Train / Wavelength / Capture
The view from Igirisu:
Where are we going, and how fast are we moving? “The Earth turns, and time passes.” We are always moving, even when we are standing perfectly still. Yuu thinks they are moving much faster than usual, driving the kettenkrad through a train that is also moving: double the movement. This doesn’t seem right to Chi, and she can’t quite explain why. The robot “corpses” are there to make her point for her. They spend their days hurtling around on a fast-moving train, and yet they are also completely still. Tragically they try to talk to Chi and Yuu, or at the very least they are aware of their presence on the train. Last week we looked at the nature of life, and if these robots are still alive then they are paralysed, unmoving on a moving train. It’s a very sad thing to see.
The radio Yuu found in the cemetery and sneakily decided not to put back springs back into life this episode, picking up some music and then acting as a mouthpiece for Cut / Ket / Nuko or whatever you want to call him. In the original Japanese he’s Nuko, which is a reference to “neko”, meaning cat. The manga translation goes for a similar reference to the English word with Ket, while the anime dub goes with Cut, my least favourite of the three, so I’ll stick with the original for the purposes of these articles. Nuko has catlike qualities, but resembles the god statues the girls encountered previously. Oddly they don’t immediately make the connection, and it wouldn’t be the first civilisation ever to have worshiped cats. Nuko using the radio as a means of communication raises the possibility that the music the girls heard might have been made by more of his kind, although it could simply be a radio station still broadcasting. Certain aspects of the ruined civilisation have continued because they are automated. Previously we had the haunting vision of the street lights coming on in the city, and this week we see a train opening and closing its doors at all the stations, with no passengers left alive to get on. It’s all a bit melancholy.
Girls’ Last Tour often stirs those kinds of emotions in the viewer, but rarely in the girls themselves. Although they speculate a lot about the meaning of life, Chi carries on with things in an admirably stoical fashion, while Yuu even more admirably just enjoys herself. The best moment of the episode has to be the lift throwing the kettenkrad and the girls up into the air, with Yuu landing gracefully on her feed like a gymnast… or maybe a cat. Yuu always lands on her feet, and that’s because she’s not afraid of anything and she never panics. I love how she just goes “oh!” when they are thrown up in the air, while Chi is screaming. For Yuu it’s just a fun and interesting new experience.
But when the see the red sun it does make them feel sad, and Chi even starts to cry. It’s an incredibly powerful moment because we are not used to her showing her emotions like that, and it has been held back for long enough to have the maximum impact on us. The brilliance of the moment is that she never quite vocalises why she feels like she does, and probably can’t, and that taps into human emotions very cleverly. She may be crying for the loss of the human race, and she has a constant reminder of that loss, the ruins around them, often ironically beautiful. She may be crying because they live a life without hope, making a meaningless journey to an uncertain destination. Or more likely she just feels sad because she feels sad. Sometimes life’s like that, and you just have to go with it and shed a tear… and then tomorrow is another day and the journey begins again.
“Let’s go as far as we can.”
The view from Amerika:
Just to circle back to last week, I mentioned the idea of disc two of the Blu-ray containing the alternate opening and being labeled Chi’s disc. Well, to my surprise, the original music is back so I have to wonder why episode 9 had a special opening. Had they gone with a different opening, the art was already on the disc (which I had forgotten about when I first put it into the player). But Chi features on Disc 1 and Yuu is on disc 2. Oh well… missed opportunity I guess.
So Chi and Yuu come to an enormous train and they begin moving forward. There’s a great moment where Chi is looking out the windows as the train is in motion and she gets startled when her view is obscured by a wall. It’s a subtle, unnecessary thing yet it builds so much realism into the scene that it needs to be complimented. But we’re again reminded of the finality of their lives. Like everything else we’ve encountered, the train is falling apart; a clock lies broken at one end of the train and many a “corpse of a machine” lies around the place. It even gets referred to as a “big moving grave”. How very bleak. There’s only one bench on the train too. Lucky, but then Chi and Yuu had their kettenkrad if the bench were not there.
This sequence offers a lovely moment for Chi to attempt to explain motion to Yuu. The animation is enjoyable and watching it blow Yuu’s mind is very comical. Yuu’s earlier lament of “I’m so bored” is also fun. Also, Yuu’s understanding of the train-stop indicators is tied to her constant thoughts about food. She says “those things that look like rations are all in a line”. She’s not wrong and her mind constantly relates to food. They have a way to go being reminded of food at every stop!
The allegory with the train is not so different to what we had in Spiral, but when they disembark and talk about the wavelength of music, that’s where the episode comes to life. Their discussion about music is poignant. Music is melancholy especially as there appears to be no more of it, or so little that even a few chords are a luxury. When some plays from the radio, the girls feel a sense of sorrow. I’m reminded of Ishii, the last pilot in human history; we are again being told this is the end of the story of mankind. We’re seeing it all die out. And the visual of the sunset is the real showstopper for me. The sun is on a perfect angle to be seen from where a (far too energetic) elevator deposits them, and Chi weeps at the ending of a day. It’s moving and I defy anyone to watch this and not feel something. “The Rhythm of the Light” is a sad song indeed.
As the girls move on Chi cuts her hair and Yuu gives us a chuckle, telling Chi that it really hasn’t changed at all, and then the girls take another photo together. Yet again, they try to capture what brief memories they can, together. Then they begin to explore a crater where a “cat” seems to be lurking. They decide to capture it to eat it but find it can communicate with them through their radio. “We can’t eat something that can repeat our own words back to us.” Is that the prerequisite to what can and can’t be eaten? If it can communicate, we should not eat it? Maybe there’s some wisdom there. Chi realizes that, even though it scares her, they should allow it to come with them, to add something to their travels instead of always taking something away. While I’m delighted by this, I can’t help but wonder if she realizes that they will have to feed it and that might be taking away more than it’s adding. Still, their kindness is what I love and I’m glad they take the strange little cat. The episode ends with a post credit scene and Yuu telling Chi “you’re pretty bad at singing, Chi”. I have to laugh. And really, that’s all I can do, as I watch the sunset of humanity. Even in the end, there’s light; the light of friendship.
I’m glad there are two episodes left. I have encountered a dead world with very little still alive and everything we’ve amounted to being forgotten by the passing of the planet. The universe goes on, the sun sets, and mankind is slowly fading away, but in the end, two girls are still able to show kindness to a little creature that is totally unknown to them. And maybe a little kindness is all we can hope for in the end. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Girls’ Last Tour Episode 11
Showing kindness to a little creature can feel all the more natural with all dangers that life on our Mother Earth is now facing. Even more so, the depression in our failures for whatever reasons to show such kindness. In a post-apocalyptic world, where you’re still intelligent enough to show an easy mercy to something that our earliest ancestors wouldn’t have, it can make our ability to keep our mercy alive or relearn it in such a world feel most triumphant.
In any futuristic SF dramas, even optimistic ones like Star Trek, we can see occasions where even the most supposedly civilized characters don’t feel so obliged to have mercy. It can make us in all our wonderings of the future contemplate more seriously how we wish to progress, even when it gets as dark and potentially hopeless as the future that Chi and Yuu are living in. That makes it a good thing that issue of mercy, or the lack of it, are still dramatized in our SF.
Whether we revisit an old SF classic like The Outer Limits or explore a most recent one like Girls’ Last Tour, we’re faced with familiarly vital dramas and moral tales. It’s indeed the right time for reflecting on them. So thank you both for your contributions in this regard on the Junkyard. 🦋
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