole. Additional praise should also be given to the diverse range of character designs throughout the manga. Each character exudes personality on the page, and it further enriches the reading experience. The manga truly creates a beautiful world.
Kino’s Journey continues to be a series filled with creativity, while also having its readers ponder human nature. With each country that Kino visits comes a new perspective on humanity and its different ways of life. It’s an engrossing story that keeps readers wanting more every step of the way.