Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Vol. 1 – the manga debut for a light novel/anime classic

A light novel and anime classic finally gets the manga adaptation it deserves as Vertical bring Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World to the English speaking world. Kino travels with the trusty talking motorrad, Hermes. The duo are always together, with Hermes providing speed, and Kino providing balance. They stay in each country for no more than three days, as a rule—enough time to learn about each destination’s unique customs and people. And so Kino and Hermes journey ever onward…

Maintaining the episodic approach that the original had in its storytelling, this is definitely a faithful adaptation of Keiichi Sigaswa’s light novels. Whilst the order has been shifted a bit so the reader is aware of Kino’s origins fairly early on, there is still an air of ambiguity in the series that is mainly derived from the mysterious world that Kino and Hermes travel through. None of the locations they visit in this opening volume are what they appear to be which gives way to an element of tragedy in each of them (a town where children appear to be lobotomised before they can grow up and reach their full potential, a country where telepathy drives the residents into isolation and a stretch of railway line that is populated by a group of longtime railworkers unaware of the work being done behind them). But as Kino and Hermes never stay in these locations long, we only get a snippet of what goes on in these locations and the resolution isn’t always clear.

The main factor that drives this volume is the interaction between Kino and Hermes. Hermes is an insightful presence (especially considering he is a motorbike) and the companionship he forms with Kino is surprisingly deep. Beyond the typical banter between friends, he has a curious desire to better understand humans. The conversation in the final chapter that discusses why Kino wants to constantly travel instead of settling in one place is particularly interesting – Hermes as a motorrad always wants to be moving forward, but is surprised Kino has the same mindset.

Iruka Shiomiya does an excellent job of bringing this story to a manga format. He uses a less stylised and more delicate art style that is well suited to the story and more minimalist settings. He has a great range when it comes to depicting emotions and – more impressively – he resists anthropomorphising Hermes, yet still manages to convey that he is a sentient being.

This is a must read for any fans of previous iterations of Kino’s Journey and is also a perfect introduction to any new readers of the series.

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Vol. 1 is out now from Vertical

9781947194359 – P/B – £10.99

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