What we think of when we think of death — experiences, dreams, and Girls’ Last Tour

One of the frequently-cited limitations to the human imagination is an inability to imagine certain things beyond the scope of experience. More often than not, the act of dying in a dream leads to the dreamer waking up suddenly. We know of death as a concept, but it’s difficult to imagine because there is no way to simulate the experience in real life other than actually dying. Your brain will not only instinctively fight to keep you alive, but it also — being the organ tasked with coordinating your existence — naturally eschews the idea of non-existence.

Even the weirdest, nonsensical dreams include imagery well within the context of personal experiences, it’s the juxtaposition or lack of context within the dream that makes them eerie, shocking, or grotesque. When Girls’ Last Tour‘s Chito (Chii) dreams of Yuuri (Yuu), Yuu looks as she always does aside from the fact that she’s the size of a nearby building. Chii’s dream has elements from their most recent journey — Yuu blowing over a precariously-balanced stack of rocks, the ruined cityscape — and plays on her fear of heights, which we learn about in a later episode.

It’s a simple dream, understandably scary to Chii but with elements that we’ve seen her encounter, or events that she’s lived through. As the well-read member of the wandering duo, Chii’s book knowledge informs her dreams, but she doesn’t dream of what she doesn’t know. The most outlandish thing to Chii that appears is the ocean, which she has never experienced, but pieces together based on description. The only fish that appears is a larger version of the one that they ate. The only person who appears is Yuu. When she dies after a large fish version of Yuu eats her, Chii wakes up.

Girls’ Last Tour often steeps in nostalgia and melancholy. With no immediate threat to the girls’ lives, the series differentiates itself from otherwise comparable series like Sora no Woto and School Live! where the lead characters must pay attention to a larger conflict or violent opponent. Chii and Yuu’s lives are in danger, but from slow starvation. They’re constantly on the move not because something is chasing them, but because they’ll eventually run out of food and die. The people that they come across, Kanazawa and Ishii, are each searching for their own personal reasons to live. Kanazawa has his maps, and even threatens to commit suicide when he loses them in an accident. Ishii has her airplane, which fails mid-air, leaving her drifting down into the depths of the abandoned city.

This is a series that quietly contemplates what it means to be alive, and what it means to die all while working within parameters established by its post-apocalyptic landscape.

In the same episode as Chii’s dream of death, the two girls imagine their perfect room. Again, this is influenced by what they’ve experienced. Chii tells Yuu of bunk beds, something she either saw once, or read about. Yuu’s dream pantry is filled with different types of rations, the only food she can imagine. The food on the stove is that same fish they encountered. The statue Yuu dreams of is a smaller version of the large stone statues they’ve come across in the city.

The limits of Chii and Yuu’s experiences manifest again when the two make rations in the abandoned factory. Yuu makes rations in the shape of everything she knows: herself, Chii, her grandfather, Kanazawa, Ishii, and the ubiquitous fish. Since the fish is the only organic matter aside from people and potatoes that the two have encountered, it turns up routinely when the girls are given room for creativity — in daydreams, dreams, or even baking. With so little besides flavored rations to eat, the fish’s continued presence hints at just how different and special that one meal was to Chii and Yuu.

All too often, dreams in anime are used to show off beautifully-animated landscapes, or showcase a specific quirk of a character’s personality. However, the dreams and few creative endeavors in Girls’ Last Tour reinforce the confines of Chii and Yuu’s existence while also allowing them moments to breathe. They contemplate their own existence leisurely, in a believable manner that’s reinforced throughout the series, even in their dreams.

5 comments

  1. That fish has definitely become symbolic for the girls and it is amazing how many times the show manages to have them recall the fish in some form or another. This was such a great post as it really highlights the human element of the show and really that’s why it has been so appealing so far. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m continuously surprised at how much attention to detail this show has paid to making Chii and Yuu’s experiences feel authentic. It’s rare that a series both knows when to breathe and let them experience things, while also making it believable on every level through their actions and even dreams.

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