“If one wants to talk about the end of the world, the apocalypse, you’re talking about the world itself. It’s not Southern California breaking into the sea. The story is global, and it requires that kind of approach.” –David Seltzer
In the aftermath of a devastating war, Chito and Yuuri are left to survive in the remains of human civilisation. At the series’ beginning, Chito and Yuuri navigate the bowels of a derelict factory, and manage to find an exit after Yuuri inadvertently begins sucking on Chito’s hand whilst sleeping, using the saliva to pick out a breeze in the air. When they return to the surface, they marvel at the brightness and set about finding supplies in a crashed bomber. Later, the girls seek refuge from a snowstorm and manage to find hot water, enjoying a bath in the process. Chitose grows angry when Yuuri burns one of the books that she’d collected to fuel their fire, and the next day, the girls cook a fish after encountering it while washing their clothing. Continuing on with their journey, Chito and Yuuri encounter cartographer Kanazawa while trying to figure out a way to reach the higher echelons of the great city. They locate an elevator and mid-journey, it begins tilting, causing Kanazawa to lose his maps. Yuuri manages to restore his spirits, and he resolves to continue making new maps, leaving the girls with his camera. Yuuri and Chito decide to make their way to the bright lights in the distance. Girls’ Last Tour is prima facie the union of Metro 2033 and Yuyushiki; in its premise, Girls’ Last Tour follows Chito and Yuuri’s adventures as they try to eke out existence in a world long after it was ravaged by an apocalyse of unknown nature. Intriguing, yet minimalist, Girls’ Last Tour‘s greatest strength at present is how the pacing really allows for their world to be explored. The stills of ruined cityscapes and abandoned facilities contribute to the storytelling with the same magnitude as does the dialogue between Chito and Yuuri.
While seemingly trivial in nature, reflecting on its source material being from a four-panel manga, the interactions between Chito and Yuuri seamlessly move from lighthearted conversation topics to more serious ones, such as the worth of existing in a world devoid of other people, what constitutes as war and trying to make sense of the artifacts that the older civilisation left behind. Gaps in their knowledge become apparent through their conversations, and through their general lack of familiarity with some aspects of the older civilisation and nature, Girls’ Last Tour suggests two notions. The first is that a complex society is one whose constructs can be non-trivial to understand: if humans were to vanish tomorrow, some of our more sophisticated contraptions would be very difficult to reverse engineer and replicate. Computers and contemporary medicine are examples of just how far we’ve come, requiring expertise in order to design, mass produce and distribute. This is the reason why fiction commonly depicts post-apocalyptic worlds as regressing: most technologies past the Industrial Revolution require specialised knowledge to replicate and engineer. The second point in Girls’ Last Tour is that human understanding of the physical and natural world comes from knowledge that is, proverbially, built on the shoulders of giants. With the giants gone, Chito and Yuuri can only rely on their own experiences and Chito’s limited reading ability to figure out the world around them. Things such as why the sky is blue or the origins of fish remain a mystery to them. By stripping away access to existing knowledge and learning, the very essence of our civilisation’s sophistication is removed. This forces Chito and Yuuri to learn by their own experiences, driving the day-to-day events that the constitute the manga.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Girls’ Last Tour is one of the most minimal anime I’ve seen in design and character count: in the first three episodes, there is only one other character introduced besides Chito (left) and Yuuri (right). Chito is the more serious and quiet of the two: she’s literate, a skilful mechanic and handles driving of the Kettenkrad. Yuuri is easygoing and versed with firing rifles. Yuuri is voiced by Yurika Kubo (Urara Meirocho‘s Koumei Yukimi and Rin Shiretoko of Hai-Furi): Kubo played a minor role as one of the female students in Yuyushiki. I’ve heard comparisons between Yuuri and GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto and find that this one barely holds true.
- Chito is voiced by Inori Minase, whom I best know for her role as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and in Girls’ Last Tour, Minase’s delivery of Chito’s lines makes her sound very much like Chino. Indeed, Chito is very similar to Chino in manner, being soft-spoken and prefers the company of books. She’s also quick to be irritated by Yuuri’s antics – her mannerisms bring to mind Yuzuko’s role of Yuyushiki, and here, a vivid dream leads her to begin sucking on Chito’s hand. While initially annoyed, Chito works out how to escape the labyrinth they are navigating at the series’ beginning.
