Journey with Kino’s Journey Day 2 – Hard Questions

Welcome to the second day of watching an episode of Kino’s Journey, talking about it, and talking about things related to it. This time on the menu, aside from discussions of morality, an aside on the nature of questions and discussions! Also, I’m dedicating this piece to Emily from Atelier Emily. Her blog is worth checking out.

Episode 2 – “A Tale of Feeding Off Others -I Want to Live-“

Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World / Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World episode 2 editorial

Is it just me, or did the head-slaver look like the “monk” from Princess Mononoke? Quite a bit, actually, and their characters are quite similar as well.

Questions Are Interesting:

Before we get further, I have a question, how many of you didn’t see where this will go from about halfway into the episode? I think the whole nature of the episode, and its title, and the fact this is a show more about human nature than random observations about nature, more or less told us it’d go something like that. I dunno, I think once they spoke of their “Homecoming Festival” I was sure. I did suspect them from the get-go, that they’d attack Kino after she caught the first rabbit. They just struck me as “off”.

Well, before we get to what this episode was about, let’s talk about talking about what an episode is about! Ok, so here’s the thing. I’ve been to too many philosophy classes, but it’s also something that I came across in some of the more philosophical Sociology courses I’ve taken. We’d read a text, or get told of someone, and everyone would nod along as if they understand – and then the lecturer would ask us, “What do you understand? What is he saying here? Why is he saying this specific thing in this segment? Who is he talking to, or about?” And you’d see a lot of blank faces, furthered by the fact no one wants to venture an opinion that’d be shot down.

But you see, we all nod along, thinking we get what something is about, until we’re shaken out of our complacency, until someone points out that this “mutual understanding” we have may not be so mutual. That’s why instances where something apparently disrupts the Social Contract which we call consensus can be so unsettling.

It doesn’t really matter what the answer to the question is, per se. An article or a story tells us a story. The answer to the question also tells us a story, where we can comfortably assume once more we’re all on the same page again. What is interesting is the question itself. I’ve gone on record before to say stories contain questions, and often the narrative is about tackling these questions. But before we can even answer the question a story poses, we need to answer another question – “What is this story about? What question does it pose?”

The Overt Question:

Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World / Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World episode 2 editorial

And now we’re back to Kino’s Journey. What is this episode about? I mean, it more or less told us, so we’re all on the same page, right? Right? Well, of course we’re not. And once I tell you what I think the episode is about, or the show says it’s about, we’ll all nod and agree, or disagree, but it wouldn’t be as interesting as the thoughts the questions raised within us, as always.

So, what’s the episode about? On the surface level, which is what it speaks loudly about, it’s about hunger, and it’s about food. It’s about people treating one another as commodities, as strangers on the route that are there to be a stepping-stone, for our survival.

Kino knows her choice is arbitrary, and she accepts it. She’d kill someone else to help humans survive. Things were already killed for the sake of her survival. Why did she make this choice? Because she’s looking out for herself, and those like her. There’s nothing outside her perspective that makes her worthier of survival than those she kills. And that’s also why the position of the slavers is understandable – yes, they enslave other people yes, they killed them, but it was either they do it, or they die.

Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World / Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World episode 2 editorial

And that’s the sort of “post-moral” world Kino seems to exist in. If it’s either I die or you die, then there’s no real reason to prefer one of us over the other, except we’re we, for each of us. The actions we take? We’re taking equivalent actions either way. On one hand, that’s the best argument against eating animals – it is killing them, for us to survive. But on the other hand, we’re going to stand on others’ lives either way.

But living in a “post-moral” world doesn’t mean Kino doesn’t have a code of honour. You can say that the devolution from one world, with shared morals, perforce leads to one where people adopt personal codes. She does feel a moral obligation for those whose lives she had taken to keep hers going – now she must live on, so their lives wouldn’t be in vain. Kino must not die, not just for herself, but for the sake of the three men she killed, and for the sake of the three rabbits who fed these three men. Anything else, and it’d have been better for her to die instead of them. Of course, that code runs a tad counter to her mission as a traveler – she needs to keep going at least until she gets a new experience, and costs someone, or something else, their lives.

Kino’s code means she will not take advantage of others, when it’s not a question of survival, and that she’d be true to her word. Every traveler needs a compass, to remind them not just of where they’re going, but where they came from, meaning what is home, and home is the self, even should we escape it – because we forever define ourselves by the steps we’ve taken, and yes, the lives it took.

The “Hidden” Question?

Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World / Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World episode 2 editorial

First, calling it “Hidden question” is a bit tongue-in-cheek, because the questions are those we ask, and then again, because this question is actually asked twice during the show, and answered but once.

“Would you do it again?” Hermes asked Kino. Earlier, not asked, she still answered the question, saying she’d have done so again – killed the rabbit, for the sake of her fellow men, who could repay her, or just because they’re more similar to her.

“Metaphorically speaking, we’re wolves, and wolves can’t help but act like wolves.” – What did the eyecatch say at the end of the episode? “These things will always happen, because we’re only human.” So here the “Wolves” means “Humans”.

So what is the “question” here? The question is one of the oldest ones of them all, speaking about the nature of free will, and of our own. If we have a certain nature, as humans, as wolves, are we able to break free of it, and make different choices? If we are to say we’ll make different choices when our previous ones used up another, is this experience and wisdom showing through, or saying that the other’s sacrifice was in vain, because you say it was needless? Perhaps it might even show a lack of respect for our past selves, and those who helped it get there – as we renounce our past self for the sake of one that could never be.

