If there’s one show that has stuck with me from last year, it’s definitely Girl’s Last Tour.
The post-apocalyptic, cute-girls-doing-cute-things show wouldn’t usually be to my taste, but the charm that the series has, along with it’s resonant themes and characterisation were enough to win me over and steal my heart. But this post isn’t about how good the show is – there will be plenty of posts about that soon, believe me – but rather about how White Fox and rookie director Takaharu Ozaki approached adapting Tsukumizu’s original manga for television.
I first got interested in reading the manga after I had watched the anime once I followed Tsukumizu on Twitter, and saw her unique artstyle in the art that she sometimes posts. In general, the visual identity of the manga is very distinct from the anime, which means that it can communicate things only the medium of manga is capable of.
Firstly, almost all of her artwork seems more like a sketch, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because of this, her artstyle is much better able to communicate the ruggedness of the post-apocalyptic world, since her line art is rough rather than refined, giving objects and characters less of a defined outline than normal. Yet, this wouldn’t have translated well into the animated medium, since both viewers and animators themselves are used to more defined artwork with sharper outlines. Thus, director Ozaki took the decision to not emulate Tsukumizu’s artstyle, which does leave a key part of the original manga’s appeal missing from the anime, but most likely made the production process much easier, so you can hardly fault the director’s decision.
Another aspect missing from the anime, if at least only in feeling, is the sense of scale that the original manga is able to communicate so well. In the manga, Yuri and Chito are often placed in extreme long shots, rendering them barely visible among the scenery. This reinforces the series’ main theme of insignificance and hopelessness, as well as communicates a key part of the futuristic setting where humanity has retreated into huge, multi-layered, fully automated cities. Even so, the anime does not feature as many of these shots, at least not in the same extreme long shot scale, instead preferring to use long shots. Most likely, this was done to refrain from confusing the viewer, at least in the mind of the director, who has only worked on the Persona 5 Animation: The Day Breakers short previously and therefore probably doesn’t have enough confidence or experience to dare risk confusing the viewer. Plus, it’s unlikely that it would create the same feeling since these scenes are so intrinsically linked to the way the medium of manga is experienced.
Panelling is the framework through which any story is presented in manga, and these extreme long shots rely on the way a reader’s eye makes it’s way through these panels. Very often, these extreme long shots are placed on a double page spread, which adds to the gravity of those shots the shock of suddenlty turning the page to a double page spread. This is but one aspect of the inherent differences between the medium of manga and that of anime, which ultimately affects the way in which the story can be presented visually. In the end, it is because Tsukumizu uses ink and pen (or the digital equivalent) that she is able to create such sketchy visuals, which ultimately become part of the appeal of the manga. Furthermore, because she is only drawing a still frame and not drawing the many frames that make up a piece of animation, she does not have to think about how her characters will look in motion – after all, maintaining complicated lines in motion would be a tough job, no matter how experienced the animator. Furthermore, the anime cannot rely on the mechanics of reading, and must instead obey the principles of cinematography – making emulating the extreme long shots in the same way an unachievable task, since viewers must be guided into and through a scene with careful editing, utilising establishing shots and the line of action, to prevent confusion.
This gives both the manga and anime a distinct visual identity. On the one hand, the manga’s sketchy artstyle and sense of scale does gives weight to the theming and aesthetic of the series, but at the same time there are inherent differences in the mediums of manga and anime that necessate some visual changes. These differences also mean that each medium has different strengths, of which the anime adaptation skilfully demonstrates the potential of several.
Animation, of course, is the main strength of the animated medium, and it is used relatively well in the anime, even if it not in a groundbreaking way. The main source of humour in the original manga, Yuri, is made much funnier in the manga thanks to the comedic animation of those working at White Fox. Her wacky mannerisms are given much more character and humour when seen in motion, as well as many of the jokes surrounding both Yuri and Chito’s rubber-like anatomy, since we can actually see their faces and bodies move like rubber. Furthermore, the motion of animation does help heighten the tension in some scenes, such as the elevator breaking with Kanazawa in episode three and the girls’ narrow escape from falling in episode eight.
Sound is another strength of the animated medium that is used well here. When used correctly, sound – absent from printed media – can elevate a scene and improve it even beyond the original source material. As a result, several key scenes in the series are much better in the anime. My personal favourite ‘episode’ when I first watched the anime, ‘Temple’ (episode four), was much more dazzling with the addition of music, sound effects, and particularly voice acting than in the manga. Ishii’s failure in making a plane was also much more striking and impactful in the anime, when the music cut out while the plane blew up, and then kicked in once more as Yuri and Chito saw her parachute had deployed. Furthermore, entire scenes would be impossible without sound – particularly ‘The Sound of Rain’ in episode five, where the scene was extended from the manga to take advantage of the fact that we could actually hear the sounds of the rain and the music it was creating, making it again much more enjoyable and impactful.
It’s not like the original manga suffers from not having sound or not being animated, since it takes advantage of it’s own medium in effective ways as highlighted with the visual presentation of the original, but the anime does use these two tools to help elevate the original source material and ultimately make several scenes more impactful and enjoyable. To better take advantage of these tools, aspects of certain scenes were changed, which is absolutely critical for any adaptation, as certain things only work in certain mediums. In general, director Ozaki made many smart decisions in how he changed the original manga for his anime adaptation, but also may have been helped a little by luck.
