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 and Hermes ride on in Kino’s Journey Volume 6. This time around, the manga adapts some of the darker stories from the light novels, covering the themes of survival, longevity, and purpose.
“The Story of the Man-Eaters” starts off the volume on a chilling note, centering on Kino helping a group of stranded travelers survive a harsh snowfall. While all seems well at first, Kino soon learns that these travellers have darker intentions. Hunting is a recurring motif in this story, as Kino is shown killing rabbits for meat and subsequently hanging their skin on a branch. That said, the story also emphasizes the value of these lost lives with Kino apologizing for killing the rabbits for survival. This eventually builds to Kino having to kill the travellers that they were trying to save in a brutal sequence. Shockingly, Kino doesn’t hesitate but still shows remorse. Whether it is human or animal, Kino values the life around them, but they will do what’s necessary to ensure their safety. It emphasizes how Kino has become hardened from their experiences and the complexities of their emotional state.
“The Story of the Automata” is less intense but the underlying narrative is equally nuanced. Kino encounters an old lady who claims to be an automated servant for a family, but it’s evident that she is actually a dying human. This leads Kino to learning more about the woman, the mysterious family, and a strange underwater city. The story discusses the fleetingness of human life, and the regrets of the woman during her youth. By the end of the story, this idea is further explored when it’s revealed that the family that the woman was serving were actual automations, who pretended to be humans to ease their creator’s trauma. Despite not being humans, these automations learned to develop genuine emotions, but still felt a desire to serve others. This family is at odds with their existence, not wanting to abandon their purpose but unable to refute their growing humanity. When Kino refuses to be their master, they commit suicide to end their suffering. Kino continues to be distant, and while they could have placed the family under servitude, they understood that it would only prolong their torment. The family’s purpose died with their master, and so did their reason to live.
“The Story of the Shipment” is a flashback to the first meeting between Shizu and Riku. Working for a rebel military faction, Shizu is ordered to deliver a package to a distant country. When he learns that the package contains a puppy, he must deal with the hassles of traveling with a pet. Shizu is shown to be aimless at this point, as no one cares for his safety and some even wish for his death. He desires revenge for his lost homeland, but he doesn’t have the will to seize it on his own. Shizu’s isolation is slowly broken by Riku, and their bond slowly grows throughout his mission. This ends up being very charming, and you can see why the two are so close in the present timeline. Their journey culminates in Shizu learning that his mission was a decoy to abush their destination, slaughtering Riku’s new owner in the process. In disgust, Shizu finally reaches a breaking point, leaving the military and venturing around the world with Riku. Shizu refuses to be a puppet to a great power or benefit from the deaths of the innocent. Likewise, since Riku has been abandoned by society, Shizu doesn’t want him to experience the same isolation he has felt. Their positions as outcasts link them together and strengthen their bond, and that connection empowers Shizu to head down his own path.
The prologue and epilogue story “A Kitchen Knife” is an interesting tale that focuses on the birth of Kino. Kino’s father reflects on his feelings over the birth of his child and promises to protect the newborn with his life. As “The Land of Adults” showed, Kino’s father’s claims are broken promises, with this story being titled after the same weapon he would use when trying to kill Kino. It makes us reflect on the events of “The Land of Adults” and analyze the toxic environment Kino grew up in. Kino would have been adored by their parents but only if they conformed to their ideology. The moment Kino faltered, their father simply viewed them as a failed experiment. It’s a fittingly twisted way to end a heavy volume of the series.
Shiomiya’s art continues to perfectly capture the surrounding world and create an immersive experience for readers. While Kino doesn’t visit any countries this time around, they do enter contrasting environments. The winter scenery in “The Story of the Man-Eaters” is particularly notable due to its softer visuals and clean backgrounds. It creates a sense of tension for the harsh and hazy weather, demonstrating why Kino’s survival skills are so necessary. Kino’s expressions during this volume are also crucial, imparting deeper subtext to their encounters. Scenes featuring death have the greatest impact in this regard, since you can see Kino’s distant sorrow in their visage. Kino is rarely open about their emotions, and while the series doesn’t make them easily apparent, Kino’s expressions give a fascinating sense of nuance to their character. This manga still looks and feels like a journey and it’s truly beautiful.
Kino’s Journey continues to be a fantastic series that captures the complex facets of life. This volume’s adventures are incredibly memorable and provide readers plenty of messages to dwell over. Whether it’s a cruel winter or a bright summer, Kino’s travels will continue forward.