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Kino No Tabi: Book One of The Beautiful World    by Keiichi Sigsawa & Kouhaku Kuroboshi Amazon.com order for
Kino No Tabi
by Keiichi Sigsawa
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2006 (2006)
Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Kino No Tabi, first in Keiichi Sigsawa's The Beautiful World, is a beautiful book. Although its stories are full of suffering, Sigsawa's writing flows with such grace it is almost poetic.

Kino, having escaped from execution in her home village for refusing an operation that would make her grown-up, is now a world traveler, traversing the country from city to city on her talking motorcycle, Hermes. Like her home town, each city she visits is attempting to be a utopia through misguided attempts to right social wrongs - leading to greater wrongs. Kino tries to help the citizens see the errors of their ways (if they do not already know), but there is only so much she can do in her three-day stays. Throughout it all, Kino holds true to her belief that the world is indeed a beautiful place.

Each chapter in Kino No Tabi could almost be a stand-alone episode with just the first one really being needed to understand Kino's backstory. Even though each chapter has a similar premise (Kino enters a city only to find that the citizens have messed up an otherwise fine place only the chapter entitled Three Men on a Rail is different in this respect), each makes the reader think about a different social topic and why the solution the citizens came up with cannot work. This book has made me think - more so than any other work of fiction I have read within at least the last year.

Kino, except for her traveling companion/transportation unit Hermes, is a loner, and Sigsawa weaves a tone into her story that lets the reader feel Kino's isolation. This may sound depressing, but it isn't. Through this technique and Sigsawa's lyrical writing, the reader is able to see why Kino thinks the world is beautiful, and at the end is left with a sense of peace and the hope that maybe Kino will find a city that is a perfect utopia - whatever that may be. The only way to find out is to continue with her on her journey through The Beautiful World.

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