- Food is a scarce resource, and leaving the factory leads Yuuri and Chito to indulge in a can of hot soup before resting under the stars: the bowels of the factory were sufficiently dark so that even the night sky is bright. Countless stars are visible, suggesting the absence of light pollution – my home town has replaced most of its street lamps in an effort to combat light pollution, the wasteful use of energy to illuminate our environments by night is said to degrade our health, has a noticeable impact on ecosystems and is considered a nuisance by astronomers. However, in a world without an intact civilisation, lighting is reduced and allows the girls a fantastic view of the night sky.
- Yuuri operates the Arisaka Type 38, which is derived from the Type 30.Introduced in 1905, the Type 39 remained the main service rifle of Imperial Japanese forces until World War Two ended. Other pieces of World War Two-era technology include a Panzer III, but as even Chito lacks the know-how and desire to restore the Panzer III, Girls’ Last Tour is certainly not Girls und Panzer by any stretch, and after three episodes, it is also inappropriate to compare it to Sora no Woto given the vast differences in thematic elements. At the time of writing, no one’s taken to suggesting existentialism as the main theme in Girls’ Last Tour – I’m not fond of the notion that this can be used as a catch-all for describing themes in anime set in a post-apocalyptic world.
- This moment captures the desolate surroundings awaiting Yuuri and Chito on the surface: the combination of derelict military equipment under a fresh winter’s snowfall. The soundtrack in Girls’ Last Tour is highly appropriate in capturing the atmosphere within the anime. I’m not familiar with Kenichiro Suehiro’s work, but his compositions in Girls’ Last Tour contribute substantially to the tones within the anime. I’ve got no figures on how many tracks and disks will be in the soundtrack, nor do I have any idea of how much the soundtrack will cost, but what is known is that the soundtrack will release on December 20.
- Yuuri and Chito find a propeller-powered plane and decide to investigate. Chito’s height makes it difficult to board the aircraft, and she struggles until Yuuri helps her out. In this moment, Chito resembles Chino, and in a curious turn of events, Girls’ Last Tour is animated by White Fox, who had previously done the first and second seasons of GochiUsa; one might consider Chito merely to be a dark-haired version of Chino in a different environment.
- It would appear that technology in Girls’ Last Tour encompass technology leading up to the end of World War Two: rotary machine guns remained in the prototype stage during World War Two, and the iconic M134 only appeared during the Vietnam War. While it is commonly depicted as a man-portable weapon in fiction, the weapon’s high firing rate and requirement of a power supply to rotate the barrels mean that the weapon cannot be used in such a manner, hence Chito’s decision to refuse Yuuri to bring the weapon along with them.
- Aside from a cache of weapons, Chito also encounters rations and explosives, which will prove useful in aiding their survival. The girls’ search and scavenging for resources brings to mind the likes of the Metro video game series, where resource collection and management played a large part of the game. The idea of a snowy surface and numerous underground passages in Girls’ Last Tour are the reason why I draw the comparison between the anime and Metro; I received Metro: Last Light complementary with my GPU back when I built my current rig back in 2013 and have since gone back to play through Metro 2033. This is a series I have enjoyed, and so, I do have an eye on the upcoming Metro: Exodus.
- Among the supplies found are a cache of chocolate bars. While chocolate drinks derived from Cocoa beans have been around since at least 1900 BC, modern chocolate comes from innovations made during the Industrial Revolution, and milk chocolate dates back to 1875. It is more than likely that by the events of Girls’ Last Tour that the means to mass produced chocolate no longer exist, making it a relic of an older age.
