Girls’ Last Tour Series Review: Don’t Let The Moe Characters Fool You

Overview:

Chito and Yuuri are maybe the only two people left in the world and they are travelling around without much of a destination looking for supplies. Along the way, they reflect on a number of fairly big questions about the world and life.

Review:

There’s something very special about Girls’ Last Tour. It is really hard to put into words because basically if you told me I was about to watch a slice of life anime with two overly moe girls as the leads and there wouldn’t really be an overarching narrative or any other real characters I’d probably start backing away before bolting from the room. It sounds toxically boring and unappealing to me. Yet having started episode 1 of this show, after the first few minutes of initial mis-givings having seen the characters for the first time (I went in pretty blind), I found myself captivated by this charming duo, their antics, the world they were exploring and as the episodes progressed I realised that this anime packed a lot of depth into a very simple looking package.

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Girls’ Last Tour utilises its fairly simple setting, pleasant aesthetics, and adorable leads to delve into some pretty dark subject matter at times. The two leads regularly have opposing viewpoints or both lack understanding of an issue which leads to some really interesting exchanges and because of the choice of young and inexperienced characters the show is not interested in giving the audience an answer to anything but rather has the characters draw conclusions and leaves the audience to consider the validity of their underlying assumptions. Of course, an addictively cute opening and lighter moments scattered along the journey are welcomed as they provide a breath of fresh air preventing the story from getting bogged down under the weight of the themes it attempts to tackle.

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From a narrative point of view, this story doesn’t really have a beginning or an end. It doesn’t really need one either. While the final episode will give some information about how the girls began their journey, it isn’t necessary. They are travelling together and have been for some time when we encounter them in episode one. Their journey will continue on beyond episode 12. While we are with them, a momentary encounter between the audience and the girls much like their encounters with the few characters that do exist in the show beyond them, we see how their experiences affect them and their journey but there is no clear goal or end point in this story.

And really, what could there be?

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This story isn’t about the girls trying to track down some signal promising refuge from whatever disaster has befallen the world or about them trying to connect with other survivors. It isn’t about them trying to undo the damage or save the world from further deterioration. It is simply their day to day as they try to survive and while that could be as boring as watching grass grow the execution of this very simple idea is nothing short of brilliant.

The two girls, as the only characters of note (they do have two episodes where they intersect with other survivors but these pass quickly), do a remarkable job. Mostly that is because of the fantastic chemistry between them as well as the audiences’ ability to relate to both of these characters. We may not be a Chito or a Yuuri but we certainly know one or the other (or both) in our lives, and watching these two characters explore their world is mostly a pure joy.

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However, the darker undertones are what really sold this show to me. The world undeniably has gone through hell before we encounter these characters and we slowly get hints and clues as to what has occurred though never an exposition dump much to the shows’ credit. Over explaining is a trap that a lot of shows fall into and if you were trying to tell a story about saving the world you would definitely need more information. However, for the story this is trying to tell, we get more than enough and it is better because of the details we are able to fill in for ourselves.

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But it isn’t just the setting that has some darkness in it. Chito and Yuuri have grown up in this hostile environment and have been on their own for awhile. Their morals and attitudes at times present some interesting conundrums. Yuuri’s early explanation to Chito as to why she should carry a gun doesn’t seem all that hostile while viewing the episode and yet Yuuri’s words could have undermined a fragile trust between the pair and a falling out over food isn’t that unbelievable an outcome. As Yuuri is the only one armed of the pair, you have to wonder whether Chito is concerned about this threat a number of times during the series.

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Equally, Yuuri is often reckless whereas Chito freezes in situations where swift action is needed. Both characters could often have ended up in significant strife if left alone without the balance of the other.

Outside of this, we see their general lack of purpose and goals beyond feeding themselves. They see and compare their lives to a spiral staircase where they endlessly repeat the same actions. In later episodes, Yuuri’s reaction to an explosion is incredibly troubling and yet at the same time not so surprising.

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Contrasting these darker moments with the lighter moments such as Chito getting drunk and dancing, or the girls creating something akin to music through the use of tins and raindrops, and what you have is a show that moves you emotionally and knows how to leave a lasting impact.

All and all, this show was a fantastic surprise from the Autumn season and one I fully recommend trying. While the slow pace and the absence of a strong overall narrative may turn some away, there’s more than enough going on here to recommend it. Definitely one to check out if you missed it.


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Karandi James

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Mitsuboshi Colours Episode 1: More Cute Girls

Overview:

The adventures of the Colors include struggling to be heard, playing games, solving puzzles, and outsmarting some adults, all before nightfall! What will happen to them when reality starts rearing its ugly head?

