Kino no Tabi 02 The Horror of Being Human

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Some stories stay with you, and I think this one will stay with me for a long time.

Kino shoots rabbits with apparent cruelty. It isn’t actually cruel because she shoots them efficiently on the head. The episode takes on a remarkably graphic turn in depicting blood and violence. Later on we see Kino skinning and cutting up the rabbit on a board.

Kino is not cruel. She is efficient.

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She finds a trio of traders huddled in a tent beside a snowed-in truck. They are almost starved to death. Kino spends the next three days hunting and cooking for them. She nurses them back to health, and helps them get their truck out of the snow. At night they gather around the fire, generally having the kind of conversation newfound friends have.

Hermes asks the pertinent questions, “Why do this for them? Who are they to you? If a situation like this were ever to happen again, would you do the same?”

Kino explains her altruism. She hopes that a passerby would do her a good turn as she does these starving men. So yes, she’d probably do the same thing if the time comes.

When the men were strong enough to get the truck moving. They reveal themselves. They trade slaves, and when they said they survived by eating their cargo, they meant they cannibalized the slaves they were to deliver.

kino no tabi 02 disarming

Having no more slaves to deliver, they would take Kino into bondage. They would have been successful, had Kino been so exceedingly thorough in carrying weapons on her person. Her last weapon, after complying to the demands that she disarm herself, was a makeshift knife that also functioned as a revolver. With this she was able to completely surprise her would-be captors and kill all of them.

The whole scene was expertly portrayed. Kino was as efficient a killer of men as she is a hunter of bunny rabbits.

Kino’s rabbits are representations for the slaves who were supposed to be sold if not for this winter debacle for the slave traders. They were as hungry and helpless as the rabbits, but we are left to our imagination as to how cruel the slave traders were when the time came to kill them and eat them.

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After all, we easily suspect Kino of cruelty towards the rabbit, but she was actually quite merciful. Is there any indication that the slavers would be brutal? None really. In any case I suspect that the actual act was far more desperate rather than malevolent.

Perhaps this is what’s horrifying about it. Take away intent, incentives, and options; the compromises that men make are truly awful.

What or where is the evil in this episode? Exactly what and exactly where?

But here is the question that I can answer for myself: Kino can afford to assist strangers the way she does because she is far better armed than the most cautious of good Samaritans.

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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17 Responses to Kino no Tabi 02 The Horror of Being Human

  1. schneider says:

    Fuck, I didn’t know this show is utterly uncompromising. Want.

    • Kino is one cold badass. She’s kind, but she’ll shoot you down. She’d kinda be perfect for the AEUG/Londo Bell, but I think she’ll definitely be perfect for Neo Zeon. In any case, Char will be all over her lols.

  2. kadian1364 says:

    This is easily one of my very favorite anime episodes of all time. You did a great job breaking down the ethical quandaries presented in the story. I love the details about the traders: a coming marriage, a festival for the return home, the stories and music and culture that belie the cold, calculating logic that rationalizes human trafficking as a way of life. Maybe there isn’t much distinction between hunting rabbits and human slavery in a certain kind of logic; Kino’s Journey certainly isn’t the kind of narrative to make overt moral judgments like that. But its the same logic that made these men turn on their savior at their earliest convenience. There is the cruelty. The evil of mercenary pragmatism only humans are capable of.

    Kino is trained and armed way beyond your average passerby, surely something her experiences as a traveler in unpredictable lands has taught her. However those skill aren’t the reason she helped them. I think, like us, she just didn’t suspect those men to turn on her. Remember the last line of the episode, Hermes asks her if she would do it all again, and she doesn’t answer.

    • You just wrote a great testimony for a great episode. I’m almost done with the TV series (2 eps to go and write about) and I can’t say that the eps succeeding this has lived up to the promise this sets, not by a long shot.

      What you said about not being the kind of story to make moral judgments like that, is also true. However, this show, this story loves raising these kinds of issues.

      What else is there to do but judge? We can explore, speculate, reflect… but to what purpose? All we’re doing is to delay judgment. Perhaps that’s what being thought-provoking is precisely, to delay what comes naturally, that is to make judgments, quickly, decisively.

      Quite the opposite of what Kino had to, has to do. After all, we’re not the travelers, we’re just her witnesses.

      • kadian1364 says:

        Oh yes, I agree that judging is natural. But I enjoy the restraint the series practices in leaving most of those judgments up to the audience. We are witnesses to Kino’s actions, but she and Hermes are only perceptive observers most of the time. The events that surround them I believe would happen with any well-experienced traveler in those circumstances.

        There is one last hurrah left in Kino’s Journey. It ties together so well with key events in earlier episodes that I could not imagine a more fitting resolution. However I’ll save the rest of those thoughts for that post. 😉

  3. Panther says:

    When I saw this, I wondered exactly where the catch was in all of it. It all seemed so easy for Kino to save the traders, and they never really revealed their trade until the end. It seemed like justice had been served, when she finally killed them despite having saved them in the first place, but where was the joy in serving punishment to people whom you just saved?

    Like you said their act of cannibalism was not malevolent, more desperation. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, without first fulfilling their primal needs, the traders could not move on to further fulfill higher order needs. But even so, one would question if the traders are exactly wrong in slave trading. To them, it is another way of life and the laws of their country (and their society) teach them (informally or formally) that it is “right”, or that it is just another way of living. To us, those who survive in comfort and filled with wants with most of our basic needs fulfilled, it seems barbaric. But for them, it is just making a living.

