In a quiet, low-key future, wandering adventurer Kino and her “motorrad” Hermes, a talking motorbike, travel the overgrown landscape and mostly deserted roads, occasionally running into people with whom to connect and philosophize. Their world is lightly populated, high-tech but largely given over to wilderness, and perfectly crafted for long, lonely road trips. Kino makes it a rule to stay in one place no longer than three days, just enough time to get an impression of the area and its people. Sometimes she and Hermes run into danger, but they seldom have much trouble getting out of it and back on the road toward another adventure.
Kino’s Journey is one of the more interesting, imaginative light novels to get picked up for anime and manga adaptation. Its melancholy tone is common to many iyashikei, or “healing,” series where characters wander around an attractive landscape having gentle, serialized adventures. But the androgynous Kino, her talking motorbike, and their world—half postapocalyptic waste, half rural fantasyland—have a freshness to them. On their endless journey it seems they can encounter anything: an empty automated city, an old railway line, the dystopian Land of Adults.
Much of the success of an iyashikei manga depends on the art, and Kino’s Journey looks great, with distinctive settings, characters with unique, expressive faces, and carefully rendered vehicles. Shiomiya seems much less enthusiastic about drawing urban environments, which often look traced from reference, than woods, fields, and small towns, which she packs with naturalistic detail. Kino’s lonely travels aren’t exactly “healing” in the traditional sense, but it’s unexpectedly pleasant to drop in on her and see what strange places she discovers.
story and art: Iruka Shiomiya
original story: Keiichiu Sigsawa
original character design: Kouhaku Kuroboshi