We wrapped up watching Girls’ Last Tour for #AniTwitWatches a couple of weeks ago and it has taken me that long to put my feelings together about the show.
For those of you who don’t know, #AniTwitWatches is a group of folks led by Jon Spencer Reviews, who watch a show and talk about it every Monday on Twitter. We started watching Wandering Son, which is either going to be a show I’ll love or a show I won’t love.
Anyways, obligatory plug aside, I’m not going to review the show. If you want to watch it, I think you should watch it. There is nothing patently offensive about it. It’s reasonably well-directed, and it’s interesting to watch. I don’t love it or hate it.
No, what I really want to start talking about is Yuu. I recently had a realization. Yuu is the moral center of the Girls’ Last Tour. She is the character who really is “right” according to the text of the show.
Yes. I can hear everyone saying, “But she blows up an entire city,” or “She does horrible, irresponsible things seemingly without conscious.”
And you’re right. By all rights, Chi has the ethical high ground in the show. She is the voice of “reason.” But she’s also a coward, who only acts to protect others when she’s pushed into the situation to do it.
What is strange is that while Chi has knowledge, it doesn’t make any difference. What does it matter if she keeps journals if she doesn’t really understand the world around her? Her intelligence makes her a coward. It often makes her a victim. She isn’t even really able to help herself or Yuu with it.
I could take this further out onto this limb and point out that she has all of this knowledge, but rarely can read the signs or knows where they are. Her books are almost more of a fetish then they are really representing knowledge.
So sure, she “knows” better, but she rarely acts on it. She’s rarely the one to offer comfort.
Chi is a good person, in the sense that we are all good people. We follow the rules because not following the rules is scary and difficult.
On the other hand, Yuu puts herself between Chi and a falling building. She feels empathy for the robot in Episode 9 that she has to destroy.
She might not be a “good” person in a classical sense, but she represents the best and worst of humanity. She is the show’s moral lodestone
So why does that matter?
Well to talk about that, I have to talk about Waiting for Godot.
Waiting for Godot of the Wastelands
When I started watching Girls’ Last Tour, I called it Waiting for Godot of the Wastelands.
It was a tongue-in-cheek and, honestly, disingenuous reference. I had never seen Waiting for Godot. All I knew was that it had two men sitting by the side of the road, having conversations and well… waiting for Godot, who — spoilers for a 70-year-old play, I guess — never shows up.
The more I watched of Girls’ Last Tour though, the more I became convinced that I needed to watch Samuel Beckett’s famous absurdist play.
So that’s what I did.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the play, it revolves around Vladimir (also called Didi) and Estragon (also called Gogo) as they sit on the side of the road waiting for GOD-oh. The emphasis is placed on the first syllable in the version I watched.
Vladimir largely drives the action in the play as first he argues with Gogo and then has a strange rich man, Pozzo, and his strange slave, Lucky, visit.
The pair leaves, but not until Lucky (who is mostly silent) is told to “think,” but gives a long line of gibberish that makes the other characters so miserable that they need to shut him up. It was really a beautiful scene.
A young boy then approaches and tells them that Godot isn’t coming today, but surely tomorrow he will be there.
The second act follows a similar structure. Pozzo and Lucky return, only now Pozzo is miserable and blind. They don’t remember being there the day before.
The wait this day ends much like the day before. With a boy showing up, and saying that Godot won’t be there today either. The boy also doesn’t remember being there the day before.
And Didi wonders how many days they’ve been having that same conversation.
None of the conversations really lead anywhere. This isn’t a story in a classical sense. Sure there is a plot, but there’s no conclusion. The characters don’t really have desires per se. The characters often contradict themselves and it often verges on a Monty Python level of slapstick.
I’m not doing a great job of recapping everything that goes on or why it’s important, but I really want to highlight that this is a play saying that nothing is really important. It’s absurd in the same way that Existentialists talk about the absurd. Everything is fundamentally ridiculous. The only meaning is meaning that we, as humans, apply to the world.
Girls’ Last Tour is absurd in a very similar way.
There are columbarium the size of skyscrapers, factories made from mazes of pipes and a dry-docked submarine miles away from water. We have a factory there they grow bread-like potatoes, and an endless city that forever reaches to the sky.
Even this world’s “gods” are beings that suck the energy out of the world and will eventually leave it as a dry husk.
It’s a world where nothing makes sense and the only thing you can do is to embrace the hopelessness of it all.
And here’s why it’s important that Yuu is the moral center of the show. Because she is the one carrying its central message that people need to “get along with hopelessness.”
Why does it matter?
To really understand what it means to “get along with hopelessness,” we need to talk a little bit about Albert Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus. While I disagree with this gentleman’s assertion that Existentialism is just atheism, I do think he does a good job of explaining the connection between Camus and Beckett.
What is important is that Camus posits that fundamentally what we do every day is meaningless. So we can either try to find some way to apply a meaning to it or we can revel in its meaninglessness.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Both Beckett and Camus are arguing that existence itself doesn’t have a reason. We are all waiting for GOD-oh, constantly assaulted by Pozzos, forced to listen to Lucky’s nonsense and contemplating hanging ourselves with a flimsy belt from a sickly tree.
We are all pushing a giant boulder up a hill all day only to see it roll back down when we near the peak.
We are all journeying through an empty landscape of unfamiliar shapes and unrecognizable and nonsensical designs.
Yuu much like Sisyphus is saying that we have a choice. We can fight against that meaninglessness by trying to apply reason to it. Essentially we can be Chi. Or we can embrace the hopelessness of it all and enjoy what we’re doing now.
As always, thanks for reading.