    For Kino, she killed them because she had to, but had she the choice, would she actually have done it? Did she serve them justice, or did she kill them because there was no other way out? Therein lies the question.

    A memorable episode nonetheless, no matter how you look at it. Kino is a traveler, and she does what a traveler must do to survive, but sometimes you wonder if the choices she makes actually might have something more in them.

    • You articulate it well, the considerations here in this episode.

      The level I want to take you is where responsibility and culpability lives. I’d like to think that, moral superflatness aside, the characters here are responsible for their decisions. I think I would find them guilty, as I think a court with a jury of peers would find everyone here guilty. (Well, Kino killed in self-defense) The punishments may reflect the exigencies of their circumstances, but I think it’s completely in bad faith to say that they are not responsible for their decisions because of social or circumstantial determinism.

  4. ojisan says:

    It was mighty good, wasn’t it? I used to have a trap line and a pet bunny at the same time, when I was ten –
    It’s one of the likeable things about Kino’s Journey that it takes a typical trope – traveller shows you glimpses of situations, brings them to resolution, then moves on – but seldom brings them to a neat, just or easily-satisfying conclusion. The whole show becomes a waiting game after a while – when will Kino encounter someone or something that shakes her out of her detachment and get her full attention, heart and mind? Well, you’ll see, but don’t hold your breath.
    It was the moment when she opened the truck that I’ll always remember –

    • The whole show becomes a waiting game after a while – when will Kino encounter someone or something that shakes her out of her detachment and get her full attention, heart and mind? Well, you’ll see, but don’t hold your breath.

      I’m almost finished with the TV series and I never thought to look at the show this way. Thanks, I may have found a handle to grab hold of this show with and finally finish it.

      I think this episode is the storytelling high point of the show, but then again it’s very different in how she doesn’t get to arrive at the country and stay for 3 nights… though the slavers end up representing that destination there in the wilderness, where Kino and Hermes spent their requisite amount of time before moving on,

  5. bonehimer says:

    Given that slave trading is their culture and cannibalism seemed like their last option, I can’t quite see the men as evil but I do see them as ungrateful. They rationalize their turn against Kino as them being wolves but even when eating the rabbit one of them couldn’t help but to nit pick at the stew being too salty.

    • That ungratefulness, picking on the food… feels like the slavers working themselves up to betray Kino. Betrayal is regarded as the worst of sins… at least in Dante’s Inferno, where betrayers and traitors are at the last and most exclusive circle of hell.

      I find it difficult to imagine any culture that will tolerate this particular kind of deceit. The act seems like a compromise, something that the slavers won’t do under better circumstances, but that’s just the thing. The moral integrity of humans don’t show until they are in less than ideal circumstances. Anyone can be good and moral under ideal situations.

  6. Pingback: Kadian on One of the Best Episodes in Anime of All Time « The Ghosts of Discussions

  7. vucubcaquix says:

    Ah Kino’s Journey. If I ever find myself in a conversation where I discuss or defend the merits of animation as a serious medium, this anime is definitely near the very top for being both incredibly thought-provoking and very accessible.

    I’m not much of a figure person, but Kino was the first, and still only figure that I so desperately wanted. I would proudly display her in any desk I would find myself at.

    • That is an amazing looking figure!

      While I agree about the meaty content of this show, I only wish that it was better animated and with starker colors. I think this would make a world of difference.

  8. shinkouhyou says:

    Staggering division and analysis of this particular episode.
    ……..
    This anime was indeed a thought evoking tale. As I read this blog and it’s comments, I couldn’t help have a renewed perspective of this episode, and many other particular human traits. I quite loved how each episode of Kino’s Journey brought forth the different types of things which make up human nature, some good, some bad.

    Reading the previous comments, I believe I can find myself agreeing to the fact the men were never truly ‘evil’, in matter of fact I believe there is no such thing as a truly evil or truly good human.Still, none the less, it does not change the fact in their actions they were wrong. Humans grow up influenced by the world around them, and unfortunately it seems whatever surroundings they had were not of the best. Even if they grew up believing human trafficking was the the best resolve for making a living, they still must of some where deep down sensed it wrong, for even without being taught so, humans are born with the ability to distinguish certain rights from wrongs. They must have known the suffering they had brought fourth to those they captured yet they ignored it focusing only on themselves and their profit.

    Humans are incomplete beings who are constantly deciding whether or whether not something is right, wrong, better, or worse. We stumble and make the wrong choices all the time. It does not help how easily those of our kind can be influenced into things that are wrong without knowing. I have no right to the judgement of those men for I am merely human myself we all are. Maybe I would have done the same things if I were them… let us hope we make the right decisions… we humans may not be perfect but that does not mean we should give up the fight and flunk rather learn from our mistakes as well as others and strive to become the best we possibly can.

    In the end, I don’t think they were killed out any means of judgement of their actions by Kino. Kino, found no choice as she realized their resolve was that their resources were more important than the lives of other and if she had not acted she would have no other choice to be killed or forced into slavery by the very men she saved regrettably in vein. The world is a cruel place..

    • Alas, I think this is the only episode truly worth remembering from this show. In contrast to the fans who followed my blogging the show, I am left profoundly underwhelmed by this anime. For Vuc above, who would use this to defend the medium, I recoil in horror.

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