– From HiDive

Review:

I’ve probably already over-saturated my brain with cute girls this season and so in fairness, this one didn’t get much of a chance. Then again, it is cute girls being cute and running around trying to keep the town safe, have fun, and maybe tease the local police-man. It works well for what it is but I just found myself counting down the minutes until this one was done.

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The cat was adorably panda like, and the game obsessed girl was my favourite character, but even then there was just nothing really grabbing me about this episode. Not even bringing out the rocket launcher did much to engage me.

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So this one is a pass from me. There’s nothing overly wrong with the show and I’m certain some people will find the girls’ antics adorable but I’m just going to let it go.


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Laid-Back Camp Episode 1: Cute Girls Do Camping

Overview:

Girl goes camping and finds another girl sleeping outdoors. End up sharing camp site before older sister collects outdoor sleeping girl. Then outdoor sleeping girl transfer to other girl’s school.

Review:

This is another perfectly fine set up episode if you happen to like what it is setting up. If cute school girls who go camping together sounds like it will be great fun then this introduction to characters who are clearly going to join the club later works just fine.

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This first episode did have the added advantage of some beautiful scenery with Mount Fuji featured prominently. Unfortunately, that was about it for things that caught my attention given I wasn’t particularly interested in their lesson on how to make a fire (given sneezing starts fires where I live it isn’t exactly something I struggle with).

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That said, if you are into the cute girls do whatever kind of shows, this one seems like a fair enough candidate for the season. For me it isn’t a definite drop but it isn’t high on my priority list and probably won’t end up on my final watch list.


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School-Live Series Review: Does a Zombie/Cute-Girl Mash Up Actually Work?

Overview – Spoilers if you haven’t seen the show:

The School Live club are a club that live at school. They sleep there, they eat there, they attend classes there, and they check the barricades to make sure they are alone there. Yes, this is another zombie story however School-Live decides to combine the cute girl genre in anime with zombie horror and the results are kind of interesting.

I started watching this after reading D’s initial impressions when they watched the show about two months ago. I’ve also posted my episodic thoughts previously so if you are interested check them out, but be aware of spoilers if you read beyond the first post.

Review:

As I said above, I initially started this anime after reading about it on D’s blog. I’d heard about it before but never paid a lot of attention. The art for it with the cute girls in school uniforms (even if they were hanging around a decrepit school room) just didn’t really leap out and say it was a must watch.

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I mean, you’ve got all your cliché’s in one. The pink haired and bubbly girl. The tough girl who is actually really sweet and loyal. The conservative girl that ends up being used for fan-service way too often. And then the serious leader type girl who acts like everyone’s big sister. Throw in a cute puppy and there you go.

Then again, it is also a zombie anime. I don’t know about you, but if I were taking bets on who would survive a zombie apocalypse, group of cute girls in a high school with a puppy wouldn’t be my first pick. Even after watching the anime I’m still not convinced on this point. Given only one of them actually ever even carries any kind of weapon for defense (until the very end), and one of the characters seem perpetually stuck in her own fantasy land where normal classes are continuing and all her friends are still alive, you kind of  have to just accept the basic premise that these girls through a series of coincidences did survive and for some sort of reason the school seemed prepared to house survivors in the case of a zombie outbreak. They never really get back to that point though so if you are after a full explanation of the reason why you will walk away disappointed.

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My overall thoughts after watching this anime are that I absolutely loved it until the half-way point. The first six episodes were brilliant. The direction, the way the reveals were handled, the characterisation, everything just worked. There were some really clever choices made and there was suspense, laughter, and enough creepy horror to keep you completely engaged even during the more mundane meal sequences and playing around the girls got up to.

Then we went into the second half. Three of these episodes kind of just focussed on the cute girl aspects and they kind of lost the suspense and mystery. The show that had balanced its elements nicely (or at least in a way that was highly entertaining) suddenly seemed to throw itself far too far toward the cute girls hanging around a school mode. These episodes dragged and just didn’t hold my interest. Even the direction, which had been exceptional earlier on, kind of became fairly ordinary during this sequence of episodes.

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Then the final three episodes switched again and went into full blown zombie horror. Admittedly, as a bigger fan of horror than slice of life and cute girls, I liked these episodes much more but that unique feeling where these two aspects were working together that had been so prominent during the first half of the series was gone.

I mentioned earlier that there are plenty of mysteries about the school and about the zombie outbreak that will never be solved. That isn’t a deal breaker for this show. This show isn’t looking at a government response to the outbreak or following a group of scientists or someone involved in the release of the virus. This show follows four high school girls just trying to live (not just survive). The distinction between living and survival comes up a number of times throughout the series. Sometimes it is addressed carefully and subtly and other times it just kind of smacks you in the face (Kei leaving Miki behind in the mall being one of them).

