Connection / Friends
The view from Igirisu:
“Why do you want to know about that stuff anyway?”
“I don’t know.”
This kind of thing has happened in every single episode of Girls’ Last Tour, providing a clever thematic structure to the series: Yuu asks a question that doesn’t have an easy answer, and then the girls experience something that brings them closer to an answer to her question. Why do we want to know about the past?
My answer to that question would be to learn. We can look at the things people got right and the things people got wrong, and try to become better people ourselves. We don’t just have to learn from our mistakes. We can learn from other people’s. If Yuu had seen all this earlier, she might have been less keen to go pressing buttons, firing off weapons in the last episode. Then again, this is Yuu, so maybe not. But these are two girls in a unique situation, and they reach a different answer to Yuu’s question: learning something of the past makes them feel less alone. Perhaps in some respects they now feel more a part of the human race, a race that will now die with them.
“I think I’m starting to get why you want to know more about the past and why it’s important.”
When Nuko (or Cut, if you like) connects the camera it is unclear whether it is accessing a database on the submarine or if all those images and videos are stored on the camera. I prefer to assume the latter, because it’s such a lovely idea to think of a camera being something that is passed on from one person to another over the course of many years, and becomes something of a time capsule. It absolutely makes sense that technology would have moved on to a point where that would be possible.
The episode sweeps you up on a tidal wave of images while Chopin’s Nocturne Op 9 No. 2 plays: the perfect piece for that moment. Yuu and Chi get snapshots of normal human life: a new baby, children racing at school, a sporting event, idols performing on stage (dabbing!). And then they get to see where it all went wrong: people screaming and fighting, the declaration of war, birds leaving, air raids, fifty million casualties inflicted on the enemy, giant robots causing destruction, electromagnetic bombs (making sense of the retro tech we have seen), and a funeral ceremony at one of the boxes in the graveyard the girls found. It ties together so many different things that the girls have encountered during their travels. We also see girls probably living in a world after the first apocalypse (remember there have been at least two), learning about robot evolution, and we see Kanazawa with a female companion.
“But he was by himself when we met him so where did she go?”
Where, indeed, did they all go…
Then Yuu gets eaten by a giant Nuko, spat out again, and we get the final piece of the puzzle, at least as far as the anime is concerned: Nuko’s race has been cleansing the planet, eating the remaining weapons, making sense of little Nuko eating bullets. It is left to our imagination whether they are an alien race, or something created by humans to finally make amends for the damage done to the planet. In the end, perhaps we got something right, cleaning up our mess and allowing the Earth to lie dormant and then maybe come back to life one day. It’s a thought that combines hope and sadness, like this series always does. We also get confirmation that Chi and Yuu are now the last humans left alive, but maybe all they need is each other:
“I don’t ever feel lonely at all, because I’ve got you Chi.”
“I feel the same.”
At the end of the world, the last thing to survive is friendship.
That’s the final episode, but Yuu and Chi’s journey continues in the last two volumes of the manga series. Will they get to the very top of the city, and what will they find there? We will find out when we discuss the manga series next week.
“The way the wind blows then.”
The view from Amerika:
I’ve said it before: there’s a fine line between being too short or overstaying your welcome. Shows rarely get it right. A good show may go on for a season and have story for more but, for whatever reason, we don’t get it or it could go on too long and lose all that made it good. Considering Girls’ Last Tour is just a journey with two girls, it strikes a surprisingly perfect balance of getting it just right. Twelve episodes at roughly 25 minutes each allows us to find the perfect middle ground. And what a perfect finale, leaving us with a hunger for more, while giving us just enough that we can be happy with the end. I’m sure that ties in with an allegory of this being the episode the girls got to try unperishable, real chocolate! Yes, I did want more, but it may have burned itself out or worse, pulled a Endless Eight in a second season that just degrades the overall quality. No, this was the perfect piece of chocolate to end the night.
In this episode, the girls get inside the submarine and find out the future tech is really better than ours! It all still works and with Cut’s help, they get to see all the pictures on the camera. This starts helping us make connections with everything we’ve seen before. Kanazawa had a girl he used to travel with and perhaps it gives us understanding of why his maps still mattered to him, now that she is gone. The montage offers glimpses of a lost world. Memories of their past surface as we see their grandfather sending them off on their adventure. The montage is interspersed with images of the war and news broadcasts telling us how bad it had gotten. It’s a powerful series of images, beauty and horror mixed; life in a nutshell. Then Yuu sees Cut, who appears to have grown. She soon realizes it is not Cut. To our horror, and Chi’s, this creature rears up and swallows Yuu whole. (I was shocked!) Chi grabs a gun, something we’ve never seen her do all season because she never believed in it, and she goes searching for Yuu. Again, messages beneath the surface: Chi never wanted to carry a weapon and insinuated that those who do were responsible for the death of humanity. Yet here she is, picking up a weapon to save her friend. Is this the reason we go to war? Love? Love for our way of life when we feel its threatened, unwilling or unable to change and try another? There’s no answer; there shouldn’t be. I don’t want to be spoon fed. Its open to interpretation.
