Anime Review — Girls’ Last Tour (White Fox)

So many things I wanted to do this October. The month is almost over and I only got some of them done.

My god Goblin Slayer has gotten to be the hottest shit in just a couple of weeks, hasn’t it?

Within just two episodes (and maybe the first. I didn’t look at the community stats when it initially came out), this show has surpassed the new Sword Art Online in terms of popularity and reputation, and while it’s true that you have to take diminishing audiences into account when it comes to sequels, I barely see anyone talking about Kirito’s new adventures at the moment. Which is ironic, because the attention Goblin Slayer has been getting reminds me of Sword Art Online when it first came out, except if the series had started with its infamous Episode 24. There were a lot of horrible complaints from the hatebase and the people rising to its defense were not any better, resorting to insulting some of the critics’ girlfriends in lieu of an actual defense for the show. It was honestly a mess with no winners emerging from the wreckage.

I actually considered writing about how the online war from both sides of the argument stopped being about the actual content of Goblin Slayer, but unfortunately doing so would require me to also contribute to the main reason why the arguments got so retarded in the first place, and I’d rather not contribute to the rising possibility of #AnimeGate by talking about anything aside from the actual anime. While there are very few people even acknowledging the possibility that such a movement could happen, it’s no secret that anime journalism has gotten really bad over the years (at least on the big sites). And it doesn’t help that 2018 has been an absolutely miserable year for everything surrounding anime, from the director of a show most people like revealing himself to be a Nazi-sympathizer to Funimation ending their partnership with Crunchyroll. Considering 2018 is seen by many to be one of the best years for anime ever, you could bludgeon someone to death with the amount of irony involved with the situation.

Doesn’t help that in addition to the Goblin Slayer controversy regarding that scene, other issues arose from that backlash. One was how Crunchyroll once again ruined their reputation by initially giving Goblin Slayer a PG-rating on their site, when even I knew it was deserving of an MA rating before it even came out thanks to all of the Youtube season previews. It just goes to show how lazy Crunchyroll is as a streaming service when they don’t even bother to watch the episodes they are given before they add the subs provided to them by the production companies. And that’s excluding how terrible and full of typos the subs for Attack on Titan S3 have been. Seriously, I can’t think of one month this year where Crunchyroll didn’t ruin their reputation. They probably make up half of the anime-related controversies that occurred this year.

The other argument I saw was how White Fox got a really talented director to adapt this show, which is honestly a very petty argument since maybe the director likes this source material. And given how so many people in the industry try to stress that the production studio doesn’t matter, they sure haven’t caught onto the fact that the visible staff (as in the staff that you could easily read off of Wikipedia) hardly matters either. There have been several talented directors who have had to take on less than stellar projects over the years with the most recent example being Shinichi Omata, who went from the critically acclaimed Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu to the already forgotten Grancrest Senki. And he actually got off better than most directors because he managed to keep some of his skills even though the production on Grancrest Senki was honestly pretty average at best.

Remember when the director of Monster and Made in Abyss made Black Bullet? Or how the guy who helmed Non Non Biyori went on to make Sagrada Reset? Not exactly sure what happened with those projects myself. Either the production companies treated them as directors-for-hire, said directors got saddled with bargain-bin team members, or they gave up on trying to make those anime look distinctive the instant they read the scripts given to them. Maybe Canipa knows, but I doubt he’ll ever do a video explaining that stuff since he prefers to stay positive in his content.

In the case of Goblin Slayer’s director, Takaharu Ozaki, he only really has one anime to his name to begin with – that being White Fox’s last hit anime and the main subject for this review, Girls’ Last Tour. You guys remember this show right? It was considered to be the true successor to Kino’s Journey after the actual new Kino’s Journey anime ended up exposing the original light novels as a steaming pile of trash that just happened to get reworked into something palatable back in 2003. Quite a few “top anime of 2017” lists had this on here, and it actually won best “slice-of-life” at the most recent Crunchyroll Anime Awards. Clearly, a lot of people who like the show respect his work on it.

But no matter how good a job he did, it’s still just one anime. Most creators are lucky to make one good thing in their life for a reason you know. I’m sure there are nice directorial touches from the guy in Goblin Slayer to prove that he’s still got it even when he’s working on trash, but I fail to see why we should start looking to him as a rising star until he plays a major role in something else. I’ve never understood the whole “let’s pay attention to this team who made one good thing I like” mentality that certain anime fans have. As far as I’m concerned, they need to have a consistent record, and even that doesn’t guarantee quality.

Also, was Girls’ Last Tour really that good? I remember giving the anime a dismissive first impressions back when it came out because it wasn’t coming off like my kind of thing. But I did watch the show more fully later on and…well let’s just say there’s a reason I’ve waited so long to review it. Honestly, I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to do so either. With the somewhat renewed attention Girls’ Last Tour has gotten due to sharing the same director as the newest big thing combined with October being Horror Month and me needing something haunting to review, even if Girls’ Last Tour doesn’t belong to the horror genre per say, it’s like the showing is demanding I finally give it attention before the yearly cut-off for anime reviews is met.

