Kino no Tabi Episode 4: The Ship Country
Would you adopt a suicidal loli?
What a strange country. When we were first introduced to it, I thought the episode would be an insight into the sort of society they had aboard the ship, with its internal politics becoming increasingly tense in time for Shizu’s arrival. You know, something like the Tower Clan being a dictatorial ruling class oppressing the proletariat to the point of rebellion – which is what I hoped might happen given how the Wizzrobes were talking about roughing up the citizens and ignoring their petitions for change. Hell, I was expecting the country to not be a huge ship at all – I was imagining a country flooded entirely by water, with all its inhabitants living on ship-houses and running a society using that as a premise.
But what we got instead was interesting as well. I think the focus ended up being not so much on the country itself, but rather on Shizu and the sort of person he is. Kino herself only played a peripheral role as well, though there’s a point to be raised on why she chose to take a different stance in contrast to Shizu and stayed with the Tower Clan instead. She always requests tours from the people who live in the countries she visits, so it was a little weird to realise that she chose to stay away from the populace. It’s also not like she knew about the true identity of the Tower Clan, given that they only told Hermes – who, in turn, never told Kino until Ti was about to blow herself and Shizu up. Whatever the reason, I guess it helps to highlight the stark contrast between the two in terms of their approach to travelling and staying in countries.
It’s obvious, of course, that Shizu is by no means a bad person. Far from it, actually. But it’s because he can’t leave people alone when they appear to be suffering that this whole fiasco even occurred in the first place. To Shizu, and to many of us, I’m sure, it’s not a bad thing for the Tower Clan to stop ruling the ship’s inhabitants, and for the gradually increasing damage to be sorted out. But in the end, that’s just our opinion. It’s not necessarily that of the people who are being helped, and a failure to recognise that is what leads to a kind of misguided empathy. It’s a trap that a lot of folks in everyday society end up falling into, and the problem is magnified for the purposes of Kino no Tabi – the role of Kino or Shizu as the Tabibito-san is supposed to be one of neutrality or normalcy, relative to the world-view of most of the readers or viewers (i.e. what we would consider as ‘normal’). But because each country has its own culture, as well as its own inhabitants with their own way of living, it’s harder than it looks to find an objective solution to a problem that would satisfy everyone. It’s again an issue of perspective, like we saw last week with the wall country and the moving country. But because we’re concerned with the topic of helping others this time, it’s important to consider how the people being helped feel about it all.
The theme of the episode, then, seems to revolve around the topic of ‘whether the things you do for someone really help them or not’. Shizu surely had good intentions, but it’s pointless if he just imposes on the ship’s citizens whatever he personally feels is the right thing to do. It’s exaggerated in the context of this story, since it’s easy to argue that of course it’s objectively better to live and keep your life (as well as that of future generations) while slowly adapting to land instead of going back to the ship and being doomed in a few more years, but there’s a wider lesson to be learned from it all. It’s like how people sometimes dislike the saying ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated’, instead turning it into ‘treat others the way they would like to be treated’. In the end, you don’t get to unilaterally decide whether you helped someone or not. It’d be really interesting to get more Shizu episodes in the future. I’d like to see more of where his methods take him, as well as how they contrast with Kino’s when she’s faced with the same situation. From what we already know of Kino, she’s totally different – whilst she certainly has opinions of her own, she tends to remain an impartial observer instead, helping when asked but rarely taking matters into her own hands just because she believes it’s the right thing to do. Makes you wonder whether Shizu was basically trying to do something similar with his father in his home country, killing him not only for revenge but also to free his people from the Colosseum tradition that everyone ended up following anyway even after Kino shot him.
Ti was a real curveball. I initially believed she was there to make sure Shizu didn’t poke his nose in places where it didn’t belong, but the truth was pretty unexpected. Do all lolis carry knives and grenades these days? She was alright, but I was hoping for her to be more endearing than she ended up being (at least so far). Riku, on the other hand, was the cutest and the fluffiest. I was sad that they never started the episode with his monologue where he introduces himself, but that brief moment with the kids on the ship thinking he was always smiling was a great reference to that. It would have helped if Ti had talked a little more, both with getting me to like her, as well as with the plot in general (as Shizu might have done something different if he had known the truth early on). Was she just quiet, or could she literally not talk because she grew up isolated? Either way, it’s easy to see why she did what she did – she was scared of being abandoned again, and oddly enough, death is the only way she knows how to resolve her problems. She didn’t really show it that much, but she probably grew attached to Shizu through their cute moments together in the rain and at sunset.
I shall end this post with this picture of Riku getting brushed. I have to admit, a sizeable chunk of my excitement at the next Shizu episode, whenever that may be, will be because I get to see best dog again.