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I don't think they ever explain in the anime how Hermes (the motorcycle) and Riku (the dog) can talk. There are plenty of talking robots, but they're clearly mechanical entities, while Hermes acts more like a person. Also, electronic speech does not explain Riku.

Is it ever explained how Hermes and Riku have the power of speech, in the light novels or any other medium?

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No, it is not explained.

The novels leave many of these up to the reader's interpretation. It is the same as Hideaki Anno leaving the meaning of the ending of Evangelion open (see Q#6) to the viewer's own thoughts, or in Code Geass, where a shot of the cart rider smiling (displaying some features of Lelouch) was cut out in order to make the ending more open.

Kino's Journey is in a fantasy world where science has taken some leaps and bounds in some directions (and became twisted), with some moments that poke your disbelief to see if its suspended or not (like the "Are you a Knife Merchant" moment with the slavers in [episode not remembered]).

It may be somewhat magical (and TVTropes indeed lists it as "magical realism") but not in the usual sense (no mages or spellcasting), with their larger-than-life characters (like when Shizu uses his sword to block bullets).

Some speculate that they do not talk at all, and that it all happens in Kino's mind (and she could indeed be crazy enough under the nogging). That is a possible interpretion. The series is one of self-discovery after all. Or the suggestion in the Land of Books (that Kino is in a VR simulation) is actually true.

I think there are similarities in the universe of Kino and the Petit Prince. Kino's is grittier, but the mixing of subtle fantasy and realism is there.

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    Just wanted to add that, in the novels, it's made clear that Hermes is really talking; Kino isn't imagining it. He teaches Kino how to drive and shift gears while they're escaping, and he has some notable conversations with other characters while Kino is elsewhere doing other story-related stuff. They just cut Hermes' conversations out of the anime for some reason. – Azrael Apr 26 '14 at 5:51
  • @Azrael Haven't read the novels, thanks a lot. – Mindwin Apr 27 '14 at 11:31
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In episode 11 Kino shows her backstory. (I'll try my best not to spoil but still try to answer your question.)

Basically, Kino was living in a corrupt country. A traveler came along and she made friends with him. In Kino's society, once a child turned the age of 12, they were given surgery on the brain to take out the "child" in them. You could say they were brainwashed. The traveler explained to Kino how he thought this was wrong.

Kino didn't have a name at the time, so she was reffered to as "daughter", or "girl". The traveler's name was Kino. Female Kino told her brainwashed "parents" that she didn't want to go through with the surgery. He parents yelled at her and her father decided to kill her.

There was no rules against killing Female Kino, since she was believed to be her parents' property. He father dragged her out to the Male Kino, also known as the traveler, and scolded him for putting the thought in Female Kino's mind. As the father was about to murder Female Kino, Male Kino jumped in front of the knife and sacrificed himself.

Then, the motorbike started talking. Keep in mind the bike didn't talk until the traveler died. The bike had the same voice as the traveler. The bike then saved Female Kino from the corrupt society. He named Female Kino from "girl" to "Kino". The motorbike then told Kino to call him Hermes. So, basically, the bike is possessed by Male Kino.

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