Accompanied by her talking motorcycle, Hermes, Kino travels through her mysterious world, spending only three days and two nights in each town. The idea is that three days is enough to learn almost everything about a place. This is the story of her journey.
Kino’s Journey is one of those series that takes everything you think anime is and could be, and turns it right on its head. Focusing on atmosphere rather than characters, if you want thought-provoking anime recommendations like Kino’s Journey, you have some options out there.
For Fans of Road Trips
Michiko and Hatchin
For the fourth time, hardened criminal Michiko breaks out of South American prison in order to search for a man from her past. This search leads her to the young Hana, a girl trapped under the thumb of her abusive foster family. Breaking her out as a key in her search, the unlikely pair set off on their search, only to be embroiled in everything from betrayal to gang warfare.
Michiko and Hatchin is Kino’s Journey come again, but with women that have really in-your-face attitudes. Both series feature a different adventure every different day where the journey turns out to be more important than the destination. However, unlike Kino’s Journey, Michiko and Hatchin has a destination.
Spice and Wolf
For generations, Holo was a revered wolf deity that helped the local wheat harvest in exchange for tribute. However, as the villagers become more self-sufficient, they no longer need or even believe in her anymore. During her annual festival, she sneaks into the cart of Kraft, a visiting merchant, hoping he will let her hitch a ride home.
Spice and Wolf is basically your road trip anime, but in a medieval setting. At least, at first anyway. In both Spice and Wolf as well as Kino’s Journey, you watch as the characters go to different towns and interact with different cultures. However, Spice and Wolf teaches you more about medieval economics than you probably want to know.
Galaxy Express 999
In the future, immortality is bought at exorbitant price through mechanical bodies. However, there is a train called the Galaxy Express 999 that traverse the universe and gives those that ride it all the way to the end a mechanical body. After losing his mother to a machine man, impoverished Tetsurou wants get a ticket to ride. After being saved by a mysterious woman, she offers to let him ride the train, but only if they go together.
Although a bit dated now (as in made in 1978), if you like Kino’s Journey for its travel laced with lots of subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle philosophy, you will still find no finer series than Galaxy Express 999. It has more of a technology vibe kind of like Battle Angel Alita, but in its essence, it tells a similar story of exploration.
For Fans of an Atmospheric Focus
Allison and Lillia
For hundreds of years, two continents have been divided by war. In this story, Allison and Will go on a mission to find “the treasure that will end the war,” a hope that is later inherited by their daughter Lillia.
As it is made by the same author who wrote the Kino light novels, fully expect a lot of similarities. The major different is that Allison and Lillia has just a touch more overall plot. However, both feature a lot of wide shot travel scenes, motorcycles, and some very thoughtful atmosphere.
So Ra No Wo To
On the outskirts of Helvetia lies the tranquil town of Seize. The only notable thing of this idyllic town is the Clocktower fortress where the 1121st platoon of the Helvetian army is stationed. They have recently received a new recruit that joined the army solely to play the bugle. This is the story of their spirited platoon and the town they occupy.
So Ra No Wo To is one of those series where stuff happens, but it doesn’t really have to do with much of a plot. Like in Kino’s Journey, both series focus on the culture of the region. However, So Ra No Wo To only focuses on the one town.
Mononoke follows the story of a man simply known as the Medicine Seller. However, it is not medicine he sells, but rather he travels feudal Japan ridding villages of malevolent spirits called mononoke. However, in order to kill each spirit he encounters, he must first learn its Form, Truth, and it’s Reason.
Both Kino’s Journey and Mononoke are both anime series that are about the events and characters around the main character, and not so much the main character themselves. While Mononoke is a supernatural show more akin to Mushishi, it explores a lot of stories, a lot of concepts, and does it with visual style.
For Fans of Philosophical Reflection
In this world, there exist Mushi, spirits that often exist with no purpose. However, these Mushi can affect the physical world in countless forms from diseases to more pleasant phenomenon. Why do these Mushi exist? That is the question that Ginko the Mushi-shi, a researcher on the phenomenon, asks himself as he travels the land investigating Mushi-related incidents.
Both Kino’s Journey and Mushishi don’t have any semblance of an overall plot, but rather tells shorter stories on an episodic basis. This allows them to show a large part of the world and small stories and life lessons within without having to worry about developing much of anything.
Rakka is an amnesiac who only remembers emerging from her cocoon. She is born into the world as a Haibane, a group of young people who small gray wings and halos. While she tries to live a normal life, there is much that the Haibane don’t know and must figure out.
Unlike Kino’s Journey, Haibane Renmei has more of a plot, but it does leave things pretty open, even at the end. These are both shows that leave you kind of zonked out after the credits thinking about the world in which the characters live and, in Haibane’s case, the characters themselves.
Serial Experiments Lain
Introverted Lain Iwakura finds herself one of many girls to receive an e-mail from classmate Chisa Yomoda, even though Chisa Yomoda recently committed suicide. Averse to technology, Lain soon finds herself able to enter the Wired, a network system similar to the internet. From there, her life gets turned upside down as she finds herself the target of mysterious men and mixed up in a series of cryptic mysteries.
Being done by the same director, you will notice a few similarities in the style of both series. However, Serial Experiments Lain has more of a suppressed technological vibe while Kino’s Journey is a little more whimsical. However, both series aren’t afraid to explore some high-minded concepts.
There are actually a lot of great philosophical anime series out there like Kino’s Journey, so if we missed out on some other good ones. Let us know your anime recommendations in the comments section below.