- In a surprising turn of events, Yuuri holds Chito at gunpoint and answers a conversation topic from earlier, when the question of what war is was posed. At its core, warfare is conflict between two parties, motivated by scarcity of resources, ideological differences: warring actors usually engage in fighting with the aim of achieving some sort of benefit, and in the case of Girls’ Last Tour, fighting over a chocolate bar owing to its scarcity is a highly effective, if simplified, explanation of war: because Yuuri has the weapons here, she makes the calls, and if Chito had her own weapon, a stalemate would result, forcing the two to negotiate or else risk death to achieve their end goal. It’s a tense moment and a dramatic demonstration of an idea, but as I’ve heard that Girls’ Last Tour is laid-back in nature, one does not expect any violence to actually break out.
- While Chito resembles Chino, it’s a little trickier to see Yuuri as Cocoa. When Yuuri takes the moment to scarf down the remaining chocolate, Chito kicks her ass (Chino’s never kicked Cocoa’s ass in GochiUsa, for one), causing the two to expend even more energy than anticipated. Even in such moments, the atmosphere in Girls’ Last Tour never strays far from a gentle calm. In the aftermath of their fight, Yuuri eats some snow to rehydrate, prompting Chito to do the same. Humans have long consumed snow or melted it into water, and while contaminants can make snow unsafe to eat, freshly-fallen snow is safe for consumption despite low levels of atmospheric pollutants and heavy metals. In Girls’ Last Tour, on the other hand, the absence of industry might mean cleaner air.
- Amidst a fierce snowstorm, Yuuri and Chito seek shelter, finding themselves inside an old factory with running water. They’re operating the SdKfz 2 light tractor, more commonly known as a Kettengrad (“track motorcycle”). Widely used in World War Two by German forces, Kettengrads were first used in 1941 as service vehicles. The choice of a tracked vehicle allows the two to traverse steep terrain and haul more equipment. Chito remarks that their ride is special, but one of their constant challenges is keeping the vehicle fueled up.
- After setting up their bath, Yuuri and Chito melt in the comfort of having hot water, a welcome respite from the cold outside. Similar to Yuyushiki, where the characters heads can deform to indicate their state of being, I’ve found that Girls’ Last Tour to be highly unconventional in its design, making the most of the post-apocalyptic world and the possibilities for exploration to tell a highly unique and easygoing story.
- There are folks who would argue that Girls’ Last Tour represents what the community commonly calls “wasted potential” in that there is an incredible world constructed in Girls’ Last Tour, and yet, the characters only are to go about their day-to-day adventures in favour of presenting to audiences an opportunity to learn more about the setting. In the case of Girls’ Last Tour, I would counter that the simplistic conversations and unexplored world present plenty of opportunity to reflect on our current society and its complexity: in particular, I feel that Girls’ Last Tour is a fantastic example of what impacts that specialised knowledge might have on our ability to recover from global scale disasters.
- After their bath, Chito and Yuuri relax by a fire. The perspective of this image captures the sense of scale of the structures seen within Girls’ Last Tour: many of the structures that we presently take for granted, including stadiums, opera halls and other large-scale buildings, are the result of accumulated engineering knowledge. When this knowledge is lost, it must be re-discovered: a common theme in fiction is the presence of precursor civilisations that leave behind incredible artefacts, whether they be Halo‘s Forerunners or the Celestials in Star Wars. J.R.R. Tolkien does something similar in the Lord of the Rings legendarium, where the works created in the First Age far surpass anything in the Second Age, and where works of the Third Age are pale imitations of the works of the Second Age.
- This seems contrary to civilisation as we know it, however: while architects and engineers of old have constructed structures of incredible sophistication and durability (the Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China and Forbidden City come to mind), the modern world has some incredible advances in transportation and communication that would seem like magic to ancient civilisations. The reason for our advances is precisely because we learned to record our knowledge, and in Girls’ Last Tour, Chito is fond of books precisely for this reason; she’s literate and regularly writes in her journal.
- When Yuuri burns one of the books after being asked to add more fuel to their fire, Chito becomes very displeased, enough to do this to her. In reality, our skulls are certainly not able to be deformed in this manner without serious injury and death resulting, but in something like Girls’ Last Tour, this is apparently harmless. Yuuri spends a bit of time wondering if Chito is still angry with her, but Chito later replies that her journals are the most precious, being records of their own experiences.
