As is so often the case, the Girls’ Last Tour anime ended while the manga series was still ongoing. I don’t often bother to find out what happens next, but in this case the anime had really sparked my interest so I was keen to finish the story. In retrospect I’m not sure I made the right decision.
There are six volumes of the manga, and the first four were adapted almost in their entirety for the anime, so I will be concentrating on volumes 5 and 6 for this article. Just a warning: it will be impossible to write about these without extensive spoilers.
The fifth volume starts in a fairly slice-of-life manner with the girls finding water, but then Chi gets injured. It’s not a major injury but it is enough to prevent her from driving the kettenkrad for a while, and it really brings home the dangerous life they are leading. If they get hurt they only have each other. Nobody is coming to their rescue.
My favourite chapter of the fifth volume sees the girls discover an art gallery, something they have no knowledge of. When a work of fiction is really top quality it has the power to make the reader look at things in a different way, and the “Art” chapter made me question my long-standing belief in the pointlessness of modern art, when Chi suggested a canvas painted black could be a “picture of darkness”. Probably the most beautiful moment in the volume is when the girls make their own art, and realise that it is the last piece of artwork the human race will ever make. Unknown to them, they hang it next to a representation of the Altamira cave paintings, so very poetically the first and last pieces of human art hang side by side.
After a bit of fun with clothing and cigarettes, the girls meet an artificial intelligence hologram, who acts as a guide, but has a special request:
“Please let me end.”
It’s a very sad chapter, but a fascinating exploration of what it means to be alive, and how death is not necessarily the worst possible fate. The opportunity to escape an eternity without oblivion makes the creature very happy. Rounding off the volume is a flashback chapter to the day the girls left their grandfather.
Winter arrives again for the final volume. The girls find what is probably a space museum, and then there is a lovely moment where they discover a huge library. You can imagine what that moment means to Chi. Of all the unmade chapters, this is the one I would most have liked to see represented in anime form.
The rest of it, I’m glad they never made. The remaining chapters see the girls move steadily towards their final fate, and they systematically lose everything that matters to them apart from each other, in their ascent to the top of the city. Firstly the kettenkrad breaks down and is irreparable, and from that point onwards there is a horrible feeling of hopelessness to the whole thing. To keep warm the girls have to burn the books, including even the journal. Reading that is a dagger to the heart. Every last thing they have is taken away from them, and finally they ascend the final steps in darkness, emerging at the top of the city. There’s no going back at this point. Their food has run out, and they can’t possibly get back down to anywhere they can find food and water in time to survive.
So they finally achieve their goal, and find there… nothing. Just an empty roof covered in snow. It’s a perfectly natural, logical and fitting conclusion to the series, and it’s also utterly crushing to see.
There are the merest crumbs of hope for those who need them. There’s a stone there with strange symbols on, so I suppose we can console ourselves with the possibility that they might activate something with that and beam up to the moon or whatever, and we don’t actually see them die (thankfully), but realistically they nestle down together to sleep and we know their time is up. That’s why I say I’m not sure reading these was a good decision. The anime ended on a high note, and I kind of always knew this was where the girls had to be heading eventually, but I’m not sure if actually seeing it happen was a good thing. I wouldn’t for one second say it’s a bad ending, but I can’t shake the feeling that my memories of Girls’ Last Tour have been tainted. Sometimes in life, it’s just better not to know what the ending holds.
But Chi and Yuu reached their destination, and probably knew that their journey was pointless. As is so often the case in life, the journey was worth more than the destination, and ultimately these were two girls who had nothing but each other, struggling to scavenge for food and survive, but they managed to live their lives with a spirit of inquisitiveness and fun, squeezing every drop of enjoyment out of what was left of their short lives. I think we can all learn something from Chi and Yuu. RP