Kino no Tabi 01 Above All Luck is the Most Important

kino tabi 01 fortuitous rain

Ceteris Paribus, luck is the most important thing that we have. The prologue of this show, also titled “The Beautiful World” starts of with a heading “The World is Not Beautiful.” This implies that Kino would be a successful traveler, because her view of the world will profoundly change. It is the story of her journey.

In the beginning her companion, the sentient motorcycle Hermes tells her that the most important thing that travelers must have, may they be green or veterans, is decisiveness. If Kino were in the self-help publishing business, I’m inclined to think that she’ll make more of that piece of advice. But Kino’s humility speaks to me strongly:

The most important thing for a traveler is what saves the traveler after struggling to the bitter end. That’s luck.

I love this. It is one of the truths of my life, and this show is going to reflect on it.

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Go down your local bookstore or library and check out the business section, or the self-help books. So many of these books tell you what to do in order to be successful. They have neat and simple to communicate theses. 4 rules this, 7 habits this, 21 irrefutable laws that… if followed, will make you successful in life, in business, or whatever it is your endeavor. Sure some of them will have small print-style caveats and disclaimers, but at their core what these books offer is the simplification of a complex world.

They simplify things for you so that you can take specific actions, and as if governed by causality, the effects will be success. “If I think positive and attract warm thoughts, I will get quality comments for my blog posts.”

These books either claim to solve complexity, or that the world we live in is a world of abundance where competition is really just a matter of redistributing infinite successful results to people (buying the books).

Success is not infinite because time and resources are very finite per person. The major problem with success steps thinking (particularly if the referenced result is extraordinary, or “breakthrough”), is that these testimonies rely on a statistically problematic sample. It implies that those who aren’t successful did not follow the steps, practiced the habits, execute the plan, obey the rules. However, the testimonies do not cover those who followed all the advice given, and yet did not succeed. This falls within the thinking tendency called survivorship bias.

So what separates the successful from the unsuccessful if they did all the same right things, followed the rules, had similar talents and given the same resources? Among travelers, Kino says it’s luck. It’s the circumstances – meeting the kind of people at the best time to make the most difference. It’s like meeting the right person at the right time in both your lives, when any other time you’d be terrible for each other.

Faced with critical thirst in the middle of a desert, Kino’s journey is met with fortuitous rain.

kino_no_tabi_01[h264.vorbis][niizk].mkv_snapshot_04.20_[2010.07.03_20.27.19]

I find Kino’s own rules interesting: never stay beyond 3 days in a destination; you’ll learn all you need to about it within that time.

I can never agree to this. My travels are limited to Southeast Asia, and even within the Philippines I can’t make that claim. However, a traveler is different from a tourist, or a historian, or a cultural anthropologist, or just someone uniquely interested in a place. A traveler’s needs are very simple – to know how to get around, where to acquire survival resources, and what threats to avoid and how to avoid them.

In this light, I agree with Kino’s rules. After three days in a destination, one starts getting bored – but this boredom is the beginning of deep curiosity if one indulges in it. This isn’t how Kino planned her journey – if she stays too long she may indulge too much a desire to settle down.

“The Land of Visible Pain” to me, works as an excellent criticism of one of the major themes of robot anime. At the forefront of this is Tomino Yoshiyuki’s concept of the Newtype in the Gundam franchise, whose abilities to empathize telepathically is suggested to be the difference-maker in the evolutionary path for humans to become space-farers. It is paid homage to by Macross Frontier’s Kawamori Shoji, through Richard Bilrer who imagined the Vajra network to make a breakthrough in human communication, and by Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Anno Hideaki who envisioned the Human Instrumentality Project as an evolutionary destination wherein the walls of conflict set around the ego disappear.

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Here in Kino’s journey, a man who at first was terrified by Kino’s approach became curious when he could not read Kino’s thoughts, and was then surprised to find out that she couldn’t read his. The Land’s advanced technology at some point started transmitting everyone’s thoughts to everyone else. The intention is good: if we empathize with another’s pain, we would not be so eager to harm such a person.

kino_no_tabi_01[h264.vorbis][niizk].mkv_snapshot_16.07_[2010.07.03_20.27.32]

However, it produced a terrible effect. People couldn’t control their thoughts. Thoughts come to us first, and then we think through them. We make meanings of our thoughts after their initial arrival. This is how thinking works, when you think about it. The light bulb flashes first, then you make out what it means.

