Girls’ Last Tour Volume 2 in many ways parallels the structure of Volume 1, with about a hundred pages packed with pratfalls, both the cat-and-dog physical comedy of Chito and Yuuri’s codependency and their more existential tumbles, followed by fifty pages in which their society widens to include another stranger found in the ruins, the ascetic mechanic Ishii.
Ishii is more interesting than their last companion, because she is the first person in the story to have the drive to match the purgatorial-like series of crushed civilizations that is the backdrop to Girls’ Last Tour; when she finds a hangar with parts and schematics, she teaches herself how to build an airplane. Ishii also has a larger awareness of her own mortality, though we’re not certain if this stems from an undisclosed disease or if the lifelong onset of ennui will snuff out her will to live and precipitate her suicide, for her suggestion of the malady that drives her is vague: “my resources were limited…and so is my time” (132); “..if I’m stuck here, my situation would truly be hopeless. I’d just die along with this city instead” (133). Chito and Yuuri also suspect there may be more to Ishii’s vague promise of death: “…when she said staying here would mean dying along with it…that might be true” (134).
Despite this gloomy foreboding of her own demise, Iishi clings to the significance of her aviation attempt, though she admits that whether it gets engraved in the “tail end of history” depends on whether anyone is watching. The reader may agree with Iishi’s implied judgment here that Yuuri and Chito aren’t worth counting, as we have just read a hundred pages of their existential buffoonery, such as clowning around with water music and gambling their ration sticks until Yuuri eats both Chito’s share and a rock.
Not that Ishii counts either, when her dream to fly away is foiled by the failure of her materials. When Ishii’s plane falls apart, she doesn’t act like one that has lost a struggle, but recognizes her unreality in a profound anti-epiphany, that is memorable without being pithy and speaks volumes without being very meaningful: “All those years…toiling away alone…gone in an instant…but, well, now that I’ve failed…I feel so relaxed” (149-150). Having found her place not as a cog, but a flyspeck, in the gears of history, Ishii drifts anticlimactically into the lower stratum, where Chito and Yuuri hope Ishii can not only survive on her own, but learn “…to cope with things as they come.” Hopefully, Yuuri adds, “she’s hit it off with hopelessness” (152). This moral compares well with the equally pathetic aphorism which concludes the first volume.
While Ishii was released from her troubles when her airplane crashed, the mechanic was able to prolong Chito and Yuuri’s torment by fixing their kettenkrad, so all is not lost for Girls’ Last Tour. However, if history depends on people paying attention, then Ishii’s failure was engraved on the tail end of wind, for when Chito writes in her journal about their days with Ishii, to Yuuri it could be summed up as “that history stuff,” and the chapter and this volume end a few panels thereafter (154).
When Ishii descends by parachute to the remote horizon, I hope this also means the mechanic will fall into a later chapter of Girls’ Last Tour, for she added a lot of weight to Volume 2. For Ishii, the god in the machine is dead, conflating both the deus ex machina of Greek dramaturgy and the ‘god is dead’ of Nietzchean proto-existentialism in admitting that the moral universe has not only died, but has become a gremlin that gummed up the works of her airplane. Her story remains a tragedy even after our titular stumblebums bulldoze through her narrative with their kettenkrad variety of comedy.
Girls’ Last Tour is fantastic, highly recommended, must-read manga. As the format of an ongoing manga itself, or any serial fiction, implies the hope of continuation, which is antithetical to existential despair, I had expected Girls’ Last Tour’s tone to be diminished in the second volume, and I’m pleased to report the contrary, that it is even better. While I’m curious to see how long Tsukumizu can keep this existential rope trick going, so far I’m a fan of Chito and Yuuri’s adventures.
Girls’ Last Tour Volume 2 arrives in stores on August 22nd, 2017, and if you find it sold out you can find a list of online booksellers through the Yen Press website. You can find NerdSpan’s review of Girls’ Last Tour Volume 1 through this link.
Yen Press sent the review copy.