Manga by Iruka Shiomiya
Original Story by Keiichi Sigsawa
Original Character Design by Kouhaku Kuroboshi
Edited by Kristi Fernandez
Translated by Jenny McKeon
Production by Grace Lu & Anthony Quintessenza
Kino’s Journey has reached its fifth volume! This time around, the manga adapts one of the series’ most popular stories, and showcases an amusing tale involving the various travelers in the series.
For those who have watched either anime of Kino’s Journey, one of the series’ most memorable stories is “The Land of Kindness”. Kino ventures to a country that is notoriously rude to travelers, but upon arriving, they receive nothing but hospitality and kindness. The story makes the reader attempt to find any suspicious behavior within the land’s walls, but everyone Kino encounters is seemingly more gracious than the last. The friendly nature of the country is reinforced by Kino’s tour guide, a young girl named Sakura. Sakura’s innocence and curiosity about the world reminds Kino of their former self, endearing her to them. The copious generosity of the country leads to Kino almost breaking their 3-day visitation rule, only being stopped by the country’s guards. For someone who has traveled to many lands, Kino had finally felt compelled to stay in a place longer, but those aspirations are shattered. Shortly after Kino leaves the country, it is destroyed by a volcanic eruption, killing all its citizens. Even for a dispassionate figure like Kino, you can see that the destruction brings them unimaginable sorrow. What’s most shocking is that the citizens of the country knew of their impending doom, but chose to perish with their land. The citizens wanted to pass down the legacy of their country to Kino before their end, and they did just that. While the country’s history may fade away, the memories they gave Kino will not.
The remainder of the volume focuses on the escapades of Kino’s master and the impact that she left in her travels. The primary story told is the “The Land of Masks”, a country where everyone wears a mask. As it turns out, this was Kino’s Master’s idea, proposing it as a solution to the citizens’ initial problem of looking at each other’s faces. When Kino eventually visits the country years later, the land has now fully adapted their lifestyle around wearing masks, even using them to convey emotions and while eating. Kino keeps a respectful stance on the country’s culture and abides by their choice to wear masks, but when Shizu later visits the country, his perspective is much different. Shizu feels that the masks are detrimental to society and tries to make the citizens get rid of them. Unfortunately, he quickly learns that the country has become so physically dependent on masks that they can’t properly interact without them. The story showcases the contrasting approaches taken by Kino and Shizu in their travels. While Kino tries to neutrally observe the world around them, Shizu attempts to convince people to follow his values.
Shiomiya’s art is as impressive as ever, bringing life to the diverse world of Kino’s Journey. Every country feels like a distinct entity, as the town structures and appearances of citizens change significantly throughout Kino’s travels. Especially praiseworthy are Kino’s subtle facial expressions. While Kino rarely emotes, during “The Land of Kindness” story, there start to be small changes to Kino’s demeanor. It emphasizes how much the country captivated Kino, resonating with them like no other land before. Shiomiya showcases that Kino’s Journey is a world of beauty beyond one’s own imagination.
Kino’s Journey continues to be a captivating read that conveys the wonders of exploration and life itself. Shiomiya’s manga adaptation has been stellar so far, and it is a treat to see how they frame the original light novel’s material. Kino’s travels will continue into the endless world before them, appreciating the diverse people and places they encounter.