(Originally written around June-July 2014)
A show based on a fantasy shoujo manga. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Yes, yes it is. It’s not quite as amazing as the other shows I watched this week, but it was very enjoyable. With Hiroshi Kamiya voicing the lead character, what could go wrong? Not much, but his character is not the most intriguing either. Despite this being based on a shoujo manga, Natsume is pretty much a regular main character: clumsy and mostly powerless. Luckily, his sidekick, Nyanko-sensei(whose real name is Madara), is hilarious. Also, because he’s a powerful youkai, he usually saves Natsume’s ass from danger. And that brings us to the story.
The story of this show revolves around the fact that Natsume can see youkai, who are usually invisible to human beings. The youkai cause problems for each other as well as humans, and it’s Natsume’s job to take care of these problems. Not a terribly innovative premise, but the show does have some very good aspects. Most importantly for me, the youkai designs are surprisingly varied and nice-looking. Some look like humans(usually wearing masks or other odd ornaments on their faces), others look like animals. There’s the big and furry bear-like Santo(and his friend, the catfish Mikuri), the humongous horse-faced Misuzu and the beautiful Hinoe. The story is mostly episodic when it comes to the youkai(most are not recurring characters), but Natsume also has human friends and classmates, who are mostly recurring characters. In this way, the show is not really about the youkai, it’s about Natsume’s friendship with these people and with his de facto adoptive family.
All in all, this show is fairly standard as far as stories go. However, it gets some extra flavour from its non-romance shoujo nature, which means that there is more emphasis on bromance than romance, not to even mention the appearance of handsome older men who seduce Natsume. As creepy as this may sound at a glance, it’s not that different from shows aimed at males(just with some gender reversals), it’s mostly just hilarious. I recommend this show to basically everyone who likes slice of life and comedy. It’s very non-offensive in most ways.
I watched all of this, sans the “movies”, in a single day. That’s how good it was. Kino’s Journey is a journey in several ways. First of all, it’s literal. The story revolves around Kino and her travels in an episodic way. Every episode is a different story with the same main character. Secondly, the show is a journey into philosophy, as every episode usually has a theme of some sort. They’re not fables, however, because there are no messages, per se. Every episode just sort of explores an idea and then invites the viewer to think about it, as Kino is not one to give many answers.
The best example of this is probably the subtitle of the show, “The Beautiful World”, in the sentence “The world is not beautiful; therefore, it is” shown at the beginning of one of the early episodes. Thirdly, this episode was a journey for me as a viewer, because I could never guess where the show was taking me. The first few episodes are some of my favourite episodes in all of anime, and the later episodes were even better. Hell, I had to revise my scoring system for anime just to make sure that Kino’s Journey has its deserved spot near the very top. Excellent, excellent show. And even when you forget about the story and philosophy, the show has occasionally beautiful art and very nice music.