Kino’s Journey: the Beautiful World, shortened to Kino’s Journey, is a Japanese light novel series written by Keiichi Sigsawa, with illustrations by Kouhaku Kuroboshi. The series originally started serialization in volume five of MediaWorks’ now-defunct light novel magazine Dengeki hp on March 17, 2000. The first volume of the series was published on July 10, 2000 by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko publishing imprint. As of October 2014, 18 volumes have been published, and over 8 million copies of the novels have been sold in Japan. In Kino’s Journey, the protagonist, Kino, accompanied by a talking motorcycle named Hermes, travels through a mystical world of many different countries and forests, each unique in its customs and people. A spin-off light novel series titled Gakuen Kino began with the first volume published on July 10, 2006 by ASCII Media Works; four volumes have been released as of July 2010.
A 13-episode anime adaptation produced by A.C.G.T and Genco aired between April and July 2003 on WOWOW in Japan. Two visual novels for the PlayStation 2 were released by ASCII Media Works, the first in July 2003, and the second in December 2005. There have also been two 30-minute animated films produced, the first in February 2005, and the second in April 2007. A Kino’s Journey light novel was only released as a promotional gift for the second animated movie. Additional merchandise includes three art books, three picture books, and a drama CD. In 2017, two manga adaptations and a new anime series have been announced.
In Kino’s Journey, the protagonist, Kino, accompanied by a talking motorcycle named Hermes, travels through a mystical world of many different countries and forests, each unique in its customs and people. She only spends three days and two nights in every town, without exception, on the principle that three days is enough time to learn almost everything important about a place, while leaving time to explore new lands. Kino says in The Land of Visible Pain that this principle is probably a lie, specifically noting “if I stay any longer, I’m afraid I will settle down.” The recurring theme of the anime and novels is described by the phrase, “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is [beautiful].” Kino’s Journey explores what the anime director Ryūtarō Nakamura described as “a radical sense of ‘beauty,” and brutality, loneliness, nonsense, oppression and tragedy are often juxtaposed against compassion and a fairy-tale atmosphere.
For protection and hunting, Kino carries a .44 single action revolver (called “the Cannon”, based on a Colt M1851) that uses liquid explosives in place of gunpowder and a .22 automatic pistol (named “the Woodsman”, based on a Colt Woodsman). Later in Kino’s adventures in the novels, Kino also uses a pump action shotgun (based on a Winchester M1897) and a semi-automatic sniper rifle (called “the Flute”, based on an Arisaka Type 99 rifle), along with a variety of other tools, including knives. In the anime, Kino is shown to carry no fewer than five knives, including one which can fire .22 bullets from its hilt. Kino is an unusually quick draw and practices every day before dawn.
Technology in this world exists, sometimes to the level of science fiction, although anachronisms are common (for example, the same land that has talking robots also appears to have phonographs, yet simultaneously the world has only begun to develop heavier-than-air flight). The level of technology also varies from country to country. The world is not heavily magical (the only “magical” elements include land that moves, a talking motorcycle, and a talking dog), although it has a certain fairy-tale quality.