Back in February Vertical Comics began releasing the Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World manga. Despite my having had some issues with Kino’s Journey in the past, I dived into the manga, hoping to be won over. That ended up being largely successful and so today I return to check out Volume 2 and see if it continues to hold my interest.
This volume of the series has a political theme running through it thanks to the two lands we see Kino visit. The first is the Land of Majority Rule, where everything is decided by a majority ruling. It seems like a peaceful land, but it has a dark past behind its policies. The town is empty except for one person and as Kino digs deeper into their history they discover that anyone who went against the popular opinion was branded a traitor and killed…
The second story in this volume is based in The Land of Peace, which was formerly a land at war with a nearby country. The land is now in peaceful times, but no agreement between the countries seems to have come to pass so Kino wonders how this can be. As they spend time in the land they’re shown a ‘war without casualties’ between the two countries, but what this means in truth is shocking. The armies don’t kill each other but instead hunt people from an unrelated village, treating them as no better than animals. It’s a gruesome truth which speaks to the dark side of human nature.
If you asked me to sum up this entry in Kino’s Journey with one word it would be: depressing. Both of the lands we visit this time around show the negatives of politics and humanity. Even when you think you’re doing something with the lands best interests at heart, in the long run, it might not be a good decision.
Kino doesn’t say a lot in these chapters, instead quietly listening to the stories told. Despite this, mangaka Iruka Shiomiya still does a great job of conveying Kino’s emotions through their artwork. Although we might not be privy to Kino’s inner thoughts, their face speaks a thousand words. Shiomiya also manages to give the residents of the two towns suitably unstable demeanours, perfectly befitting the situations they’ve found themselves in.
I mentioned earlier that this volume is depressing, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in this case. Kino’s Journey is a thought-provoking look at the human condition. The stories we see in the series are often bleak but they’re fascinating in their own way and that’s where the franchise shines. I’d appreciate a happier story in the next volume to balance things out, but it’s by no means a deal breaker for me. Having said that, I can certainly see why the series wouldn’t be for everyone, I imagine the grimness of these tales might be enough to put some readers off and that’s okay.
As previously mentioned, Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World comes to English thanks to Vertical. This volume has colour opening pages (quoting the still unlicensed original light novel series), which are a nice addition to the release. Translation continues to be handled by Jenny McKeon and reads well.
Overall this volume of Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World continues to offer a compelling adventure series. Although it’s not for the faint-hearted, if you can look past the depressing nature of these stories you’ll find a fascinating message about humanity.