Tokyo Pop is branching out into the non-graphic literature, starting with four new series that launch this month under the “Popfiction” banner. We’ve obtained copies of each book in the launch lineup, and will review one a day from today until Friday. We may even have more news about this line in a few days; watch this space for details.

General Information

Title: Kino No Tabi (Book One of the eight book “The Beautiful World” series)
Author: Keichi Sigsawa
Original Publication Date: The English edition debuts this month.
ISBN: 1598164554
Cover Price: $7.99 US, $10.49 Can
Buy from: Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Premise

A young explorer named Kino learns about the beauty of the world as revealed by its imperfections. Kino runs into people from several areas and countries, which all have a history of trying to change these imperfections and making things dramatically (and sometimes comedically) worse.

High Point

“Three Men On A Rail”

Low Point

The lack of connection between chapters. The front matter in the book mentions that the english version is presented in a linear fashion, which may mean that this was originally presented in a form that allowed the reader to read the chapters in a flexible order. Whatever the original structure, all I know for sure is that the events of one chapter rarely impact the others. Chapter one clearly comes first, and chapter six clearly comes last, but chapters 2-5 could have been arranged in any order.

The Scores

The “beautiful because it’s ugly” attitude, combined with humour in dystopian stories, provide a fresh perspective on this type of story. I give it 6 out of 6.

The imagery is pretty minimal, often describing people by gender only. This rarely causes confusion, but it would be nice to have a better picture of the world in a story about the inherent beauty of the world. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story is composed of interesting pieces, each carrying an extrapolation of what may happen if people try to improve upon cetain imperfections in the world. In fact, the only change I’d ask for here is to strengthen the bonds between the chapters. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization of Kino is very clear, with some depth and a sufficient backstory. Hermes, the motorcycle she travels with, doesn’t have a lot of depth, but he doesn’t need it yet. Other characters don’t require depth, as they are met in passing. (Well, there is one character who has some depth, but I strongly suspect that character will crop up again before the series is over. I won’t go into more detail for fear of spoiling later novels.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional reponse is fairly good. As I said, the individual stories, though unconnected, are interesting in their own right. They are often comical, too. I give it 5 out of 6.

The editing is pretty good. Generally I factor in the frequency of typos into this category, but in this case, I’m reviewing the uncorrected advance proof, so that wouldn’t be fair. That said, the typos were few, so I don’t expect many (if any) in the final release. The stories are adjusted to the length they need to be, giving some remarkably different chapter lengths. The only aspect that confused me in this category was the use of the first person perspective in the first chapter and the third person perspective in the rest of the book. It doesn’t detract in any great way, but it does throw the reader off a bit at the start of chapter two. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, despite the issues I’ve mentioned with narrative perspective and unity, this book is still a very enjoyable read. I’d recommend checking it out. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Kino No Tabi receives 31 out of 42.