Vol. 3 of Iruka Shiomiya’s Kino’s Journey adaptation is now out, and it’s even more cause for excitement than usual. This installment features the Coliseum arc, perhaps the most iconic of all Kino’s adventures. It was the only story in the original anime that wasn’t confined to just one episode, and its mix of action and political intrigue was top-notch. How does Shiomiya update the tale for manga readers today? Is Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Vol. 3 good?
There’s a lot to appreciate here visually. The book opens with a prologue of Kino and Hermes enveloped in mist, and they’re just sitting and talking while waiting for it to dissipate. The way Shiomiya renders the characters’ obscured vision is fantastic. Panels are generally framed so that we’re seeing from one of their points of view, with only a hazy outline of the other in the distance. The sense of physical depth conveyed here is great. The backgrounds in other settings also impress with their shading and textures, and by being just plain nice to look at. The series’s subtitle is The Beautiful World, and it’s an apt description.
The action and renderings of characters are also well-done. Kino is a figure who’s big on subtlety, and Shiomiya does a great job conveying that through her facial expressions and body language. She’s a lot of fun to read about; despite her subtleties there’s also a lot of edge to her personality that, combined with her goals and quirks, makes her compelling. The action is also quite well-paced visually and this arc is very heavy on it. Kino participates in a tournament at the story’s titular coliseum, and the matches are divided up with charming headers whose designs incorporate guns and sabers. It’s a nice touch. Kino’s various opponents also have cool designs, and most of the combat is both interesting and easy to follow.
My main qualm with this volume concerns Kino’s final opponent, Shizu, and his dog, Riku. They’re some of the franchise’s most iconic characters, and while the basic beats of their stories are present they don’t get utilized to their full potential. Shizu’s backstory includes information that’s highly pertinent to the country Kino’s fighting in and what influenced her current circumstances. Nonetheless, it all gets rather rushed and there’s not much time to process the big reveals.
I’ve already seen both anime iterations of this story and Shiomiya doesn’t stray much from past versions so I already knew what was going to transpire. This in and of itself isn’t a problem, but the execution of the story pales in comparison to how effectively it’s been told before. There’s not enough tension, and the stakes aren’t built up very well. Kino is always great to read about, but this specific conflict could have used more fleshing out.
Fortunately, the essentials of the story are still cool. The elements of deceit and class struggle present in the country’s history have the makings of great fantasy politics. Watching how Kino interacts with these societal structures is also great, shedding insight into her character by letting her bounce off of others around her. The prologue and epilogue are also great capstones to the story and they highlight Kino’s charming friendship with Hermes.
All in all, Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World Vol. 3 is a good time. The art impresses on virtually all fronts, and the tournament arc has some intriguing concepts to it. Unfortunately the ending feels a bit rushed, and Shizu and Riku’s stories feel ineffectively executed. Nonetheless, I would still recommend this book to both new and old fans alike.