ANIME AIRWAVES / A sense of loss at the end of the world


Chito, left, and Yuuri

By Thankyou-Tatsuo / Special to The Yomiuri ShimbunI know someone who likes looking at rooms when their owners are away because, from things placed in the room, it’s possible to guess what kind of person inhabits the space and how they live their life. Indeed, you can probably guess the personality and even the profession of the resident by looking at books on the shelves, stationery on the desk and the type of computer in the room — or how organized the room is.

The important factor here is not the physical presence of the person living in the room, but the feeling with which they imbue the space and which can be felt even when they are absent. The same can be said about the room of a deceased person. You can feel a person’s presence based on a lingering quality that indicates they were definitely there, indirectly learning about their life and thoughts in a way that is different from directly talking with or looking at them.

At first glance, TV anime “Shojo Shumatsu Ryoko” (Girls’ Last Tour) is a road movie featuring two adorable characters who simply roam together from one place to another. It also can be described as a Japanese anime interpretation of the American New Wave cinema movement. The way the characters look might even lead one to believe it’s a “moe” anime, a genre that shows a certain infatuation with cute characters. However, what is actually depicted here is a sense of loss — persons who should be there are missing, even though their life and presence can be felt in the place. And what has been lost is invaluable beyond words.

A genre of anime called “nichijo-kei” depicts characters that exist in the same ordinary, everyday world we all inhabit, adding depth to their personalities. This style is also typical of moe anime.

“Shojo Shumatsu Ryoko,” in contrast, depicts extraordinary lives as if they were ordinary, because the two girls, Chito and Yuuri, exist in an apocalyptic world in which there are no longer other human beings, just remnants of their existence. What lies before the protagonists’ eyes are a ruined city, rusty machinery that no longer works, weapons people once probably used, preserved food and various other things. Chito and Yuuri proceed on their journey aboard Kettenkrad, a tank-like vehicle, without ever knowing when and how the world ended.

The protagonists may be the last surviving human beings. Or maybe they’re showing us what the end of the world is like by serving as a kind of traveling camera. Even when the girls find a food package labeled “chocolate flavor,” they are unable to imagine its taste because they have no idea what chocolate is.

All Chito and Yuuri can do is make guesses based on the environment that surrounds them. What do the girls make of the vestiges of humanity that they find? Without any other characters and with the pair simply moving about desolate dystopian landscapes, “Shojo Shumatsu Ryoko” may be the simplest anime that has ever been produced. Serene and beautiful, it’s an anime I want to watch with absolute focus from start to finish.

“Shojo Shumatsu Ryoko” airs on Tokyo MX, BS11 and other channels.

Thankyou-Tatsuo is a manzai comedian and a linguist of the Japanese language. Speech

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