This device they made, exposed all the light bulbs flashing to everyone else, before the owners of the thought could even think them through. This caused much pain to everyone involved, and since they weren’t malicious to begin with, their solution was to distance themselves from each other as much as they can, so they can protect each other from their thoughts.

Soon enough, no more children were being born. The humans will die out and only the machines remain.

Before Kino left the man who told him the story of the land, her gaze lingered on the gardening device that got broken when the man was initially surprised at her arrival. Kino wasn’t there to solve the land’s problems, but this gaze told me that the inhabitants can break the machine that generates this misery.

kino_no_tabi_01[h264.vorbis][niizk].mkv_snapshot_20.39_[2010.07.03_20.27.54]

Can they really? I think the machine can be destroyed, if they’re lucky. This show doesn’t seem interested in solutions, but rather in the impressions we make having traveled through a country.

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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16 Responses to Kino no Tabi 01 Above All Luck is the Most Important

  1. gaguri says:

    did kino actually say she leaves a country in 3 days because she learns everything? I don’t remember that part, but yea I do remember her saying she doesn’t stay longer because she might cease to become a traveller.

    I’m not sure about your interpretation of that last picture. I thought the gardening machine represented his willingness to understand his partner again, like his ex-wife turning on his music.

    In many Kino episodes there are technology/customs that solves our problems conveniently but by doing so sometimes remove that which makes us human. Instead of relying on magic potion to magically solve our problems, maybe we should be trying our best to understand each other by trying things they both enjoy.

    But maybe I need to watch the episode again, and pick up the dystopian robot ideas you talked about (although Kino’s one of my most re-watched series, haha…)

    • universalbunny says:

      I agree with you. To me, the flowers in his garden and music in the house of women Kino meets a moment later is indication that people can come to understand one another. Hermes has a similar thought.
      However, in line with what ghostlighting said, I can’t see the man and woman meeting other than through accident or luck.

      • Information =! understanding. How does this happen? The melodrama of the dystopia suggests that human beings jump into conclusion with regards to negative interpretations of the thoughts they find in each other’s minds. I can’t say I’ll be different, especially at the beginning. But the conceit here in this show prevents the people from duly reflecting and exercising wisdom, not at least until Kino’s done with them.

        • Universal Bunny says:

          Let me take this one step further: understanding!=acceptance. I’ve seen the episode several times and I didn’t get a sense that interpretation of thoughts was a problem. Immediately after they took the “medicine” there was much joy and the two characters discovered each other’s feelings. It was much later, during co-habitation that problems began to surface.

          The men emphasised that they device allowed them to understand each other perfectly, but that very understanding multiplied the pain of each one. Imagine that both you and your neighbour had a rough day and you discover that his car is blocking your parking spot. The thoughts you have – anger – would resonate with his anger. You understanding would be as complete as fight inevitable.

          I need to think about this.

          • Yes. Baka-Raptor not too long ago explained that understanding doesn’t make hatred disappear and perhaps can intensify it. Understanding conflicting motives perfectly doesn’t make the conflict disappear. But there are levels to understanding too. What’s behind all the hatred? What is it that makes us choose to remain angry?

            We can’t choose the emotions that arrive to us, but we can choose whether to nourish it or go past it, and understanding makes a difference in making this choice.

            It will be “excusable” that you and your neighbor fight, but it is hardly inevitable. Either of you can choose to act differently understanding your circumstances, the probability of the choice to bravely let the apparent slight go is just rather unlikely.

          • gaguri says:

            well here is how I think about it. medicine didn’t allow them to understand each other perfectly exactly per se. medicine allowed them to read each other’s impulsive thoughts and feelings, but it does not make them want to ‘listen’ to each other’s situations and circumstances, they’re still blind by their own selfish desires and fears (“what? why would she do that! omg she has nothing in common with me she won’t even listen to music and that’s what she thinks?!?!”).

            I keep coming back to the theme of ‘listening and speak of love” of Babel and Planetes, because in Babel the problem wasn’t because people spoke different language and couldn’t understand each other, it’s because they were unwilling to listen to one and another. Only when they were willing to give way first and listen, and try to connect to their pleas, only then could they start speaking of love and understanding with each other.

