HealyG (healyg) wrote,

Currently Reading Wednesdays 13: Kino's Journey, again

So this week I've read Kino's Journey, Volume 4 and 5, by Keiichi Sigsawa. (Previous reviews here and here.) It's the same curate's egg as before, some great stories, most undistinguished, some big stinkers. Part of that is due to the anthology format, I think, but I also think a bigger part is because of protagonist Kino's personality.

Okay, so we're all familiar with these sorts of town-of-the-week shows, right? Our hero, the stranger, rides into town; they get mixed up in the town's affairs somehow and usually start meddling; often they fix a problem the town was having, sometimes they don't (like, maybe the town refuses their help here); then, after a conclusion is reached, the stranger rides off into the sunset. This basic plot has been a part of travel narratives since at least the TV/radio Westerns (or likely even earlier), a cornerstone of shows like the original Star Trek, or the 70s TV version of The Incredible Hulk. My point here is that Kino is pretty good at the first and last points on that list, but terrible at anything in the middle.

You see, Kino is one of the do-nothingest adventurers I have ever seen. She's not a character that does things or even things happen to as much as one that things happen around. And while this can be taken as a nod towards realism, like in the real life travel narratives like Travels With Charley, Kino feels different more on an attitude level. She's driven more by boredom and inertia than anything else, I'd say. She comes off as too apathetic to care much about most of the people she encounters, and when she does change things, it's usually as a result of doing nothing, much like Fat Pony. (E.G., that one story whose moral seemed to be "if someone is domestic-violencing you, you domestic-violence them back!" Yeeesh. The less said about that one, the better.) Even the few times she takes action seem driven by boredom, and she even says as much in one of the stories!

What really brings many of the stories down, I think, is that Kino's apathy gives them a moral as well as narrative flatness. Her dull reactions to atrocities are a little upsetting to me, and while I get that she's supposed to be a world-weary traveler, shouldn't she react with more than dull surprise to some of the things she sees and hears about? Like, there's this one story about a bridge where I was horrified by some of the revelations about its making, and all Kino can think to do is go fishing. Perhaps Sigsawa meant this and other moments to be comments on how we readers live our day-to-day lives, but it happens too often for me, so I can't really give him or Kino much benfit of the doubt.

So, a question not much different from the one posed in my first review: would I recommend the series Kino's Journey? Despite all my complaints about it, I do still like it; I enjoy reading it for the grace notes and the sometimes-great stories, even though the main character can be kind of a jerk. If you don't like it when the main character of a book is kind of a jerk, maybe you should steer clear.

(Note: Because of time issues, I could not get around to what was going to be a major part of this post. So, I'm going to cut it off here and put all that junk into a new post, due tomorrow! Er, Friday. Look forward to it!)
Tags: analysis, currently reading wednesdays, light novel
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