Humanity can be a curious gaggle, and Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World has demonstrated the many faces and emotions people have. That may sound like some reworking of a bullshit statement straight from the mouth of a two-bit guru, but in all honesty the way Keiichi Sigsawa and their manga adapter Iruka Shiomiya have brilliantly shown just how strange we as a collective can be. Sometimes we can be cold souls entrapped in a friendly body, or we can be the other way around with a gruff outer image encapsulating a kindhearted being. Perhaps this is why the fifth volume of Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World has hit me so strongly.
Two big stories fill most of his edition, as Kino and Hermes traverse to a town with a very bad reputation. However, they are surprised to see a kind smile and a warm heart from every individual they come across. From hotel owners to an old Persuader-smith to a happily married couple on their big day, the warmth that Kino and Hermes receive is nothing like what they’ve come to both expect and have received in the past. But when they realize the truth behind their nature, it becomes a fate that’s far too late to change.
It’s a tale that should fill any person with warmth, as it’s practically the polar opposite of what readers of Kino’s Journey have dealt with in the past. Most times, these warm welcomings will devolve into cold farewells, but that’s not the case here. But when Kino sees for themselves why they act this way, it’s gut-wrenching to say the least. Nevertheless, the lesson that this story teaches by far exceeds the normal moral compass that has guided humanity for many millennia.
The second big story involves three perspectives of a town whose people have a slight problem with eye contact. Kino’s Master is the first to head with a solution to their blight; Kino arrives to partake in the makings of their teacher; Shizu tries to convince the town to rid themselves of the solution and teach them to be themselves. What this results in is a big punchline to a joke that could be told by Junji Ito, one where you don’t know if you should laugh or grimace at.
Sometimes a story with tension needs a big sigh of relief once in awhile. The fifth volume of Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World is just that: a much-desired breather from the most awful parts of humanity as a whole. It’s kindhearted, understanding, and — in some ways — unexpectedly funny (especially the prologue/epilogue of the man in the sniper tower). Although the tension may return in the next volume, it was nice to see Kino and Hermes experience something that required zero weight on their shoulders. If only we were blessed to have many days like that in reality.
Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Vertical Comics