Sometimes I wish I could go back five years ago and criticize anime like this properly.

It’s either that or pretending that I care about Angels of Death at any rate. And I was tempted to make a “holiday exception” for Shin Sekai Yori given the mountains of issues I had with the show when I finally struggled to finish it after six years, but no, I have that cut-off date for a reason. Because I don’t want to be part of a culture that becomes trapped in the past when it comes to living in the present. It’s one thing to look back on things nostalgically and it’s another to just refuse to let something die with all of the stupid Shin Sekai Yori v.s. Psycho-Pass arguments that are still being made to this very day. Or Digibro’s video about why SAO was better than Shin Sekai Yori, which didn’t actually make that comparison until the very end.

As such, Girl’s Last Tour is our review subject, so let’s start with describing the premise. The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world of unknown origin with our main characters being two girls driving around in a jeep whilst looking for food, shelter, and other people to interact with. Both girls are given incredibly moe-ified designs because this is an ironic moe show where being cute automatically means the audience will care for you more when bad shit goes down, and even their personalities are instantly recognizable to all of the anime connoisseurs who eat up Blend S and Girls Und Panzer. Chito is the calm girl who’s incredibly smart and reacts to all of the craziness surrounding her like she doesn’t want to be there, and Yuuri is the eccentric girl who’s better at physical activity and consumes whatever luxuries she can get without a second thought. Hope you like those personalities, because for at least 90% of the show, those are the only characters who will be on-screen whilst you’re watching it.

There are other characters the two meet in this anime, but they’re few in number and few in screentime. Girls’ Last Tour is compared to Kino’s Journey because of how it emphasizes females traveling an “ugly yet beautiful” world and interacting with various locations whilst engaging in philosophy, but instead of the girls meeting a variety of civilians, they’re just meeting a lot of barren locations and exchanging thoughts whilst exploring their surroundings. And unlike Kino’s Journey, the setting is more “beautiful yet ugly” because while it’s pretty to look at, the girls are in an environment where they’re fighting to stay alive with limited tools and food at their disposal. These are all good differences of course. It means that the series can shine on its own without the Kino’s Journey comparisons, and it was only through circumstance that said comparisons even came around in the first place.

The plot is not worth discussing, because it’s pretty minimalistic and predictable if you’ve seen any post-apocalyptic story ever. Chito and Yuuri want to find some semblance of life in a world that’s mostly dead. That’s pretty much it. And honestly, said plot is mostly just a vehicle for the characters to talk about subjects like how humans lived their lives before they were eradicated as well as set pieces like how the pouring rain can make beautiful music when it hits certain objects. Oh, and there’s also a robot with a giant laser cannon. Guess what sort of philosophy the girls discuss regarding that thing? I’ll give you hint: it has something to do with weapons of mass destruction.

You guys ever seen Waking Life? That cult animated film by Richard Linklater about an unnamed protagonist who wanders through life like he’s in a dream and has philosophical conversations with many individuals on the way for over a hundred minutes? I remember comparing this anime to Gerry, but upon further watching, Girls’ Last Tour reminds me of that movie more. It was a pretty interesting film despite the incredibly bloated screen time, because of how it tackled what it means to be living whilst making it unclear if the focal character himself was real or a figment of someone’s imagination. The rotoscoped visual style was also pretty interesting to watch too. While Girls’ Last Tour is more traditionally animated with obvious CG used for the driving sequences, it has a unique visual style of his own that can really make the dead setting feel alive without being too colorful. That’s harder to do than you think, as Steins;Gate 0 and even NiER: Automata have proven with their dull-looking visions of the apocalypse.

Basically, Girls’ Last Tour isn’t really a show you watch for traditional narrative. It’s all about the story underneath the mundane actions, like how Haibane Renmei was chock-full of religious metaphors underneath what seems to be a story about girls living their life in a strange world. And that’s all fine and good, but I have one big problem with Girls’ Last Tour that ruins said appeal: I have no idea what this show is actually about.

I mean what exactly is Girls’ Last Tour saying with its post-apocalyptic world, meandering philosophy, moe-ified characters, and beautiful yet claustrophobic atmosphere? Because every time I watch an episode, all I came away with was “well humans acted like this” or “I wonder why this exists”. Yeah those are nice questions, but you don’t seriously expect me to just be satisfied with bringing them up and calling it a day, right? Because isn’t throwing a bunch of ambiguous philosophy in our faces without any attempt to actually address them the main reason that Limit Cycle was the worst part of that Genius Party anthology?

