Girls’ Last Tour – Complete Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 297 minutes approx.
Anime being the esoteric medium that it is thanks to the idiosyncratic nature of Japanese culture means the premise behind many titles is something of a hard sell. Not everyone is going to invest in a show dedicated to a traditional Japanese card game (Chihayafuru) whilst others will repel the concept of a man living with a group of big-boobed monsters (Monster Musume).
Girls’ Last Tour might be a hard sell for a very different reason – it’s utter, bare bones simplicity. Set in a post-Apocalyptic world, two girls Chito and Yuuri roam the desolate land on their Kettenkrad searching for food, other signs of life and more importantly, an explanation for what the hell has happened!
The post-Apocalyptic setting is not a new one but usually proves fertile for those with wild imaginations, yielding results that take us into a world of desperate survivors, renegade robots, rampaging monsters and hidden domains of the an autocratic despot. In the case of the creation of mononymous mangaka Tsukumizu, this direction is largely eschewed, preferring to embrace the spartan wastelands and focus on the bonding of the two leads, which makes Girls’ Last Tour a hard sell for some.
First some clarification – yes, the show can be slow and very quiet – it is set in a world that has been utterly destroyed by an unexplained catastrophe after all – and the cast list is predominantly limited to just Chito and Yuuri for 96% of its twelve episode run. But if entire films can get away with trapping two people in a lift for 90-minutes there is no reason why anime can’t do the same.
Except our intrepid young explorers are only trapped by a lack of knowledge and signs of other human life, which they eventually find albeit briefly; in many ways they are living the ultimate transient lifestyle of being able to go wherever they want, whenever they want completely unimpeded by rules, regulations and other people and its totally legal – the world, quite literally, is they oyster.
It should be a crashing bore and a test of patience yet, despite many moments when the energy level does hit a soporific lull, this show gradually reveals itself to be a tacitly profound adventure of self-discovery and the true meaning of friendship. It even finds room to throw in the odd slice of nail-biting drama, such as the death defying navigation through a rickety old building via a platform that collapses beneath their wheels!
Nothing is known about out two leads, leaving us as much in the dark as they are. Chito is the shorter dark haired one and clearly the smartest of the pair. Despite sharing the same childish wonder as Yuuri to each new discovery, Chito is quicker to recognise it and its purpose – for example, she know what a fish is, how to cook it, the concept of a God, and what music is.
Yuuri on the other hand is a complete blank slate. The taller, illiterate blonde is more concerned with eating than anything else, so if something (like a God) isn’t edible, it has no interest for her. However, Yuuri is a skilled shooter and her capricious nature often equates to being able to think on her feet, whilst her sensible side is exposed when helping Chito with her fear of heights.
Similar to Made In Abyss, the character designs are cutesy and cartoony – round faces with doleful eyes and small mouths that are one step away from chibi which should conflict with the seriousness and drabness of the show’s aesthetic. However, it works, in part with matching the curious and playful personalities of the girls. You won’t find much laugh out loud humour here but Chito and Yuuri are personable enough that their interactions take on a gentle almost comic whimsy of their own.
Along the way, the girls try to piece together information they have gathered from each stop, although most are random and disparate enough to offer no clues as to what actually happened to the world. They do encounter two other humans – Kanazawa is a cartographer trying to create a new map of the city and gives the girls his camera, and Ishii is a scientist trying build an aeroplane who teaches the girls where to find potatoes.
It’s an unusual twist not to turn this is travelling band of survivors but the idea is never once discussed, seeing as they each have their own agendas and objectives, but they do bring Chito and Yuuri a step closer to the truth. This might be where the show might start to lose its charm as the big revelation is wrapped in sci-fi fantasy, something only mildly hinted at during the gentle slice-of-life story we’ve witnessed hitherto.
Then again, there are no concrete signs this is set during current times or that the world being discovered is our own years after the event. The girls may look like they’ve stepped out of World War II but the presence of robots and a strange written language suggest otherwise. However one chooses to interpret this, the ending doesn’t feel like the one you’d expect from the preceding episodes.
Presented by Studio White Fox, there is a pronounced focus on creating atmosphere and making it as palpable as possible for the audience. The early episodes in the snow convince us we are shivering along with the girls whilst we welcome the comfort of the hot bath as much as they do. The eerie silences and natural soundscapes offer a mixture of relaxation and dread in equal measures, complimented buy the studiously drawn backgrounds.
Boasting an open ending, the message of Girls’ Last Tour might be never stop searching, be if for information, people or a purpose in life. It’s a title I’m glad to have discovered but it won’t be for everyone despite offering something different, though our two guides on this journey are utterly adorable.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Limited Collector’s Edition
144-Page Storyboard Artbook
Rating – ****
Man In Black