Because of the characters we are watching and their limited knowledge and limited access to knowledge there’s a lot we’ll never know about this world, and that’s okay. This story is built on tropes. Audiences know what cute girls in high school should get up to. These girls take a field trip, visit the library, do some gardening, have a sports festival, and camp out, a pool party, and more or less anything else you would expect from that sort of story. Audiences know what to expect from zombie horror. There’s been an outbreak. Does it actually matter why? Unless the story is focussed on finding a cure, I’d say probably not.

Yet, that reliance on the audience knowing the genres is also a weakness in the story.

And we’re plunging headlong into final episode spoilers so please bail out now if that’s an issue.

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Toward the end the girls learn that the highschool was prepared for a zombie outbreak, including the possibility of a cure for the recently infected being hidden in a sub-basement. This essentially tips the hand of the remaining plot (what little there is) as one of the four receives a bite  from a zombie. Not because she was overwhelmed but because of who the zombie had previously been and her inability to bash the brains out of a former friend (another issue the story touches on that I’ll get back to). Admittedly, this character getting bitten had been foreshadowed far earlier when she’d made the leader of the group promise to kill her in an instant if she got infected. Seriously, raise a death flag much.

Rather than actually follow through on the promise, the girls work together to get the antidote that essentially serves as the most convenient deus ex machina ever given why does this exist? Why is it in the school? Why isn’t there more of it already made if people were expecting and preparing for a zombie outbreak? It kind of kills any tension or suspense for this final sequence of events.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t something there though.

Delusional girl has finally snapped to reality and realises her friends are in big trouble because there are zombies. Turns out though that even when she’s in the real world, she has some interesting ways of viewing things. Instead of going gung-ho zombie killer, she makes her way to the school announcement room (or whatever it was called) and essentially tells the zombies she knows they love school but it is time to go home. And they leave.

This is probably the best thing School-Live does in the second half of the series. Even in the first half the girls had observed that the zombies seemed to be repeating events from their life, drawn to things they liked or did, and certain zombies in particular seem to act to protect things. This idea of zombies not being entirely brain-dead and having some part of their original personality isn’t new, but it is kind of interesting and throws a whole moral spanner in the works of shows where zombies exist only to be mowed down in interesting and violent ways. I’m going to touch on this later in an actual feature post rather than getting into that discussion now.

Alright, I’m done with spoilers.

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Basically, this anime works incredibly well. The first half is superior to the second in terms of cohesion, tone and suspense, but the second half isn’t exactly a train wreck. In fact, it manages to pull out some great character moments, asks some interesting questions, and while the ultimate resolution isn’t perfect there really wasn’t any other way for the show to end given the initial premise.

I’m glad I spent some time at school with these girls. I’m glad I watched it all the way through. I’ll probably do a rewatch someday and I think that despite my issues with the second half that this is an anime worth checking out.


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School-Live Episodes 7 – 9

Review:

After such an incredibly strong and interesting first half, I guess it was inevitable that something would falter and these three episodes kind of bring a lull. It isn’t that things aren’t happening here but the focus after the reveal has definitely been on the cute girl aspect of this show. Cute girls writing letters and thinking of their future and cute girls messing around in a water tank (swim suits part two for the season).

School7In honesty there is nothing wrong with this. The characters are in a horrible position and they are making the most of it. There have always been these cutesy moments and they add to the enjoyment of the horror because you actually see what these characters would have been like if, you know, zombies hadn’t taken over.

However, I’ll swing my focus to the new mystery brewing and I’m less enthralled by it than I was over the question of whether the teacher were alive or dead. That mystery was clever and felt really genuine whereas this current one feels like they are over-complicating their plot and that its going to make it very hard to stick the landing in a satisfying manner. Essentially, the non-delusional girls in the club have been wondering about all the conveniences of this school that make survival even possible and with the discovery of a key they unearth an emergency evacuation plan for staff that kind of indicates that whoever was running the school knew a zombie plague was coming.

Why?

Just why?

If you don’t tell me how the zombie outbreak started, I genuinely won’t care. Somehow, somewhere, an infection started and now we have zombies. These girls are just kids trying to survive. It makes sense that they don’t know why that happened or who started it so an audience member I don’t need to know either. However, if you try to tell me a high school was involved in some sort of national or global conspiracy involving biological agents and you are pushing my ability to suspend disbelief. They might still do something with this that I can go along with but I am now kind of worried for where the last three episodes are going to go.

I’ve really enjoyed watching this but I am hoping that it manages to end well. And by well I mean horrifically but that’s just me.


