Let’s Cook a Series: Girls’ Last Tour

I’m going to admit this right now: I got attracted to Girls’ Last Tour because of the Kettenkrad tractor the girls ride around on. The Kettenkrad was a typical World War II German tool, a half-track motorcycle (!!) used mostly to tow artillery pieces and aircraft around. A half-track motorcycle! Who the hell needs a half-track motorcycle?

Beyond the Kettenkrad, the series was very attractive at multiple levels, based around two little cutie-pie girls riding around in a post-apocalyptic landscape, just the two of them against the world for the most part. They are on a world tour: while overtly they are searching for safety from an unidentified apocalypse, narratively they are revealing the world they live in. Revealing it and reacting to it, although neither Yuu nor Chi is well-traveled or sophisticated. They are kids: they say “Oooh” a lot at the things they see.

That’s attractiveness level two: We see the sights of their world, such as it is, through their eyes.

Attractiveness level one, of course, is that they are drawn that way. As animated creations they are parallel characters in some ways: they are both naive, cute, and female. They are simply drawn with huge baby eyes (and no noses from the front); react with wonder to the world, and invite the audience to share their wonder. They are also well acted; the lead actors often sound as though they are conversing with one another, perfect for the isolation Chi and Yuu inhabit. They sound cute.

Girls Last Tour

Yummy rations. Chi (left) and Yuu.

In other ways they form a classic symmetric dyad: Chi is smart, thoughtful, shy, literate, dark-haired, short. She has the dominant personality. She is child-like, prepubescent. Yuu is strong, easily distracted, illiterate, daring, blond, tall. She does as Chi tells her. She is clearly older, and has defined (large) breasts.

Since the entire series revolves around the two of them traveling through and reacting to their environment, this works extremely well. If they weren’t so completely complementary, it would be difficult to get them through the trials they face. And trials they must face: if they were not tested in some way in every episode, the series would be too dull to bear.

But instead they have the advantages of a complementary pair: when Chi is too weak, Yuu does the physical work; when Yuu is dumbfounded, Chi thinks of something; and so on. This drives the action forward when the action needs driving.

They also stand together as a set of contradictions. They are obviously little girls, but they wear military style uniforms and steel battle helmets, and Yuu carries a rifle she is completely familiar with (it is a 6.5mm Type 38 Arisaka carbine, if anyone cares). Chi is unarmed but a trained soldier as well: when Yuu needs to make a difficult shot, she offers herself as a tripod. But what they are at war with is hidden from view: the day to day crises they face are finding water, finding fuel, finding food. They (and we) are told at the beginning that if they do not escape they will perish, and so they keep moving, always away…but away from what?

Away from death. They are soldiers fighting death, and we know who wins that battle.

Attractiveness level three is the production value. Someone spent a lot of time designing a mood appropriate to the last two humans on Earth wandering through a dying world. The colors are muted but chosen from a coherent palette. The music is especially effective. The voice acting, as above, is well done, and the pace is slow and thoughtful, consistent with the idea of two girls on their way to a destination they do not know learning about a world they do not understand

Girls’ Last Tour is not a nice story. There’s no “happy ending” we can see for Chi and Yuu. At the end they are told they are the last people left, and you and I know what that means: they don’t have a lot of time left, and neither does the human race.

Nor is it a particularly profound story: profundity is beyond what Chi and Yuu can deliver given that they are barely educated schoolgirls. But at some level, the planning level, I suspect, someone sat down and said, “This is the level this series will work at,” and then had the discipline to stick to it. They took

Attractive characters
An intriguing setting
A meta-plot in which the former explore the latter

And turned it loose.

Usually the meta-plot of this sort of story is Voyage of Discovery. Rebirth can sometimes be made to work as well, but that’s not appropriate here. You can argue that Girls’ Last Tour is Overcoming the Monster, but they (and we) never really see the monster they are fleeing. We have no idea what’s really killing the world, and that’s just as well. Chi and Yuu aren’t magical girls. If they ran into the Monster, they’d fight bravely and go down in seconds.

Nope. Voyage of Discovery. It’s a classic, and it gets the job done.

This is not a fool-proof formula. It’s easy for it to run on too long, for the thoughtful pace to grow boring, to start to throw in critters inconsistent with the setting in order to substitute action for tension. (I’m looking at YOU, Samurai Jack!) But the producers of Girls’ Last Tour avoided those potential traps.

Attractive characters
An intriguing setting
A meta-plot in which the former explore the latter

You can make that formula work, whether you call it Girls’ Last Tour or Samurai Jack or Ringworld or The Hobbit. Or Kimo’s Journey, for that matter. It’s not easy to do: “attractive” and “intriguing” are perceptions, and what the writers consider “attractive” might not work for the audience. Any one of a number of possible missteps can throw that off. But if you take the effort to put in the thought and manage to connect with an audience, you can make that formula work.

Like they did with Girls’ Last Tour.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Cook a Series: Girls’ Last Tour

  1. This was such a fun series to just follow along with. It isn’t my usual kind of thing and yet I was charmed by the characters and just found it really relaxing and interesting to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

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