If we must be true to our nature, and our nature is to use others, then why struggle against it? Why feel guilty over killing another to help us survive? That brings us back to the “post-morals” world. Of course, a post-morals world is the same as a pre-moral world. A post-apocalyptic setting is also a pre-civilization setting. “The World Moved On” is still the most profound way to describe a post-apocalyptic setting, from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

But here we get to the thorniest of issues – will. Are we wolves who act out our nature, or are we humans who choose to be wolves? And if we choose to be wolves, does this mean we must follow all that it entails, and that one choose absolves or damns us to all that follows? See, is the whole question descriptive, or prescriptive? The slavers basically said, “This is what we are like, and this is the sort of behaviour it leads to,” but what if it is prescriptive? “I am a wolf, so I will choose to act like a wolf in each situation.”

Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World / Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World episode 2 editorial

Kino didn’t answer Hermes when he asked her at last whether she’d have done it again. It? Helped people she came across? Killed them should it be her or them? She’s Kino, and she’ll do what Kino does. It doesn’t bear mentioning. And if she is willing to change, and it’d be her lives that sustained her through that change, would that make the cost the three rabbits paid worthwhile? Honestly, it’s the question, and the lack of answer, that matter. Any answer would be a narrative, and not as interesting as the asking of the question itself.

Mini-observations:

  1. Kino will not share her food, even if others would die due to it. She protects herself. She also will not hunt though that’d let her keep her stock of food – killing is for when life is on the line, and something likely died for her food either way.
  2. “Charity is not for the sake of others.” – “A rabbit wouldn’t give me a ring as thanks.” – Still looking out for herself. Charity is done out of self-interest, even if it’s to think of oneself as a human and not a wolf.
  3. “Persuader”, a gun is called. Almost as good as “Pacifier”, from our own history.
  4. “Are you hurt?” – “No.” – Kino isn’t hurt, but what does this say of her internal landscape?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. “Would you do it again?” – Is Hermes talking about helping the people, or killing them?
  2. Do you think Kino would’ve done it again? Why did she not answer Hermes’ question?
  3. Why do you think Kino chose the men over the rabbits, considering she said there is no real reason to prefer one over the other?
  4. What’s most important, to you, the narrative, the questions people raise about it, or the answers provided to these questions?
  5. As question #4, but which is most interesting? And how do they interrelate?

Feel free to answer as many of these as you like, in whichever manner you’d like, or discuss the episode or the main write-up while ignoring these.

 You can follow the full travelogue here.

3 comments on “Journey with Kino’s Journey Day 2 – Hard Questions

  1. Lanthalona says:

    “What’s most important, to you, the narrative, the questions people raise about it, or the answers provided to these questions?”

    I think all of them are equally valid. Narrative can raise and answer questions by itself, regardless of whether it did so intentionally or not. It’s us as individuals who take parts of the narrative and transform them into questions based our own life experiences and philosophies. Even the simplest of sentences such as “I am.” can form an almost infinite amount of such questions, some of which have a definitive answers, others that don’t. When Kino no Tabi says “The world isn’t beautiful and therefore it is” it intentionally challenges the viewer to create question and maybe for some answers to them.

    As such, asking question through narrative is not only interesting for the viewer, it creates a seemingly infinite amount of depth. On the other hand, both raising and answering questions in narrative can be sometimes iffy. A great example of this I think would be Ergo Proxy, where throughout the first half it seems to be asking what it means to be human and in the second half, it attempts to answer it, but only does it partially and suddenly shifts to other ideas such as religion. It’s almost as if the creators themselves realised that the answers they were trying to present weren’t and couldn’t ever be complete. It’s oftentimes better to leave a question hanging than answering only a half of it.

  2. 1) Although it’s been some time from when I’ve watched it, I always thought that Hermes was asking if Kino would help them now that she knew they were slavers.

    2) Yes, I believe Kino would operate the same way. Her reluctance to answer the question might denote an uncertainty about how she would react. We all have moments that we debate with ourselves and aren’t sure if we’d act according to our ideas/morals.

    3) Perhaps for the same reason we eat rabbits but not dogs. We are partial in our sympathies and our bonds.

    4) It depends on the series? I don’t get in a series or wander throught it having the same expectations compared to other series. I love Kino’s Journey because it keeps you thinking and doubting your worldviews, but I disliked Haibane Renmei a lot, because it gave me no answers and no matter how I tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together, I couldn’t coz it’s an intended mess (I don’t believe in being able to find ‘truth’ by writing down dreams and reaching your ‘subconscious’. I’m more of the thought that our dreams are our experiences and wishes reconstructed). The questions there had largely to do with the world of the story itself and at the same time with making a philosophical meaning but everything felt left unfinished. And then there are series like Hunter x Hunter that I enjoy for the narrative and the characters.

    5) I believe that most of the major philosophical questions about life and morals have been asked in one way or another. So I it find interesting when I get an answer I had never thought before. This also has to do with the fact that I’m sick of going into seminars and being said they offer no answers. I’ve already asked the questions myself, now pls offer an answer, a suggestion, something! Of course, it won’t be a definitive one necessarily, but don’t try to do away with the weight of responsibility of an answer!

  3. ajthefourth says:

    I actually had to skip through this post because I have they to watch Kino’s Journey, but I wanted to thank you for the shout-out. <3

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