Girls' Last Tour
by Paul Jensen,
I can already sense my hopes of staying current with this season's simulcasts slipping away, but one series I've managed to keep up with is Run with the Wind. It's a nice little sports story with less of the typical teenage drama, and there's something wonderfully indulgent about watching people train for a marathon while I lay on my couch like a slug. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Girls' Last Tour
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Shelf Life Reviews
I took a look at Girls' Last Tour for this week's review, and it might just have my all-time favorite version of the apocalypse. Here's my take on the series.
The “girls” of Girls' Last Tour are Chito and Yuuri, two friends who spend the series wandering through the ruins of a vast, multi-level city. The place has been all but abandoned, to the point where finding any sort of life, human or otherwise, is a rarity. It's assumed that humanity has been wiped out by some sort of apocalyptic conflict, but Chito and Yuuri are young enough that the current state of the world is their idea of normal. They have a long-term goal of reaching the highest level of the city, but most of their time is spent scavenging the ruins around them for anything they can use.
That all may sound a bit grim, but the tone of the series is surprisingly mellow. Much of the credit for that laid-back atmosphere goes to Chito and Yuuri, who carry the majority of the story on their own. Their personalities balance one another out very well, with Chito acting as the brains of the operation while Yuuri serves as her slightly spacey but usually dependable foil. While that's not a particularly unusual setup, the chemistry between the two of them is very strong, and they have the kind of friendship you'd expect to see from two people who've been traveling together for a long time. Their contrasting perspectives also allow them to have some fascinating conversations while trying to figure out what a particular building or device might have been used for. Yuuri's pragmatic focus on the here and now allows her to pose some unintentionally deep questions to Chito, who often has just enough second-hand knowledge of the past to guess at an answer.
That process of finding old things and pondering their purpose forms the backbone of the story, since there's not a lot of immediate drama or direct conflict here. Chito and Yuuri get along aside from a few short-lived arguments, and the handful of episodic characters they meet tend to be helpful rather than antagonistic. Despite the implication that humanity as a species managed to wipe itself out, individual people are presented as being generally good-hearted. Even the girls' constant need to scavenge for supplies is more of an everyday routine than a life-or-death struggle. Instead of immediate peril, the show's emotional appeal comes from the contrast between the girls' viewpoints and the audience's perspective. Chito and Yuuri may be accustomed to their post-apocalyptic environment, but we as viewers are able to realize just how much of civilization has been wiped out. Sometimes this contrast can be humorous, like when the girls discover a stash of beer, while in other cases it can leave you with a profound sense of loss. Occasionally, the girls get a clear picture of how things used to be, and it's in these moments where their perspectives shift closer to our own that Girls' Last Tour is at its most compelling.
In order to make that style of storytelling work, the setting ends up conveying the portion of the backstory that goes unspoken. Between the mechanical designs and the background art, the series is able to paint a picture of a world that was blown up and stripped for parts long before these characters arrived on the scene. The city has a fascinating aesthetic of bare-bones industrial architecture built up around a more advanced and elegant foundation, which suggests a gradual decline as people lost access to different pieces of technology. There's a clear lack of comfort or luxury here, to the extent that a train is just a metal box on rails with an uncushioned bench inside. It's a clever and artful way of letting the viewer infer what happened to the world instead of having the script come right out and say it. We're eventually given a clearer picture of what happened and where the world is headed in the final episodes, when the show takes more of a sci-fi turn. While I actually prefer the “show, don't tell” approach of the earlier episodes, this shift does allow for a couple of poignant moments near the end.
The character designs in Girls' Last Tour are going to be something of an acquired taste, as their faces have a simple, rounded look that feels somewhat at odds with the rest of the art style. Apart from that subjective point, though, the visuals in this series are top-notch, and the direction does a nice job of bringing key details to the viewer's attention. Sound is also a big feature in this show, as the generally quiet ambience of setting means that individual noises really stand out. This Blu-Ray set comes with an English dub, and while the performances fit the characters reasonably well, the script suffers from some occasionally clunky wording. Dialogue for Chito and Yuuri sometimes sounds more like the writing in a novel or essay than a casual conversation between two people, and while it probably won't be a deal-breaker for dub fans, neutral folks may want to opt for the Japanese audio. On-disc features are fairly limited aside from some promo videos for the series, but a limited edition set is available with a variety of physical extras.
Girls' Last Tour does a great job of turning its premise into a compelling and enjoyable story, and I'd recommend it to a wide variety of people. It's poignant without being melodramatic, thoughtful without being preachy, and strangely comforting despite its grim setting. Unless you absolutely insist on having life-and-death action in a post-apocalyptic story, there's no reason not to check it out.
That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading!
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