Bath / Journal / Laundry
The view from Igirisu:
We are going on a journey with Chi and Yuu. Last time we transitioned from the industrial pipework under the city to the outside world. This time the journey is from one season to another: we move from the bleakest of the winter weather to the big thaw.
When the episode starts, Chi and Yuu are in serious danger, trying to find shelter in a blizzard. At one point Yuu falls asleep and Chi is struggling to stay awake as well. Had she fallen asleep too, they wouldn’t just be speculating about already being dead. Although they can’t read the sign, the building they find is a power plant, which doesn’t help them much until clever Chi spots a pipe with hot water running through it. Her intelligence is proving to be a big asset to them. Last week they only managed to escape to the outside world because she figured out that they were close to an exit by the movement of air currents.
So Chi is clearly the clever one of the two, and Yuu in contrast is almost like a little child. That dynamic seems to be the thing that is leading to our weekly moment of shock, to snatch away the slice-of-life comfort blanket. Last week Chi pulling a gun on Yuu as a joke was something only a misguidedly childish person would do (leaving aside somebody who is actually trying to be mean, and she’s not). This week we have a book burning.
It’s a horrible moment because Chi has spoken with such passion about the importance of books, and how there may be hardly any left in the world. If you watch the moment carefully, Yuu clearly doesn’t do it deliberately, but her reactions are childlike, saying nothing at first, failing to understand why a simple apology doesn’t make it right, and then trying to get back in Chi’s good books by doing her a drawing and writing “I’m sokky”, which is just the most adorable, kiddy thing ever. It works so well because it follows a moment of misdirection, where we are led to wonder for a moment if Yuu is going to burn the other books while Chi sleeps. That’s the bleakest moment of the episode, with Yuu cutting a lonely figure, with the sound of the pipes creaking in the background.
This anime sure knows how to play with our emotions, because all the book stuff follows on from a moment of sheer joy when the two girls have a bath. I’ve never liked chibi art in anime, but this series has actually opened my eyes to the benefit of it, when it’s done right. Their heads visibly deflate as they sink down into the water, which is such a clever visual shorthand for how that moment feels for the two girls. What I also like about this series is its wholesome approach to the girls. The animators never make a big thing of their nudity for the bath scene, and later when they are washing their clothes a lesser series would have had them completely stripped off at that moment too. No fanservice here.
The clothes washing and the fish eating is all happy slice-of-life stuff, but the point of it is the way we are transitioning to a different kind of landscape, in better weather. For the best part of two episodes this has been a series almost in black and white, and finally the colour bursts in. We get our first proper look at the upper level from below, supported by pillars and covering the whole city. Tsukumizu (the mangaka) certainly knows how to make post-apocalypse architecture interesting.
I can’t finish this review without mentioning the opening and ending title sequences, which we see here for the first time. They are both as brilliant and surprising as the anime itself, with some fun dance moves from the girls (dabbing!), and I absolutely adore both the tunes. Go and listen to the full versions on YouTube, because they’re both great. They are called Ugoku Ugoku and More One Night. The art for the ending was provided by Tsukumizu himself, which is a lovely touch. Both sequences might seem like an odd contrast to the tone of the anime, but I think that’s the point. This is an anime that makes juxtapositions that shouldn’t work in theory, but actually turn out to be perfect. Our expectations are constantly challenged. And as an expression of the girls’ friendship, they do the job admirably. If you don’t like them then you’re wrong. Don’t be offended. I’m sokky. RP
The view from Amerika:
Well the first concern I had about my bluray was put to rest when I started watching episode 2: the language worked normally for me, and I realized while looking for any special features, I must have accidentally enabled the Japanese language when I started episode 1. The crazy thing was, I actually missed the original voices. Yes, I’d be able to focus more on the story at hand and that is important, but it’s amazing how quickly one gets used to a thing. Having said that, the English speaking actors are fantastic and still capture the innocence beautifully. On the other hand, the opening music, so much a highlight and lure for me in episode 1, has been replaced with a bubbly, “typical” anime opening. Bearing in mind, I’ve seen so few anime in the grand scheme, my saying “typical” is terribly unfair but it matches what I’ve seen so many times before: a hyper-bubbly music video that can be totally misaligned to a series. (When talking to my “good and dear friend” about the movie she recommended to me, Robo, I learned music videos are common in the middle of Indian movies. Similarly, I am beginning to feel the music video experience must be a major part of Japanese anime. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to either.) Still, in this case, maybe there’s a reason for it, like to illustrate something else. Maybe… dichotomy?
