Kino no Tabi 00 The Tower Prison

kino no tabi 00 tower city

Here is a different take on the Tower of Babel tradition and mythology. Kino enters a town that doesn’t seem to be interested in anything outside it. She can tell because there are no hotels or inns. There isn’t a hostility towards outsiders, only a complete indifference for them. What holds the townsfolk’s attention is the continuing project of building the tallest possible stone tower.

Everyone in the city is engaged in building the tower. Everyone has a role. When Kino asks them questions, they answer with disinterested ignorance, making the excuse that they’re only masonry laborers of some form, hence incapable of being useful otherwise. There are children, but they too are preoccupied with playing at erecting a tower.

It would seem that the town is either hypnotized into wanting to build the tower, which already has pierced the clouds – an impossible height, but Kino’s Journey suggests it is fantasy of some kind – or the people truly see no other purpose in life but to build it. They don’t seem particularly inspired so there’s got to be a catch right?

Not everyone is thrilled with the life of a tower mason. One such man attempted to sneak into Kino’s makeshift lodgings with the intent to ask her to let him come along. He felt trapped by the future of a life all about the tower. Kino represents a way out. She flatly turns him down. In her journey, only Hermes the motorcycle is her companion.

It is the conceit of a story like this is how the world behaves in the service of a plot point, or a theme. Surely there must be some other way for someone to escape the town. There are no police, nor military. There is no policy that people should stay. There is just the inertia driving everyone inexorably up the tower to build it higher and higher.

And the next day, the tower fell.

kino_no_tabi_00[h264.vorbis][niizk].mkv_snapshot_11.44_[2010.07.03_15.08.53]

Sticking with the conceit. There seem to be no casualties, despite a tower that high and that big requiring more manpower at the current level of technology than the entire city has, and that population must live within the tower to maintain productivity of any kind. The disaster would have been the event that marks a milestone within the history of the whole land, but the people imply it’s a cyclical thing.

They are happy, that the tower fell during their lifetime.

This is when I expected that the town would further rejoice for being emancipated from the strange overarching desire to build the tower.

But no, the point of their rejoicing was that they can build it once more. Perhaps, there is excitement in the beginning of something, as opposed to the continuation of something they didn’t have any say in doing.

kino_no_tabi_00[h264.vorbis][niizk].mkv_snapshot_10.21_[2010.07.03_14.52.33]

This is explored further when Kino lectures the man who had wanted to leave. There is newness to be found in the same work. The same work can be made new, with imagination. Kino suggests engraving on the bricks. The townsfolk get excited that they launch immediately to plan the new tower, making the would-be defector an instant celebrity. Never mind that there’s so much rubble to be cleared that I’m certain should’ve flattened houses.

But what’s important I suppose is what we can take away from the conflict and the resolution. Work can be tedious, and what makes tedium worse is the bankruptcy of meaning. What is the point of building a tower so you can see it crash? It’s as meaningful as living a life that is doomed to end, making friends who you will lose; falling in love with someone who will leave you, or you’ll grow to hate; raising children who will resent you; amassing wealth you can’t take with you when you die.

Or, blogging anime for that matter.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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9 Responses to Kino no Tabi 00 The Tower Prison

  1. RyanA says:

    Hey, now this is something that translates in many ways. I shared this with ‘social networks’ in the note, but that’s not completely the idea here of ‘building something up.’

    I think the question/focus isn’t simply the trivial work for something that will crumble, but we have to consider the journey as well…. end results matter only when they matter, we can do pointless things… driving without a destination.

    Inevitably some things will crumble, but the journey can be quite good so long as it isn’t as lulz as moving stones.

    • While there is romance in the idea of journey, the defining characteristic of building in the sense of this episode is tedium (implying monotony and boredom), which is antithetic to romance (implying novelty, drama, and/or excitement).

