In Girls’ Last Tour Volume 3, the series begins to take on the character of Gulliver’s Travels, although instead of finding new peoples, Chito and Yuuri find new persons, individuals colonized by their differing experiences with alienation and loneliness. In addition to these experiments in shared alienation, Chito and Yuuri journey through what seems less the shell of a human-made world than alien ruins.
Intriguingly, in Volume 3 Chito and Yuuri meet a non-human intelligence, a machine mechanic, which in a typical fictional AI fashion, paradoxically denies its own volition and awareness even as it asserts its empathy and understanding. Tsukumizu depicts this anonymous robot as unanthropomorphic as possible, putting it on stilts, and giving it what looks like a cell phone as its combination eye-stalk, proboscis, and prosthetic tail. For a self-avowed nonsentient, the anonymous robot is quite loquacious, and compared to any other character in the first three volumes, can be said to have a personal philosophy and a sense of purpose. Not unlike the ST:TNG android Data, who formed an attachment to his cat Spot, or perhaps more like Eve from Wall-E, the anonymous robot decides that a fish is worth preserving, and is satisfied to use its abilities to maintain its survival, though it admits that both itself and the fish will die one day. That the anonymous robot is satisfied with counting food pellets for a fish—a worthy task, but not what we would call an all-consuming one—is no surprise to continuing readers of Girls’ Last Tour, who are accustomed to following the drifting of two directionless nomads through a backdrop so far peopled only by another nomad, a fish, and a failed Icarus. Though the robot may not be truly alive, in Girls’ Last Tour, his degree of autonomy is miraculous.
Tsukumizu may have created a new genre with Girls’ Last Tour, the counterpart of “slice of life,” which this manga most assuredly is not, it being instead what I will call a “slack of lack,” to describe the crumbling of the slice and the famishment of the life that comprise the tales of Chito and Yuuri, tales I hesitate to call adventures, as they are more or less subsistence narratives. In slice of life, we watch the joie de vivre of the characters as they live satisfied lives; in slack of lack, we watch the frustration of the characters as they fail to live and settle at surviving in the industrial decay of a megalithic civilization’s accelerationist shadow. Even when Chito and Yuuri get lucky, find a bakery in the ruins, and stuff themselves on bread and the banality that “sweetness is happiness,” there is a sense that the focus is not the joy, but the sugar. It’s not a moral, but a metabolic reward.
While I consider myself a fan of Girls’ Last Tour, Volume 3 is my least favorite in the series. Taken as a whole, Volumes One through Three are a strong narrative, and the anonymous robot is particularly fascinating, both as a character and as a twist in the plot, but much of Volume 3 seems a little watered down compared to the excellent ideas in Volume 1 and 2. If a live action movie was made of the whole, you could discard everything except the chapters set in the bakery and with the anonymous robot. Moreover, in Volume 3, Tsukumizu occasionally forgets the understated tone that worked so well in past dialogue, though with the robot that may be a necessary component of the character. A few laggy chapters don’t discourage me from looking forward to Volume 4, and I still highly recommend this series, with the suggestion that you should start with Volume 1 if you want to have a positive experience with Volume 3.
Girls’ Last Tour arrived in stores on November 14th, 2017, and you can also buy it through this list of booksellers on the Yen Press website.
Yen Press sent the review copy.