Kino’s Journey: Life Goes On

Life Goes On (2005) is another prequel to the original Kino’s Journey series (2003). Yes, it aired after the original series, but it’s a prequel. As always this is a review meant for otaku, who have seen the anime – there will be SPOILERS!

This 30-minute OVA is about Kino, the main character of Kino’s Journey, and the genesis of the identity we encounter in the other OVAs and series of this franchise. Kino, the little helpless girl, transforms into a self-sufficient young man under the guidance of her female 師匠 [ししょう, Shishō, Master].

Bullet point number one: why am I watching this OVA? When Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series aired this fall season I decided to (re)watch the old series from 2003 and all the OVAs. This was mainly because I wanted to compare and contrast the two adaptations. I have seen a couple of episodes from the 2017 series and, compared the my glorified memories, it wasn’t so great.

Given the fact that this aired after the original series, it would make sense to watch the OVA after and have it elaborate on what we learn about Kino’s past from the series. Because that is what it is – just an elaboration. Tying of loose ends about 師匠 and Kino. But it’s a prequel and it’s short, so I watched it first.

Now, let’s talk about Kino’s transformation. The roughly 13-year-old Kino is living with 師匠, who teaches her about guns and all the other important things in life. She uses 私 [わたし, watashi, I (used by females and adult men)], has long hair tied with a bow, and wears a faded red dress. Meanwhile the Kino we know from the rest of the franchise is a master gunman, who fears nothing and never shows emotions or opinions. He uses 僕 [ぼく, boku, I (used by younger boys)], has short hair and very practical khaki getup.

[…] Japanese is rather interesting when it comes to personal pronouns. Mitsuha uses 私 [わたし, watashi, I], which is used by adults (as compared to あたし [atashi, I], which is used by very young girls). When she was in Taki’s body, she also tried 私 [わたくし, watakushi, I](used in highly formal situations) [and] 僕 [ぼく, boku, I], a pronoun used by younger boys (think until college/university) “to sound more boyish” […]

— from my review of Your Name

This change occurs after Kino’s first trip. What happens changes the teenager’s heart — steeling it. As death does.

What happens on the trip left me with the same kind of feeling Kino’s Journey always does — ambiguity. Was it really the original Kino’s mother? I mean, it could have been, but at the same time, it could have just been coincidence. Having forgotten her son’s name, she could just be repeating it. I wonder. These kinds of detective stories and the like always make me angry at my lack of Japanese. Because so much can get lost in translation.

Do they look like the original Kino?

Another interesting aspect of the OVA is 師匠’s character. First of all, the capable grandma isn’t exactly a common character. The only one I can think of right now is Genkai, the Master from Yu Yu Hakusho. She obviously has a reputation as a gunwoman and former traveler. I would love to learn more about her!

Overall, the OVA is very character-driven. It’s a sort of coming of age snippet, that probably wouldn’t attract much attention were it released on its own. After all, I rated it average, 5/10. The music is forgettable, the animation is awful by today’s standards, so the three saving graces are the storytelling, Kino and 師匠. There’s not much story to tell, but the events are well spaced, the climax is impactful and then there’ s the refreshing and characteristic ambiguity.

More of Kino’s Journey will follow as I work my way through the two series.
Suggestions and feedback are greatly appreciated!

One comment on “Kino’s Journey: Life Goes On

  1. Yualexius says:

    This is a good read. The 2005 Kino’s Journey had been a hidden gem for me. I actually discovered it because of the 2017 animation of the same anime which I first saw. It was a great experience and definitely a good watch. Now, I saw other people’s comments comparing the 2005 and the 2017 anime of Kino’s Journey. I check the 2005 version and it really looks raw and fresh in the eye, both versions gave a very satisfying anime watching experience for me, if not the exactly the same but definitely and uniquely enticing.

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