Kino no Tabi: Book One Of The Beautiful World – Light Novel Review

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I had first heard of Kino no Tabi (Kino’s Journey) when it was released as an anime in 2003. I had seen one episode, but shortly afterwards, the anime got licensed, so I sorta forgot about it. Fast forward to October 2006, and the Kino no Tabi light novel is released in the US! I’m not a big novel reader, but stick the word “light” in the front and I’m sold!

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I had first heard of Kino no Tabi (Kino’s Journey) when it was released as an anime in 2003. I had seen one episode, but shortly afterwards, the anime got licensed, so I sorta forgot about it. Fast forward to October 2006, and the Kino no Tabi light novel is released in the US! I’m not a big novel reader, but stick the word “light” in the front and I’m sold!

Kino is a traveler. Kino is also an awesome reverse trap. That’s right, Kino is a girl. She travels the world, never stopping anywhere for more than three days. She was once told by another traveler that “you can learn almost everything about most places in that length of time.”

Kino is not, however, alone. She’s accompanied by a smart aleck sentient motorcycle by the name of “Hermes.” Hermes is a lot like KITT from Knight Rider. When I was reading the light novel, I kept on thinking of William Daniels’ voice when reading Hermes’ lines. He (at least, I think Hermes is a he…) acts as Kino’s sidekick, as well as serving as a rational voice when Kino gets crazy ideas.

Together, Kino and Hermes discover the beauty of the world. The beauty, apparently, is that the world is ugly. All of the imperfections and conflicts in the world make Kino want to see even more. During her adventures, she is almost killed by her parents (which starts her off in her journey), visits ruined cities, and even fights in a colosseum tournament! Kino is an expert sharpshooter, so she’s usually safe, even when it seems she’s in over her head.

I haven’t really read any “light novels” before, so I didn’t know what to expect when reading Kino no Tabi. From what I had read about light novels, they seemed to be targeted towards teenagers, with simple stories and occasional manga-style drawings here and there. For the most part, that’s what Kino no Tabi is like. Each chapter is self contained, and most last around 30 pages. There are a few pictures, but they’re all in black and white, and no fanservice… Boo!

For the most part, I found the light novel pretty easy to read. Apparently the Japanese version of the novel had the chapters mixed around in chronological order. Tokyopop decided to present them in the correct order for the US release. I guess either way works, though I would’ve preferred as close of a direct translation as possible. I finished the whole book in two days, and I doubt anyone would have trouble getting through it in one day if they wanted to.

I’m the kind of guy who actually pays more attention to the words in manga than the pictures, so reading light novels would seem more natural to me. At least, the cost per word ratio totally kicks manga’s ass! If you’re looking to get into light novels (as they’re apparently all the rage in Japan), I’d say that Kino no Tabi is a safe bet. Of course, I haven’t read any other light novels, so take my suggestion with a pinch of salt!

Many thanks to Tokyopop for supplying me with the review copy of Kino no Tabi: Book One Of The Beautiful World.

10 thoughts on “Kino no Tabi: Book One Of The Beautiful World – Light Novel Review”

  1. I was actually thinking of picking up the Japanese versions to see what the differences were. Unfortunately my Japanese reading ability is probably not quite novel ready…

    You can get ’em at yesasia for a pretty decent price (like the same amount as the english version).

  2. Light novels are getting pretty big in America. I’ve bought some of them (Kino no Tabi, Scrapped Princess, Slayers) though haven’t sat down and read them yet. I’m especially looking forward to Shakugan no Shana, Shinigami no Ballad, and Strawberry Panic when it comes out next year.

  3. Well, the ordering of the stories was changed mainly due to the differences between the English and Japanese languages. In Japanese, it’s apparently much, much easier to write sentences without revealing the gender of the subject (like the pronoun “she” in English). Because of this, the Japanese version was able to keep the gender of Kino ambiguous until the last chapter, Kino’s origin story. Since doing that would be nigh-unreadable in English, they made a suitable compromise and placed it at the start.

    So in the Japanese version, the “Land of Grownups” is the climax of the book, instead of the Coliseum chapter. I wonder how much that changes the overall effect of the book, if at all?

  4. >I’m the kind of guy who actually pays more attention to the words in manga than the pictures
    Lol, my artist friends are horrified that I do that too.
    Them:”Wait, did you finish that page?”
    Me:”Huh, yeah?”
    Them:”Did you look at the pictures?”
    Me:”I glanced them over”
    Them:”TURN BACK AND APPRECITE IT FOR 5 MINUTES YOU TWIT!”
    Me:”…. alright then.”

    Light novels are an easy read when commuting, and I have yet to finish this volume.

  5. I’d just finished the fifth book for the series (the Chinese version published by Kadokawa Shoten Taiwan). In chinese, the gender terminology is also a big problem, and Kino was stated as a girl from the start. For those who have seen the TV series or even the movie, this might really seems like a big deal, as the gender ambiguity would probably seem like a big deal for Kino, especially since Kino is very “flat”, rarely showing any emotions or her real thoughts at all. However, the novel was written to be indifferent about the gender. It was meant primarily to tell a story of a different place in every single chapter, and not to really relate Kino’s journey, like an adventure or whatnot.

    To me, I treat the novel like watching travel documentary. I would be somewhat bothered if the presenter is a male or female on surface, but ultimately, I would be so engrossed in surveying what was offered in that country that the presenter just ain’t important.

    I had to adopt that approach, as the stories get VERY VERY repetitive after a while. But take it in the light that the stories were meant to fill in a column of a periodically published literary magazine in Japan, which was then compiled and released into a novel. That was probably why the author written things in a short and complete manner.

    The time sequence is also pretty mix up, making it quite hard to relate it as a person’s complete journey/ adventure. For instance, the story about how Kino gotten her .22 automatic pistol “Mori no hito” (Woodsman) only appeared in the fifth book (and also the last episode of the series).

    But as far as light novel goes, this is one book that is rather concise for light reading. The content of the stories could be quite heavy though, so do not attempt to finish the whole book in a day’s time. I did that and regretted it greatly.

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