Then Chi finds Yuu, sticking half-way out of the giant creature that swallowed her. She’s released because the goal was to remove the technology on Yuu’s neck. The creature transforms into what I will affectionately call a musical mushroom – it was responsible for the beautiful music. It says they take “thermally unstable material” and converts it into something stable; we begin to understand why Cut was able to eat a bullet (even if I’m not sure that constitutes thermally unstable material…) It also says that to its knowledge Chi and Yuu “are the only two humans still alive today.” I nearly lose it. All of humanity: gone. Two children trying to survive; how long can they possibly go on? Then I have a horrible thought! Where are Kanazawa and Ishii? The musical mushroom did say that Chi and Yuu were the last “to their knowledge” but the horrible thought was that Yuu murdered them when she launched the weapons in last weeks episode. (Roger got there before me, alas, but at the time of my viewing, I had not read that yet!) I chose to put it out of my mind because even if that is the case, she has to live with it now. She has to live with the empty world until even they are gone (But maybe Kanazawa and Ishii are still alive and our mushroom friends have not seen them yet. Hopefully.)
Yuu lets Cut go with the other mushroom people and then says something lovely. “You’ll be fine. You’ve got lots of friends.” The idea is crystalized as the two girls sit together and Chi says that even if the world ends, she wouldn’t care. “As long as I have you, Yuu, I’m happy…” A huge part of the message of this series was friendship; it’s what sustains Yuu and Chi even in a dead world. How long can they survive? As long as they are together. Then Yuu brings about her own wisdom again saying that the musical mushrooms must have gotten along with the feeling of hopelessness. And that echoes back to Ishii, when she fails with her flight and the weight is lifted. It’s not about getting along with the feeling of hopelessness; it’s about accepting those things that can’t be changed and moving on anyway. That’s serenity. “That’s why they seemed so sad. It’s a song about the end.” What a series!! And to think, there were only 4 people in it, two who only make cameo appearances! This was a special series indeed!
We get a 4-minute epilogue. We didn’t need a second season because the sliver of life gives us hope. The two decide to go to the highest level and we focus for a moment on their keychain, one thing that’s been there since the beginning. In some ways, it’s a map; when it hangs down, it was basically a spiral leading up. Symbolic perhaps? They are going up, reaching for the stars. And wherever they go, it’ll be Chi and Yuu, forever more. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Girls’ Last Tour Manga Series
Wanting to know about the past, particularly if it seems like the wonders of the past are mostly out of reach in a world like Chi’s and Yuu’s, is an inherently human factor even if it’s questionable. It’s quite naturally a driving force for their adventures and relationship. Because their human history still belongs to them and so rediscovering it can be like recovering from amnesia. For an SF series, unlike Dr. Who, Quantum Leap and Outlander, where its main characters don’t have the luxury of traveling into the past, let alone somewhere in the past that’s somehow better than the present, we can see how any sense of hope for the future is all the more profound. That’s all Chi and Yuu have to travel towards and via their own normal time.
Girls’ Last Tour reminds us how reflectively important an SF show or film can be when its proof of hopefulness is not so fantastically visible. Any human realism that can be found within the special connection between friends like Chi and Yuu is a hopefulness that we should trust. That’s what I’ll always appreciate about this chapter in Anime SF. So thank you both very much for including this powerful series in the Junkyard reviews.
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Serenity can truly be a dignity when we realize how the attainment for absolute success may be the real humiliation. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, success and failure are two sides of the coin that must both be embraced. If Chi and Yuu earn any kind of success for their journey, it’s a success that only a post-apocalyptic journey can bring. Namely the best chance to see our reality with fresh eyes. It can almost make several SF utopias, even Star Trek, feel somewhat depriving. So I like how Girls’ Last Tour may achieve for this century what A Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner achieved for the 20th. Sometimes we just need to have all our genre expectations flipped over and that’s why there are so many older SF films and shows that I will never look at the same way again.
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