Welcome to the third day of watching an episode of Kino’s Journey, talking about it, and talking about things related to it. This time the focus is what it means to be an adult, and how we all form up a society, about rites of passage, and “sharing the burden”.
Episode 4 – “Land of Adults -Natural Right-“
When this episode started I wasn’t sure what I’d write of. Young Kino was a cute little girl in a dress, oh there’s an ominous castle above her village, ah, no problem, it’s just a hospital. And then we’ve had some idle musings on the nature of adults and adult-life as seen through the eyes of a child. Nothing much, nothing fancy. And then, out of nowhere, Harrison Bergeron! BAM!
This episode made me think quite a bit of the anthropology courses I’ve had, about liminality and rites of passage. What happened in this episode is almost a textbook example. The “candidate” goes off outside of the community, to a remote location, where they undergo a transformative event, and when they return they’re considered “adults”. That fits to a T.
I found it really interesting and unsurprising that when Kino suggested that maybe she could do without the operation, everyone spoke of her as a betrayer, and turned upon her. The reason for this is two-fold. The first reason is related to what had been discussed at length for the previous episode, both in the episode and in my write-up – traditions, according to the Functionalist school of thought within Sociology, help us define our community, our “group”. Kino not wanting to partake of the ceremony paints her as outside the group, and also puts the ceremony in jeopardy.
But how does one person not going through with it put it in jeopardy? The Social Contract is maintained and reinforced each time we act according to it, and especially so when we reaffirm it in the face of defiance. Suppose someone doesn’t say “Please” when making a request, and they’re told off by other people – that’s a clear reaffirmation of the social contract, but each time someone says “Please” without being prompted? That’s reaffirming it as well. The “lobotomy” is part of what defines them as a group, and to go against it is to go against the social order. The social order must be reasserted.
The other part of it is the group of initiation-rites known colloquially as “hazing”. A good example of it is how Magic: the Gathering seasoned players would often make poor trades with new players, getting their valuable cards for ones that aren’t really worth anything or useful – “It’s been done to me, by people who’ve had it done to them, so why should I not do it to others?” – Yes, the reason many awful things continue to happen is because people justify it by it being done to them, especially if they can benefit from perpetrating it now, after hating it being done to them before.
This is especially true in The Land of Adults here, look at how ridiculously jobs are presented. This might indeed be how children in our world might view the downsides of being adults – “If you enjoy it, it can’t be a job!” but in this world, that’s what’s passed down, and what the adults parrot as well. Just think of how the teacher tells his students, “After the operation, you could do work you don’t enjoy with a smile, just like me!” – What sort of vibe such a teacher is giving his students?
Researches show Injustice in Distribution causing anger is universal. “Why should I work at something I hate and others get to do what they enjoy?” – Reminds me of a Dexter’s Laboratory skit where a superhero ended up with a ridiculous name, and he went to the bakery that had the name he wanted, but they too didn’t get it because someone else took up their name, until in the end they found someone who wouldn’t budge, because they did get the name they wanted. Of course, logically, the maximum gain would be that everyone but one would end up with their proper name, and that one person would end up with the name they don’t care for, rather than all but one person ending with the name they don’t care for, right?
Well, that’s logical, and in a world where others govern where you work it should be par the course, but people don’t work that way. Why not let people who can do the work they want to avoid the operation? Because those who dohave to undergo the operation will feel an injustice had been done to them. This is “fair”, in the manner where everyone being equally miserable is fair. You can’t hate your job, but no one else can like theirs either.
This episode makes the other episodes rather interesting. Especially the second. Going by “perfect rationality of common sense” which is of course about shared common sense, thus not necessarily universal sense, the people of the land couldn’t see anyone sacrificing himself for others, thus everyone sacrifices someone else, and no one is willing to suffer for the others’ benefit, just for their own – so, is Kino a “defective product” of her land? She will not sacrifice herself for the sake of others. Likewise in episode 3 with the soldiers about to destroy the other land due to the “prophecy”.
She also received quite an instructive example of what happens when you embroil yourself in the customs of another land.
- Kino made the pact with Hermes so she’s Kino, and because she’s Kino, she’s a traveler?
- Old-Kino’s behaviour is what we find out adults are like when we become them – they might seem like they know what they’re doing, but do they?
- The Inspector went about his job without smiling. Interesting.
- “Dying would be better than becoming like them. Wait, it’s the same thing.” – That line was… amazing. The living dead, less than human. To become an adult, to become sure of your ways, is to become a zombie. A child’s evaluation of adults.
- Smiling is brought up as the best example of doing something though you hate it – what does it mean of people who must provide service with a smile in our society? Is the requirement to smile not perhaps the worst part of it all? The insult added to the injury of doing a job they might hate?
- It’s called “The Land of Adults”, until you’re an adult, you’re a property of your parents, to do with as they please. This is Shinsekai Yori right there.
Questions for Discussion:
- Was Old-Kino an adult? Was he mature?
- How did you view adults, as a child? How do you view them if you’re one now, is anyone?
- Did this episode chill you to the bone?
- “Who would do such a mean thing?” – Hermes said this both when Kino let him fall over and when the people of the Land stabbed Old-Kino, was he jesting, or is this an example of him truly seeing them as equivalent actions?
- Do you feel Kino is a defective product of her Land, or is she still carrying its teachings, as seen in episode 2, and with her not saving the Land in episode 3?
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.