Is it a story about how humanity is doomed for failure? Is it a story about how when the world goes to shit, the line between right and wrong becomes blurry? It occurs to me whilst writing this review that I don’t remember any of the philosophical discussions aside from the ones that had an accompanying set piece to match it. And the ratio of discussions that were mostly in the moment to the ones that had a giant laser shooting things to prove said discussion is like 20:1 in Girls’ Last Tour. In short, while I can remember that there were at least three bathing scenes in the anime, I don’t remember what was being discussed during any of those scenes. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that said bath scenes are for the characters to relax and warm themselves up before going back out in the cold empty world, but what was actually happening during those scenes?

If I had to pick a favorite out of the two, it’d definitely be Chito since I relate more towards the straightforward characters.

And let’s say I did actually remember those conversations. How are they important to the actual story? Do they further an idea the show is trying to push? If so, what is the idea? Because I’m literally drawing a blank at what Girls’ Last Tour, an anime where so much of the appeal is the dialogue and philosophies contained within it, is actually saying through its commentary. With something like Made in Abyss, the beautiful world-building and tragedies were communicating about the fragility of humans and how they strive to achieve big things due to the fact that they could die at any moment, along with some other dark themes regarding humanity in general. I admittedly missed this when I first watched the show and had to get it confirmed to me later, but I really paid attention whilst watching Girls’ Last Tour and even read other people’s positive reviews, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly connects all of the show’s major elements together. Pot of Greed was easier to understand than this.

Why is this a big necessity you may ask? Why can’t the show just be random philosophy related to the situation for twelve episodes? Because you might as well just rip out a ton of famous quotes from several different sources covering the same subject matter and make a book out of that without adding any writing of your own. I may not remember many of the conversations, but I do recall that none of them are all that unique. I have thought about literally every single point the two girls bring up either at some time in my life or when I interact with other post-apocalyptic stories. More importantly, you can’t just raise questions and not expect to answer them, because that just makes your story incomplete. If you don’t have an answer, you have to at least examine said questions thoroughly and give a statement regarding why we don’t have answers.

Otherwise, what’s the purpose of watching this anime? What do I gain from Girls’ Last Tour that I either couldn’t get from something similar to it, or I already knew to begin with so it’s not imparting anything new to me? The artwork is unique to the show sure, but that is too specific a quality to watch an entire anime for. You might as well just remove Chito and Yuuri from the show altogether and have it be nothing but scenery whilst someone narrates all of the philosophy to use for four straight hours if that’s all it takes to make you happy.

Is that Baoh laser cannon meme still a thing out of curiosity?

Speaking of removing the characters, the lack of people in this show really takes a lot of punch out of some of the dark themes the show explores because said themes have no subjects to apply to. When the show tries to be haunting, it fails because we know there isn’t anyone actually out there to harm the girls. It’s not until the last episode where we flashback to when the world was populated and we’re told what caused the end of the world in the first place (and said reason was incredibly predictable to boot). So while it’s true that a giant laser cannon is a dangerous weapon that may have contributed to the world’s destruction, who’s going to care about that in the present when there’s nothing to use it on? The girls may be astonished at its power, but they’ll just move on to something else afterwards because there are no real consequences for destroying a city when the rest of the world is destroyed, unless said city contained a ton of food they could have rationed.

At this point, some people are probably going to say to me that Girls’ Last Tour is a story about survival. It’s about trying to find the light in the darkness. The reason that Chito and Yuuri are traveling to higher elevations throughout the series is because they don’t want to be the only humans left on the planet, but at the same time, there’s no guarantee that they’ll find other humans or other means of survival on their journey. And they’ve got to be using a lot of fuel to drive that vehicle, in addition to small amount of rations they have to split, so their search could kill them if they end up finding nothing on their journey. Yeah, that’s a pretty decent story to tell due to the ambiguity of the situation and how it can be used to develop the characters in interesting ways. Tales about characters realizing that even if they failed, at least they tried, are pretty cool in my book. And the various philosophies they engage in can be seen as intellectual flavoring to liven up the story.

I noticed that the ANN reviews for this show are fully convinced the leads are gay. Maybe, but I don’t know why that’s something to call attention to.

Here’s the big problem if you consider that to be the story though: our main characters don’t have any actual character. By the end of the show, we don’t know a thing about Chito and Yuuri. Girls’ Last Tour never delves into their background. They have no character arcs or any form of growth throughout the narrative whatsoever. What you see of them at the start is what you get for like the entire twelve-episode runtime. So why exactly am I supposed to care if they succeed or fail at finding some remnant of humanity before they run out of survival methods?