      In some ways, research is like this. Back when I was into academic scholarship I would have to pore through microfiche documents, hundreds of them looking for one sentence, sometimes a word, that would factor in one paragraph of one paper out of many in one class, among many and so on. The payoff would be the tearing down of assumptions and putting together the essay itself. But the research that isn’t serendipitous reading but needle-in-haystack searching reminds me strongly of the feelings in this episode.

  2. gaguri says:

    yay more kino! This was quite an excellent extra episode, not as intense as the extra on Kino’s past, but still better than the movie version (which was bit too polished and non-kino-esque for my liking).

    I find two main driving points of the series i.e. ‘world is not beautiful, therefore it is’ and ‘have you ever questioned the world?’ to be portrayed in very fascinaitng ways, and likewise here. Why exactly do they spend all their time building this thing only to have it crumble at the end? Why do we build railtracks only to have someone else remove it as you go along? We don’t always get to know the deeper reason, as we almost never get close enough with the characters to sympathise with them, always observing as an outsider. But when Hermes asked Kino if she sometimes wanted to live like them, she answered “I want to live consciously”. Clearly that man who didn’t fancy the idea of spending his life building something so stupid was conscious enough to say he wanted to escape, and I suppose there are others who consciously enjoyed the process of building something so grand and epic in scale. But I feel that, like many mindless puppets depicted in the series, do what they do because, well, it’s what they ‘should’ do, without consciously thinking about it. Like the people who were brainwashed to become adults to work because they just have to.

    Nice linking the metaphor to blogging btw. Sometimes the very thought of the tower (however small or big it may be) we have built for so long with so much effort crumbling is too difficult to bear, but we know it’ll happen at some point, yet we still do it. I feel the efforts are worth it as long as we build it consciously with love and find something meaningful in the act, I just hope I don’t fall victim to other things that force people to do what they do because they just do without giving much thoughts.

    • All those things you say about the series as a whole I will deal with in future posts. I’ve seen all but two episodes of the series, and have written and scheduled posts every week for those episodes. I’ll be very happy if you discuss them with me ^_^

      Sometimes the very thought of the tower (however small or big it may be) we have built for so long with so much effort crumbling is too difficult to bear, but we know it’ll happen at some point, yet we still do it. I feel the efforts are worth it as long as we build it consciously with love and find something meaningful in the act, I just hope I don’t fall victim to other things that force people to do what they do because they just do without giving much thoughts.

      Both of us have gone though pauses in our anime blogging hobby. While mine isn’t very long, I felt it very strongly. So strong that I compensated by stockpiling a lot of posts — particularly via episode blogging (hence this series on Kino no Tabi). The stockpile allows me to go through weeks of inactivity, through questioning the point of all that I do here on WRL.

      I think about those silly townsfolk… we’ve built it so high already! Unnghh the inertia driven by pride and vanity are strong forces, but I really want to believe it’s just as much about love.

      Do you think those people really love their tower?

      • gaguri says:

        I guess they love the act of building more than the tower itself, this is assuming they even like the process in the first place. I would really need to watch that episode again to give a proper answer to that question, but from my recollection, nah I don’t think they genuinely loved what they were doing.

  3. bonehimer says:

    Building the tower seemed to keep the town prosperous by giving everyone a job or duty, it also motivated the next generation. I guess it doesn’t matter how pointless an exercise or goal maybe but the effect it has on your life and the ones around you that matters, be it good or bad.

    • You remind me of the “New Deal” kind of economics, which is about stimulating the economy via government spending. Usually this is done through massive infrastructure development (roads, bridges, etc.).

      I am also reminded of China’s shortcut to prosperity. They actually built an entire city that can accommodate a million residents but ended up being a ghost town. Why do they keep building all these white elephants? It’s so that the citizens are gainfully employed and have salaries to spend on goods they manufacture and trade.

  4. universalbunny says:

    Comment postponed until the episode about three men and the stress city. In the meantime, how do you think present episode compares to the later one?

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