- The colour in Girls’ Last Tour is of a low saturation, with only a limited selection available in a scene’s palette at any given time. Colour combinations associated with growth and life are largely absent, and in its place are hues that reinforce the idea that mirror the desolate environments. In spite of this, the dynamics between Yuuri and Chito seem to offset the coldness in the environment: since Yuuri and Chito have one another, their journey becomes much less lonely. Les Stroud in Survivorman mentions that loneliness can be one of the biggest impediments to survival.
- The second episode deals primarily with water: Yuuri and Chito encounter a reserviour of fresh meltwater here below a ruined dam. The amount of blue in this scene stands in contrast with the barren whites, grays and browns of earlier settings, suggesting that there still are beautiful places left in their world to discover and explore. After climbing down a flight of steps, the girls discover that the water is quite cool, and proceed slowly, with the aim of washing their clothes.
- Uncertain about the currents, Chito dons a helmet for protection and ties herself to Yuuri, whose desire to explore leaves Chito in the water. I recall a scene in GochiUsa where Chino is pulled by the current in a fast-flowing river while trying to retrieve Cocoa’s hat, and Minase’s delivery of Chito’s dialogue is done very similarly. Yuuri wonders why the sky is blue here, and Chito erroneously responds that it’s a reflection of the ocean. The blue wavelength comes about due to Rayleigh scattering, and the properties of a nitrogen-oxygen gas mixture increases scattering of photons of a shorter, blue wavelength.
- Occasionally, Les Stroud encounters animal remains on his survival journeys and capitalises on them, such as when he found a fish in Alaska; when Yuuri and Chito see the same, they set about cooking the fish. Les Stroud usually cooks his food to destroy any pathogens and parasites, although he remarks that it is possible to eat most things raw when in a survival situation. Conversely, meat that has been packaged and processed absolutely must be cooked to at least 60ºC to 75ºC, depending on the meat, to ensure it is safe for consumption. There’s a longstanding debate as to whether or not raw food or cooked food is better. While it is true that cooking will destroy some nutrients, cooking food preseves anti-oxidants such as K-On!!‘s lycopene and also was the reason that we evolved larger brains: cooking the food improved digestibility and releases nutrients, allowing us to spend less time eating.
- H. sapiens‘ ability to cook means we don’t spend nine hours a day eating, leaving us to do other things, such as communicate and socialise. Back in Girls’ Last Tour, Yuuri and Chito take turns enjoying their freshly-cooked fish. I’m generally big on seafood, and fish is no exception: the slightly sweet flavour of fish goes well with soy sauce, green onions and ginger. After their meal, Chito and Yuuri wonder where fish come from: any primary student will immediately point at bodies of water as places to fish, although their question could also be interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.
- If we were to answer the question this way, the earliest fish (organisms with gills and fins) date back to the Cambrian period. Of course, delving into too many details is beyond the scope of this discussion, so I return things to Girls’ Last Tour, where Chito and Yuuri rest after their meal under a brilliant blue sky. While the colours may be less saturated in the anime, the moments where the landscapes are highlighted really shine. In the quiet of this moment, I will take a moment to reflect on the fact that a year ago, well-known anime blogger Chizumatic kicked the bucket. I personally felt he was better suited for political blogging rather than anime blogging: his posts were jejune, unoriginal and uninformative, and it is therefore surprising that people can claim that readers “aren’t getting such insights anymore and the animeblogging has become poorer for that”, especially when one compares Chizumatic to the content that’s still available, such as what is presented here.
- While trying to figure out a way across the chasm, Yuuri and Chito run into Kanazawa, who uses explosives to bring down a skyscraper to form a makeshift bridge. Yuuri immediately holds him at gunpoint, fearing hostile action. Their initial suspicions of him slowly evaporate once he presents his interest in cartography, and when he helps them get the Kettengrad up and over the building.
