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「Land of Adults」 —Natural Rights— (「大人の国」 ("Otona no Kuni") —Natural Rights—) is the fifth chapter of the first volume of Kino's Journey —the Beautiful World—. It tells the events that serve as the trigger for the beginning of Kino's travels. As it is such an important event in Kino's life, it has been given two anime iterations and a manga version. It is narrated in first person, under Kino's perspective.
The story begins with Kino, who states she was eleven years old when she both met and became the person named "Kino". She recalls that she had a different name then, but is unable to remember what it was, except for that while it was the name of a flower, if the spelling and sound were changed just a bit, it would become the term for an insult.
(To prevent confusion between the two entities known as Kino, the younger will be referred to as "Flower" for the remainder of the synopsis.)
A traveler arrives to the Land of Adults on foot, and is originally unwelcomed by the guards and citizens. Seeing Flower, the traveler introduces himself to her as Kino and they exchange names. He asks her if she knows of any hotels in town, which is inexpensive, in which she replies that it is the type that her family runs. Her family is equally displeased with the guest, however, they allow him to stay when Flower talks to them.
A scrap metal heap is located nearby Flower's house, and is where Kino finds a damaged motorcycle. He originally requested to purchase it from Flower's father, but since it was in such disrepair, they refused the money and gave it to him for free, stating that it was "junk", or "garbage". He teaches Flower on the concept of the pact between the motorcycle and rider- the rider is the balance which allows for the motorcycle to gain speed. They also choose the name for the repaired vehicle - Hermes, which was the name of a motorcycle that Kino had once owned and traveled with.
When Flower asks Kino what he does, he is originally confused, until Flower explains that every adult had a job to do, and that they were hard, never fun, nor supposed to ever be. Jobs, to Flower, were things that are something that needed to be done to stay alive.
It is revealed that, at this time, there are mere days until Flower's twelfth birthday, in which she, like any other person turning twelve, was to receive an operation which removed the "child" from inside their head, transforming them into an adult. She states that she had been told this by others - that children were free to do whatever they like because they were children. However, once they turned into adults, they could no longer do what they wished due to their jobs and responsibilities, regardless of their own feelings or opinion. The operation would help the parents rest easy, knowing their child would grow to be a fine adult.
The week before a child's operation was called a "final week", in which speaking to the child was not permitted. Flower is unsure of why this is the case, though she states that she had known that every child had their own theory.
Kino seemingly does not approve. noting that he does not understand what it means to be a "proper adult". As he ha never grown up as a citizen of the Land of Adults, he was not considered an adult by Flower, but he was not a child, either. When asked, he merely replied that he was just a man named Kino, and that he traveled. He states that while his funded his journeys by selling herbs or strange items to come by, he never fully considered that his job.
Flower and Kino discuss what they liked to do the most, and after hearing Flower sing, Kino suggested that she become a singer. She refuses however, explaining that she could never become one because her father and mother were the proprietors of a hotel, and as their child, it was her duty to take over in the future. She learns that this is not the case in other countries, and thus begins to wonder if she will ever be able to do what she wished and was good at as an adult.
The day of Flower's birthday, she muses to her parents if it was possible for her to become an adult without the operation. Her parents reacted in horror, asking if she wished to stay a child forever and ordering her to apologize for her treacherous thoughts. Their shouts had attracted the neighbors, who had begun to congregate due to the parents' lack of behavior befitting adults.To Flower's shock, her father admits that his daughter was unwilling to undergo the operation instead of trying to cover his family's shame. The neighbors reacted with equal horror, stating that she had been brought up poorly, and that despite making such comments as a child, it was unpardonable.
Flower's father realizes that Kino was the one to blame for his daughter's foolish thoughts. He takes Flower along with him to find their guest, who looked as if he were preparing to leave. The motorcycle had been repaired, standing with the engine running, with Kino's baggage strapped to the back, with his brown coat folded on top. He turns calmly to the voice of Flower's angry father, and reconfirms with Flower that perhaps she is better off without the operation at all, if this is how she was to become as an adult, Flower's father demands Kino to beg for forgiveness from the citizens, he asks why, as he does not understand.
Fortunately, a village elder arrives and begins to explain that every country has their own customs. He tells Kino that the Land of Adults has their own ancient customs which are not to be altered. He offers direction to Kino on how to exit the country, stating that because he had entered the country following procedure, his safety was guaranteed until his exit.
As the two say their goodbyes, Flower asks why Kino needed to leave, as she wanted to talk to him again after her operation. He tells her that he only stays for three days in one place as it is enough time to learn almost everything about most places. Staying a longer amount of time would mean that it would not be possible to visit as many new and different places.
Kino was turning to ride on the motorcycle, but sees that Flower's father had appeared behind her with a knife in hand. He asks the elder why the man had such an item, and is told that because Flower had disobeyed her parents, and as their possession, they had every right to dispose of their flawed creation. She watches as the knife is thrust towards her body, but also sees Kino dive towards her. The blade catches Kino in the chest instead of Flower, and he dies before he touches the ground.
Her father laughs, asking the elder what he should do as he had intended to kill his daughter, but had killed the traveler instead. The elder and citizens concluded that Kino had jumped in the way of the knife, and because his death was not intentional, it was considered an unfortunate accident.
As Flower's parents begin to pull the knife out of Kino's body in an attempt to continue their original intention, Flower begins to hear the voice of the motorcycle Hermes, whom had been standing behind her during the commotion. Hermes tells her that she could take a third option, and that if she knew how to ride a bicycle, riding a motorcycle was not much different. He instructs her on riding posture and shifting gears, allowing her to tearfully escape from the Land of Adults.
After an undefined amount of time, Hermes suggests that they perhaps have gone far enough, and teaches her to brake. She stops the motorcycle by sticking out her feet as if it were a normal bicycle, toppling both over into a field of red flowers. She is unable to hear Hermes' complains about her terrible braking, as she is still lamenting the situation. She calls out Kino's name to the wind, but Hermes mistakes it as Flower's name instead, as he had asked her what her name was at that time. She realizes then that the motorcycle had been talking to her all along. Hermes asks this "Kino" to set him upright, and thanks her for riding him out of the country, as he was unsure of his own fate if he were left behind. The motorcycle then asks for his own name, which "Kino" replies that it is "Hermes", and that he was named after an old friend.
Hermes is pleased with the name, and while he asked about what to do next, and where to go, they did not have an answer for each other.
Kino ends the chapter stating that they then began their travels knowing, nothing, nor where they were going.
Kino was not always a traveler, nor was she always named Kino. As a child, she grew up in the Land of Adults, a place where adulthood and responsibility are attained by means of a single operation carried out on every child's twelfth birthday. As an eleven-year-old girl, Kino fully expected to undergo the operation and become an adult, until a mysterious traveller visited her country and opened her eyes to other possibilities...
Differences in Media
- The young Kino is given the nickname "Nekura" in the 2003 anime, while the actual nickname is not outright stated in the other iterations.
- To differentiate between the two Kino in the artbook, the elder Kino is referred to as 旅人（tabibito; traveler) in the 2017 Travel Guide, while the younger one is referred to as 少女（shoujo; little girl). This is not reflected in the anime.
- Kino sings Pachibel's Canon in the 2003 iteration only. She is noted to sing in other iterations as well, but no actual song is specified.
- The original Kino's appearance is drastically different in the 2003 anime and Manga. He is given no illustrations in the novel iterations. His appearance in the 2017 anime is roughly based off Iruka's manga design.