Kino no Tabi Episode 2: Colosseum
I’m kind of conflicted. I had no idea that this new adaptation’s version of the Colosseum episodes would be so different from the original’s. To begin with, I was fully expecting it to be split into two parts like it used to be – the way it was done today resulted in a perfectly functional episode that introduced Shizu and Riku whilst leaving more time for another story to be adapted, but the quid pro quo is that there was less world-building for this unnamed land than there could have been. I know parts of what the original series did with the Colosseum story were never in the light novels to begin with, and so it might be an odd complaint to make, but I don’t think its additions were bad. Let me explain why.
Perhaps all of the fights except for Shizu’s could have been safely skipped, but the tour of the country Kino was given by one of the guards was something I really liked. Part of the charm of Kino no Tabi is being able to get to know all these strange, foreign cultures and ways of living, and Kino visiting the slums of Shizu’s country and hearing the story the guard had to tell her was an important insight into the way its non-citizen inhabitants lived. Getting to see the stark difference between the people who lived in the slums and the first-class citizens who spend all day spectating Colosseum fights also helps make more sense of the new rule that Kino added after beating Shizu. Only after seeing the terrible living conditions in the slums (as well as listening to the spectators cheering on Kino to kill her defeated opponents over and over) is it easier to get why Kino ‘forced’ the first-class citizens to fight each other. It was, firstly, to give them a taste of their own medicine, and secondly, to teach them of exactly how stupid their own customs were – because they weren’t actually being made to do anything. It would have been perfectly alright if they just got up and left (and thus they would keep their lives) because the king who was enforcing these customs in the first place was now dead, but everyone there was too blind to see otherwise.
The other thing I felt was a shame that they skipped was the puppet performance the king put on for the four semi-finalists. That was a much better way to foreshadow Shizu’s presence and purpose, as well as to describe the history of the country, than the way it was done today with Hermes just telling Kino about it whilst she was occupied with making her special bullet. In other words, in light of all the things it could have been, I think this episode was really rushed.
Which brings me back to a point I made last week, which is – why not treat the original series as being required watching for the purposes of this sequel, and not re-adapt any of the old episodes? The only argument for doing the Colosseum story again is that Shizu can quickly be introduced, but there’s no real substance behind taking an episode to do so when the scenes that helped to further develop him as a character were all removed. The puppet show hosted by the king in the original was pretty much a play about Shizu’s life, and his building anger and disgust as it went on was your first real hint that he was the king’s estranged son. If that’s gone, then there’s not really that much difference between introducing him here and just mentioning that he’s one of Kino’s acquaintances (whom she met and helped out by doing such-and-such in a country she once visited) whenever he next shows up.
By the way, Riku is a talking dog. In the original adaptation of the Colosseum arc, there was a lot more of Riku and Hermes bantering by themselves during Shizu and Kino’s fights. Kino is, of course, not really one to be that perturbed at the idea of a dog talking either way, and in both series it was ironically Hermes who expressed surprise that talking dogs exist. To which Riku replied that it’s no less strange than the idea of a talking motorrad is. This is also one of those episodes where you’re subtly but firmly reminded that Kino does not in fact have schizophrenia, and that Hermes can really talk. It’s not like he never addresses anyone else in the countries they visit, but other than Riku and Kino, very few people actually respond to Hermes himself – they sort of reply as if its Kino talking, and in any case are never too surprised when Hermes does chip in. It’s only Riku who strongly lampshades how Hermes is an actual talking motorrad, saying that if something like that exists, there’s no reason for Riku himself to not be able to talk. The other key piece of evidence for Hermes being sentient would be the end of the Land of Adults story, when Hermes first awakens and helps Kino escape by telling her how to ride him properly. That might very well have been just a conversation between the two of them, but I’m not sure Kino would have known what to do at all if it weren’t for Hermes.
That lady whose husband died in the Colosseum caught me off guard. I’d totally forgotten about her until Hermes brought it up, and initially mistook her for a lady whom Kino met in another story (the one who optimistically believed that she was just lucky she hadn’t run ever into any bandits or anyone out to harm her throughout all of her travels, when in reality she wasn’t at all aware that her companion was killing them all for her before she met them). I can think of two reasons for why she lied and told Kino to head to that country anyway. The first is that she was hoping Kino might be able to do something about the situation there and change it for the better. This is unlikely – I don’t think she knew much about Kino’s abilities, and she would have been more upfront if she’d had such noble motives. That leaves the second, which is that she was simply bitter over the unjust death of her husband, and wanted to take it out on someone and make herself feel better by sending them to their deaths, like the person who told her the fake rumours about that country may or may not have known they were doing. That motive would tie into Shizu’s own desire for revenge quite neatly (thus creating a theme for the episode) and so this is probably a better explanation behind what she was doing.
Finally, even if I felt the episode missed the mark, I loved the new OP! Yanagi Nagi for both OP and ED feels really premium, and the birds everywhere is a nice reference to both the latest light novel cover, as well as the wistful comments Kino makes about birds every now and then (including, as the first Kino told her, how it’s said that when people see birds, they get the urge to go on a journey). What’s most exciting to me is that there are so many new characters who I don’t recognise – and even the mere fact that there are other characters than Kino in the OP is a great improvement, as nice a song as All the Way is. I’m looking forward to that qt on the top-right in particular. We definitely haven’t seen her before, right?