Firstly, some scenes were extended beyond the scope of the original manga in order to better establish the mood. Ozaki doesn’t do this by adding in original content, but instead prefers to linger on the action and the characters far more than Tsukumizu ever did. ‘Moonlight’, or the scene where Yuri and Chito drink alcohol and dance in the moonlight, is one key example of this, as Ozaki lets the shots of the two characters dancing and smiling linger for much longer than in the manga, where the antics of drunk Yuri and Chito only take up about four pages. In addition, the scene where Yuri and Chito accidentally activate a futuristic death robot’s laser, destroying a part of the city and leading them to ponder the realities of war and destruction is rendered much more effective as the anime lingers on the scenes of the city burning a little bit longer, allowing the terror and sadness to set in much more than in the manga.
In general, the manga feels much more hectic and fast paced than the anime. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in fact it makes reading the scenes already covered by the anime much more palatable. But on the whole, the anime feels much more relaxed, and this allows the mood and tone to be piled on much more effectively, essentially bathing the reader in a warm bath of aesthetic. In turn, the relationships formed with the characters become much stronger than the manga, suggesting that reading the manga first results in a less memorable and impactful experience than watching the anime. I highly doubt that anyone who read the manga first would be into the series as I am currently, having watched the anime first, because the anime allowed me to take my time and slowly take in the atmosphere, mood and characters of the series. I will accept, however, that this may have something to do with the fact that I read the manga quite fast in a few short sittings and watched the anime weekly as it was airing, but I am a pretty slow reader when compared with other people, and I did end up marathoning the last three episodes of the show when I got behind a little during my move to Japan. Therefore, I feel that the anime is much better as a starting point in terms of getting you invested in the series, because it is much more laid back.
This laid back atmosphere most likely stems from the fact that the anime adapts the manga’s events in the same order as they were written, with only one variation – swapping chapter twenty (‘Moonlight’) and twenty-one (‘Spiral’) around in episode eight.
At first, this may seem like a tell-tale sign of a lazy adaptation, but in actual fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. We already know that the anime makes good use of the strengths of the medium in it’s use of music, sound and animation to adapt and elevate the content of the original. Therefore, it seems that director Ozaki was either very lucky in that the order of events in the manga worked perfectly when adapted (with one exception), or simply had enough faith in the source material to advance without feeling the need to make any changes. Whatever the answer may be, the anime doesn’t suffer from the same pacing issues that many one-to-one adaptations like it do – each episode feels just long enough, aided by the extension of some scenes as mentioned. Furthermore, Ozaki was clever in choosing which chapters to put into each episode, as each one is afforded enough time by placing certain chapters in groups of either two or three per episode. And when the continuity between ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Spiral’ didn’t make sense – since the sudden jump in location does feel a bit sudden, even in the manga – either Ozaki or the episode director swapped them around. All in all, the anime is a rare example of an effective one-to-one adaptation, although there is a clear downside.
Using this method, it was clear that the anime would never reach the end of the manga. Even though only five volumes out of the eventual six were out at the time of airing, it wouldn’t have been unbelievable for Tsukumizu to tell Ozaki the ending she had planned so that he could catch up to the end of the manga for the end of the anime. As it stands however, the anime only reached up until the end of volume four, with Chito and Yuri learning on the submarine of the existence of the weapon-eating aliens; that they are cleaning the Earth of harmful substances for rehabitation once more; and, crucially, that they are alone in this city. On the one hand, this ending does reinforce the hopelessness of the series, as Chito and Yuri learn that their journey is ultimately meaningless. But it may disappoint some viewers, as they never attained their goal of reaching the top of the city, and that the alien’s proclamations are undermined by the fact that Yuri and Chito encountered Ishii and Kanazawa on their journey, casting doubt on it’s claim that they are alone in the city.
As of the time of writing, I have yet to get my hands on the last volume of the manga – it seems to be sold out everywhere – so I don’t know how the anime’s ending stacks up to the original ending, but I doubt my opinion on the ending will change much. Overall, the depressiveness of the ending does fit with the tone of the series, and it makes the anime feel complete, as Chito and Yuri’s ‘arc’ of wanting to reach the top of the city has effectively concluded, since they no longer have a goal. Regardless, the fact that the story continues in the manga beyond the anime is just another reason for anime viewers to read the original and appreciates it’s strengths, but also how it differs from the anime, as I did.
It may seem like a bit of a cop out, but this time I’m not going to come down decisively on either adaptation in terms of which one is better. Both of them have their strengths and are about the same in terms of quality. In terms of aesthetic and visual presentation, the manga is more striking and unique, but the use of sound and animation in the anime helps elevate and improve the content of the manga in some places. Ultimately, it’s more likely that you’re going to watch the anime, since the manga hasn’t been fully translated yet by Yen Press, and the scanlations are missing a bunch of chapters along with the usual translation errors. And, honestly, that’s fine – any way you can join Yuri and Chito on their final journey is a good way.
As I said in the post, there are a couple more Girl’s Last Tour posts coming in the near future, so look forward to that. I’m really obsessed with this series right now – I even bought a 12000 yen coat because it was a replica of the ones from the show. Hopefully I’ve appeased those obsessed just like me, or at least given you an insight into how the adaptation was handled. As always, let know what you thought down below or via Twitter.