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WorldEnd Episode 2

Review:

As a single episode, this particular one is not impressive. Then again, episode 1, while highly entertaining and beautiful, didn’t really give us any details of the girls or what they were doing. Episode 2 fills in those gaps, but the end result is a lot of exposition and slightly flat dialogue. Despite that, episode 2 manages to find its moments of charm particularly early on as Willem works to win the girls over as most of the children are outright avoiding him to start with.

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The way it builds up to Willem understanding that the girls aren’t ‘normal’ (by whatever means he uses to judge) works well and while the dialogue isn’t great, it does the job and we more or less get the situation the girls are in by the end of the episode. With the exception of the final sequence where Chtholly basically has an orgasm after receiving a massage from Willem, they are keeping the overtly fanservice moments minimised considering the set up and the cast.

Despite this episode being weaker, i’m still quite hopeful for the story as this world gets more fleshed out.

WorldEnd (SukaSuka) is available on Crunchyroll.


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Alice & Zoroku Episode 2

Review:

While episode 1 awkwardly merged a facility escape drama with slice of life grandfather character meets cute girl, episode 2 decidedly falls into the slice of life and cute girls category. While the grandfather phones in his parts (literally), the people from the facility sit around in a hotel room and accomplish nothing for the episode, and the episode very much focusses on Alice’s meeting with Zoroku’s granddaughter, Sanae.

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It’s adorable and all but other than seeing the catalyst for Alice running from the facility in a very exposition heavy flashback we learn nothing about her power or the facility or what the ultimate point of the show is. Instead we get treated to a swarm of pigs, hot cakes, and then a free tour of the world (including cute penguins).

That said, it is still kind of interesting enough to give another episode but this one is dropping on my priority list and will need to have a fairly solid third episode if I’m going to keep going with it.

Alice & Zoroku is available on Crunchyroll.


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Friday’s Feature: Betraying My Own Expectations as a Viewer

Admittedly, this is not so much a feature as a ramble.

If you were to ask me directly what kind of anime I liked and didn’t like most of my regular readers already know that I would put comedy, slice of life, and cute girls doing anything pretty much on the side of generally not liked and horror and darker anime on the side of anime I quite enjoy. Shounen titles and drama tend to fall somewhere in the middle depending on their focus.

So imagine my surprise as I began the process of finalising my picks for reviewing this Spring and realised quite an odd trend. With the exception of Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia (both of which are only medium priority because while I’ll enjoy them well enough neither one had a first season that I would add to my list of favourite anime ever – with these I watch, I enjoy, I move on) the majority of the titles I’ve picked are pretty low key and there’s a lot of cute going on. Though I will admit I’m not even going to try to classify Kado at this point because I have no idea what that is going to become.

Starting with the sequels: I’ve got Natsume Yuujinchou which can only be described as a slice of life with a supernatural paint job just to give me enough justification to say that I’m watching a fantasy rather than a slice of life (it’s a slice of life, I’ve more or less accepted that) and then The Eccentric Family which is much the same. Slice of life with a supernatural paint job. Just for an added weirdness, The Eccentric Family relies heavily on comedy and for some reason I still didn’t run for the hills but actually loved the first season.

The other two titles I’ve pretty much decided on are both fantasy. I’ll insist that forever but both of them also feature healthy doses of cute girls and other suspiciously cute characters and objects. Granblue Fantasy and WorldEnd have both given me enough reason to smile while watching that I’m going to continue. I don’t know if I’ll end up regretting those choices but for now it seems like a reasonable call.

Admittedly, I still have a whole bunch of other titles to decide on before I have a final list, but there’s an interesting number of comedy, slice of life and cute coming through this season. Meanwhile, some of the more action focussed shows have been pretty bland (through to awful) in their first episodes and in terms of horror there’s pretty much nothing going on (The World Yamizukan did not appeal).

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Of course, this is why I don’t make a watch list before the season starts. Just because something ticks a genre box doesn’t mean I’m going to like it and if I didn’t at least try some of these other shows I really would miss out on things that I end up loving.

I watched the first episode of Natsume after seeing a random screen cap of one of the yokai in the show. I remember the feeling of being disappointed as the soft music played and the pastel colours filled the screen. Then I remember getting to the end of the first episode and immediately skipping to episode 2. And then binge watching the whole first season in a single afternoon.

Add to this the fact that I kind of enjoyed the first episode of Eromanga Sensei and either my taste has completely warped recently or some of these first episodes managed to execute ideas I would normally find repellent in an interesting manner (of course that doesn’t bode well for me finishing the season).

Spring 2017 is going to be a weird season for me in terms of reviewing and I’m still not sure what my final list looks like but hopefully it will be fun discussing all of the shows with everyone.


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