            It’s not easy to achieve and might not sound like a perfect plan as a magic potion but I think it’s the kind of ‘not beautiful’ and hard solution that lends a beautiful part of this humanity.

          • Yes… you break it down further and correctly. Hearing =! understanding; or even further hearing =! listening. The act of listening is not passive, while hearing things can be. The problem here is that these people hear things accidentally, then listen for the worst, and interpret it to even more damaging levels (to human relationships).

    • I’m pretty sure she explained this to Hermes, how three days is enough to learn everything she needs to know about a place she travels to. It bothered me a bit because I thought it was the opposite for me and my experience. It was only after I distinguished being a traveler from a vacationer or a visitor looking for an immersion experience that I got why she said that.

      I used to watch Lonely Planet a lot and thought the show both beautiful (the way it mixed 18mm camera film montages with its more prosaic TV camera documentary footage), and severely limited in how it fails to communicate something beyond superficial from the places it featured. I wouldn’t be able to tell this until the show featured the Philippines, and realized almost every travel show was like this.

      As for our readings re the gardening machine, I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. That said, this robot anime connection is something I feel very strong about given how I think it’s a central theme in the major franchises (with Macross Frontier using it in some way, after Gundam and Evangelion).

      Maybe if such a machine worked for us we wouldn’t be commenting on blogs anymore eh? (and I will be sad)

  2. bonehimer says:

    Goro Taniguchi is a relatively new director that also enjoys playing with the concept of a hivemind as he has implemented it on Code Geass and GunxSword. He doesn’t seem to view the concept on a positive light though.

    • I doubt that many people do view the hive mind in a positive light. Perhaps the most mature view I’ve come across is Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game which I just finished reading hours ago. Brilliant stuff and I think would work amazingly as an anime.

      In anime I think the Vajra were treated with respect by the end of Macross Frontier, as opposed to say, the STMC in Gunbuster!/Diebuster!.

      • Vendredi says:

        You know, I never thought of it that way, but Ender’s Game would perhaps work in an anime context, given the precedents set by Evangelion and Bokurano about leaving the future of the world in the hands of children…. although it’d require a nuanced touch to avoid really stock character tropes. Heaven forbid we get a tsundere Petra, a shota bean, a yandere Peter, and a nee-chan/imouto type Valentine.

        • I imagine the character designs will be you know, suggestive, but proper restraint on gratifying otaku fetishes should be in order.

          That said, the whole book is sexually immature to a remarkable degree so there might be a can of worms worth opening too.

          Also, they’re all shota, even Peter at some point.

  3. Panther says:

    Kino’s not staying too long in one land is not only because of a possible desire to settle down, but also one of desiring not to meddle too much in the laws of the countries that she crosses or travels to. She is merely a traveler, someone who passes through, even if only for three days.

    Much harm can be done through technology, and only do we these faults at hindsight. The Land of Visible Pain highlights one of the many possible consequences of such use of technology – out of pure intentions comes the worst results. The show is trying to show us a comparison of contemporary technology and what it has brought us, in the first episode.

    • I think you are correct, that these are at the very least the minimum takeaways from this episode. It might also be fair that to say that this is the formula and/or conceit of the show overall.

  4. kadian1364 says:

    I also believe Kino’s gaze was on the flowers, not the machine, considering how they were important details in the man’s own past relationship.

    Despite the many times I’ve watched this anime, I suppose I’ve never connected this episode with robot anime in that way. I think it’s showing that being instantly connected with others’ thoughts is too easy (and too harmful). Like you said there’s nothing to fence away the simplest notions, impulses, and knee-jerk reactions. Real meaning only comes from the effort it takes to communicate, interpret, and understand complex ideas, and separates us from primitive grunting and barbarism.

    Kino’s Journey is a very meaty series, with just about every episode deserving its own post, so I’m looking forward to seeing you blog about the rest of it! ^_^

    • I don’t think that the gaze lends to binary interpretations. So I think you’re right too.

      The robot connection is something obvious to me because I’ve been working on this idea for a long time now, so when I saw this episode I immediately realized it was a great example. The only better one is Overman King Gainer episode 17, which I read as Tomino’s own criticism or outright rejection of the concepts he is responsible for earlier in his career.

      I’m glad you find my effort to blog this show interesting. I’ve written posts up to episode 11 and they’re all scheduled :3

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