My first experience with an anime adaptation of a light novel series also happen to be with an anime that renewed my interest in anime: the 2003 adaptation of Kino’s Journey light novel series from author Keiichi Sigsawa and illustrator Kohaku Kuroboshi. Impressed by what I saw and interested for more, I began to wonder how and where I might be able to find its source material. Is this “light novel” thing means it’s some sort of graphic novel? Like comic books? Of course, I later learned that it’s something different. But 11 years later, to my delight I could actually obtain a comic book version of Kino’s Journey in my own country.
While many popular light novels also have manga versions in addition to anime adaptations (as well as numerous spin-off manga, as is the case with A Certain Magical Index), Kino’s Journey didn’t have any manga adaptations until 2017 (something that the author noted in the afterword of this manga version). There are actually two manga adaptations of the novels that started serialization in that year, but the one that m&c! has licensed for publication in Indonesia is the version drawn by Iruka Shiomiya and serialized in Shonen Magazine Edge. As with the first anime adaptation, the manga follows the journey of a young traveler called Kino and a talking motorcycle named Hermes to various fantastic countries, staying in each country only for three days and only observing without interfering with the countries’ ways of life.
Although called light novels, the contents of Kino’s Journey books are actually collections of short stories, each typically depicting Kino’s visit in one country (or focusing on some other characters), or encounters with other people along the road. That way, the manga can use one or two chapters to tell one of the stories from the novels, depending on the length. This is pretty similar to the anime versions using one episode to tell a single story from the novels (or more than one shorter stories). Prologue and epilogue from the novels, which are pieces of one small moment in Kino’s journey presented in reverse order, are also used to bookend the manga volume.
As for the stories featured in the first volume of this manga, all of them are actually stories that have been featured in the first anime adaptation (2003), thus readers who have seen that anime version would certainly feel taking a familiar journey. A major difference is in how Kino’s origin story, “Land of Adults,” is presented as the first chapter of this manga adaptation, instead of presented a bit later like in the first novel and both anime series. Thus, instead of accustoming readers to the pattern of Kino and Hermes’ three days visits to various countries like the other versions, thia manga lets readers to know their backstory first. This kind of takes away the twist that anachronic placement of the story would allow. But having the story as the first chapter allows it to be told in full in just one chapter, as being the debut chapter, it has more page count than subsequent chapters.
While the main character is a skilled shooter, Kino’s Journey isn’t really an action series. There is a fairy tale-like quality to its wandering through the various lands that at once feel unfamiliar and also familiar with the way their societies work. Even without moving images, the comic medium can convey that atmosphere, whether through beautifully detailed illustrations of the environments, or through subtle nuances in people’s expressions. Indeed, static images, with the lack of clear passage of time, may instead actually allow readers to immerse themselves in the moments depicted in them.
Shiomiya’s art retain the androgynous design of Kino. But of course, androgyny actually covers a variety of appearances, and Kohaku Kuroboshi’s own style for the novel illustrations have changed a lot over the years. Shiomiya’s own take for Kino’s design seems to lean more towards bishounen-ish, looking more like an older teen than the first anime’s art which may look more reminiscent of a younger teen with the rounded face. Another interesting aspect is that Kino in this manga looks more expressive and have softer expressions overall, offering an alternative interpretation to how Kino think and feel about the journey.
The Indonesian translation by Olive Irianto for this manga is clear enough to read smoothly, and even make use of formal and less formal pronouns appropriately depending on the status of the speakers (some other Indonesian manga translations awkwardly use formal pronouns at all times regardless of the character or the situation). The chapter titles themselves closely follow the translated titles that has been used by English release of the anime, giving a neat consistency across different media and regions.
This manga can be a way for fans of the first anime series to experience again the beloved tales from it, and it’s also a good opportunity for newcomers to pick up the ride. I do hope, though, that in later volumes there will be more stories that has not been adapted into either anime series yet. I’d be interested to see what the manga medium could do in presenting a story like “Land of Free Press,” whose structure may be rather difficult to conceive as an animated entry.
The Indonesian Anime Times | by Halimun Muhammad