"The World Drawn: Animated Life and Cinematic Ruins in an Age of Fallout"

Presented By:Phil Kaffen, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

This paper offers a reading of the recent anime Girls’ Last Tour (Shōjo Shūmatsu Ryokō) in order to engage with animation as a medium for reflecting philosophically on ecology, war, life, and technology during “an age of fallout” (Masco, 2015). Tracing the movements of two young girls through a post-apocalyptic world, the series employees a familiar division—rooted in wartime imperatives—between cartoony characters and a more realistic world of violence and ruin. Girls’ last tour exaggerates this division with animation styles that suggest distinct media, or what Lamarre (2009) presents as tendencies of media: animetic and cinematic. The series thus displays the movement of animated figures in search of more animation—life—but unable to locate it amidst the cinematic ruins, leaving the two girls in a state of perpetual wander/wonder. In this way, the narrative suggests alternate paths towards the possibility, configuration, and meaning of life itself in a time of fallout. At the same time, however, GLT incorporates different media, including most prominently a digital camera, and other technological devices, to explore the gaps in this complex division—the movement between figure/ground, animation/cinema, life/death. This paper aims to explore how these media are deployed and represented in order to navigate media for wandering (movement) and wondering (thinking), and the question of what life has become in an age of fallout.