(13 episodes + 3 specials, 2003, 2005, 2007)
My previous exposure
Suggested in this very thread. And I vaguely remember having heard of it before.
What’s it about ?
Our protagonist Kino travels between various countries, atop her faithful motorbike Hermès. (Who can talk. Don’t ask.)
What did I think of it ?
This is a very episodic series, alternating between several tales in a single episode, up to a two-parter halfway through. The setup is basically always the same : Kino arrives in a new town/country, learns about their customs, stuff happens, and she leaves after three days. The whole thing is an excuse for exploring human sociology, and why they do what they do, however pointless it is. In particular, there’s a great unspoken ironic parallel in the “3 men and the railroad” between the 3’s pointless task, the “country where people don’t need to work (but do anyway, because doing something pointless is better than doing nothing)” tale-within-a-tale, and Kino’s own aimless wandering.
Kino is a very compelling protagonist, despite us barely ever getting into her head at all. She doesn’t talk much and offers no inner monologue ; Hermès’s whole role is to offer a naive proxy for the viewer so as to try and understand her. A few episodes offer some explanations about her backstory, although a great deal is left unsaid. What little we do get to see, though, I really like ; the Colosseum two-parter shows she’s got a strong sense of justice and a nasty sense of humour. I also like that she sometimes completely fucks up (seriously, driving that family of androids to suicide can’t have been her intention).
Another strong point of the series is that it knows how to vary tones across its tales ; it can go from the cheerful story of the first airplane to the grim and bloody Colosseum two-parter. The soundtrack is intriguing ; along with some direction effects, it often emphasizes the artificiality of the story and injects a dimension of “something’s not quite right” that contrasts nicely with the naive character designs. This works especially well in the second special where Kino goes on her first “real” journey.
It’s a bit of a shame that the last special is among the weakest tales (with CG backgrounds that are a bit too distracting to be impressive), though. Still, this has been a great series to watch, and is the first one suggested in this thread to join my Top 30.