Encounter / City / Streetlights
The view from Igirisu:
“Why do you think people live?”
It’s a natural question to ask, for girls in Chi and Yuu’s situation. Their life is all about finding the next lot of food and staying alive, but is it enough merely to exist? Chi looks upon their lives almost as a quest:
“We’re always thinking there might be something, something waiting for us at our destination.”
But what if there’s nothing waiting for them? Why do they live then? The more this series progresses the more it’s clear that the writer is putting forward existentialist beliefs. Right from the start, the two girls were acknowledging the possibility that they might die the next day. Now they know they are OK for a few days, but are struggling with the point of it all. The answer is made clear in their actions more than their words, particularly Yuu, who is “so optimistic she’s got to have a screw loose”. But she isn’t crazy. She’s just wise in a different way, because she understands almost instinctively that an apparently hopeless life doesn’t need to be lived in a hopeless manner. It’s all about the way you live it.
Having raised that theme at the start, it is explored within the context of the girls’ first encounter with another human being. It’s to the credit of the writing, acting and animation that we are into the third episode and the series has not felt lacking in any way with just two characters. Chi and Yuu on their own have quite comfortably sustained the story and held our attention.
Kanazawa is an interesting character and once again the misdirection in this series is very clever because to start with we can’t help being uneasy about him. The explosion to topple the building is an extreme act, and then later the camera focusses on Yuu’s gun at one point, which she has left right beside Kanazawa, leading us to wonder if he will take his opportunity to turn on them, but much like Yuu looking at Chi’s journal by the fire last week while Chi sleeps it’s just generating doubt in the mind of the viewer. Yuu isn’t like that, and neither is Kanazawa. This series is staying true to its slice-of-life remit and not going down the obvious route of creating jeopardy from a human enemy.
Kanazawa has a purpose in life: his maps. When that gets cruelly torn away from him (and it is a horrendously cruel moment) he hits rock bottom and wants to die.
“Let me go. Let me fall too.”
This is the shocking moment of the week that snatches away our slice-of-life comfort blanket. I’m going to keep saying it because it’s worth flagging up the genius of the way that keeps happening. It’s fascinating because the episode poses the question of what’s the point of life, and then Kanazawa’s answer is shown to be inadequate. You can’t just live for the sake of a hobby or a job. You have to live for the sake of living, and living well. It takes Yuu to persuade him to keep living and start again, and you might be starting to realise at this point the value she brings to the series. Chi brings intelligence, but Yuu brings something just as important: emotional depth, steeped in a childlike optimism. That’s a very useful quality in a bad situation.
The whole elevator scene is really exciting, and it also offers us a key piece of information. There is another elevator inside the tower, but nobody knew how to work it and instead built a simpler one on the outside. But here’s the thing: that happened over a century ago. So we’re actually in a post-post-apocalypse world. The residents of the city destroyed themselves, the survivors lived for long enough to forget how everything worked, and then destroyed themselves all over again. That makes sense of the early 20th Century weaponry found in a high-tech city of the future, but more importantly it illustrates just how clever the worldbuilding is in this series. We don’t need exposition; just the occasional clever line dropped here and there to paint a whole picture in the mind. And what beautiful pictures appear in front of our eyes as well, watching this series.
What wonders remain to be explored? As the sun sets over the enormous city and the street lights come on, something very simple becomes a haunting reminder of a lost past. A momentary friendship comes to an end, with a parting of the ways. Kanazawa heads off to make a new map, leaving the girls with a present. What pictures will that camera take… and what pictures has it already taken? RP
The view from Amerika:
The last two episodes of this utterly fascinating series have slowly given us a glimpse into the world of Chi and Yuu. The first episode gave the girls some food to survive for a bit and the second gave them some time to relax and remember where they came from, and try a fish, which is still on their minds. But I still don’t know where they are going or what their hopes are. I’m reminded that this is not a mystery but I am so curious about where they are and who else is alive in this world that it might as well be! And then in episode 3, they have an encounter that might answer some questions.
It’s amazing what good story telling can do. The girls find a gaping chasm and wonder about how they can get across when they see footprints and a burning cigarette butt. Here’s where it gets amazing: I was tense. Big time tense! Who is out there? Are they good or bad? Will they try to hurt Chi and Yuu? When an explosion occurs right next to them and a nearby building starts falling, I was expecting the worst. But out steps Kanazawa, a kind adult who hasn’t spoken in so long that trying to makes him break down in a fit of coughing. Kanazawa is the first human we’ve seen since this began, short of those in flashbacks. Yuu is adequately cautious of this newcomer but he starts to show them that he’s mapped the City and could show them around a bit. He asks, in exchange for creating a bridge over the chasm, if he can accompany them for a while. When Yuu finally seems to accept him, we are given a bit more to understand about the city.
Kanazawa explains that there is a refueling post nearby which answers the question of how the Kettenkrad keeps going; it’s a question that I wasn’t asking yet, but it would have come up. And when Yuu fills a tank that she keeps on the back of their vehicle I realize this is a well thought out world. I don’t know how far the vehicle can go, but at least it’s fueled for now. Kanazawa shows the girls an elevator on the outside of a tower and this gives the audience a chance to see the city from on high. But when the elevator breaks and tips, my own hands and feet got sweaty. I swear I can feel some of what these girls go through. If I have one complaint about this episode it’s that they do not address how the elevator gets repaired; they are just at the top some time later. When they were stuck, overlooking the city with the sun setting, it was beautiful. I really wanted to know how they’d get out of that predicament. Otherwise it served only to have Kanazawa lose his precious maps and almost his life in the process.
Speaking of which, Yuu is really the big question mark for me at this point. “You’re so optimistic, you’ve got to have a screw loose.” Yes, she is optimistic, and she sure might have a screw loose. She’s also had two episodes to show her true colors. Pulling a gun on her friend and eating the last ration was bad enough. Throwing Chi’s prized books in the fire was just adding to it. When Kanazawa says if anything happened to his satchel full of maps, he’d die, Yuu says, “Alright, let’s burn it!” Maybe this is a sign of her anxiety about the stranger. Maybe she’s trying to keep her friend safe. Or maybe she’s just trying to be playful. I could see myself saying that to be playful to a friend, but not to an abject stranger. And she doesn’t seem like a playful person with someone she doesn’t know. (I could almost accept her ration-eating was her playing with Chi, but not this. It seems malicious.)
Kanazawa, having lost his maps, leaves his camera with the girls as a gift and decides to find out how far he can make it on his own. With a lovely bit of animation, he fades into the distance. As the streetlights come on, the girls plan their next move. And I find myself wondering one major thing: where did Kanazawa get the cigarettes? In a dead world, a world where Chi and Yuu can barely find food, how did Kanazawa have a supply of cigarettes? I’d call it a burning question, but the pun seems too obvious.
What did we get in this episode? A view of the city, and understanding that things still work even without people (thus implying to me that it’s not that long since people vanished) and Chi and Yuu have a camera now. A camera and a full tank of gas. I guess the world is their oyster. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Girls’ Last Tour Episode 4