House / Nap / The Sound of Rain
The view from Igirisu:
This episode has three very distinct chapters, two of which are magnificent in a very melancholy way, but let’s get the middle of the three out the way first of all. I wouldn’t exactly say it lets the episode down, but it certainly doesn’t have the impact of the first and final thirds of the episode. I’m not a fan of dream sequences, as they rarely move the story on at all. Chi’s dream is entertaining and surreal, with a giant fish version of Yuu trying to eat Chi. Other than the entertainment value, there’s not a lot of point to it, other than to explore Chi’s fears for the future, and perhaps her acceptance that one day the food will run out, and she will be willing to allow Yuu… no, let’s not go there.
So let’s concentrate instead on the first part of the episode, with the girls exploring the city as usual, and Yuu speculating that it might once have housed as many as a thousand people. Even Chi with her super brain is doubtful that the population would have been greater than that, which really puts into perspective what a lonely time they have had. The reality of millions of people living in one city is just beyond their capabilities to imagine… but they can imagine a home.
The sequence where Chi and Yuu sit in an empty room, looking out across the abandoned city, and imagining how their life could have been living there before the apocalypse, is the moment that stuck with me the most after I first watched this series. First they imagine the furniture they could have had: bunk beds, bookshelves for Chi, pantry shelves for Yuu, a stove heater, a bath tub, plants… we are privy to their imaginations, seeing the items appear in the room, and then we move from physical objects to the things that really matter: we hear the sound of children laughing, the busy city lights up outside, and we hear the sound of bells…
And then it all fades away, back to the sombre sight of the two girls in their empty room, looking out over an abandoned city in ruins, their room the only light in an empty building. And you just have to cry for those two girls, and think about all that we take for granted in life.
“That would have been a really amazing life to have.”
Their amazing is our normal. It’s one of the saddest moments I’ve ever had to watch in a television show, and equally one of the most beautiful, but the way this series blends together sadness and beauty is its greatest strength. Note that Yuu asks if the kettenkrad is a house and Chi says no. She’s right, of course, but for these two girls it’s the closest thing they can get to a home.
Also blending sadness and beauty is the final third of the episode. If you are watching this and you’ve never quite understood the appeal of the slice-of-life genre, I think you might do after this episode. The simple idea of two girls sheltering from the rain becomes the most incredible viewing experience, and the rain will doubtless be mirrored by the tears of the viewer by the end. Imagine a world where the surviving humans don’t know what music means.
“What in the world is music?”
To Yuu and Chi, the sound of raindrops on tin cans becomes a symphony. Initially the raindrops fail to create anything resembling a musical rhythm, and yet the girls still think that’s music. They have no frame of reference. Once that point has been made, the drops transition into the Rain Song, with its gorgeous harmonies, encapsulating the melancholy beauty of the series perfectly in music.
“Was the world always like this, so quiet?”
The view from Amerika:
This was the first episode that really started to impress me with Yuu as a character. It’s not that she does anything spectacular but she seems to understand dad-humor. Upon finding a house, Yuu becomes curious what else might be a house. She asks Chi if their kettenkrad is a house, to which Chi says “no.” Yuu happily says “House sad”. (Ok, that works better when you can hear it, but it’s “how sad”!) She does this later with “house awesome” too. While neither work that well, it’s exactly the kind of humor I have and I love it. Kids don’t understand dad humor! But maybe these kids are special… kids of the future!!
What actually makes this such an enjoyable episode is how simple it is. It’s simple in that it takes things we have around us everyday and makes them meaningful. When Yuu and Chi find that house, they see two plush seats that they sink into and start to imagine what they would have in their home. Bookshelves, bunk beds and pantries pop up in imaginary form as the two friends consider how they would decorate their home. They could stay here, but … what would be the point? This is an interesting thing because like absolutely everything else with this series, I’m reminded of the dichotomy we’ve been shown. On the one hand, we’re reminded to appreciate all that we have in our lives. It’s a real moment in a very strange, surreal world. But there’s another side to it: why stay?? Yes, they’d have shelter and maybe even food nearby; they certainly have running water. But I can’t really think why they should stay? What makes a home a place to stay rather than move on exploring? A house is a place to hang our hats; it’s a place where we have our stuff, sure, but Chi and Yuu don’t have stuff. And maybe that was the essence of why Kanazawa was willing to die when his maps fall to the abyss, below the elevator, a few episodes ago – he lost his stuff. But is that the goal? If he had a house, would the stuff matter? Did the stuff outweigh the need for a house? Is it an either/or situation? What gives life meaning for Chi and Yuu? Is it just in exploring this dead world together? It sure must get tiring with all these big concepts to think about.
So tiring in fact, that Chi takes a nap. This is a chance for some cute chibi artwork which, like it or not, does have it’s moments. It also illustrates what’s on Chi’s mind. The best is the thought that Yuu is the fish that they ate a few episodes ago, but to my delight, the fish actually appears on screen, circled in red for the viewer, just in case we missed it. It’s silly little things like this that make me laugh out loud. But what this does illustrate is that Chi suffers anxiety far more than Yuu does. In fact, I’d say Yuu causes her anxiety more than anything else in their world because she is at the center of all Chi’s dreams.
Perhaps the most delightful part of this sweet episode is when the rain comes. “Check this out! I just found a nice stick!” Yuu makes me laugh frequently in this episode. She takes her helmet off and allows rain to fall on it, making a natural music. As the sound of rain cascades down on the girls helmets, they add other things to create even more music. What results is a delightful bit of music and visuals to carry the episode on through the end. The visual cues mirror the opening of the episode and we conclude another day in the life of two traveling girls in an apocalypse. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess. It’s been the most mellow of the episodes to date, but it hasn’t disappointed yet. Let’s see where the kettenkrad takes us next. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Girls’ Last Tour Episode 6