- It is shown that the urban areas of Girls’ Last Tour are built in layers, similar to Hengsha from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The result in Girls’ Last Tour are densely packed cities whose edges drop away into an abyss. Such a concept isn’t too implausible: as land become scarce, density must increase, and sufficiently advanced engineering will make it possible to layer cities on this manner, although there are also social implications of denying lower layers of a city access to light, meaning that wealthier residents will move to upper levels as they are built. Even in an environment without levels, such as in the ecumenopolis of Coruscant, super-tall buildings eventually block out light at lower levels.
- With help from Kanazawa’s maps, the girls find a fuelling station and continue towards an elevator tower. Kanazawa remarks that a century ago, humans found themselves unable to operate the elevators and ended up rigging makeship elevators to the towers to ascend. The implications of this are that humanity once held a great civilisation that collapsed, and a newer, more primitive society formed subsequently but similarly collapsed.
- On the ascent, the elevator stalls and tilts, leading Kanazawa to lose all of his painstakingly created maps. He falls into a depression, and with Chito’s acrophobia kicking in, it’s up to Yuuri to fix the elevator to get things rolling. Their ascent is marked by darkening skies leading to a beautiful sunset, and as they reach the top, the skies have darkened sufficiently for the street lamps to turn on. The sight is a beautiful one to behold, and it is this that the third episode’s final segment is named after. That the lights still come on suggest an area better maintained than the levels below.
- In Traditional Chinese, street lamps are 街燈 (in Cantonese, gai1 dang1). The equivalent in Japanese is 街灯 (Gaitō). Most modern street lamps have a photocell that detects ambient light levels and will activate or shut off automatically. In my area, Cobra-head lamps used to be common, although in the early 2000s, they were replaced by full-cutoff street lamps. In the past year, the sodium-vapor lamps have since been replaced by energy-efficient LEDs, and these have been quite effective at lowering light pollution: the areas lit on the ground are brighter, but all around, it looks much darker, to the point where I can resolve some magnitude 2 and 3 stars without the help of binoculars.
- Yuuri and Chito share a chocolate bar with Kanazawa, reassuring him and helping him realise that setbacks are not the end of the road – inspired by their example, he decides to create new maps on the new level they’ve arrived at and departs on a high note. I’m rather fond of his character; it would be nice if he returns in later episodes. Heading their separate ways, Chito and Yuuri decide to head towards a bright light in the distance.
- I’m quite impressed with how Girls’ Last Tour has presented its world and characters insofar; its simple premise notwithstanding, the anime has offered no shortage of conversation topics. Just from this post alone, I’ve touched on topics as diverse as human evolution and cooking, development of culture through written language, warfare and even amateur astronomy. While expectations were not quite so high for Girls’ Last Tour to impress this season, after three episodes, it is clear that this anime’s a pleasant surprise that I will look forwards to watching every week.
Chito and Yuuri’s naïveté in Girls’ Last Tour do not preclude them from learning and figuring out their survival strategy, nor does it appear to slow down their ability to slowly work out answers to some of their questions. As such, while seemingly a disconnected series of adventures, Girls’ Last Tour nonetheless presents an adventure that’s worth following; as their experiences over time accumulate, Chito and Yuuri will end up drawing their own conclusions about the world that they live in and discover their own reasons to continue surviving. Moving ahead, folks familiar with the manga will know that Girls’ Last Tour remains within the realm of catharsis rather than exploring darker or more philosophical themes, and this is admittedly an appropriate direction – I’ve never been fond of fiction that forces its characters to needlessly suffer for the sake of half-heartedly discussing philosophy (or the community’s associated need to regard this as the apex of “good writing”). By choosing a more relaxing approach, Girls’ Last Tour will likely illustrate how its unique setting notwithstanding, Yuuri and Chito will nonetheless develop a routine and survival pattern that lets them make the most of their world, illustrating the strength of the human spirit and reminding viewers of our capacity for resilience during difficult times. There is one additional bonus: the anime’s soundtrack holds a cathartic and ethereal quality to it. The strength of the music in Girls’ Last Tour, composed by Kenichiro Suehiro, is comparable to the likes of Yuki Kajiura and Hiroyuki Sawano, doing much to add an additional dimension to Chito and Yuuri’s adventures.