[content warning: attempted suicide in fiction]
[As a heads up, I am assuming some familiarity with the material. Also, I wrote this between a Japanese print edition of the manga, an English Kindle edition, and the relevant episode from the anime so I’ve mixed up the sourcing on the quotes — some come from the English manga, some from the anime subtitles, and some from my own translation of the Japanese. Sorry to any source sticklers, but they should be inter-changeable!]
In chapter 7 of the manga Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, also episode 3 of the anime) the map-maker Kanazawa gives one of the series’ few outside, adult observations of the two lead girls. While Chii and Yuu work to fill up the gas tanks for their Kettenkrad vehicle, along with an extra barrel to take them farther through the ruined city, Kanazawa glances up from his maps and notices how unexpectedly clever the girls are at surviving the apocalypse:
Notice how the page further emphasizes the girls’ childishness: Chii’s over-sized sleeves encroach on her gloves and Yuu makes plopping sounds while guiding the gasoline into the funnel (in Japanese, she onomatopoeias “to to to t-” along with the barrel filling “toro toro toro”). Juxtaposed against Kanazawa’s introduction as a smoker and his tall, long figure, the chapter reminds the audience that the girls really are still just… girls. In Kanazawa’s eyes perhaps, take away Chii and Yuu’s military uniforms and they look less like intrepid travelers than street urchins digging through the detritus of a lost civilization that they never knew.
The girl’s childishness against Kanazawa’s adulthood sets up an interesting contrast between the maturity of their thought on the existential question established at the beginning of the previous chapter, when Chii asks: “I wonder, why do people live?”
Kanazawa ruminates on the question because, in his maturity, he has had the time to do so, especially since he has travelled for so long alone (“it’s been so long since I spoke”). He even reaches a conclusion: without his maps to give his life purpose, he would surely die. Kanazawa has already lived the girls’ adventure and experienced the extent of the post apocalypse (“I rode all over on my motorbike. I’d climb to high places, see where thing’s are”). He has reached the end of his journey or, at the very least, knows where it will end. Without his maps to drive him, he has nowhere else to go.
By contrast, the girls have only just begun to consider the question and, when Chii does ask, Yuu knocks the idea out of her skull with a hefty swack from the butt of her rifle:
When Kanazawa brings up the issue again later down the road (“You girls must have something you live for, don’t you?”), neither girl has an answer. Yuu suggests that Chii lives for her journals but Chii says no, not really, I could live without them (Yuu just finished destroying her books two chapters ago!). And Chii says that Yuu would die for her food but Yuu replies that no, not really, that’s not true (and she later proves it when she shares her ration with Kanazawa).
But if Kanazawa has more mature thoughts on the issue, he does not necessarily have more correct thoughts. Yuu’s total thoughtlessness – total childishness – saves his life from the despair of losing his maps when she offers him a piece of her food ration and encourages him to look at the pretty lights across a vista of the destroyed city. Yuu gives one of her catchphrases about living without purpose: “Even if it’s meaningless, sometimes nice things happen.” Either her kindness or her words or the view affect Kanazawa; the bubbles of light bouncing in his glasses evoke an image of tears even if he maybe doesn’t cry:
Kanazawa realizes that despite losing his maps, he can still continue the map-making quest that gives him some subtle joy (when the group discovers a new location, Yuu observes: “You seem kinda excited, Kanazawa. All full of life”). In the last panels of the chapter, he parts with Yuu’s wisdom to begin mapping the new level of the city while the girls themselves – still children — go off to explore the shiniest thing in sight.
However, the chapter has a post-script that hints that Yuu is not fully correct either. Alone again, and able to ruminate again, Kanazawa thinks to himself “How far can I get on foot..?” Sure, he will keep going, as far as he can, now without purpose like the girls. More immediate to the chapter too, he will no longer consider killing himself over his misfortunes.* But he doesn’t have a source of food, or a vehicle to find one. He can’t lose sight of that inevitable end either.
He can’t de-mature.
* [Emil Cioran: “It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.” Kanazawa already lost his maps. What does the past matter now?]