Kino’s Journey: Country of Illness -For You- Review

Kino's Journey Country of Illness
AKA: Kino no Tabi: Byouki no Kuni -For You-, Kino’s Travels: Country of Illness -For You-, Kino’s Journey Movie 2
Genre: Adventure/Philosophical Drama/Experimental
Year Released: 2007
Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: Japan

Running Time: 30 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+
Related Films/Series: Kino’s Journey, Kino’s Journey: Life Goes On, Kino’s Journey (2017 Remake)

For Fans Of: Serial Experiments Lain, Mushishi, Haibane Renmei, Black Jack series, Phoenix
Notes:
-Country of Illness takes place in the original TV series’ canon although it’s not specific which part of the story it’s in. It’s safe to watch at least a few episodes just to know what the characters and world are like although it’s possible to watch this by itself.
Fun Facts:
-Country of Illness marks the return of Ryutaro Nakamura in the director’s seat, but it would be the second and final time that he would direct anything related to Kino’s Journey since he died six years after this film was created.

-This is the first Kino’s Journey property not to be animated by ACGT. Country of Illness was animated by Shaft this time around. It’s that studio’s first film project, but you might know Shaft for animating the Sayonara Zetsubo-Sensei series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and March Comes In Like a Lion to name a few.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: Speaking of Shaft, they co-animated This Ugly yet Beautiful World with Gainax. Any Kino fan should find humor with that because of the recurring quote “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is beautiful.”

-The illustrator/co-creator of the Kino’s Journey light novels did character design work for Shigofumi, Princess Principal, and World Conquest Zvezda Plot.


Looks like I picked up a motorrad when it comes to reviewing since I’m once again traveling to the world of Kino’s Journey. This certainly was a unique series and I thought it was good re-immersing myself into that particular anime IP. Kino’s Journey has been an intelligent series with it’s combination of philosophy and artistry that not many animated properties (Japanese or otherwise) have really pulled off. Sure, I never thought it was a perfect anime, but I do appreciate it more than several other series out there although I can understand why some people would consider it to be in their top three favorite anime series.

For this go around, I’m going to take on the second movie created. How does the late Ryutaro Nakamura handle this particular travel with our protagonists?

Country of Illness -For You- involves Kino and Hermes travel to a futuristic country which boats of it being the most clean in the entire planet. It’s also a domed area to block any pathogens, Hermes gets an eco-friendly tailpipe in order to ride around, and Kino has a deep cleansing shower to be in this place. The locals say that they can stay as long as they like in their country which certainly is a rarity given Kino’s previous experiences with certain nations and her recurring “three day rule” per travel. Although they start out having a positive experience with meeting the locals and the elite, the latter invite Kino and Hermes to meet the leader’s daughter Inasha. Unlike most of the population, she’s bed-ridden and hooked up to an IV. Kino cheers her up by talking about her traveling stories while Inasha also writes letters to a friend named Logue whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. Kino promises to send the message, but something becomes quite ominous once she ventures to the country next door where Logue could possibly be.

There was certainly a return to form with both the storytelling and philosophy like most of the good episodes in the original Kino’s Journey series. It does start a bit slow and innocuous, but it is paced very well even in it’s short run time. I also liked that little joke of Hermes talking to an ATV at one point. It felt like a complete story and there were some twists in it that most people won’t see coming. Even some of my predictions didn’t happen exactly how I planned it when I watched Country of Illness. The letter subplot did offer a nice twist and it really played up the darker elements of the story which I will not spoil lest I ruin the big reveal of that storyline. There was a good balance between the softer moments along with the tragic and even horrifying elements throughout this short film. One can make a strong case that this journey alone should’ve been part of the original TV series.

While Country of Illness is a nice addition to the Kino’s Journey canon, I do think that some extra rehab would’ve been great with different things. The animation style under Shaft wasn’t as strong as ACGT despite that studio’s flaws. Much like Life Goes On, this was passable as a TV episode, but not a movie in terms of production. It was more CGI-oriented and those parts have certainly aged like the towers. The art style was a bit more moe than the original series or the previous film which I was not a fan of. It’s not quite moe or SD like other series, but it was enough to be a bit distracting. I also wasn’t a fan of the ending theme “Bird” by Mikuni Shimokawa which was one of her more generic songs which is a shame since I like some of her music even in anime series I didn’t care for (I’m looking at you, Grenadier). Country of Illness should have better production on this film.

This Kino’s Journey film was certainly worth watching. The story and philosophy really shine in this part of that animated canon. There were enough twists and intrigue going on to keep most people invested in this particular travel. The subplot with Inasha, the bird carving, and the letter added so much needed drama and that storyline will tug at your heartstrings for better or worse. I do wish there was better animation production and an improved art style for Country of Illness as it felt cheaper than what it should’ve been. Country of Illness is the better short film compared to Life Goes On in my opinion. Even though it wasn’t as good as the best episodes in the Kino’s Journey TV series, it’s still one of the better stories I’ve experienced involving this gun-toting philosophizing traveler. Recommended.


Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a Kino’s Journey fan.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want something more action packed.
Subtract 1-3 points if you want higher-quality animation.

Pros:
-Great plotting and pacing with it’s run time
-Ingenious plot twists (even if some get tragic)
-Nice usage of philosophy

Cons:
-Lackluster CGI and 2D visuals
-Mediocre ending theme
-Recycled background score

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: Country of Illness starts out very tame, but the second half gets too morbid for younger viewers. There’s a massacre that happened in the backstory where men, women, and children were killed as a sacrifice for medical and scientific progress. The implications of that become even stronger when some of the fallen were used as medicine and vaccines for the elites which is loaded with so much fridge horror going on.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Kino’s Journey: Country of Illness -For You- is property of Keiichi Sigsawa, Kouhaku Kuroboshi, Ryutaro Nakamura, and Shaft. The movie poster is from My Anime List and is property of Shaft.

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