I must say I got quite impressed with Kino's Journey. The best comparison I could make of this series would be to Mushi-shi which would air on Japanese TV two years later. Both titles feature the main protagonist on a journey with underlying themes to the places visited. But instead of individual characters being focused on in each episode of the journey like Mushi-shi, Kino's Journey explores the philosophical ramifications of each of the countries and travelers that Kino comes across. The main approach to the series goes by the phrase the show frequently presents: "the world is not beautiful, therefore it is." While a number of the countries Kino visits have their dark aspects, there is always some good to appreciate out of living life. The stories in Kino's Journey can have their light and dark moments. A number of the villages that Kino visits may seem peaceful at first glance, but there's some dark side to them Kino learns of as she spends more time in each village. In addition, some episodes feature good intentions from characters that can lead to hardships for others. Subjects such as censorship, oppression, tyranny, and self-preservation are explored throughout this series. Such subjects make for some great debate as you are left to wonder whether such decisions by the characters and/ or villages are right or wrong.
And thankfully, the show doesn't make a habit of preaching whether such decisions by the people are right or wrong. While Kino is an outsider to the customs and people that she visits in each country, she plays the role of observer not making any heavy interventions unless dragged into the country's customs, which does happen at some points of the series. Even with the various villages explored, there is an episode of this series devoted to Kino's past exploring her life before being a traveler. Like the lands she visits, Kino's home village has its dark side adding an interesting element to her background. Still, not all aspects of Kino's past are explored such as how she acquired her clothes, her marksmanship skills, and habit of addressing herself by "boku" during her journeys.
In terms of visuals, the show has a wide range of scenery to admire thanks to the various villages visited by Kino from scientifically-advanced towns to a gladiatorial arena. Animation wasn't this show's main emphasis except during scenes where Kino had to make use of her guns and knives to defend herself. The show's weakest area in the visual department for me would have to be the simple character designs, which detract quite a bit from the mood this show gives off.
Beyond that, I enjoyed the philosophical elements that Kino's Journey brought about. I got enough enjoyment from the episodic journeys from Mushi-shi and my opinion is just the same for this series. Just be warned that if you aren't into episodic storylines and philosophical focuses that you probably won't be able to enjoy Kino's Journey to its fullest like I had.