I bring that up because I see a real dichotomy between Chi and Yuu. They are very different girls. Perhaps best illustrated by their immediate appearance: one is blonde while the other is a brunette, one has elongated vertical blue eyes while the other has very round dark eyes, their differences are numerous. Chi is intelligent and can read and drive. Yuu is muscle and brawn and can’t read or remember a thing she’s told. She goes so far as to say memories are useless and only get in the way of living. Chi writes in journals for the very purpose of remembering. She reads books to learn, while Yuu cleans her gun and gets bored like a sullen child. And I’m beginning to not like Yuu very much, while Chi grows on me all the time. So maybe that opening works better for this series than others because there is a pretty evident contrast like so many other things in this series.
Episode 2 again features just our two main characters living a very challenging but overall uneventful life. The series is slowly introducing us to their world. While I stand behind my original thought that there is no mystery here, I am curious about the world our protagonists inhabit. How big is this city? When is this taking place? What happened? Yes, we were told war, but nothing more than that. It’s evident the city is huge and built upward, but where? To give us some context, we find out that Chi and Yuu have been traveling since leaving their grandfather’s house and have only had 4 baths up until now. This is not entirely helpful but the idea I got from it was that they’d been traveling for a while. But there’s something sort of depressing in that: they left presumably a loving grandfather to go… where?
Last episode showed us the girls finding rations, which was brilliant because from the start of the series, we were shown that food is a scarcity, but they addressed in one short episode how they could survive for at least a few episodes from now. Episode two will do other things for us. Part one, Bath gives us an idea that these two are going to enjoy a much needed rest. It gives them a chance to reminisce and let the audience know that their road has been a tough one. Journal features Chi explaining the value of books to Yuu, only for Yuu to then throw one on the fire. Recall that in the last episode, Yuu pulled a gun on her friend and ate the last bar of a ration pack. You can start to see why she is off-putting to me. Perhaps she interprets it as being funny, or she may have been trying to teach Chi the reason she should carry a gun but in either event, it did not help her character, and by this story, with the journal on the fire, I have started to dislike Yuu. I don’t hate her, but she’s certainly not a character I can warm to easily. Let’s contrast that against Chi: in Bath she actively allows Yuu to use her body to stabilize the rifle Yuu is using to shoot a pipe. This entails tightly covering hear ears as the blast could deafen her. Even after the destruction of the book, she’s willing to forgive her friend while her friend continues to do things seemingly to annoy her. Back to Yuu, in the final chapter of part two, Laundry, a split second after Chi says they need to watch their step, Yuu says they should look up and watch the sky. She also gets up and runs while tied to Chi causing them both to fall in the water. At least her antics lead them to food: a fish! So her silliness may have a quirky payoff, but it’s still abrasive.
The fish ultimately brings me back to the beginning: where could it have come from? Chi says it must have come down from a higher level. This city is indeed a curiosity to me! Also, neither of them know what a fish tastes like. Yuu has a veritable cornucopia of list of unknowns in her (possibly empty) head. She asks what paradise is, why the sky is blue, what the ocean is and what a fish is. And in a surprisingly laugh-out-loud moment, we learn she can’t even spell “sorry” (sokky). This is made funnier by the big red circle placed over the misspelling to emphasize the point to the viewer.
So I’m back at the beginning of my write up. There’s no mystery to solve, but there’s a question of the world I’ve been introduced to. This slow approach is actually very effective at holding my attention and making me want to push ahead. The small mini-chapters are easy to contemplate on their own and still work to tell an overall story. Strangely I think the coziness of it being just two people traveling without any threat makes this unlike any other show I ever recall watching. And so, I board their kettenkrad for another destination. Onward, my friends… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Girls’ Last Tour Episode 3