Now for August, as it is my 4th year anniversary of doing this blogging venture I decided to do something a bit different, of a different focus. Now if you notice or really paid attention to my reviews, I do tend to talk about english dubs…a lot or more often than other reviewers. That is down to me mainly being a English speaker and how I got into anime was, for better or worse, from watching dubs of Pokemon, Digimon and those shows that aired back in the day. Well I will take a look at 4 dubs directed by one ADR Director I feel is a little underappreciated. That being Kyle Jones, an ADR Director/scriptwriter for anime english dubs for both ADV (~2003-08) and its spiritual successor Sentai Filmworks (2012-present) making August Kyle C. Jones month. I will take a look at 2 dubs he did during the ADV times and then cover 2 more recent dubs he has done for Sentai Filmworks. First up, a show that came out around the early time Kyle Jones had been doing dubs and that is….
“The World is Not Beautiful, therefore it is”
Kino’s Journey (2003 TV Series)
Director: Ryutaro Nakamura
Script: Sadayuki Murai
Based on the light novel series by Keiichi Sigsawa, this is the story of the travels of Kino and her talking motorcycle Hermes. The two go from place to place, stay for 3 days then move on. Along the way they learn and give insight into life, the world and the human condition. The initial run of the show ran from April 8 to July 8 2003.
Now this show is very much the quintessential journey tale and one of my favorite types of story in fiction. I love travel and reading about other people traveling to new or different places. Of course, with Kino’s Journey is that she and Hermes do one of two things: either visit/learn about a place and their people (episode 1) or a morality tale (episode 2). Sometimes the stories meld the 2 aspects along with a few episodes touching upon Kino’s backstory with regards to how she became a wanderer. Themes touched upon include place of humanity in the world, power of dreams, memory and importance of history, etc. It also comment on certain parts of human society and takes pot-shots at war and violence and how they are bad with explanations included.
Of course, the show has 1-2 episodes that are a bit weak. Though this is likely due to the story shifting medium from written word to visual form of animation. But even then, they have their moments of greatness or poignance. I do have my favorites, despite it being 13 episodes but then again the nice thing about Kino’s Journey is that the structure of it is mainly episodic. First off, there is episodes 6-7 consist the show’s lone 2 parter, aptly named ‘Coliseum’. It is basically a short shonen action style tournament transplanted into this calm and gentle show. While it still retains the thoughtfulness and subtlety of the show, it is rather bleak and dark(er) than most other stories in the show. But it has a strong anti-violence/killing statement in showing the audience why it is so deplorable and monstrous and providing insight into the historical cycle of revenge and violence. Episode 13, A Kind Land, also the finale for the series is another favorite of mine. Without spoiling, It is so beautiful and poignant and gives a wonderful note to end the show on. It offers a nice lesson on redemption and the possibility of positive change. Of course the ending of the show is not really an end, that’s not journey stories work, they are neverending. Life is a journey, which ties into the basic cyclical nature of the world.
Now aside from story, what I really like about Kino’s Journey is the impressive world building which as a geography nerd I look out for that sort of thing. Each place that our adventurous duo venture out to are distinct and varied, each one more interesting than the last. In Geography there are five primary themes: Location, Place, Region, Movement and Human-Environment Interaction. Mostly the show focuses on the first 3, the spatial/where aspects pertaining to the world. Movement is only in the sense for Kino and Hermes moving from place to place and the occasional mention of trade. The Series finale provides a hint towards the human-environment interaction aspect and that’s interesting at least.
Kino’s Journey is also deeply philosophical, even poetic at times. Granted the worldview is very starch and bleak. It might come across as dry and dull, but deliberately so. Director Ryutaro Nakamura, best known for Serial Experiments Lain (the show he did before) and Ghost Hound (the show he did after this) directed this show and he did a great job on this show. There is a nice sense of spatial awareness, makes you feel like you are in the various places and people explored here. Now he was working on another project, Despera, before his untimely death in 2013 which is a shame, may he rest in peace. There exists a very storybook like quality to the character design and some really nice background art for what had to be a somewhat sizeable production, in that it looks good and doesn’t derp and dip too much. It might have helped that ADV Films were on the production committee for the anime certainly.
Now the english dub: it is really good and holds up well after a decade. It is well-directed by Kyle Jones for an early effort. Granted this came out in the States in February-June 2004 around the time Jones had just gotten into anime dubbing. It is anchored by two strong performances by Kelli Cousins and Cynthia Martinez playing Kino and Hermes respectively. A bit of a bummer that Kelli Cousins didn’t do much after this dub as she is really great, and Cynthia Martinez plays the dry witty Hermes to a tee. The dub script, co-written by Jones with dub scriptwriter Chris Griffin, is really well-written, sounds natural to the ear, though allows changes without sacrificing context or meaning. It is equal parts faithful but adaptative. But that’s not the noteworthy part of the dub. What is impressive about the dub is how many actor credits on this. Each episode has a variety of veteran ADV ISM/Houston talent (for the time) and newer talent. It must not have been easy on Kyle Jones for doing that but I appreciate the effort involved in that. Granted there are a few instances of some noticeable talent (Vic Mignogna shows up quite a bit in the bit parts/supporting roles). There are also early bit parts for Chris Ayres, Clint Bickham, Illich Guardiola and a few others.
So, Kino’s Journey is really great. It does stumble a bit but it is nearly perfect. It offers a very unique view of the world through the eyes of a wandering traveler, examining the human condition in all its joy, sorrow, happiness and grief. We see how much potential to be great and noble we can be and yet also how much we can fall short of that potential. It is great stuff and well worth a watch.
So, next time is Part 2 of Kyle C. Jones month, where I take a look at one of his late era ADV dubs, and possibly one of the best dubs ADV put out. See you then, dear readers.