Welcome, all, again. I’d like to use my first post of 2018 to recommend a brilliant new show, A Place Further Than the Universe. This was exactly what I needed to combat the cold, miserable conditions of real life right now. This original series by studio Madhouse follows the growing friendships amongst a group of girls as they share one’s dream to journey to Antarctica. And although I’m writing this with just one episode extant, that one episode showed me plenty! This is a quiet, polished slice-of-life offering that firmly believes in the warm fuzzies, and wants you to believe, too. In fact, if you remember Amanchu! (reviewed in September of 2016), then you already have a reference point for the general feel of this series.
Mari is a second year high school student living a life of quiet desperation, wanting to experience adventure but scared to venture from the norm, despite the support and efforts of her stalwart friend Megumi. All of this changes, however, after a passing encounter at the train station with fellow student Shirase Kobuchizawa, who in her haste drops a small but valuable item. Mari sets out to return the found item to its mysterious and as-yet unidentified owner, finally tracking Shirase down just as she is realizing the full extent of her loss. Mari’s generosity then prompts Shirase to open up to her a little, explaining that it is her life’s purpose to visit Antarctica, where her mother was lost. And this goal doesn’t just motivate her, but rather drives her. Shirase sees herself as devoted and focused; Mari sees her as terribly, terrifyingly alone. But Mari is simultaneously awed by Shirase’s unapologetic pursuit of her very personal dream. Nor is she the only one.
Years ago, while working at FedEx, I actually knew a college-student coworker who submitted a research proposal that was accepted for study at a research station in Antarctica. She was gone for months and returned a more confident and self-reliant person. The experience proved transformative. So as we watch a group of students initially inspired by Shirase’s dream organize and gel into a club devoted to an eventual trip to Antarctica, I expect to learn a lot about conditions there, especially pertaining to resident researchers and the conditions in which they live and work. That is an expectation. What is already established fact is that this show is a finely crafted exploration of the true nature of friendship, its selfless valuation of the individual over comfort, custom, or convenience. The characters are likable; the story’s pace is comfortable and unhurried; and the artwork is frequently breathtaking, especially in certain nuanced details. This is a real feel-good show, so be sure to watch!