Girls Club show about a group of cuties going to Antarctica. That is what drew me towards this show at first glance. Little did I and others who picked the show up know we were in for much more than that. So much more. Find out what as we take a look at A Place Further Than the Universe.
- Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (Japanese)
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Comedy
Themes: Expedition, Coming of Age, Antarctica
Number of Episodes: 13
Plot Summary: Mari Tamaki is in her second year of high school and wants to start something. It’s then that she meets Shirase, a girl with few friends who’s considered weirdo by the rest of the class and nicknamed “Antarctic” since it’s all she ever talks about. Unlike her peers, Mari is moved by Shirase’s dedication and decides that even though it’s unlikely that high school girls will ever go to Antarctica, she’s going to try to go with Shirase.
Right off the bat the interested will need to know this anime is not all about cute girls going to Antarctica. In fact the expedition does not arrive there until around the fourth quarter of the show. At its core the show about the coming of age story of four girls, basically their interpersonal relationships and intrapersonal reflection. The people they meet (besides each other) and the people they knew long ago had or will strongly influence on how they perceive their paths to their respective futures. Let me put it this way, friendship plays a strong role in the story. Some would view this as not meaning much as the “power of friendship” is seen as a anime cliche/trope outside of Girls Club shows. However, this anime shows WHY making or having friends is so important in most people’s lives. Meeting the right people will work wonders for one’s existence. It also shows the bad side of certain friendships be it through selfishness or craving a person’s spotlight. Going back to interpersonal relationships viewers will see how a single encounter affected our heroines’ perspective worldviews, for example bullying or the aforementioned selfishness. The intrapersonal will be discussed when we go over the four leading ladies. Basically the drama on the show is presented exceptionally well without going into heavy/telenovela territory, instead focusing on very powerful character-driven narrative as each girl gets their time to shine and overcome personal obstacles on their way to becoming stronger people. Expect several emotional moments that can cause ocular leakage in all but the strongest of minds.
Besides the excellent emotional drama there is also the aforementioned comedy. So many of the jokes were well timed and executed, better than some other anime that are 100% comedies. Humor is difficult to explain why it works but take my word for it. The above Arctic/Antarctic ninja example is one of many well done humorous scenes. Even the few running gags do not get stale because the writers found ways to make the same joke/gag funny every time by adding a different flavor to it.
Besides the delivery what helped the comedy and drama is the stellar presentation via great animation and voice acting. First up the animation. It reminded of another really good show with similarly great animation, Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko). From the Grade A quality facial expressions and the adorable eyes of both the youngsters and adults the emotions conveyed during fun and serious moments. Helping further enhance the scenes is the delightful voice acting. Personal highlights are fan favorite Hinata and personal favorite Shirase. The soundtrack is as excellent as everything else I described up this point.
I have no talked much about the Antarctic expedition part of the show so let us get to it. It does a good job giving viewers a beginner’s guide to what it is like going on an expedition to the Arctic region from the training regimen, the necessary tools, braving the harsh oceans and the routine activities once there.
Fun fact: The show became famous for highlighting a certain country our heroines visited on their way to the ship they would be taking to Antarctica. They even got the landmarks right.
Moving right along to the four leading ladies:
First up is Shirase the definitive main character since her character arc is the most important and the journey really starts with her once Mari meets up with her. She is a fair beauty who comes off as cool and aloof at first glance but deep down she is actually timid (Mainly toward strangers.) and has a lot of pent up frustration not only against naysayers and doubters of her quest but also a deep desire to go to Antarctica to find both her mother Takako who went missing years ago and what she went there to search for. Highlights of her character are her reactions to everything. Speaking of Takako despite Shirase being the one who motivated Mari to go on the journey Takako is the catalyst of everything that happened on the show despite her not appearing very often.
Next up is Mari, a girl who, once she got into high school, lost her ambition to accomplish something great in her life. It was thanks to her encounter with Shirase that her spark was reignited. Highlights are whenever she teamed up with Hinata and her own arc thanks to a certain someone.
Third is Yuzuki, the youngest of the group. To better get her character the viewer must understand where she came from once it is revealed. Of the four girls she is the one whose character arc is the most connected to the word “friend”. Highlights are her sarcasm and bluntness.
Lastly there is fan favorite Hinata, the most energetic of the four. She often makes sure the gang is up for any challenge leading her to sometimes show them a bit of tough love, especially Shirase. However, there is a VERY IMPORTANT reason why she is so optimistic and energetic. She may have the second most hard hitting character arc of the show. She has no major discernible highlights because for most she IS the highlight.
As far as yuri goes, without giving away spoilers, all I will say is pay very close attention to Gin’s role in the story. The clues begin to pop up once the flashbacks kick in. Then around the fourth quarter it all starts making sense. In a way, depending on how the viewer looks at it, this show made as much history as Slow Start did. There are ships as well that are less difficult to notice. As far as the other side-characters only one irked me. I need not go into detail saying who it is. Viewers will know when the person starts being a nuisance.
I discuss the yuri further HERE. Spoiler warning!
Overall A Place Further Than The Universe, for the lack of a better description, is an incredible journey of personal growth and discovery. The characters are wonderful and their arcs are emotionally gripping, Most of the side-characters are also cool. When the journey to Antarctica eventually starts it is an interesting one. The yuri is most certainly there but viewers will have to pay close attention. Highly recommended to viewers looking for a little extra in their Girls Club shows. Heck, as some peeps below have pointed out almost anyone can pick this show up and enjoy it. It is that good and accessible.