The only reason I can see to actually care about the two is because they’re moe girls in a world they’re not suited for. But that’s a style choice that’s supposed to ease us into the story. It’s not supposed to be the main reason you enjoy the story or the characters, which is what a lot of ironic moe anime (and anime in general for that matter) end up getting wrong when they try to sell it as their appeal. You guys remember all the complaints directed towards High Guardian Spice and how the advertising tried to sell diversity as its main selling point? Diversity is a bad reason to promote a show for more than just because the creators are trying to shove an agenda in your face. It’s because it’s ultimately a style, and you can’t sell me an anime solely on the style because I have to stick with it for at least four hours, and those sorts of shows tend to get boring after four minutes.

You definitely can’t use it to automatically make me care about the characters. Sure there are interesting possibilities surrounding, say, a white guy raised in a mostly black neighborhood. That’s basically a part of how Enimem got so big in pop music and pop culture in general. But Eminem is interesting because of how he became such a great rapper despite the odds stacked against him. No one would care about him but his own social circle (and even that’s ambiguous because of how Marshall pissed people off to the point that his own mother sued him) if he just dealt with the discrimination forced on him and went on to get a normal post-college job.

Ironic moe may not be as complex or controversial as racial/sexual discrimination and such, but it’s still nothing more than a style that can’t stand on its own when applied to fiction. Chito and Yuuri may be able to spout some funny lines every once in a while because of their contrasting personalities, but we’ve still got hours of philosophizing to sit through without any attempt to explain who they are on the horizon. As such, it’s impossible for me to be invested in any part of the story that depends heavily on the audience caring about them. And before you argue that the side characters are supposed to pick up the task of being developed figures to execute the story properly, need I remind you that the number of said characters is minuscule and the screentime given to them isn’t much better?

You see this guy real early and afterwards he’s only brought up sparsely through the show for example.

Basically, Girls’ Last Tour doesn’t have the grounding required to be about something character-centric. And if it’s not about something character-centric, then what is it about exactly? When you purposefully strip away plot and characterization without giving me a reasonable alternative to care about the substance, what exactly am I going to remember besides how a few scenes went? A bunch of unanswered questions that I can’t even recall? Yeah that’ll look good in a sales pitch.

I mean the girls are pleasant to be around. The set pieces are imaginative. The show is well-directed in general. And while there are a lot of “mundane” slice-of-life scenes of the two taking a warm bath or arguing over food, the reason why said scenes exist is executed a lot better than most ironic moe shows. So in all honesty, the show isn’t that boring. But I don’t see how I can possibly recommend it if everything that makes it what it is just sort of comes and goes without being offensive about it. If it comes off as mildly pretentious because the story isn’t making any actual point with all the toys it dumped on me, expecting the audience to make our own fun when we don’t have the required access to do so. If it feels more like a proof-of-concept than an actual fleshed-out series.

If I had to, maybe I could just recommend it for how unusual it is with its combination of moe and philosophy. Or if you just need something lighter than the better fictional products that are similar to this anime. Whatever else, at least this anime is trying something new compared to the rest of the market as far as I’m aware. No bland teenage romance. No irritating isekai harems. No baby’s first mecha Number 25001. No “we want to be Madoka” cute girl deconstructions. But of course, by that logic, I’d have to recommend the new Kino’s Journey as well, and why on earth would I do that?

The execution in Girls’ Last Tour may be far superior to Kino, as well as being technically good on its own merits. But the sacrifices it made to achieve said execution are a little too much for my taste. At best, the most I can praise this anime for is that it’s a good prototype for someone to later build on so that a true masterpiece can arise. And prototypes do need love, if only so they can noticed and creators realize that there’s potential in them that can be expanded upon in future works.

I don’t know if anyone will do that with this property, as it’s not that popular for a hit anime and the critical reception is not the greatest either, with most of the really high praise only being sung by a select few prolific members of the fandom, whilst the majority who notice it just consider it good. But anime can be as unpredictable just as much as it can be very predictable, so who can really say? I mean some of the biggest hits of the year are a show about girls going camping, a show about girls going to Antarctica, and a show about girls turning into zombie idols. Who could have foreseen that after what seems like a pretty short death in retrospect, the cute girl genre would come back like this?

Not sure if you guys have seen or heard of Pale Cocoon, but this scene reminds me of that.

And remember, Girls’ Last Tour is part of that genre as well. Which means that I’m going to have to be taking these moe shows more seriously from now on, especially when they become hits. Not completely seriously of course. Just more than I used to.

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  • Girls’ Last Tour can be streamed on Amazon or Hidive.
  • And even if you did argue that Girls’ Last Tour is about a Kino-esque “ugly yet beautiful” world rather than a “beautiful yet ugly one”, you’d have to take into account that the girls have almost no means of long-term survival in said world and the attempts to appreciate the apocalypse’s good sides come off more like they’re running away from the truth.
  • For the record, I did look up the ending to the manga and all I’ve got to say to how the series concluded is “WELP!”
  • Maybe I’ll write something about the controversies at the end of the year.

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