Welcome, all, again. I hope that everybody enjoyed their Halloween (Samhain, for some of us)! I had a good time handing out candy and inviting family and friends into my home. I even managed to give away most of the candy; I can’t imagine what I’m going to do with my one leftover bag of Milky Ways. . .anynom, imagine trying to exist in a world without a home or without any dependable means of obtaining food. That’s the scenario for our heroines in today’s discussion, which focuses upon Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (also called Girls’ Last Tour). And, appropriate for this time of year, this is one scary anime!
Chii and Yuu wander through a post-apocalyptic landscape in constant search of food, fuel, and shelter. The end seems to have come through some huge war, and weapons and vehicles lie scattered everywhere like so much windblown litter. Indeed, the girls travel on a Kettenkrad, a WWII German contraption that looks like the ungainly lovechild of a motorcycle and a small tank, and was originally designed as a military small tractor. Both girls are dressed in what appear to be old military uniforms, and Yuu carries a rifle with which she seems quite capable and accurate. Chii eschews weapons and is instead skilled in mechanics. She also enjoys reading and keeps a journal. And while it seems to be a constant struggle to survive their situation, they persevere through a quietly pedestrian tenacity and reliance upon each other.
Sounds more bleak than scary? Watch again. How overpopulated did the world become that we had to build multilayered cities? How quickly would food production have become inadequate to feed so many people? Or watch Chii read without knowing what certain key words reference or mean–then watch Yuu struggle to read at all. Notice how desolate of life is their world. Then, perhaps most ominous of all, consider how (beautifully) detailed the background artwork is in comparison to Chii and Yuu themselves, whose faces seem practically featureless. Everything, even their Kettenkrad, is attentively drawn in much more detail than our protagonists–why? Is it to show them as Everymen, thereby thrusting viewers into their roles and struggles? Is it to emphasize their transience and mortality, mocking that they are destined for the grave long before the already dead civilization that birthed them? Or, worse yet, might it be both these things combined? Revelation and accusation of our individual insignificance in the face of the world we’ve created? Now, that is scary!
I love this series and strongly recommend it! It is starkly beautiful and picturesque even while being visually disturbing. Meanwhile, Chii and Yuu are sympathetic characters who are nonetheless more apt to elicit feelings of camaraderie than immediate concern. (You worry about them, but seldom with any urgency.) It would have been easy for this simple premise to devolve into a monotonous bore of a story, but the slow pace is well-managed and the writing quietly clever and strong. So watch for relaxation or for contemplation, just so long as you give this show a try.