Anime Review(ish): Girls’ Last Tour

The end of the world is coming

English: Girls’ Last Tour
Japanese: 
少女終末旅行
Year: 2017
Season: Fall
Length: 12 ep. x 24 min.
Studio: White Fox

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

I must confess: Girls’ Last Tour is one of the most depressing anime I’ve ever seen.

True to its name, Girls’ Last Tour follows two girls on their journey to the end of the world (figuratively) before the end of the world (literally). Alone in a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, the two girls, Chito (“Chi”) and Yuuri (“Yuu”), set out to reach to the top of a gargantuan layered city.

The Story

The moe is a lie.

From the very beginning, it’s clear that there is nothing cute about the lives our heroines find themselves in.  As Chi and Yuu journey throughout the destroyed mega-layered city, they encounter and discuss numerous relics and concepts from the human civilization that once thrived. Through their conversations, we discover, little by little, the reasons for the world’s dire predicament, as well as their individual personalities.

I could write a few hundred words on the various conversations Chi and Yuu had about the meaning of life, etc. etc, but that’s not what really stuck out to me from this show. In fact, there was exactly one part of the entire script that made me tear up (and it wasn’t the ending). This isn’t an indictment on the quality of the writing, but rather that I’m quite hard to please when it comes to emotional engagement.

I will, however, delve into what I consider as the crème de la crème of Girls’ Last Tour: world construction through visual composition.

The Art, AKA Where the Budget Went

Girls’ Last Tour makes a great case for why art should matter so much in anime. Even by White Fox’s, a studio that produces consistently good animation (Steins;Gate, Jormungand, heck, even Soushin Shoujo Matoi), standards, Girls’ Last Tour is a masterpiece in visual composition.

Even though the state of the world is only explained bit by bit via dialogue and flashbacks throughout the show, I realized instinctively from the art that the world Chi and Yuu live in is a world that is devoid of life and vibrancy.

Exhibit A: Concrete and Steel Makes the World Surreal

The very first thing it reminded me of is that famous Apple 1984 ad (cue Big Brother and the Thought Police). I haven’t read much about this, but I feel like there’s something about the lifeless and immovable concrete and steel that symbolizes totalitarianism and hopelessness. Steel evokes the hammer and sickle, a symbol of Soviet Russia and communism, while concrete itself is bland, tough, and resistant to change.

The prevalence of concrete and steel also feeds my next perception of the world in Girls’ Last Tour.

Exhibit B: Where Did the Colors Go

As Chi and Yuu travel through the various levels of the giant “infrastructure” (that’s what this humongous layered city is called in the show, anyway), I gradually realized that there are few colors in this world beyond various shades of gray from the whitest snow to pitch-black shadows. Part of it is because of the lack of life (it is asserted in one conversation that humans are the only living things left in this world); but even after subtracting biological variety, it’s odd to see zero advertisement among the abandoned streets, especially among areas that did not appear to suffer much damage.

Even inside abandoned apartments, hardly any color considered to be “fun” can be found. Either the previous occupants scraped all colors and colored items before leaving, or they just didn’t live with all the colorful household and personal items we take for granted in the first place. I find the latter more believable, and subsequently recalled the footages of North Korea I’ve seen on news reports. While North Korea is not as colorless as Chi and Yuu’s world, it is similarly devoid of advertisements, and many street pedestrians wore black or gray jackets.

And actually, even among the few remaining life forms Chi and Yuu did encounter in the show, those organism appear more white than as we know of them. While this can be explained as the result of evolution, it nonetheless reinforces the symbolism of a colorless world.

I don’t recall potatoes looking this white…. or in this shape, for that matter.

The Audio

I did enjoy the soundtrack to Girls’ Last Tour, which often included classical/orchestral pieces along with hymn-like vocals. The soundtrack complimented the setting and scenes nicely, and is well worth a second listen.

The voice acting is equally competent; the production committee hired industry veterans for the roles, including Minase Inori as Chito and Hanazawa Kana (yes, the one-and-only HanaKana) as Nuko, a mysterious creature that is like a mascot for the show, if there ever is one. Though, given there are only six voiced roles in the entire show, paying top, er, yen for top talent was only appropriate.

TL;DR

Girls’ Last Tour is a depressing and depressingly beautiful show. As a recovering cynic/pessimist, I can’t say I was able to enjoy the show as much as I should have. I have some nitpicks on the show that I won’t get into here, but yet I wholeheartedly believe that Girls’ Last Tour is a must-watch show. In an era when seemingly every anime released is an uninspired cash-grab riding the success of the original source (be it manga, light novel, or game), Girls’ Last Tour makes a strong case for its induction into the hall of anime classics.

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